This is part four in our series on guerrilla church marketing, Power to the Pews.
If we’re going to get lay people promoting their church we should probably talk about the most obvious way they can do it. It’s kind of scary though. You ready?
Invite people to church.
It sounds obvious, but nobody is doing it. You can pick your stats on this issue, but they’re all pretty depressing. In his book The Unchurched Next Door, Thom Rainer says that only 2% of church people ever invite someone to church (guilty; though I don’t think any of us will be raising the 98% banner). And it’s not clear what we’re afraid of: 82% of the unchurched are somewhat likely to go if someone would just ask them.
It’s like a middle school dance. Everybody wants to dance, but nobody wants to ask.
So if you’re a person in the pew not inviting anyone to church, it’s time to ask why not. Maybe you’re scared they’ll say no, maybe you’re embarrassed of your church, maybe you just don’t think about it. Or maybe like a lot of us in Christian circles, you just don’t have that many unchurched friends you can invite.
I always tell my kids either stop complaining about a problem or fix it. So step one is to figure out the reason and address it.
- If you’re just scared, find ways to make it less scary. Invite a friend to a special event instead of Sunday morning or find a mutual friend and tag team the invite. Maybe you can try a halfway step and host a non-church event at your church. Board game night at your church gives you plenty of space for Carcassanne, plus your friend is already there and it’s a simple task to invite them back on Sunday. Or you could flip the tables and invite your pastor along to your next karaoke night. The invite gets easier when it’s obvious the pastor isn’t the judgmental, stuffy type.
- If you’re embarrassed of your church, how come? Is this something you need to get over or is your church that bad? Maybe you need to step up and help your church become less embarrassing (after all, people who sit in the pew and complain are part of the problem).
- If you don’t think about it, it’s time to start. The great commission didn’t say anything about a social club. Be intentional about it and think of specific people you can start inviting.
- If you’re lacking unchurched friends, it’s time to make some new friends. Start hanging out with your coworkers or if you work with a bunch of Christians, find some new groups. It may be a little uncomfortable at first and you feel like you have nothing in common. But if that’s the case, you’re too sheltered. You need to broaden your horizons and meet some new people. They need Jesus too. You’re a missionary at happy hour! But please, don’t call yourself that.
You like your church, don’t you? (If not, we’ve got a bigger problem.) Maybe it’s time to start sharing it.
How Can Your Church Help?
Another question to ask is how can your church make it easier to invite people? This is where the church marketing folks reading this series from a distance can jump in and get involved. And if you’re a lay person with no church communication team jumping in to tackle these ideas, maybe this is your role to fill.
- Create handy invite cards with times and directions. It’s cheaper than you think: You can print 10,000 full-color, two sided business cards for well under $150. Have them available at all times. Not only does it make it easier to invite people, it’s a handy reminder for the people who don’t think about it.
- Be active on social media. Everybody’s on Facebook and Twitter these days and it’s a lot easier to throw out an invite if you can point to an active Facebook page or Twitter account. It can give a potential visitor that first introduction and they’ll realize that church isn’t so weird.
- Make sure your service is visitor friendly. Do your people actually welcome visitors or do they scare them away (either from being too friendly or too distant)? Does the service drip with insider lingo and archaic traditions that are never explained? It can be as simple as inviting people to kneel instead of watching the entire congregation drop to their knees as if on invisible cue that leaves the visitor feeling creeped out.
There are a lot of ways your church can help your congregation invite people. Start brainstorming and get to work.
The people in the pews are a ready-made street team for your church. The bodies are there and Jesus gives the motivation (that great commission thing again). We just need to get to work.
- Learn more about how to welcome church visitors with this massive collection of resources and blog posts.
- Walking into a church for the first time can be scary. Check out Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm for practical ideas and perspective on first-time guests.