Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back to Church Sunday - feedback from 2011

Initial responses from Back to Church Sunday this year are encouraging - the CofE is reporting roughly 14,000 guests at BCTS services among a sample of churches who took part in it*. Over 4,000 took part in it overall, and the report extrapolates the sample figures to estimate that nearly 80,000 extra people turned up on that Sunday. I imagine the actual figure is slightly less: churches reporting back are more likely to be those who had a succesful day (!) but that's still pretty good going.

I'd be intrigued to know if this is the kind of thing which works better when done every year, or more intermittently. It's only going to engage with people who once went to church (a sizeable, but shrinking number), but experience seems to show that if those people find a church which is relevant, accessible and welcoming, then many of them join it.

Here is one way to do BCTS, and do it well:
St Mary the Virgin, Yaxley, in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, is an example of a church where Back to Church Sunday is part of a successful mission strategy: regular Sunday attendance has nearly quadrupled from nine to a viable 35, thanks to personal invitations from church members, and the pioneering work of the Revd Tiffer Robinson, who knocked on every door in the village of 400 people to personally invite everyone back to church.

In fact, why save it for September. I'm sure there are plenty of occasions during the year which people could be invited to. Let me think, there's something happening in December isn't there?

*Can I commend whoever is behind the information gathering. The CofE is often painfully slow at gathering stats - I guess there are other things to be getting on with! - but it's good to have qualitative feedback in time for it to make a difference. In case this dizzying speed is all too much, don't worry, in January 2012 it'll be back to normal, when we get the attendance data for 2010.


  1. I agree in principle with what you write here, but wouldn't it have been far more missional, congregational to get away from a Minister door-knocking?

    Hardly a formulae for good practice or effective ministry. Does the congregations lives have any direct impact in their Christian life as opposed to church attendance. Surely that would be more meaningful etc.

  2. I think it depends on the context. In a small village where everyone knows the church & vicar, a personal approach might work. In other places it won't. And if the congregation in that village were all known to be cantankerous and awkward then the vicar might not have got very far!!

    I agree that getting the congregation engaged in mission and living the gospel is by far the better way to go. Maybe having a vicar who leads by example might help too.

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  4. I think you are right as long as there is an expectation for others to be involved. Our congregations and their individual lives tend to be static all too often. They need to be mobilised without the Minister being the initiator and doer of all things. It should come from the ground upwards... it takes time but would be best longterm. There is a risk of being a follower of the Minister otherwise.

  5. I just found this post - David you are quite right that it is still a model which works in this context, and that's why I gave it a go. My guess was that there were people out there who a)would quite like to go to church but need an invite and b)there are still people out there to expect a dog collar to call occasionally (not too much mind). There is a danger of "the vicar does the mission", but I'm afraid in some rural churches there is very little explicit mission going on, so it's needs must. We only had 9 extra people for B2CS last year, because I asked the congregation to do the inviting, which is very small - but then again, that was the average congregation before the mission, so hopefully it is a bug which will catch on.

    Greatly enjoy reading your blog!