10 Reasons Many Churches Aren’t Friendly to Guests

I’ve previously written about findings of “church secret shoppers” we’ve used in church consulting. One of those findings is that many churches aren’t very friendly to guests. Here are some of the reasons that’s the case:

  1. Caveat: Churches are friendly, but only to people they already know. That’s why churches almost always assert how friendly they are, and guests often talk of how friendly they aren’t.
  2. No one’s ever evaluated them. I’ve never talked to a church who told me how unfriendly they are. On the other hand, they’ve never really tested that conclusion by seeking input from guests—particularly, the guests who never return.
  3. Congregations don’t even know each other. The reality is that most members have a small circle of friends in the church, and they don’t know many people beyond that circle. If they aren’t really in relationship with other church members, it’s not surprising that they don’t reach out to guests.
  4. They leave the “friendliness” responsibility to others. After all, they think, the extroverts and the talkers are wired for that task. When the greeters are doing their job, other members shouldn’t have to worry about it.
  5. They haven’t fostered life-on-life Christianity. Honestly, I’m not convinced that many believers understand what Christian hospitality and friendship are. Our relationships are generally surface-level, Sunday-to-Sunday “friendships.” It’s little wonder we’re not that friendly to people we don’t even know.
  6. Congregations treat church as if it’s all about them. They worship only where they like the style. They church shop any time their needs aren’t met. They protect their positions and their turf, and they use language like “my church.” Self-centeredness seldom fosters friendliness.
  7. They’ve built their “friendly moment” into the worship service. Thom Rainer has shown some of the problems with this approach, but many churches still have a forced “stand and greet” time during the service. When you know that time’s coming, you don’t need to reach out to anyone before the service.
  8. They focus on their primary friends since they see them only once a week. This issue goes back to #5 in this list. When you spend little intentional time with other believers outside of church, you give most of your attention to your friends when you do gather,
  9. Their primary leader isn’t perceived as friendly, either. The longer a pastor is the leader, the more likely it is the church will adopt his personality. A perceived unfriendly pastor will produce an unfriendly church.
  10. They don’t have many guests anyway, so they have little practice. Thus, the process comes full circle. An unfriendly church sees few guests return, and the congregation eventually becomes desensitized to inviting guests or greeting them when they come.

What reasons would you add? And, if you want to read some friendly experiences of secret shoppers, check out this post.


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    I would add that some church members are not particularly friendly and sociable outside of church. They may have a small circle of friends and that’s it. In some cases social awkwardness may be a contributing factor; in other cases they have a negative view of other people and this view influences how they relate to other people. The tribalization of America and the politicization of evangelical Christianity also may account for the unfriendliness of some churches. At one time as many as three generations associated with each other. But now our culture encourages the separation of the generations. As a consequence the different generations are not comfortable relating to each other.

  • Go to https://centralsinglesministry.weebly.com/leaders-only.html on the right side is 30 conversations to have at my events. You can modify. In my leadership training I first have my leadership to read the book Safe People. Basically how to be a safe person around unsafe people. Then I go through each conversation.

    This is my first three standard conversations meeting person anywhere.

    I first ask what occupation since if you are unemployed you have an occupation.
    I ask how you heard of the event?
    Then I ask one question with 3 different answers, What community service events, churches or leisure activity are you involved with?

  • Mike Uthmann says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this list. The only thing I would immediately add, the church is too busy/task focused. The service is done… clean the sanctuary, worship practice, etc! I knee I wouldn’t talk to the youth pastor at my last church, because he was running around dealing with the offering, taking care of the worship team teardown, counseling, etc. Even the friendship aspect became a task. That’s not how relationships happen! Not too mention, everyone was so busy, a new person was gone before anyone realized they weren’t being friendly!

  • Annette says:

    If people have a disability or medical condition, people might not be aware of how to treat the people or be able to relate to them well.

  • Art Kyger says:

    Yah I am in a church I have been going to for ten years and some people there STILL act as if they don’t know me and don’t want to know me. And then also give you the silent treatment if you miss coming to church one Sunday. So much for the words of James, Paul and Jesus who all stressed loving your Christian brother and loving your neighbor. I am sick of it and probably going to leave this church.

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