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.