This Sunday, Sept. 18, is National Back to Church Sunday. The concept was launched two years ago in response to a 2008 LifeWay Research study that found 63 percent of Americans would be open to a friend or neighbor inviting them to church, and 67 percent to a family member.
But despite people’s openness to being invited, only 2 percent of Christians invite a non-churchgoer in a given year, according to LifeWay Research. Back to Church Sunday wants to change that.
Back to Church Sunday was started to encourage Christians to invite people to church and to make newcomers feel welcome. This year, the event falls on this Sunday, Sept. 18, although some churches choose to hold it on other Sundays.
Of course, evangelism is much more than a church invitation; it’s taking the time to patiently listen and caring enough to stick by someone even when they don’t want to go to church. In my own experiences, I’ve watched friends leave church or Christianity altogether because of the judgmental way some Christians had treated them.
And so, as we extend these invitations, we must keep in mind that our friends, family and neighbors may be wary of going back to church and we must respect their experiences. There are times when it is better to listen than to preach. We must invite graciously, without judging or pressuring, while remaining open to talking about their doubts, concerns and struggles.
What about you? What advice and lessons have you learned? How do you invite people to church and share your faith with them?
An Internet survey by LifeWay Research found 67 percent of Americans would be open to an invitation to church from a family member, and 63 percent to a friend or neighbor.
The 2008 study was the inspiration for National Back to Church Sunday, a cross-denominational movement encouraging churches and individuals to invite people to church. The third annual Back to Church Sunday will be Sept. 18.
Interestingly enough, the same study found African Americans to be the most receptive ethnic group to church invitations. About 82 percent of African Americans said a relative’s personal invitation would be “somewhat to very effective,” and 79 percent said the same of an invitation from a friend or neighbor.
In comparison, 65 percent of white Americans responded likewise to a relative’s invitation, and 61 percent to a friend or neighbor’s invitation. Hispanic, Asian and mixed-race or other Americans had equal or slightly higher responses, with Hispanic Americans the second most receptive group. The study surveyed 15,000 Americans online.
Responses to other questions also found African Americans to consistently be the most receptive ethnic group to receiving church information and invitations, no matter the medium—friends, family members, door-to-door visits, commercials, social media, signs, etc. Details can be viewed in a PowerPoint at the bottom of LifeWay Research’s article.
So far, nearly half of a hoped-for 10,000 churches have registered for National Back to Church Sunday. As Sept. 18 approaches, the event is seeking citywide coordinators to assist and recruit local churches.
See one of the campaign’s promotional videos below.
“We want our citywide coordinators to really be creative about how to help churches work together in their community,” said Philip Nation, LifeWay’s research ministry development director. “We want them to have a vision that Back to Church Sunday is the beginning of relationships to further minister to the community to help spread the gospel. This is an opportunity for them to begin to work together to meet the needs that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise meet as an individual congregation.”
Last year, participating churches saw an average 26 percent attendance increase, according to a press release.
Church leaders can become citywide coordinators by filling out an online form on the National Back to Church Sunday website. There can also be more than one coordinator per city; if multiple people volunteer for the position, they can work together, Nation said. “We’re hoping we’ll see some coordinators really step up to hold regular meetings for pastors to brainstorm how churches can reach out to the community.”