Last Minute Tips for Back to Church Sunday

The excitement is building. Over 11,000 churches across America will be hosting a special Back to Church Sunday service this coming weekend! Imagine how many people will hear the Good News and discover hope and love at a local church!

Here at Outreach we are praying for each of you – that God will bring many visitors to your church and that many people will come to know Jesus this week.

There are only a few days left before your event. But you can still spread the word and get ready to welcome visitors here are some last minute tips:

  1. Continue to spread the word on social media. Post the You Belong Here Invite video to your social media sites and encourage your congregation to share it with their friends and family online too.
  2. If you don’t have a 2018 Church Kit – you can still download the Digital Kit to get all the videos and a planning guide you can use to quickly put some best practices in place.
  3. Prepare invitations for your follow up series – Download the new Chosen four-week sermon series on identity in Christ if you still need help.
  4. Welcome everyone to your church on the day of your event with a powerful welcome video. This will welcome visitors and reinforce to members that your church is truly a place to belong. Consider showing the Welcome to Church – Everyone video at the very beginning of your service.
  5. Host a time of prayer with your staff and ministry leaders – ask God to bring in visitors and to open their hearts to the Gospel while expanding your reach in the community.
  6. Share your pictures, stories and results – We would love to hear how your event goes – or better yet, see pictures or videos!  Please share your stories with us – we love to hear stories of life change, how many visitors you have and how you used your resource tools to connect with your community. You can even get 15% off your next order – just post your stories to the Back to Church Facebook group or to #outreachstories on social media or email us at OutreachStories@Outreach.com!  

Also watch for a follow up survey to help us improve next year! We pray this event will be powerful in reaching your community for Christ! 

 

What’s Next? Beyond Back to Church Sunday

Back to Church Sunday is almost here and your church is ready: you’ve empowered your members to invite, planned a powerful service, promoted your event in the community and online, cleaned up your building, prepped your staff and encouraged everyone to pray! Whew, what could possibly be left?

If you haven’t considered your follow-up plans, you could be leaving out one of the most important parts of a successful Back to Church Sunday campaign. Once you have visitors in your church, how will you get them to return next week? Visitors who come for Back to Church Sunday may be ready to make church a more important part of their lives. So here are a few ideas to help you engage with them and hopefully get them to return in the next weeks or months:  

Launch a compelling sermon series

There is a good chance that many people in your community share similar challenges in their lives – who hasn’t worried about being a good parent, fixing their finances, or finding enough time in the day? – so launching a sermon series that sheds Biblical light on one of those common “felt needs” is an effective way to keep your visitors interested in coming to church. Get great ideas and resources here.

Host a guest speaker

One California church plans several “Wow Sundays” each year when they bring in a guest speaker that will draw visitors from the community. While it is great to host a big name star, it’s probably not necessary. There are a lot of great speakers who have interesting, compelling stories that will draw a crowd. You know your community demographics best, so pick someone that will interest the largest segment you are trying to reach – visit  OutreachEvents.com to get started.

Offer a free lunch

Kind of like a back to school open house, invite your visitors to come back the next Sunday for church and a free lunch. It could even be an outdoor barbecue or a pancake brunch. Try to have all your pastors and ministry leaders attend and be table hosts. Have ice breaker questions and then let visitors get to know one another. Give a short history of your church and your vision for where you are going and how you support the community. If your visitors feel connected and part of your community, they are more likely to be comfortable coming back again.

Plan a community event or festival

Show your visitors that there’s  more to church than Sunday services by hosting a fun community event like a harvest festival, Thanksgiving dinner or craft fair. Big events show visitors that service and volunteerism is important to your church and that there is more to attending church than sitting in the pews – PLUS everyone has fun!

Roll out the red carpet

Everyone loves going to the movies – but for a family it can be expensive. So bring a great movie to your church instead! Have a little fun with this event – offer popcorn and candy, have “paparazzi” take photos and set up comfortable seating areas. Be sure to offer childcare for the younger kids so parents can relax and the kids can have fun. Check out great movie event options here.  

