The CofE is reporting today that, based on returns from churches, around 80,000 people came back to church on BTCS this year, 53,000 to Anglican churches, but with more churches from other denominations getting on board.
Here's some of the blurb:
The Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, the Revd Lynda Barley, says: “If the returns we have received from almost one fifth of the participating parishes are representative, the scaled up figures would suggest that 53,000 extra people attended Church of England churches that Sunday, among 82,000 coming back across the UK once other denominations are included.
“We know from local research that new attenders and the churches enjoy the Back to Church experience of church. Not only has the number of participating churches increased between 2008 and 2009 so that approximately 20 per cent of Church of England churches are now taking part, but the average number of extra people per church has grown, with participating churches each having welcomed an average of 19 extra people compared to 14 last year.”
and there's this rather cheeky footnote
The number of people returning to the Church of England on 27 September 2009 alone could have filled the O2 arena in London twice over – and still left a queue of 7,000 (the highest quoted membership of the National Secular Society) outside without a seat;
- are the churches which have sent data back in more likely to be those for whom it went well? After all, if nobody showed up, that might make you less likely to send the forms back in.
- More importantly, what was people's experience when they came? I don't know what qualifies as good 'repeat business' for shops, and I'm aware that the sizeable majority of readers of this blog never return for a second look. I'd be interested to see any feedback from the visitors who came on that day, what they thought, and how it measured up to expectations.
- It's a substantial rise on the 37,000 last year, and it probably still has plenty of potential. There are several million former churchgoers in the UK. But it's not going to appeal to the increasing majority who don't have any church background, and has to be part of a wider outreach strategy, rather than the cure for all ills.
- I also wonder what the pattern looks like in churches which have run BTCS for several years. We had fewer people this year than in the previous couple of years when we've run Back to Church Sunday, and there comes a point, unless a church is adding new members quite rapidly, when everyone has invited all the people they can think of, and they've either said yes or no.