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Leadership, Social Media | Apr. 30, 2012

Practical Ways to Reach the Unchurched

Practical Ways to Reach the Unchurched

82% of the unchurched are somewhat likely to attend church if invited. Those are pretty great odds don’t you think? Unfortunately, only 2% of church going people ever invite someone to church in a given year. To make matters worse, 70% of unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives. (Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door)

I think we’ve grown numb to these findings. Even worse, I’m afraid we’ve grown apathetic to these statistics or we would certainly do something about it. Wouldn’t we?

Consider this. If your church has 100 smiling faces on Sunday morning only two of them ever invite someone to check out your church. I don’t want to oversimplify things here but maybe that’s why your church isn’t growing. At the least, it’s one reason why your church isn’t growing.

Now consider this. If each of those 100 smiling faces you see on Sunday invited one person to visit church with them, you would see about 80 new smiling faces in your church. And if that isn’t motivation for encouraging your church membership to get excited about the gospel and your church, you can always use the guilt card.

Guilt card. Seven out of 10 people that don’t attend church on Sunday have never been invited to church. NEVER. If you can’t use this number for a good old fashioned fire and brim stone sermon then you’re way past your prime.

Here are some very practical and tactical things you can do about these stats today:

1. Read Thom Rainer’s book, The Unchurched Next Door, for a complete understanding of the stats

  • Make your church membership aware of these findings. Most of them would be shocked to know that if they invite people, they will come.

2.  Empower and encourage your membership to invite friends to church

Have a respectable Church Website that your membership feels good telling their friends to check out. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Just have something nice and respectable. Everyone’s first visit to your church is to your Web site. Make sure it’s a quality experience. (Be sure there is a page specifically for visitors.)

Facebook & Twitter.LISTEN: There’s no simpler avenue to make it easy for your members to invite people to your church. All you have to do is create an event on Facebook, invite your membership to the event and then ask them to invite their friends to the event.

3. Make your Sunday experience as visitor friendly as possible.

Pastor Matt Keller, calls it the “parking lot to parking lot” mentality. You want people to feel like they are going to experience something incredible the second they pull into your church parking lot. And when they are pulling out of the parking lot, they’re excited about returning next week.

  • Do you have signage in your parking lot welcoming people?
  • Do you have parking attendants and greeters welcoming people?
  • Are all the doors manned by greeters?
  • Does each Sunday School have a designated group of people to greet and make visitors feel welcome?

4. Follow up.

Be sure and call (if they leave a number), hand-write (if they leave an address), or e-mail (if that’s all they left) a thank you for attending the church. This is something you should not delegate – if the visitor gets a call from the pastor that’s a pretty big deal. You need to do it. While you’re at it, call the church member that invited them to attend and thank them for reaching out.

I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for this.” You’re right, you don’t. But you’re going to have to make time. If you don’t make time, then let’s make a deal. You can never complain about your church not growing, your membership not being excited, and people not coming to faith in your community.

This is easy AND you can do it. It takes time but it isn’t rocket science.

  • Paul,

    Very good advice here. A lot of churches make the mistake of thinking special event pushes are going to help them grow. I know a lot of pastors that dwell in frustration because they spend money, time, and effort for a big marketing push for a special Sunday and few, if any, show up.

    Churches should be programmed to grow in every aspect. Not just for Easter. But programmed to be inviting, growing, sharing, and inviting every day of the year.

    Churches aren’t built to reach out every once in a while. They exist solely for the purpose of reaching out. Every aspect of a church should be geared to helping hungry people find a relationship with God. From the website to the bathroom signs.

    • Amen. Great word Ryan.

  • Great post and very true, Paul. Thanks for the work you do.

    Invites are key and it’s amazing to consider it’s such a rare event in the Church. As for your point on follow-up, that is so key!

    Nelson Searcy’s Fusion book offers some great insight into creating a welcoming environment and on developing and maintaining a great follow-up process, to help churches love on the guests God brings their way.

    On follow-up, churches can also implement technology to support their follow-up processes. At Church Community Builder (where I work), we have a feature that helps you follow-up with first and second time guests and even automate some of the process, to ensure no one falls through the cracks. There are of course other great ChMS’s (church management solutions) on the market as well that can help support good follow-up and best practices in the area of guest retention.

    To read a bit more on the subject, here’s a link to an article published in the March/April 2012 issue of Worship Facilities magazine discussing this from a bit of a different angle:


  • church postcard mailings

    The advice here are really very appreciable. I appreciate the shift in the marketing paradigm that forces brands to build meaningful relationships with customers. Jesus showed us the way by caring about the needs of the people and sustaining them in their deeper need for relationship with the Father through Him.

  • directmail4churches.com

    Good stuff! I would like to suggest that the best way to reach the unchurched is how to ‘make disciples.’ A way to escort new believers through their early journey with Jesus.

  • Memorial-land.com

    I love this article! My family
    is part of an infant urban church plant and I find it fascinating to
    look at the culture of church and the interesting ways to reach the unchurched. I think your
    article here is spot-on. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Sarah

      Glad you liked the blog…and even happier that it encouraged you. Keep us posted on the church plant. I’d love to hear how it is going.

  • Memorial-land.com

    I would suggest that the culture of invitation has to be an invitation not just to church but into our *lives*. Every church I’ve been to have always encourages members to “invite people to church”. Many even had a “Bring
    a Friend to Church” day in the past couple of months. But, as was said
    in an earlier post, Christians have to be seeking out relationships
    with people who aren’t Christian. And they have to be building those
    relationships genuinely, not just for the sake of “saving a soul.”

  • Guest


  • Stephen Price

    This is a great post but yet so simple. I’m vowing to do this for the vitality of our Church… #Thanks

    • Stephen, thanks for the feedback. We are so glad this blog gave you some ideas for your church outreach