 

Back to Church Sunday is a powerful starting point for reaching your community, but don’t stop there! Plan one or more follow-up events and give your visitors a reason to return. And whatever event you plan, be sure to have invitations ready at your Back to Church event so everyone knows they are welcome to return!

A Pastor’s Perspective: National Back to Church Sunday

By John Bornschein, Senior Pastor
Calvary Fellowship Fountain Valley

Several times in scripture (1) we are told to declare God’s glory among the nations and to go into all the world with the gospel message. Then we are instructed to serve these people with the heart of a foot-washer (2).  Billy Graham stated, “We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.”

So, where as the Church should we begin?

As church leaders, we labor for the cause of Christ and yet, we struggle to see movement of the Word in our parishioners from the pew to the pavement.  They are often incapacitated by the thought of “sharing their faith” or “bearing witness.” Therefore, we find that only 2% of people in the average congregation will invite someone to church, while the world desperately awaits to be invited. In fact, statistics tell us that 8 out of 10 individuals would accept if asked!  Therefore, we must unite together, as churches, to mobilize the followers of Christ and equip them to impact their spheres of influence – we can delay no longer. The time is now!

National Back to Church Sunday, September 16, 2018 can serve as a catalyst for the people of God to step out of their comfort zones and invite their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to their place of worship. With churches reporting 25% more visitors on Back to Church Sunday, just imagine what it will sound like before the throne of God to hear 16 million more people in church that Sunday!

So, how do we start?

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain” – Psalm 127:1.

It begins with prayer and consecration. Before the people of Israel were to go into the Promised Land, Joshua reminded them to consecrate themselves. A movement of God always begins with and through the Holy Spirit. As God’s appointed leaders, we must prepare the people spiritually for the work that is before them. From there, it gets easy:

Spread the Word:

The Harvard Business Review has stated that most people will respond to seven impression points. This is where Outreach, Inc. comes in. They have created a vast array of resources for equipping your congregation to invite someone to church.

So, at Calvary Fellowship Fountain Valley, we are planning a team meeting with our leaders to share the vision and give an overview of each of the promotional tools. (If you don’t have a vision for the growth in your church, then I highly recommend you go back and re-read Habakkuk 2:2-3.)

Be sure to list your church information on the website www.backtochurch.com, then establish a budget to acquire the tools you need from Outreach, Inc. Remember, the goal is to saturate the community from local stores and street corners to social media, and by way of every house around the church, if possible. You will only reap what you sow. The return is in direct proportion to your investment. Our church has acquired the invitations, door hangers, bulletins, posters, banners and church kit. The team leaders will then help share the vision, equip their volunteers, decorate the facility and with a smile on their face, share their enthusiasm with every member of the church.

On the Sundays leading up to the event, we will play the Josh and Steve invite videos on our sanctuary screens and on roll-up displays near tables of resources that are positioned strategically throughout the building and campus. Every week, I plan to share the vision for Back to Church Sunday with the congregation and encourage each person to get involved and to do their part to make Back to Church Sunday a “standing stone memorial” in the legacy of our church outreach  (Joshua 4). After all, this is bigger than any one of us.

Finally, we are planning to go door-to-door with gift bags: each filled with a Bible, devotional and invitation card. And the week before Back to Church Sunday, we are mailing an Outreach, Inc. postcard to more than 11,000 homes around our church. If only 2% respond to this mailing, we will have to make accommodations for 220 more people! This is what gets us excited and our team leaders are already busily preparing as a result.

We are a small church with 83 volunteers and a congregation of less than 300 people. If we can do it, so can you!


Pastor John joined Jason Daye for a conversation on planning an effective Back to Church event – click here to watch 4 short helpful videos for tips and insights.

REFERENCES: 
1 – Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15; Psalm 96:3; Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 28:31

2 – John 13:1-17; Matthew 25:31-39; Isaiah 58:6-9; James 1:27

 

Help Your Church Greeter Team Become Super Greeters

A well-trained church greeter team is a huge help to visitors who are brand new to your church. As you reach out to your community and invite them to Back to Church Sunday, you will find that many of your new visitors have never been to church before—ever. Your church is like a foreign country to them! They don’t know the customs, they don’t know the language and they don’t know their way around. That is where a church greeter comes in.

