Back to Church Sunday
Did you invite a friend to church on Back to Church
Sunday last year? Read the
report for 2010 which includes feedback from
participating churches. The Methodist section of the
report begins on page 168.
From coffee morning
to Sunday morning
A free five session-course preparing churches for
Back to Church Sunday. The course aims to help move relationships
from social encounter to spiritual engagement.
Download a Back
to Church Sermon here
Back to Church Sunday began in 2004 in the Diocese of
Manchester, and by 2008 virtually all dioceses, most Baptist
churches and others took part. In 2009 the Methodist Church and
Salvation Army also promoted it, with nearly every other
denomination piloting or rolling out the programme. In 2009 Back to
Church Sunday mobilised around 4,650 churches in the UK
to invite their friends to church. As a result over 80,000 extra
people attended church on Back to Church Sunday, with a long-term
result of around 10,000 people added to the church in one
The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary and Secretary of
the Methodist Conference endorses Back to Church Sunday and says
"the feedback we have received from participating Methodist
churches is very positive". You can read some of that feedback
The co-ordinating group is
mainly made up of volunteers, led by businessman Michael Harvey,
who believe that this is a "God-idea". The increased attendances in
participating churches have pleasantly surprised many - 4000 people
in 2006, 2000 churches received 20,000 extra worshippers in
2007, 3000 churches an extra 36,000 in 2008 and 82,000 in
2009. The overall effect has been the attraction of more and
more churches to the scheme.
The emphasis is on individual Christians giving personal
invitations to appropriate people in their circle of contacts. It
is therefore an encouragement to Christians to regain confidence in
doing something that they know they should.
It is also proving to be an opportunity for those who have got
out of the habit of going to church, or for those who have thought
it is something they should look into, to find an entry
There is evidence of "unchurched" people responding as well,
because the key factor is a good relationship or friendship with
the person inviting. According to Michael Harvey smaller
congregations have more success at inviting people, and the number
of successful welcomers does not increase with the size of the
church. Most Methodist churches are smaller, as we are
Implications for churches to be
To what kind of church are we inviting people
Taking part in the programme can be a stimulus in the direction of
becoming a mission-shaped church. It raises questions such as, "How
does the church look through the eyes of an outsider?" For
example, have you considered parking, welcome, décor,
signs, worship experience, displays, refreshments? Participants are
not expected to make sweeping changes or become self-critical, but
to consider what steps they might take to become more as God
intends them to be. "Do the ordinary with a sparkle".
How welcoming is our church?
You could carry out a welcome
audit and hold a welcome workshop. This powerpoint presentation
may help. Follow this link to
Unlocking the Growth films, featuring steps 1 - 4 of the 12 steps
to becoming an inviting church.
Your church might
consider carrying out a church audit called Gateways
to God? which you can download here
How connected are we with the
The programme is a stimulus to consider the local people the
church seeks to serve. Whose needs shape the activities of the
church? Is church life organized so that it is easily accessible
for everyone? Sometimes small manageable changes can make church
and its activities more attractive to those who do not currently
attend. Back to Church Sunday is not meant to be a big one-off
event, before returning to "business as usual" the following week.
Yes, preparation and a special effort will be needed, but
the intention and hope is that those invited will return the
next Sunday, and the next.
Here is a stimulus to re-gain confidence in who we are in
Christ - as individuals and as churches. The truth of the
gospel is the same, and some people are open to being invited to
return into fellowship, or to consider what the church has to
offer. Much goodwill has been created by the programme, and numbers
attending is increasing year on year. There are more and more
stories of individuals and couples who have returned to fellowship,
and others who have responded to the gospel.
What preparations can churches be
Book a local speaker to
visit your church to talk about Back to Church
January to Easter
Church Council agrees to support Back to Church Sunday and puts
the date in the church diary.
Appoint a church co-ordinator.
Register and order resources.
Read about available training for your
Initial thinking about speaker and participants in the
Plan a communication strategy for May to July.
Consider using From coffee morning
to Sunday morning to prepare your church to move
on from Back to Church Sunday to forging new relationships of
Easter to July
Church resources are
available in July - to ensure that your
church receives the resources, you must
register by 30 June. Ordering opens in
Use worship services, house groups or welcome workshops to
consider - "What kind of church are we?" "What kind of people are
we inviting?" "What are we planning to do?"
Include good news stories and testimonies to encourage
participation in inviting.
Encourage prayer for the event, potential guests and a follow
Decide on invitations form pastoral lists, junior church list,
cradle roll, weddings, funerals.
First three Sundays in September
Distribute prayer cards and personal invitation
Pray for the event and potential guests.
Encourage people to invite others personally.
Back to Church Sunday
Enjoy the day! The average Methodist church will have 14
Respond the next week to the Back to Church feedback request.