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					Back to Church Sunday 27th September 2009 – Theme – “Come as you are”
Background 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 Salvation Army will also promote it, with nearly every other denomination piloting or rolling out the programme. Four Methodist District Evangelism Enablers were involved last year, and the feedback received from them is very positive. Motivation 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 in 2006, 2000 churches received 20,000 extra worshippers in 2007, and 3000 churches an extra 36,000 last September. Generally a small minority have continued to attend, and a few churches have gained more significant numbers. 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 point. Research done by TEAR Fund shows that there are 3 million people who would respond positively to an invitation. 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 aware. Implications 1. To what kind of church are they inviting people back? 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?” – 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.

2. How connected are they with the community?

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 them? Sometimes small manageable changes can make church and its activities more attractive to those who do not currently attend. 3. 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 is needed in some respects, but the intention and hope is that they will return the next Sunday, and the next.

4. Here is a stimulus to re-gain confidence in who we are in Christ – we 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. Church Preparations January to Easter -Church Council agrees to support Back to Church Sunday. -Appoint Church Co-ordinator. Send completed registration form to........ -Put date in Church Diary. Initial thinking about speaker and participants in the service. -Plan a communication strategy for May to July. Easter to July -Church Packs available May/June. (100 invitations, posters) =£25-30 per pack. -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 up/nurture course. -Decide on invitations form pastoral lists, junior church list, cradle roll, weddings, funerals Sundays in September -Distribute prayer cards, personal invitation cards. -Pray for the event, potential guests. Encourage people to invite personally. Summary Back to Church Sunday, led by the Methodist Church leadership, has great potential. It is hoped that, with the support of the Communications Team at MCH, and the backing of the Methodist Recorder, it will make a significant contribution to the life of the Church. Derrick Norton 22/12/08


				
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