A good church greeter can make your visitors feel welcome, relaxed and more comfortable. And they are your best testimony! They show how wonderful and helpful your church is. With a properly trained team, your visitors feel like they have already started to make friends simply by walking through the door. How do you build this amazing team? Here are some ways turn your volunteers into super greeters.

Be Friendly, But Not Overbearing

Going to a new church can be a scary experience for some people, especially those who have never been before. While you want your greeters to be friendly, you don’t want new visitors to feel smothered or uncomfortable. Coach your volunteers to follow the lead of the guest and adjust their approach accordingly. You can also designate your best “people readers” to be your main greeters. They will be able to hand off new people with a greeter who best fits the new guest’s personality style.

Don’t Just Point the Way. Lead the Way.

Instead of just pointing the way, your church greeters should be willing and able to escort your guests around your church. They should also introduce visitors to the children’s ministry leaders and volunteers, show them where to get refreshments and help them find a seat. This means you will need a few volunteers willing to greet each Sunday—so that there is always someone at the door while other members of the team escort new people.

Dress the Part

Help your greeters stand out from the rest of your members. Provide them with a distinctive name tag or t-shirts that shows your visitors they are helpers. Even if your church is more casual, make sure they dress in the absolute best representation of that particular style, so they look professional. Some churches supply shirts or smocks to their greeting teams so that they are easily recognizable (and no one has to worry about what to wear).

Show Your Appreciation

One of the most important things to remember with any volunteer team in your ministry is to thank them often and recognize their hard work. Greeters give up a lot of personal time to welcome new visitors. They have to show up earlier, leave later and always be “on” so that guests can have a positive experience. Give them a shout-out before services, thank them in your weekly bulletin, give them small tokens of appreciation … just let them know you love their help and that their work is helping to bring more families to Christ.

You’ve probably already got several great volunteers who help you at your outreach events and during Sunday services. With these helpful insights, you can help them do the best job possible! They’ll make a great first impression and help your guests feel welcome.

Outreach Idea: How to Host a Food Truck for Back to Church Sunday

For Back to Church Sunday 2017, First Baptist Church of Watonga, OK brought in a couple food trucks for their event, inviting the community to come to church and have lunch afterwards. Offering something unusual at your event is a great way to draw attention and see more visitors. So here is how you can make this idea your own this year!

Why Host a Food Truck?

Across the United States, the food truck industry is a $1 billion industry with over 4000 food trucks operating. Food Trucks are hot and can provide your event with extra buzz especially if you can bring in a popular food truck from your area  – you will automatically draw more attention and hopefully more people to your event.

“We were trying to think outside the box and food trucks are really popular in Oklahoma City, near here. And we don’t have a lot of catering options in our area and we didn’t want to do the same old thing,” said Brandon Kalicki, the Youth Pastor and event organizer for  First Baptist in Watonga.

Food trucks add an element of excitement and interest that can instantly make your event seem more fun. Plus they can be a great option for locations that are hard to reach or that don’t have a large kitchen or service area, and they are perfect for events that are outdoors.

8 Tips for Hosting a Food Truck at Your Event
1. Set a Budget  

You will need to estimate the size of your crowd for the event and then contact several food truck vendors to get estimates. Some trucks may work with you on the menu and limit the selection to make service faster and to keep down costs.

The average food truck can feed about 75 guests so depending on the size of the crowd  you may want more than one truck – plus that allows for different types of cuisine. At First Baptist, they had a lunch truck serve gourmet burgers and a specialty popsicle truck serve dessert. Kalicki was able to choose the popsicle flavors ahead of time and the dessert was prepackaged and easy to hand out.

2. Carefully select your food truck  

These trucks come in a variety of styles, colors and sizes – some are crazy and wild and others more upscale. Choose a truck that compliments your theme or environment and the space you have to work with. Be careful to do your research so you know exactly what your truck looks like, if it plays music, and what it has to offer ahead of time. Your food truck can add to your desired ambiance and make it a party your guests will remember. If you don’t know where to start to find a food truck, ask your members or search on Facebook for local trucks. Another option is to check out sites like RoamingHunger.com which have a list for major metropolitan areas and can even help with some of the planning.

