Congregations increased by nearly a quarter at more than 4,200 churches on Back to Church Sunday on 25th September 2011 – an average of 19 extra people per church.
Overall 18 per cent of participating churches reported that nearly 14,000 extra people attended church on Back to Church Sunday 2011 in Great Britain; over 10,000 of these attended Church of England churches. Based on these numbers it could be estimated that:
- An extra 77,000 people attended church on Back to Church Sunday 2011 (over 58,000 in the Church of England)
- Since the first Back to Church Sunday in 2004, nearly 230,000 people have come back to church.
The Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said: “Back to Church Sunday is a fantastic opportunity for growth. We know that three million people in England say they'd come back to church if they had an invitation*, and I encourage even more churches to register in 2012. It's a simple initiative that really does work.”
St Mary the Virgin, Yaxley, in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, is an example of a church where Back to Church Sunday is part of a successful mission strategy: regular Sunday attendance has nearly quadrupled from nine to a viable 35, thanks to personal invitations from church members, and the pioneering work of the Revd Tiffer Robinson, who knocked on every door in the village of 400 people to personally invite everyone back to church.
He said: “We very successfully incorporated Back to Church Sunday, using the suggested ‘template service’ and three well-known hymns, creating a 45-minute traditional but informal service full of community spirit and joy that was accessible to regular worshippers and visitors. I would fully recommend Back to Church Sunday as a mission initiative.”
Launched in Greater Manchester in 2004 and now thought to be the largest single local-church invitational initiative in the world, Back to Church Sunday encourages churchgoers to take the simplest and shortest step in evangelism, by inviting someone they already know to church. It sees congregations of many denominations hosting special services using resources and packs distributed from a national office; these packs include attractive invitations, prayer cards, T-shirts, tea bags, coffee and chocolate bars, with all products fairly traded and sourced through Traidcraft, a key sponsor of Back to Church Sunday.
This year, the Archbishop of York launched Back to Church Sunday by ‘tweeting’ an invitation to 10,000 people, that was re-tweeted by 95 Twitter accounts to thousands more people; and the invitations were backed up by 30-second radio adverts in certain areas and local launches across the dioceses.
Churches of all denominations can find out how to join Yaxley in celebrating Back to Church Sunday 2012, on 30th September, by visiting the website http://www.backtochurch.co.uk.
Notes to editors
The above figures were compiled by Back to Church Sunday.
This year 3,104 Church of England, 16 Congregational Federation, 72 Elim Pentecostal, 383 Methodist, 120 Salvation Army and 121 United Reformed churches took part in England in Back to Church Sunday; other participating UK Churches were Church in Wales (115), Baptist Union of Wales (17), Union of Welsh Independents (9), Church of Ireland (91), Methodist Church in Ireland (55), and 15 independent churches.
For full details of the St Mary the Virgin, Yaxley, case study go to:
More details on local launches across the dioceses are available here:
Produced by Bradford-based HCJB Global with support from the Jerusalem Trust, the radio advert - broadcast on Heart FM in Essex and Premier Christian Radio - comprises a montage of 'vox pops' from real churchgoers around the country: "It's like a big family… There's always someone to talk to... It makes me feel good about myself... Quite often I go there and I just cry because I'm so overwhelmed with the whole love I feel... It's a shared experience... It's a place where if I've had a rough week, I can just leave it all behind… To me it's the greatest thing on earth… Friends, family, fun, I just love it…"
* The publication Churchgoing in the UK (Tearfund, 2007) says: "Nearly 3 million likely to go in future. There is a clear opportunity for churches to attract new members by tapping into the 2.9 million people (6% of UK adults) who are likely to go to church in future. The personal touch is a major trigger. A personal invite, family or a friend attending or difficult personal circumstances, are most likely to encourage people into church."