Methodist and Elim churches join Baptists in giving visitors a BIG welcome this September

More churches than ever before are expected to give a BIGWelcome to visitors this September.

The Methodist Church and Elim Pentecostal Churches are taking partfor the first time, alongside Baptists in England, Wales andScotland, in the Free Church initiative the BIG Welcome. Theinitiative encourages Christians to 'invite someone they know tosomething they love'. This could be a welcome event or service at achurch or an alternative venue like a restaurant or gym. The BIGWelcome is due to take place on Sunday 23 September 2012 but theresources are undated so can fit into the church's calendar when itsuit them.

The BIG Welcome was started by the Baptist Union of Great Britainin 2010. Last year 3,000 attended church for the first time in the280 churches that participated in the initiative. This year theresources are based around the parable of the prodigal son and havebeen designed to help churches think 'creatively'. One suggestionis instead of inviting people to a church service, churches couldhold a different Big Welcome event like a curry night, a quiz nightor a big breakfast for example.

Mark Wakelin, President Elect of the Methodist Conference2012-2013, wants Methodist churches to take part. "I'd like toencourage you to be part of the BIG Welcome, and to be bolder andto trust that God can work through you, as he can work through me,in making people feel loved and wanted in a big wide world, whereso much of the time we don't feel that at all."

"The BIG Welcome is a hugely important initiative," said JohnGlass, General Suprintendent of Elim Pentecostal Churches. "It is acatalyst for inviting friends and neighbours to hear and experiencethe message of the gospel at any time of year. I would encourageevery church in the UK to embrace the concept of this greatinitiative and make it their own."

Ian Bunce, Head of the Mission Department at the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain, said "We are excited that this year we are doing theBIG Welcome in partnership with our friends from Elim and theMethodist Church. With resources based around the story of theprodigal, we are using the image of a puzzle piece to say topeople, there is a space for you. We look forward to hearing thestories about how churches have used this excitingresource."