3. Work on your food menu

Talk to the food truck owners about your event, your budget, how big your crowd will be, and how fast you want the people served. Consider if people will be sitting at tables, standing at bistro tables, or walking around with plates — you want your food choices to be easy to eat and not too messy. Also consider special food for the kids and ask your food truck vendor if they have kid-friendly items.

If you want to limit the amount of food served to keep your costs down, consider giving each worship service attender a food ticket to redeem for their meal – this prevents people from going back for seconds and thirds.

At their event, First Baptist issued two tickets to each person. Kalicki pre-arranged with the burger truck to only accept the “keep this ticket” side of the ticket and the popsicle vendor took the side that said “ticket”. If you have the resources, you could make your own tickets to hand out.

4. Decide on the best spot for your food truck

There are a few  things to take into consideration when figuring out where to set up your food truck. First, you want it where it’s easily accessible to your guests. Nobody wants to trudge a quarter mile in high heels to grab a bite. So keep it close to the main action, without making it the focal point. Setting your food truck off to the side but close enough that everyone can easily get to it is smart. Plus make sure the location of the food truck and those in the queue do not interfere with the entrance and exits of your building and parking lot.

Some municipalities have restrictions in place that determine where a food truck can be parked and at what times. You will want to check with your local city hall to find out your regulations and if any special permits or insurance are required.

5. Create an eating area

Part of your event atmosphere will be how you set up the area around the food trucks and where people will eat. A lot of this will be determined by where the food trucks are parked and your facility. If you have a grassy area you may want to put round tables and chairs there and let the kids run around. If the sun is too hot or if there is a chance of rain, consider putting up canopies or offering shady or covered areas.  Or if you are in climate where the weather can be questionable, you may want both outdoor and indoor areas.

High top bistro style tables are also a great option – people can mill around and talk or move from table to table mingling.

6. Think about timing  

Be sure to talk to your food truck vendors about the timing of your event. You will want them set up and ready to go when your service ends. So have someone on your team be ready to greet them, direct them to the parking area and make sure they are ready for the crowd.

Because food trucks often cook everything to order, they can be slower to serve the food, so it would be a good idea to have music, games, performers and other distractions for people to enjoy while they are standing in line or waiting for their order.

“One unforeseen benefit was the amount of social time there was while people were in line or waiting for their food,” Kalicki said, “Normally everyone has their seat or section they sit in and they don’t venture out of that area at church, this mixed people up and gave them a chance to talk with visitors and meet new people. It provided some different touchpoints socially.”

7. Spread the word  

The goal of hosting a food truck or any other creative event is to draw more visitors to your church. So once you have your truck and event plans confirmed, you need to start spreading the word around your community. Most studies show that consumers need several “touches” before they will respond to an ad or marketing message, so that means you can’t rely on just one method of communication. Here are some great options to look at:

    • Direct mail: The benefit of mailing out invitations to your community is that you can reach a large, but targeted area easily and quickly. Studies show that the vast majority of people look at every piece of mail they receive  So for a broad reach that can have a real impact, a postcard invitation is an inexpensive way start your marketing efforts.
    • Outdoor Banners: The reason you see so many billboards on the highway is because people really do read them. So when you post a large outdoor banner outside your church it acts like a mini-billboard – promoting your event to passing traffic and reinforcing the message of your other efforts.
    • Personal Invitations: Nothing beats the power of an invitation from one person to another. But often Christians are reluctant or shy about asking their friends and neighbors to come to church. One way to help empower your members is by providing them with easy to use, un-intimidating invitation cards. These small cards fit in a wallet and can be handed out without being awkward.
    • Website & Social Media: Today most of your church visitors will make a stop on your church website before they walk through your doors. You can’t afford to ignore online guests and social media in your event planning. It’s an inexpensive way to spread the word and an entirely new way to start conversations with people about faith. On your website, make sure your event and food trucks are promoted on your homepage with details on the service times and even information on the food that will be served. On social media, it’s important to be part of a conversation and not just someone promoting an event. One idea is to have a Poll asking people about their favorite foods or even about the trucks themselves. Also make sure the Food Truck is listing your location as one of their stops – ask them to include a link to your church’s website too. Also encourage your members to share about your event with their social media friends.
    • Press Release/Publicity: Depending on the size of your community and what other things are going on, you may be able to get a local TV station to cover your event. After all it’s not everyday that a church has food trucks in their parking lot. Send a short informational press release to the local news outlets and you may just get a little free publicity.

