Back To Church Sunday
How would you like to double your church congregation in a single day? It's not as impossible as it might sound, but it does require the involvement of the whole congregation. Up for the challenge?
Back to Church Sunday is a national, ecumenical initiative (the United Reformed Church is a co-sponsor) to invite people to church. They might be people who used to come but for whatever reason have drifted away from regular worship, or they might part of the three million people in this country who, according to research commissioned by Tearfund, said would come to church if only somebody would invite them. Either way, unless your congregation get inviting, they may just never come to church again. Can we afford to ignore them? Are we ready to answer to God for our failure to invite them?
You may, in fact, not double your congregation through participating in Back To Church Sunday - but you will never know that unless you try. Even if you gain only two new worshippers who go on to become two new growing, serving disciples, it will be worth the effort, won't it?
The Back To Church Sunday (BTCS) campaign say that the actual numbers who do attend are not even the point: success is measured in one person inviting one person. If every person in your congregation invites one other person, you have a massive success, one to be celebrated. If some or all of the invitees respond positively, you could be on the way towards real growth in your congregation. Realistically, we know that not everyone in our congregation will invite someone else. (However, remember that people are free to invite more than person!) Realistically, we also know that not everyone who is invited will say "yes." But making the invitation is a significant step towards becoming an invitational church, where it is natural for church members to encourage friends to "come and see." The beauty of the initiative is that it is based on existing relationships, whether the people to be invited are friends, family members, colleagues, or acquaintances, and so it is easy for us all to participate. Last year, 3,500 churches took part in the scheme across the UK, and they averaged 18 newcomers each that Sunday. (Of course, if some of our churches had 18 newcomers they would more than double the congregation, which underlines why we should not limit ourselves to inviting only one person each - we need as many new folk as we can get!)
How do I get involved?
The first step is to register your interest at www.backtochurch.co.uk where you can find out more information. You can also contact our Synod's BTCS "Champion", the Revd Steve Faber, for more information.
BTCS produce invitation cards annually, which are ordered through Traidcraft. To secure the best deal on printing, they only have one print run, and ask for orders before the end of June each year. There may be some left over after the pre-ordered ones are sold, but don't rely on that.
Research shows that more invitations are accepted when there is a physical invitation to hand over - a card, rather than a casual, "would you like to come with me to church on Sunday?" Furthermore, when the card is hand-delivered and accompanied by that question, and when the person making the invitation goes to church with their invitee (rather than offering to meet them outside, or worse still, inside the building), there is a higher-still positive response. Of course, praying for the person you are inviting before extending the invitation is also significant.
When is Back To Church Sunday?
Simply put, any Sunday you like - and every Sunday if you want! There will be national publicity for BTCS on Sunday 25th September 2011 - it is usually the last Sunday in September. However, your local arrangements might mean that this is not the most suitable Sunday, so pick your own. Experience shows that it is better NOT to have BTCS on your Harvest Festival Sunday. At the risk of being accused of heresy, you might consider changing the date of your Harvest service if it will clash(!), but if that is not possible or not desirable, hold your BTCS service a week or two earlier for preference. You can then invite those who did come on your chosen Sunday to come back for your special Harvest service, and those who for good reason were not able to make your chosen BTCS can be followed up with a new invitation to the Harvest Festival and whatever associated social events you have at that time. Think of what other special events you have in the following weeks that you can also personally invite people to, so that they can (hopefully) develop a habit of coming to church.
Don't forget to make sure that you worship offering is top quality on your chosen BTCS, and that you have your best people welcoming visitors at the door that Sunday. Plan your next Alpha or enquirers' course to start soon after BTCS. Do everything in your power to make their experience a positive one, so that worship becomes a more enticing and interesting alternative to the car boot sale or a lay-in with the Sunday papers.