Wednesday 5 October 2011

Back to Church Sunday

There are various blogs going around at the moment on the success - or otherwise - of Back to Church Sunday. Some of them are of the 'we tried it and it didn't work' variety - as if B2CS is the panacea that the church needs to get it back on its feet. Others are of the 'we didn't think it would work, so we didn't try it' variety.

I guess it depends on context! In my church, we tried it as 'Back to Church Sunday' and it didn't really work. The suggestion was that if people were once part of a church, they would quite likely be open to an invitation to return (thus, some of the blogs about the gap being too big between church and the unchurched miss the point - B2CS was originally aimed at the 'ex-churched'). One or two responded and came to our church, but most of the invitations met a blank. The second year, we aimed at those who are un-churched but with whom we had friendship. About 12 extras came along, swelling our normal congregation by around 10%. That's more guests than normally come along, so I think that makes it a success. This year, the Baptist Union branded the day as the 'Big Welcome' and aimed, I think, more specifically at the unchurched. We had about 8 extras come in response to specific invitations, and few more visitors who happened to be there. Again, the strategy could be seen as successful and the service and sermon ideas that were provided worked well.

Juliet Kilpin has written an thought-provoking blog which you can read here. I agree with much of what she says, and particularly resonate with her question 'Why aren't we inviting people to church anyway?' The reasons she gives are:
  1. Lack of confidence in the church i.e. our congregations don't feel that their friends will relate to or like what goes on during a Sunday service
  2. Over-churched i.e. Christians don't get out much, spending so much time on church things that we don't have un-churched friends to invite.
  3. Churchless faith - for many the gap between where they are and church is too great to cross. They may encounter God in a different setting e.g. a different expression of church
For me, these aren't reasons not to observe the 'Big Welcome' or B2CS or whatever you want to call it, but we need to be better at what we do. For many churches, particularly those of a more traditional nature, the impetus of a national campaign (which could include Alpha, Christianity Explored etc) is what we need to encourage us to invite others. It encourages us to audit our welcome, our service content, our user-friendliness etc and that can be no bad thing. Of course, our mission strategy shouldn't stop there, but it might just start something!

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