Six Reasons Your Church Might Not Be As Friendly As You Think It Is


“We are the friendliest church in town.”

I have heard that statement thousands of times. I promise. In over 500 church consultations and thousands of church member interviews, I heard it. Most church members really do think their church is very friendly.

But, more times than not, they are wrong. Guests who visit the churches usually have a much different perspective. Here are six things to consider if you really think your church is friendly.

  1. Almost all church leaders consider their church friendly. But we have strong evidence to the contrary. We have learned that self-perception (or perception of one’s church) often does not meet reality.
  2. Volumes of survey data from church guests indicate that very few churches are really friendly. Our surveys over a ten-year period indicate that over eight in ten guests did not consider the church they visited to be friendly.
  3. Many church members perceive their church to be friendly because they have established relationships in the church. But church guests typically do not have those relationships in the church. They, thus, see the church differently.
  4. Many church members see their church as friendly because they have a brief stand and greet time in the worship service. This issue has drawn a lot of attention at this blog. I think we can all agree, however, that there is much more to genuine friendliness than a two-minute greeting time.
  5. We found that most guests who think a church is unfriendly never let anyone in the church know. They simply leave and never return.
  6. We found no significant evidence that church members are connecting with unchurched persons and bringing them to a worship service. It would seem that genuine friendliness would result in an influx of non-believers. That just has not happened.

Do you think your church is genuinely friendly? Upon what facts do you base your perception? What can your church do to become friendlier to guests?

Let me hear from you.

photo credit: gb_packards (Mike) via photopin cc

Posted on November 8, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I believe that if you are a true believer that you will be friendly and greet all in a friendly manner. I do not really are about the ‘meet and greet” because it is so noisy and so unruly. I like the serenity of the church once I enter. As we growing up our parents insisted that we remain quiet while we were in church. So it was kind of hard for me to get used to the ‘meet and greet.’ I try to speak before the service. I just go around and do the meet and greet at that time. Works pretty good. I also like for the pastor to be friendly. Very rarely on Sunday morning does he speak to anyone sitting in the audience. He will just pass right by us and not even look at us even thought he is very close to us. ‘Nuf said!

  • I ran this by no less than 15 people in my church of roughly 150…..they all pretty much had the same response….”I don’t believe it!”. ergo, part of the problem!

  • We just revamped the whole welcome team approach. A new mix with younger and older on the door together. 2 couples patrolling in the church – one of those couples is rostered to host lunch for new guests. Sometimes the guests are invited before the service starts, and the hosts might then sit with them. Some not so confident hosts will invite another friendly couple/person to come too, and help out. So far working really well. We hope eventually to have most church members on the lunch roster. Then we might be able to say “Turn to your neighbour and invite them for lunch.” That happened in a large city church we went to which our daughter attended. It worked so well I was really impressed.
    Our church has refreshments after service, and one of the door people goes into the foyer to accost those leaving and lead them into the lounge for coffee etc. Often the person on lock-up duty has great difficulty getting the job done – many are still there chatting, praying, sharing at the cafe tables until after 2pm. Church starts at 10am, we usually get 150 – 180 attending, and now we get 100 – 120 staying for coffee time, a huge increase. At the coffee guests are also introduced to connect group leaders, who invite them to their connect groups during the week, most of these have a pot luck before the group study and prayer. Guests are not expected to bring anything till they have joined the church or come regularly. They also get invited to come to the church lunch each month for free. Members pay $5 each adult.

  • Shasta Jones says on

    I attend the church I attend because it teaches what I believe. I don’t find it to be extremely friendly. The church believes in families and having lots of children. I never had any children. I am divorced–I was even born out of wedlock. It isn’t uncommon for me to sit down some place and to be told I can’t sit there because they are saving it for someone else. I know that I’m probably not as friendly as I ought to be.

    • Ricky T says on

      That is so surprising as I had the same experience at the JABC in Springfield, MO. They are all some what friendly, but I was told by one the members there that was sitting down from me that I was in her seat. I politely told her that I was not aware of assigned seating. I had been going to church here for 2 years and had just moved my seat not even a few months before this happened so that I could change it up a little. I was very shocked and she was very serious. I politely told her if it would make her feel better she can have that seat and she just turned away and gave me that rude attitude. I told my friend who brought me into the church and he didn’t seem to surprised. Off and on my entire time there I was given rude looks and avoidance and somewhat of a mockery when I spoke up about something. Otherwise I was mostly ignored and always wondered if it was because I was a single man in his 30’s. The church at first was an experience that I felt close with worshipping god but I also wanted that peer relationship inside the church to help build my understanding of what it takes to be truly faithful. When there is not a good moral in the church and nobody is wanting to go the next step of building a church family relationship with someone it can be very hard to get any help. Luckily I had a friend in the church I could go back to, but he became a bit tired of me coming to him, at least that is the perception I got so I ended up leaving the church and the area all together. I have tried a couple churches (baptist) and Catholic and now trying out LDS. So far LDS has been the most friendliest and the best church in wanting to dig deep into scripture and make sure other members have all the understanding from it. There is just an odd part of understanding the BOM which is different. Not sure of what certain denominations create that type of environment.

  • I go to a church that has actually locked the door on a woman and when she knocked the Associate Pastor wen to the door and told her she was late, it was only a Bible study to beat all..She is late all the time and he said she needed to be taught a lesson…Should I keep going to this church?? I’m so hurt and lost over this, actually mad!

    • Ricky T says on

      OMG no way! I would be furious and would never return back. There are too many church’s in this country that you can pick from. I would even drive an hour or so to get to the right true church.

  • michael simons says on

    I been in small rural Church’s up to Big ones like FBC Springdale Ar or Travis Ave in Fort Worth. In the small ones I hear you don’t have programs for our children, or your facilities are out dated. The Middle sized ones seems to have clicks and such , The Mega ones folks say they are too big or impersonal while the other end says the Preacher knows too much. I was told by one couple that after 2 Sunday morning they stopped coming cause no one invited them for lunch. They were in our SS class but 98% of our class goes home after church or goes to Early Service and leaves right after SS. So Bro. Thom we got to love them the best we can but the final call is up to the Holy Spirit not our friendliness.

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