5 Reasons Your People Aren’t Inviting Their Friends to Church

by Sep 25, 2019

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, he introduces us to the idea of keystone habits.

What are keystone habits?

In his book, Duhigg defines a keystone habit as one that will have a ripple effect on your outcomes.

You don’t have to change dozens of habits to get to your goals. You only have to change a few keystone habits.

For example, say that your personal keystone habit is to sleep 8 hours every night.

Your initial goal is to get more sleep. But this habit can also lead to positive, unintended outcomes like:

  • Becoming more productive each day
  • Reducing the consumption of junk food before daytime
  • Having more time to exercise
  • Improved communications with your spouse because you’re not cranky

At first, you wanted more sleep, but this keystone habit generated a number of additional Habits.

Organizations can benefit from identifying and practicing keystone habits as well. These are behaviours that lead to a cascade of other positive actions.

Our staff decided to identify our keystone habit in the church. After we wrestled with this concept for a time, we were able to narrow it down to one vital keystone habit that led to a domino effect of positive results throughout our organization. 

The Keystone Habit?


When our people invite their unchurched friends and family members, it creates a ripple effect of positivity in every aspect of our church.

  • We host better services
  • We provide better children’s programs
  • We preach better messages
  • We sense a stronger anointing in all that we do.

When we discovered this keystone habit, we began to passionately pursue making inviting a regular, ongoing practice of our regular attendees.


We first polled our regular attendees and asked them if they feel comfortable inviting unchurched friends and family to our services. Why or why not?

As we gathered their answers, we discovered five main reasons – or cringe factors – that kept our people from inviting their friends to church.  There is not an easy definition for what is classified cringy, and our people couldn’t easily describe it, they just knew it when they saw it…or felt it. It was something that caused them to flinch when they heard it or saw it.

The early church dealt with a cringe factor of their own in Acts 15.

The leaders had to meet to discuss it and decided to remove these cringe factors from their churches. James, the brother of Jesus, summarized the meeting and their decision when he said this in verse 19,

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

That was our goal as well. We wanted to eliminate anything that is making it difficult for our people to invite their unchurched friends to church and anything that was making it difficult for the unchurched to turn to God.

No. 1 Behaviours

How we behave in our church and how we treat others speaks a louder message than what we preach from the pulpit.

  • How are newcomers treated when they visit?
  • Are they welcomed and accepted regardless of how they look or talk?
  • Are they treated better than they expect to be treated?
  • How do our people treat one another?
  • Is our church modeling the “oneness” Jesus prayed for in John 17?

Every church says “everyone is welcome” and yet the behaviour doesn’t always reflect the vision.

As a leader, you can play a role in shaping the behaviour of your people so that your culture aligns with your vision.


Reward what you want Repeated

Catch your people doing it right and reward them.

At the same time, don’t tolerate the behaviour that is contrary to your vision because what you tolerate will become your standard.

No. 2 The Language We Use

Christians have their own language.

There is nothing wrong with “Christianese,” we just need to be aware of the fact that it exists.

We especially need to be mindful of how we use it and where we use it. Using it in the wrong place and time is a huge cringe factor.

To the unchurched, it is easy for them to feel like an outsider when we are all talking using verbiage they don’t understand.

Avoid insider language as much as is possible when visitors are present.

No. 3 The Service Order

Those of us in the church, especially those of us who have been Christians for a long time, are used to church. We can visit virtually any church anywhere and have an idea of what to expect.

That is not the case with the unchurched who are unfamiliar with our practices and what to expect. This unfamiliarity can lead to several cringe moments in any given service.

That is why I recommend doing a “welcome” time near the beginning of the service that explains to the newcomers what to expect and a brief explanation as to why we are doing what we are doing.

The key is to put more focus on who you are trying to reach rather than on who you are trying to keep.

No. 4 The Dress Code

I know this may seem trivial and is a point that can be argued from every angle, however, I will weigh in on your churches dress code and how it pertains to who you are trying to reach.

If you have a formal dress standard in your church, it is easier for newcomers to feel like they don’t fit in even more than they already do, because they came under-dressed.

All I am saying is consider your dress code.

Is it a potential cringe factor for the visitors in your area?

Be intentional.

No. 5 The Look Of The Facility

If your facility is in poor condition or not tidy, this can be a huge cringe factor that will affect your invites.

I’m not saying you need a brand new building. I’m just saying, do the best with what you have and make sure it is clean and tidy.

Set the table for guests.

Excellence is doing the best with what you have.

Everything matters if you want to be great.

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