You should be hearing a lot more of that phrase over the next 8 months, it is the slogan for this year’s Back to Church Sunday, a national initiative that has in previous years managed to generate a degree of publicity. The basic idea is that on the last Sunday in September all those people that go to church each invite one other person who doesn’t go to church to come along.
Today Jill and I along others toddled off to Renfield St Stephen Church in Glasgow to hear more about it, it turns out it fits in quite nicely with the Leading Your Church Into Growth conference both Jill and I went to last year, and as we were told about the concept ideas were sown and some of them started to shoot as I chatted to others over lunch.
September might seem a long way off, but with Lent, Easter and the Summer between now and then the groundwork needs to be started, and by the time I had driven home the bones of a tentative plan had been formed. Back to Church Sunday I had come to realise begins with the existing congregation, before others can be invited to come (back) to church as they are then the congregation itself needs to be Sharing their Stories and Facing up to their Fears, they need to remember what it is that draws them back to church week in week out, and be given the confidence and encouragement to issue those invitations.
There is no doubt about it that the idea of asking someone from outside the Church to come to church strikes fear into many a regular church goers heart, why is that? How can Jesus’ words ‘Do not be afraid’, be heard afresh so that fear is dissipated?
Why does the good story that got us to return or start attending church turn into a less encouraging story about the things that we find fault with in the church? Nothing in this world is perfect, and the church certainly isn’t, but neither is it all bad, while we are far from being perfect that doesn’t mean we have nothing to offer. Churches might be less full than they once were, but they aren’t empty either. God is relevant in today’s world as much as ever we have stories of hope, joy and encouragement to share, and we need to share those good stories.
That’s the bones, some of it is fleshed out a bit more – for example I plan to start the sharing of stories by instead of preaching a sermon on Sunday sharing the story about Fiona someone who was instrumental in my return to church – but much of it is still just bones, so if you have any ideas or suggestions they will be more than welcome.