The Power of Recommendation

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We attend dozens of worship services in different churches every year. Way too often we hear the preachers implore along the scripted lines: “Come back next week, and bring a friend.” The preacher boasts a wide smile, thinking, “This is so obvious, so easy. Why don’t they just do it?” And the listeners are subconsciously thinking, “Yeah, right.” The congregation and preacher engage in one of those ritualistic dances of good intentions, little action. Looking at church attendance patterns across the country, it seems very few church folk actually invite someone to church in a way that results in the invitee coming with them.

Recommendation is the easiest, lightest form of evangelism.

People who have a hard time inviting might find it much more to their liking to recommend the church to a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, or acquaintance they’ve casually met at the gym or some other such setting. The good news is that once people start recommending and experience some success, they may actually move up to inviting.

When someone has had a rich and impactful experience through our church, they can’t help but want to tell others of it. We don’t even have to prompt them — it’s natural. And it’s easier, more comfortable and more doable than inviting someone to join us the next Sunday. Church leaders can learn to capitalize on this behavior and leverage it for kingdom impact.

Think about it. Most people don’t really invite their neighbors to join them at the great new restaurant they discovered last weekend. Schedules are too difficult. Family dynamics and lifestyles are too different. Timing is too shaky. But most people do eat at that restaurant because someone recommended it.

Which happens most often to you? Do you go to a hot new movie with someone who invites you, or because someone you trust recommended you see it? If it’s more often the latter, you are motivated to see it on your own schedule and when the timing is right, not having the hassle of coordinating with someone else. Sure — invitation does happen, and it is often more fun to go to that movie as an invited guest. But most often, it is recommendation, not invitation that gets you there.

Recommendation is the easiest, lightest form of evangelism. People can be brand-new to church and still sense the need and seize the opportunity to recommend well before they get to the higher level of inviting. Nothing is wrong with invitation; it’s agreed that it is the best form of church growth, and a behavior to which we hope all our members would aspire. But we leave too much on the table if we wait for people to mature in their faith journey until they feel comfortable and adept enough to invite.

Learning to leverage recommendation is a must, if for no other reason than to be culturally relevant to the context in which we live and do ministry.


This material is from Jim and Fiona’s new book, Clip-In: Risking Hospitality in Your Church (Abingdon Press, 2014). It is used by permission and available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

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About Author

From 2007 to 2018, Jim Ozier was Director of New Church Development and Congregational Transformation for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. A clergyperson for nearly 50 years, he co-authored The Changeover Zone: Successful Pastoral Transitions (Abingdon, 2016) and Clip-In: Risking Hospitality in Your Church (Abingdon Press, 2014).

Fiona Haworth, former director of talent for Southwest Airlines, has held several leadership roles in the church.


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