    8. Get Help with Cleanup

    One of the biggest advantages of a food truck catering an event is that clean up is a breeze. Generally food trucks use disposable paper plates and plastic cutlery. Many food trucks will provide receptacles so guests can just toss out their trash. Adding a few volunteer roving waiters and waitresses can help collect anything that’s missed or left behind.

    A Food Truck can be an exciting and memorable addition to your Back to Church Sunday event so give it a try and then share your story and pictures with us at https://www.facebook.com/backtochurch/

Why Your Church Needs A Digital Outreach Strategy

As a church interested in National Back to Church Sunday you know outreach is an important part of fulfilling the Great Commission and necessary for growth. You probably have a top-notch outreach strategy that includes time-tested methods like direct mail, invitation tools, and word of mouth. But, there’s a chance you’re leaving something out. Do you have a plan for digital outreach?

If not, you need one! We live in an increasingly digital world, which means digital outreach belongs as part of a holistic outreach strategy. If your church doesn’t include digital outreach as part of your overall strategy, you’re overlooking an important way to connect with your community.

If digital outreach sounds complicated, don’t worry! It simply means using the digital tools available to you to reach your community for Christ. You can start by creating a thoughtful plan that includes the use of digital platforms as part of your outreach efforts.

A basic digital outreach strategy starts with these three components:

  1. A great church website
  2. Active social media profiles
  3. An organized email list

Ready to get your digital outreach up and running? Read on!

1. Have A Great Church Website

Are you missing out on attracting new visitors and engaging regular attendees because you don’t have a church website? In today’s digital culture, a good online presence is a vital part of ministry.

The internet is the number one tool people use to search for information they need. If someone is searching for a church in their neighborhood, they’re probably looking online first. If you don’t have a website for them to find, you’ll potentially lose out on a new member.

Since you only have one chance to make a good first impression on someone, make sure your website is representing your church well. Think of it this way: a well-designed website that is easy to navigate serves as a digital front porch for your church. People will feel welcomed and invited in when they see you’ve put effort into creating a website that answers their questions about your church.

If you’re not sure where to begin, make sure your website has these basics on the homepage:

  • Church contact info (phone and email)
  • Church address
  • Service times

It’s a great idea to have a “New Here” tab visitors can click on to learn everything they need to know about visiting your church for the first time. You can even include access to previous sermons so they can get a feel for your pastor’s teaching style,

As you edit and polish your website, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of potential new visitors, especially those who may not be familiar with church. Is the content on your website presenting a simple, clear picture of what they can expect from your church? If not, test and tweak different ideas to make your site visitor friendly. You can even ask for feedback when you meet new visitors at your church!

2. Be Active On Social Media 

Social media is where community happens online — if you want to reach people where they are, your church needs to be on social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are excellent tools for creating awareness around your church and engaging with your community.

Social media gives your church a chance to share the Gospel in the digital world. Sharing your story through content, photos, and events keeps your church in front of your followers. Every post is a connection to your audience that reinforces your message. Every time someone shares your post, the message spreads even further, which means your church has a greater chance of being found by those who are seeking answers about faith, the Bible, and God.

If choosing social media platforms feels overwhelming, start with Facebook. Chances are almost every person, business, or ministry you know has a presence on Facebook. Don’t be left out! Setting up a Facebook page for your church is pretty straightforward, and generally easy to manage once you get the hang of it.

