Openness to an invitation from friend or family
In 2021, around three in 10 Australians say they would go to a Christmas church service, or related event, if invited by a family member or friend. A key factor which encourages people to accept an invitation to church is if it is seen as important to their friend or relative. While this may present an opportunity for churchgoers to invite friends and family to church, many Australians report not having a friend or family member that goes to church.
Findings from the Australian Community Survey (ACS), run in November 2021, at the end of 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, show that around 30% of Australians are likely to go to a Christmas church service, if invited by a family member or friend. The three in 10 Australians who say they would go to a Christmas church service if invited by a family member or friend was made up of 16% who definitely would accept and 14% who probably would accept such an invitation. A further 15% are unsure if they would say yes or no.
Another three in 10 Australians are unlikely to accept an invitation to a Christmas event run by churches. Some claim that they would probably say no (8%), while others are fairly certain they would say no to such an invitation (21%).
While most people responded to this scenario about an invitation to a Christmas church event, around a quarter of Australians simply note that they don’t have any close friends or family who attend church. In a separate direct question about whether they have close friends or family who attend church, over half (56%) of Australians say they do not.
Australians are just as open to a general invitation to church, as to a Christmas event. In the November 2021 ACS, respondents were asked “Apart from such special occasions as weddings, funerals, etc., would you go to a Christian church service if invited by close friends or family?”
Three in ten Australians indicate they would be likely to accept such an invitation. (Some 16% are unsure and 28% are unlikely to accept). These results suggest that there is a relatively steady level of interest in attending church services across the year, which goes beyond special events in the Christian calendar such as Easter and Christmas.
In the ACS, Australians were asked what factors would increase their likelihood of accepting an invitation to church, and what would discourage them.
The most common factor that people highlighted that would encourage them to accept an invitation to church was that if they felt it was important to the friend or relative (34%).
Among the eight options given, the next most common factors were how welcoming (16%) and caring (13%) the church was.
In November 2021, scandals in the wider church, such as the institutional abuse of children, was the top factor discouraging acceptance of an invitation to church. This was followed by the stance of churches on certain social issues (e.g. same-sex marriage).
While Australians' openness to accept an invitation to church may present an opportunity for churchgoers to invite friends and family to church, many Australians say they don’t have friends or family who go to church. Relationships remain key to Australians coming along to church, often by invitation from someone they know. One encouragement this presents, is for churchgoers to let their family and friends know that they go to church. This may build a relational opportunity for an invitation to church, either at Christmas, or throughout the year.
2021 Australian Community Survey run by NCLS Research, November 2021 (n = 1,286)
Tracking Australians' social attitudes, spirituality, religion and wellbeing