On Sept. 16, 2012, in the largest grassroots movement of its kind, 13,152 congregations of various denominations, styles and theologies united in a single cause to invite an estimated 7.5 million friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to attend church on National Back to Church Sunday. Participating churches saw an estimated 38% increase in their attendance.
"I’ve heard from a number of pastors and churches that this was a great tool they used to mobilize their people and reach their community," says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a supporting partner of National Back to Church Sunday. "Many are enthusiastic about the focus the fourth annual National Back to Church Sunday has injected into their congregations."
The movement is based on the simple principle that 82% of people will come to church if invited by a friend, according to Thom Rainer’s “The Unchurched Next Door.” Yet, from a recent LifeWay Research study, only 48% of church members invited their unchurched friends to church in the last six months.
"We turned National Back to Church Sunday into our Back to Church Weekend, starting with a free garage sale for our community and distribution of more than 100 brochures about our church," reports Pineview Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ala. "We are a small church averaging about 30 people in weekly worship attendance, but we estimate that almost 200 people walked through our doors this weekend. This was a great way to spread the word about our worship service and make people feel welcome."
The number of churches participating in the annual event doubled from 3,800 churches in 2010 to 7,600 churches in 2011, and then skyrocketed to a total of 13,152 churches this year. With a 38% increase in average attendance, 97% of responding pastors said they will participate in National Back to Church Sunday next year.
The next National Back to Church Sunday is September 15, 2013. Churches are currently registering at www.backtochurch.com/roster. Reports of this year and future plans are being posted at http://www.facebook.com/backtochurch.