Here a few tips for getting started on Facebook:

  • Create a public page for your church with your physical address, service times, contact info, and website.
  • Upload a high-resolution cover photo that is relevant to your church. Use your church logo as your profile picture.
  • Invite your members to “like” your new page and encourage them to share it in their individual networks.
  • Follow other pages (think community nonprofits and other local organizations). Those pages will often follow you back, which grows your network even more.
  • Once your page is set up, start posting daily. If you don’t have time to curate and share daily content, an automatic daily posting service like Social Reach Daily is a great option.
  • What to post? Facebook loves inspiring, shareable content — especially video and photos!
  • Show what makes your church special. You can include photos and updates about different events and ministries so online visitors get a sense of who you are.

Facebook is a solid place to launch, but consider this: Instagram is becoming increasingly popular with churches. Younger demographics are especially present here, so if you want to draw in millennials and Gen Z, think about getting started on Instagram.

3. Organize Your Email List

How do you communicate with your church family? Email is a wonderful tool to keep up with regular attendees in a unified way, or deliver relevant information to targeted groups within your church. It’s also a fantastic option for following up with new visitors.

Your church may already be using a popular email platform like Outlook or Gmail. These are great options, but if you want to polish your approach to email, consider using a free email marketing platform (MailChimp or Sendinblue are good choices). 

These platforms allow you to send sophisticated, visually appealing mass emails that keep your church in the loop. You’re also able to track data — you can see who has opened your emails, what time they opened them, if they opened them on a mobile device, etc.

This helps you refine your approach to email so that you can be sure to deliver relevant content to different segments of your church. It’s easy for visitors and new members to sign up for your email list through “subscribe” buttons you can embed on your website. Email services like these can also help you stay in compliance with spam laws and other email regulations.

No matter the email system you use, it helps to go through your email list and remove names and emails of people that are no longer connected to your church. You can also create email segments of specific ministries in your church (think women’s ministry or volunteers) so that you can send them content tailored to their interests and activities.

Now that you have a freshly organized email list, here are a few ideas on how you can use email to reach out to your church and community:

  • Use your connection cards to gather visitor’s email addresses, then have a follow up sequence tailored to them. This email sequence can thank them for their visit and suggest ways they can further connect with your church.
  • Send out a monthly newsletter to update everyone about what’s going on at your church. You can include reminders about upcoming events and links for them to register.
  • Do you have a prayer team? Use an email list to remind your congregation to be praying for the needs of your church.

When it comes to social media, ever-changing algorithms mean there’s never a guarantee all of your followers will see your messages. That’s why email is a great addition to your outreach strategy — though you can’t be sure that people will open your emails, you’ll at least know your message arrived in their inbox.

Your digital outreach strategy can grow and change with your church. Get started with these three basics and let them serve as stepping stones to help you toward a fully integrated outreach strategy.  By pairing your digital efforts with traditional outreach, you’ll have even more opportunities to reach people in your community for Christ.

What is an Engager and Why Should Your Church Use Them?

These days, evangelism and witnessing are some of the most challenging aspects of Christianity. For many believers, finding a way to share the Gospel or even invite someone to church can feel intimidating — so much so that many Christians struggle to accept their role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

So, how can you encourage your congregation reach out and share their faith? Provide them with Engager Invitations. Engagers are printed literature tools designed to help believers spark meaningful conversations about Jesus with just about anyone.

Here’s how they work:

Your congregation can use Engagers as an easy on-ramp to engage neighbors, coworkers, friends, and even strangers in a conversation about Christ. As the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of recipients and they begin to think more about faith, they can use the details provided in the Engager to seek further information.

In fact, their Engager will direct them to a website that matches the theme and content of the printed piece they’ve received. These websites contain enhanced written content and video that offer recipients a chance to explore more of the Engager story at their own pace.

Finally, Engagers have space on the back panel to include information that is custom to your church. You can include your church web address, service times, and a phone number — all things that help recipients know your church is an open, friendly place where they are welcome to learn about and explore faith.

Ready to use Engagers as an outreach tool for Back To Church season? We want to support your efforts by offering you 500 stock Engagers for free! Click to request yours (while supplies lasts).

The Heart of National Back to Church Sunday

Happy 10th Anniversary! Can you believe National Back To Church Sunday is now in its tenth year as a nation-wide movement? Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of changes in our culture and how the church interacts with it. What hasn’t changed is the need for people to hear about Jesus, and the need for churches to share God’s love with their communities.

