By Lindsay Jones
In 2009, 57 New Zealand Baptist churches participated in our first nationwide Back to Church Sunday initiative. The average number of persons (all ages) who were invited to one of those churches last year was 13 (505 adults and 57 children recorded from the 43 churches who gave us feedback).
Back to Church Sunday has grown beyond all expectations since the first one in greater Manchester, Britain, in 2004. It is based on the simplest and shortest step in evangelism, that we should invite someone we already know to something we love – invite our friend to our church gathering. The initial focus was to invite ‘back’ those who used to attend, but anyone who didn’t currently attend was guaranteed an especially warm welcome.
We fully realise this form of outreach has limited scope; it will connect best with those we have significant relationships with, and who are open and ready to come into our standard church worship contexts. But that in itself is a good challenge – does the average church member have relationships like that or not?
Some of the feedback from New Zealand Baptist churches that participated last year included:
“To invite people was something they (church members) realised they could do.”
“This has created a great focus for the church to pull together in an outreach.”
“Many were surprised that when they invited people the response was ‘yes.’”
“What surprised me was it gave an opportunity for non-churched spouses to be invited. This is sometimes an overlooked group.”