For most, the Sunday morning service is the front door to the church.

It’s the first-time people will experience your church community.  It’s when people hear and sing the songs, listen to the sermon, and see others. I’m not saying this is all there is (or that it’s even the most important thing), but it is usually the most visible thing a church does.

That means your regular church service provides your biggest opportunity for church growth.

Not special events, not one-off programs, and not ministries that involve a few people. Those are great, but your church service is likely your best opportunity to reach people.

If your regular church service is a driver for growth, then inviting people to your church service is one of the biggest opportunities for growth.

Most churches know their church service is the front door to the church and that personal invitations are the best way to grow, but many churches aren’t really ready for new people. 

There’s a hope that people would experience God and community and be welcomed into the family.  But deep down, there’s also fear and anxiety about the kind of experience a new person would have.

It’s time to take an intentional look and what happens around Sunday and before Sunday, to make sure you’re really ready to challenge your church to invite and see guests show up on Sunday for the first time.

Before you spend money on advertising or encouraging your congregation to invite, you need to make sure your service is ready for guests.

If you’re going to challenge your church to invite (and here are some great ways to do that), there are some things you should do first.

Three Things to Do Before You Ask Your Church to Invite

#1 – PRAY

Church growth is a combination of the blessings of God and the stewardship of man. 

God-given results somehow teamed with human endeavors.  A combination of divine intervention and human leadership.

Since the Church belongs to God, growth is ultimately His responsibility.  But He chooses to use us in the process, and therefore, we have a stewardship opportunity.

Even though we should bring systems, strategies, processes, improvements, and tactics to bear, we must never forget the church is a spiritual enterprise.  It’s much more than a business or an organization.

It’s a spiritual organism with eternal implications.

That’s why any church growth strategy must begin with prayer. And any outreach opportunity should be covered with prayer. 

Pray for the church.

Pray for the service and the opportunity you have to share the gospel and encourage Christians.  Pray for the leaders, musicians, and teachers.  Pray over every environment.  Pray for the children in the classrooms.

Pray for the people you’re trying to reach.

In addition to praying for church activities and church services, don’t forget to pray for the people in your community.

In fact, leading your church to intentionally pray (and subsequently invest) in one other person is a great first step.  People often need a burden for a particular person before they see the opportunity to extend an invitation.

Pastor Joby Martin from The Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Florida constantly talks about the idea of “one more,” reminding the congregation that evangelism is personal.

This rally cry is really meant to spark care and concern within the church for one person outside of the church.  They periodically organize and publicize “one more” weekends when a clear Gospel invitation is given. 

The initiative, made sticky with consistent terminology and strategy, is a way to create an inviting culture. 

It’s “preparing the soil” type of work. Pastor Jeff Bogue from Grace Church in Akron, Ohio adopts a similar prayer strategy with a big initiative to challenge the church to “pray for our three.” 

He teaches people to pray for three friends, neighbors and co-workers and that God would give them a “no-brainer” moment to extend an invitation or share their faith.

Both of these churches are leading their church to pray for an investment in members of the community.  That’s work that can be done apart from challenges to invite. 

When your church members are praying for their church and praying for people in the community, invitations (and an increase in first-time visits) is a likely outcome.

Prayer is always a good starting point and worthy activity. This is how you can ensure that God really is the one building His church and not us in our own efforts.

#2 – PRACTICE

If you were to watch a professional football team practice, you wouldn’t see a lot of time devoted to hail mary’s and trick plays.  Instead, professional teams work on the basic offense.  They work on the timing of normal plays.  They talk through game situations.

It’s a lot more boring than you might imagine.

That’s because a professional football team knows that the game isn’t usually won or lost with a trick play.  It’s consistent execution of the ordinary.

Your church service is like the 4-yard carry on first down, a successful play to a Super Bowl-winning team.

That’s why it’s so important to practice every element that goes into a church service. 

People can tell when singers, musicians, teachers, and preachers are prepared.  It communicates value. 

Make time in your weekly rhythm to practice everything that will happen on Sunday, from the announcements to the transitions to the Sunday School lessons.

It doesn’t cost any money to run through the songs, preach the message to a mirror, and let people practice key elements. In fact, this will be one of the most beneficial things you can do that will stand out to all of your churchgoers.

Making sure your church service is the best it can be is something you want to do BEFORE you have a bunch of first-time guests show up, who will absolutely make a decision to return

#3 – EVALUATE

Just like practice on the front end is free, evaluation on the back end is also a no-cost way to get better.

Pay attention to these six areas:

Let’s dive deeper into a few of those areas.

Evaluate the Service

What is meaningful to members might not be understandable to guests, so it’s helpful to look at each service through the lens of a first-time guest.

Most church members will excuse or overlook a lack of quality in the church service because they know the heart of people involved, but new people see this as a lack of importance or a lack of excellence.

When the service is over, talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Talk through what connected and what missed.

Make this normal, but a few times a year, make an evaluation a really big deal. Be honest and bring others alongside you who may be able to see things that you aren’t. Be willing to make changes if you need to.

Evaluate Your Language

Most church services are designed to encourage Christians.

They contain language and traditions that make perfect sense to insiders but often leave new people wondering if they belong. Just bring a non-Christian with you to a service. They are bound to leave the service in some confusion and with lots of questions (or they may vow to never speak of it again and just not come back).

You can do just about anything you want in a service – baptism, communion, and worship are all great things.  You just have to explain everything to new people. 

Just about any religious tradition can have a place in your service, just don’t rush into it without explaining the meaning and purpose to new people.  

We have several evaluation forms you can use to evaluate your church service, overall Sunday experience, special event, regular ministry, and staff. You'll find these resources, along with hundreds of others, in the Church Fuel resource library. Members get all of our resources and you can sign up here.

Evaluate Your Culture

I’ve never heard of a church whose members claimed they were unfriendly. In fact, most church members are stumped as to why people don’t like their church because they claim to be so ‘friendly.’

However, being a ‘friendly’ church can often mean you’re friendly to each other, but not to your guests.

A family reunion is tons of fun unless you’re attending someone else’s event.  That’s how a lot of guests feel when they visit a church for the first time.

That’s why you must continually look at everything you do through the lens of a first-time guest.  You need to hear their feedback and make adjustments.  You must look honestly at everything you’re doing to make sure you’re really ready for new people.

You want new people to visit your church.

But you don’t want them to misunderstand, have a bad experience, or refuse to return. 

Prayer, intentional planning, and evaluation can help you prepare for guests before they visit and ensure they have a great experience.

Take a Next Step

Once you’ve prepared your church for guests, it’s time to prepare your people to invite.  Simply asking them to invite their friends, isn’t enough.  You must equip them with relevant tools.

Get practical ideas and real church examples in this free resource.