In some ways, the need is even greater now. Studies show there are more nones — people who have no religious background or have never been to church — than ever before, not to mention “de-churched” people who attended church but left for one reason or another. National Back To Church Sunday exists to create a day when churches can unite together to reach every home in the country with an invitation to give church a try.

How can we accomplish this? By engaging churchgoers in the invitation process. When National Back To Church Sunday started, research showed 80% of people would come to church if invited by a friend or neighbor, but only 2% of Christians ever invited someone to church! With statistics like that, it seemed natural to make it easier for churches to engage their members and empower them to invite others to church.

National Back To Church Sunday offers easy-to-use, compelling resources that help church members step out of their comfort zones to invite friends and neighbors to church. They can feel confident inviting people to a service tailored specifically to make newcomers feel welcome. As one pastor said:

“It is a superb way to get your congregation involved and excited about having friends and family come back to church. So much so, that it just doesn’t apply to only that one day, but for us will extend into the months to come.”

Making National Back To Church Sunday all about visitors helps keep the focus on making church a place of belonging. When newcomers have a great experience visiting church, current members will be more motivated to keep inviting their friends and neighbors throughout the year.

In 2018, we know that even if some members aren’t comfortable handing out invitations or going door to door, they’re probably willing to post something on social media. That’s why there are more digital graphics and videos created for Back To Church Sunday than ever. Churches can post a fun, inviting video that makes it easy for members to share with their friends across social media.

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that there’s no magic formula — no one invitation that appeals to everyone, no video or graphic that works for every church, and no secret behind the day when the event is held. Instead, National Back To Church Sunday is a catalyst for discussion to help churches evaluate everything from how to engage church members in outreach to the way a new guest experiences church.

There is still work to be done! We’ll continue to listen to feedback from church leaders so we can serve you with better resources to connect your church with your community. We hope the third Sunday in September will continue to be a special day in churches all across America for years to come. Thank you for being part of the movement!

Ten Year of Back To Church Sunday By the Numbers:

  • 5,296,234 – Invitations Sent for Back to Church Sunday
  • 13,399,472 people reached
  • 38 Videos created
  • Over 120 different denominations and affiliations have participated since its beginning in 2009
  • The average church sees a 25% increase in attendance on Back to Church Sunday – even small churches

The Benefits of City-wide Church Engagement

In troubled times, it is more important than ever for churches to focus their efforts on helping people to discover (or rediscover) the hope and truth of the gospel. It is our calling, after all, to be “fishers of men” and bring more people to Christ. But, as every pastor knows, reaching out to the community can be challenging. Neighborhoods have become disconnected. Families have become even more busy. Budgets for outreach are strained. How does your church reach people and show them you are there for them?

“A Cord of Three Strands is Not Quickly Broken …”

Your church can begin to overcome these challenges by finding others with the same goal and working together! And not just within your own ministry, but with other churches throughout your community. Teaming up with other churches allows everyone involved to expand their outreach efforts, share their resources and show people that church is more than just a building, it’s a place to belong—and an integral part of their community. The concept of ministry teamwork is not just a random idea. The bible actively encourages us to work together to fulfill God’s plan. In Ecclesiastes, for example, we are told that two people sharing the workload will have a better return for their effort than one alone. This lesson is particularly true when churches unite to share the gospel in their communities.

The Power of Ministry Teamwork

In 2016, churches throughout Dayton, Ohio teamed up for Back to Church Sunday and pooled their time, talents and resources to invite people throughout their city to church. There were 70 different churches who participated and each had a unique way to support the mission. Some had strong media ties they used to share the event. Others had tried and true mailing and door-knocking strategies they utilized to get the word out. Still others utilized their large social media networks to invite thousands of people online. What were the results of this amazing example of church teamwork? Church attendance rose 30% on Back to Church Sunday! People who had not been to church in years returned and brought their friends and families. And, most importantly, many, many people accepted Christ into their lives that day.

