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Back to Church Sunday

Back to Church Sunday (B2CS) is the largest local-church invitational initiative in the world. It is based on the simplest and shortest step in evangelism: inviting a friend to our church. Sounds simple enough but this is a world-wide event so there are some expectations that we’re not inviting people to our usual Sunday service; we’re inviting them to An Event.

Many books have been written on the subject and a quick Google search of “how to plan an event” resulted in 522 million results! Rather intimidating. But we’ve all planned events from birthday parties to weddings and Christmas concerts so I thought I’d share a few event planning ideas around B2CS as well as what we’re planning in our parish. It’s not “everything you wanted to know about planning for B2CS” but it’s a place to start and I hope you’ll share your plans, challenges and questions.

Who are we inviting to this event? The initiative started as an opportunity to welcome ‘back’ people who used to attend church but it has grown over the years as a way to welcome anyone who doesn’t currently attend or might never have attended. We are also encouraging our own congregation to bring friends and family to this event so whatever we plan needs to appeal to the inviters as well as the invitees. Finally, we are welcoming back our “regular” congregation after months of summer holidays.

What do our guests want from this event? The visitors will want to see what we have to offer or perhaps what they’ve been missing. Our members will want to show off their church – the building, the community, the programs and the worship services.

A church service for the uninitiated or the lapsed can be intimidating so we want to make it as user-friendly as possible. Many churches already do this every week because you never know when guests will show up. There’s a good list of things to consider on the Diocese of Toronto website.

In our parish we implemented a once-a-month service of Morning Praise designed to be user-friendly for newcomers and we have all the words to prayers and songs on an overhead screen every week.

Building on last year’s event at our church we are having a “trade show” after the service:  tables with displays and information from various groups (e.g., Chancel Guild, Choir, Church School, Volunteers, Alpha, Compass Groups, etc.). This is a great way to show off our programs to visitors and to remind our members of what we have to offer – the fall is often about getting back to things like Bible study or volunteering.

We are also having a picnic with games for the children and Bocce ball for the adults. Food and activities are a great way to get acquainted or reacquainted with each other.

How do we let people know about it? Back to Church Sunday is hard to miss as it is getting a lot more media attention. One year, several Toronto bishops stood outside key commuter hubs and handed out invitations – in full vestments! But you want people to know that your church is participating so you’ll want to advertise in the usual places – whatever works for other events in your community.

We also want to make it easy for our members to invite friends and family. For the last two years we’ve done a mail drop in the neighbourhood with little to no success; this year we are going to give postcards with all the details of the event to our members so they can use them as invitations to people they’d like to encourage to come.

Who is going to do all of this work? It’s a team effort. The liturgical team will take care of the service. The greeters will look after welcoming. The communications committee can take care of advertising, creating invitations and perhaps sprucing up the parish brochure. Parishioners will do the inviting and the church secretary will make sure it all gets done 🙂

In our parish we’ll also need a group to coordinate the picnic and games, as well as someone to coordinate all of the tables but each group will be responsible for their own displays. Many hands make light work. And, of course, the more people you involve in the planning, the more excitement you’ll generate and that should lead to more invitations.

Need more help? Google provided 587,000 links for Back to Church Sunday Canada 2012. Many Dioceses and churches have resources on their websites. One of the co-founders of the event, Michael Harvey, has written a book called Unlocking the Growth. And check out the forum to share your ideas see what others in The Community are planning.

Back to Church Sunday 2012 is September 30th. What are you doing?

About Catherine_Bryant

I am the parish administrator at St. John’s York Mills in Toronto. SJYM has been my home parish since I moved to Toronto in my teens. I even met my husband in the drama program! After many years managing marketing and communications in a variety of non-profit organizations, I’m enjoying the many differences and similarities of this new challenge.
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0 Responses to Back to Church Sunday

  1. Catherine – thanks for the book link.  Looks interesting.  I have ordered a copy for use in my congregation (I’m a member of an ELCIC congregation in Edmonton).  I look forward to reading it.

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