Lately, everything seems to be increasing except for church attendance. Unemployment is on the rise. Gas prices are skyrocketing. A trip to the grocery store can end in sticker shock. But despite the tough financial times, people just don’t seem to be turning to God.
According to a 2011 Barna Group report, attendance at weekend church services has declined among Christians by 7 percent since 1991, falling from 66 percent to 59 percent.
The Barna Group, which has been conducting research since 1984, tracks the role of faith in America and has developed a database on spiritual indicators.
With the decline in church attendance — especially among those claiming to be Christians — the cross-denominational National Back to Church Sunday movement is a way of encouraging everyone to return to or attend church for the first time.
The first National Back to Church Sunday was in 2009. Since then, the third Sunday in September always is designated as National Back to Church Sunday.
This initiative began in 2008 in response to a study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board. A survey of 15,000 adults found that 67 percent of Americans said a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Additionally, 63 percent said an invitation from a friend or neighbor likely would get them to attend.
“We found that the effectiveness of the invitation was often tied to its form — the more personal, the more effective,” said Philip Nation, ministry development director of LifeWay Research. “Only 2 percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eight percent of churchgoers never extend an invitation in a given year.”
Since the initiative began in 2009, National Back to Church Sunday has caught on quickly. According to www.backtochurch.com, in 2010, church members invited more than 1.4 million family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to special services.
On Sept. 18, churches across America again will open their doors and welcome everyone who would like to rediscover church.
National Back to Church Sunday has become this country’s single largest community outreach event, with 10,000 churches expected to participate in 2011, www.backtochurch.com states. This event reignites the power of personal invitation to empower church members to bring the community back to church.
With more than 200 churches in Liberty County alone — a majority of them with plenty of pews to be filled on Sundays — this is an excellent opportunity to invite people to drop by. Members can take advantage of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to extend invitations.
Don’t be satisfied with inviting families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and even strangers on the third Sunday in September. People always are waiting for the invitation. It is up to churchgoers to extend it for any worship service.
With only two weeks until Sept. 18, the possibility exists for every church in Liberty County to be filled to capacity on National Back to Church Sunday. When the people come, treat them with love and they will want to come back.