Unifying Churches and Communities on Back to Church Sunday

This year, on Back to Church Sunday, we are calling churches everywhere to unify in the body of Christ once more and create a city-wide campaign to invite their communities to church. Through a strategic and coordinated effort, pastors from churches throughout the various cities can drastically increase the impact of this evangelism opportunity. It can seem a bit strange to work toward getting people to attend churches that aren’t your own. There’s no doubt that any pastor would probably prefer visitors filling up the pews of their individual churches every Sunday. And that’s not a selfish desire! After all, a church needs the support of existing members in order to be able to share the gospel and bring in new members. But, as the Dayton churches learned, the benefits of launching a city-wide effort are enormous and they affect everyone who participates:

  • With a unified, multi-church effort, events get more notice in the media, which means free publicity and expanded outreach
  • Members are encouraged to reach out beyond their comfort zone and minister to others in their community
  • Churches form deep bonds of fellowship that last long after Back to Church has ended
  • The community sees churches working in partnership to do good, exemplifying Christ’s message and fostering an idea of community and belonging
  • People discover all the churches in their city that they can attend for worship and comfort
  • Everyone expands their ministry network
  • Small churches get support, exposure and ideas from larger churches they may not have been able to access before
  • Pastors can find support and develop new friends who understand the unique pressures of ministry

As you can see, there are a lot of positives when multiple churches work together to share God’s message in their communities. This year, consider rallying the churches in your city to launch a group effort invite their neighbors to attend church on Back to Church Sunday. Not only will you experience positive outcomes in your own ministry, you’ll be an integral part of helping other churches boost theirs, too. Over 30,000 churches worldwide have joined in on the Back to Church movement over the last 9 years. It’s a nationwide effort to invite people in our communities to church on September 16, 2018.

Making the Church a Light in the Darkness

Today, with all the turmoil that is so prevalent in our culture and our communities, people are seeking a light in the darkness to help them find their way. They’re looking for answers to questions about their purpose, their struggles, their future and the unknown. They’re searching for peace in an uncertain world.

But do they know that such peace can be found in their local churches? Do these seekers truly know what it means when we tell them the church is there for them? Jesus called us to be a “town built on a hill” so that His church would be visible—not unreachable. Do our friends and neighbors in need think of church as a distant institution — or as a place to belong?

Early on, local churches were central to the successful functioning of our communities. They were a place not only to worship, but to socialize, celebrate, mourn and support those in need—to come together for more than Sunday sermons.

If a family was facing challenges, they knew they could count on their church to help them get on their feet. If a young couple was in need of support for their struggling marriage, they knew they could turn to their local minister. From charity bake sales and weddings to funerals and support groups, churches created a hub for people to help, heal and celebrate one another in day-to-day life, even as they practised their faith and shared the gospel.

Over time, however, there has been a change in how people engage with the church. Part of this shift been caused by the move from the smaller, close-knit communities of the past to more distant, fractured neighborhoods and large, impersonal cities. Another factor has been the overwhelming busyness that fills our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors, pushing church from a priority to just another task on the to-do list that can, unfortunately, be put off when things get too hectic. And still another factor has been the change in how churches themselves engage with the people around them. In short, a distance has grown between people in our communities—and between our communities and our churches.

And it’s up to us to change it.

Now, more than ever before, the people of the world need to be reminded that they matter to God. That through the doors of our churches lies a place where they will always belong. When we show them they are welcome, when we bring people into the church, we can begin to knit our communities back together and create a sense of fellowship that can heal our hurting culture.

It’s time for all of us to ensure our churches are a sanctuary for each person who walks in. To make our churches a place where everyone feels safe. To show people that here, they will find themselves in the arms of a loving God who has always known them—even when they may not have known Him. In doing so, we will show them the light they have so desperately been seeking and begin to change our world for the better.

How do you begin? It’s as simple as an invitation. In Ephesians, Paul wrote that Christ has uniquely equipped His followers to speak the truth in love and build up the body of Christ. So, seek out your friends, family, neighbors—even strangers—and invite them to come to church on National Back to Church Sunday. Let them know that it doesn’t matter if they’ve simply lapsed in their attendance or never been to church before. They will be welcomed with open arms and they will find that they, too, have a place to belong.