What Is Back to Church Sunday? It is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America Back to Church. The campaign (much like a Friend Day) provides church members with the opportunity they need to welcome their neighbors, friends and loved ones to church, while providing the unchurched with an easy way to find a welcoming church in their community.
When Is Back to Church Sunday? The date for Back to Church Sunday is September 15, 2013. September is when school starts and when most people think about going back to church or trying a church.
Why Should My Church Participate? Last year over 13,100 churches participated in the fourth year of this growing national movement and on average saw a 38% increase in their attendance on that day! The goal this year is to have 20,000 churches across America band together and bring spiritual renewal to their communities through Back to Church Sunday!
Twenty Tips for a Great Service
The ultimate goal of Back to Church Sunday is to invite people into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The second goal is to connect new visitors to your church so they can grow in their new relationship. Below are some tips for helping visitors get acquainted with your church during Back to Church Sunday.
Before the Service
- Prepare your church facility, indoors and out. Never underestimate the importance of simple cleanliness and the outward appearance of your grounds. Inside, pay particular attention to the worship center, the lobby, restrooms, and children’s rooms. These are the areas new visitors will see first. Make sure restrooms are sparkling clean. You may even want to have a bowl of wrapped mints and church information on a side table or counter.
- Make sure you have banners or signs marking your worship center, children’s area, youth area, information table or area, and the location of restrooms and refreshments. Being able to easily find their way around will help visitors feel comfortable.
- Prepare various core groups, including the leadership team, greeters, assimilation team, parking team, and small group leaders. The members of these teams should be available to greet visitors and offer information about church ministries, programs, upcoming events or sermon series, and available small group studies.
- Prepare an interesting and educational guest packet. The packet should contain your church’s mission statement, information about the church and the IPHC, a brief description of church programs and small groups, and contact information. You also might include a pen or pencil with your church name and phone number.
- Consider giving a small gift to all new visitors. Not only does a gift tell people they are valued, it gives you and your teams an opportunity to meet and connect with visitors. Plus you can mention the visitor gift in all your invitational tools and on your website and social media pages.
- Update your website. For visitors, the Internet represents a nonthreatening way to check out your church before they attend.
- Consider starting new small groups shortly after Back to Church Sunday, or plan a fun, church-wide event, or a compelling follow-up sermon series, for example The Bible 30 Church Experience or a single event like WOW! Friend Sunday. This will make it easy to invite visitors back to your church for another event.
- Smile, say hello to visitors, and hand out bulletins. Welcome visitors to your church and direct them to the next logical place—the worship center, hospitality area, children’s ministry, etc.
- Allow visitors to remain comfortably anonymous if they choose.
During the Service
- Ask a staff or church member to present a general welcome message at the beginning of the service. This allows new people to feel welcome without feeling uncomfortable.
- Include a way to collect contact information for effective follow-up. The method you use will be critical to the overall experience of visitors in your church. One of the most common collection methods is the use of a connection card. If you choose this method, make sure everybody fills one out—not just visitors—to avoid drawing attention to those who are new.
- Invite visitors to return. This sounds simple, but issuing a clear invitation to return and become a part of your church family is an important way to make visitors feel valued and welcome.
- Give visitors a reason to come back. Think about what you have coming up after Back to Church Sunday and let everyone know during your announcements. Talk about your next sermon series, an upcoming fun event, or sign-ups for small groups or ministry teams.
- Consider doing an altar call. You can have people come forward at the end of the sermon or during your final song. Or you can invite them to come forward for prayer afterward.
- Invite new visitors to receive a gift and church information at the end of the service. You can invite them to come to the front of the worship center or ask them to stop by an information table or visitor area. Since some first-time visitors prefer to remain anonymous, you also can leave some visitor packs with gifts on the counter of your information table.
- Have staff members and trained volunteers available for prayer requests and questions at the end of the service.
After the Service
- Offer coffee and refreshments. Not only does this demonstrate that you value your attendees and their comfort, it also gives everyone an opportunity to meet new people.
- Staff an information table or visitor area with friendly volunteers who are trained to answer questions and help people connect through small groups and ministry events.
- Ask your staff to circulate through the lobby and refreshment area and be available to visitors. You also may want a pastor or staff member at each exit, to thank people for coming and invite them to return.
- Clearly label information and sign-up areas for small groups, events, and ministry functions. Banners that hang from the ceiling or tall, vertical banners work best, because they are visible in a crowded lobby.
Where can I find more resources for Back to Church Sunday?
Be sure to visit the National Back To Church Website at: backtochurch.com. There are free resources including an online assessment, Back To Church Sermon, Ideas and Planning Tips. You can also order the 2013 Back To Church Kit at backtochurch.com. The kit has the latest graphics, promotional videos and materials to help your church have the greatest participation.
Prepared by our Cornerstone Conference Evangelism Ministries