You’ve invited them to church over and over and they still refuse to come.

You’ve offered to buy them lunch after the service, but they still don’t show.

You know they need help with … marriage, parenting, purpose, grace, salvation, et. al. AND your church could be the answer, but they still have excuses to miss every Sunday.

You have tried everything. And so has the rest of your church – to no avail!

Why won’t your unchurched friends just come with you to church ONE TIME? Why won’t they accept your invitation just ONCE?

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, there are certainly some solutions for the most common reasons unchurched people resist church invitations.

First, why people resist church invitations:

I recently experienced one of the most prominent reasons to miss church. The last Sunday of the year, our church is closed. We take the day off to give our staff and volunteer base a day to relax, recharge, and spend with their family and friends. So as I woke up on 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I caught a glimpse of what most of the world experiences on a Sunday – rest. No alarm. No rushing to get ready. No yelling at the kids. I eased into the day, and it was great. Life is so busy. We are all over-committed. We are all tired. Most families are just as busy on Saturday as during the week. So Sunday becomes the ONE day to actually rest. To sleep in.

But that’s just one reason. Here are a few more you know to be true:

  1. Time at church is time away from … the lake, the beach, the bed, the family room, the golf course, the tennis courts, etc.
  2. Most unchurched people have been to church before, and that one visit was enough!
  3. Unchurchd people have met too many church people!

But we church leaders and church attenders can successfully invite if we just do a few things right (or better):



The primary reason unchurched people push back on invitations to church is because they do not value church in their life. To be brutally honest, most unchurched people see almost everything as more valuable than attending a church service. That’s why sleeping in, going to the lake, allowing their kid’s to play in Sunday rec games, and even golf takes priority over church. The perceived value of these actives trumps your church. But that doesn’t have to be the case!

You can make your church more valuable by simply making it helpful. When you shift your focus from information to application, you immediately raise the perceived value of your church. Infuse grace and remove guilt and you’re well on your way to winning the battle.

Most churches I visit refuse to acknowledge his connection, yet continue to struggle to fill their seats and parking lots – especially with younger families. It’s hard to differentiate between pride and doctrine. But you must consider the difference. If pride is causing you to resist changing your approach to church, your approach will die when your church dies.

If you’re still reading, here are a few options to consider:

  1. Application should be a focus of your preaching, but there are many other ways to refocus on application over information.
  2. Share stories of life change whenever you can. Personal stories highlight the value found by others, making value (and a better life) seem achievable and applicable for everyone.
  3. Keep it short. If you only need an hour to execute a great service, don’t take two hours. Remember, we are talking about unchurched people here. Your church people will stay all day, but I would bet your unchurched friends will give you an hour. For them, the service loses value as the clock ticks by. And your sermon should be no longer than a sitcom (30 minutes).


If your church service is the equivalent of a sleeping pill, unchurched people might as well stay in their bed. Don’t be afraid of making your church fun. You can make your church fun without watering down the Scripture or becoming an entertainment-only experience. I wrote a post about the entertaining church HERE. Just remember – fun is a value and is valuable. Most people don’t have much fun, so let’s make their church experience fun.

That probably means they can’t leave feeling guilty without hope, either. That’s NEVER fun.


Your church has a wealth of content, but most churches only offer it on Sunday morning. Find new and innovative ways to help people in your community (or the world) beyond a Sunday service. Stream your content. Make your messages available via podcast or the web. And do it with a level of excellence. Speak at business leadership gatherings (about leadership, not Jesus). Serve the people in your community THROUGH community organizations (not your church).

Last thought: People want to try before they buy. Nobody believes your church is any different than what they experience previously. Make sure you provide a way for people to see and experience your church BEFORE they attend your church. That’s a great way to help the unchurched in your community overcome an obstacle to attending your church. At Watermarke, we leverage North Point Online and In Case You Missed It for this exact purpose.


As a church attender, you can impact the unchurched directly and even more personally than most church leaders.


Nobody wants to be a project – especially a religious project. Jesus works more through relationships than church invitations. So build a real and committed relationship with unchurched people that MIGHT lead to faith conversations in time (God’s time, not your time). And know going in it might be the most difficult friendship you have ever experienced.


Christians have a perception problem — and for good reason. The best thing we can do is to BE the kind of Christian we are hoping to help others become. Our behavior and life says more about our belief than anything we will ever say. If people get you know you and desire to be like you, eventually they will be willing to go where you go (i.e. CHURCH).

Let’s stop saying “people just aren’t as committed anymore” and start looking at our churches and life in the mirror. I bet, if we take an honest look, we will all find something that is working against our desire to reach those far from God in our community.

I’ll be back leading leading a church on Sunday. And I hope to do everything I can to reach the unchurched in the process. How about you?

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Tim Goodwin says:

    This is so good and helpful. Thanks for spelling this out Gavin. I can’t wait to share it with other pastors I know. You Rock!

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