In addition, the overwhelming majority of the visitors said they were favorably impressed with the churches they visited.
According to a post-event survey conducted by Outreach Inc., a Southern California-based church marketing company endorsing the initiative, church members invited more than 1.4 million friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members to special services geared toward those who once attended church, but for a variety of reasons, no longer attended.
“We broke all our previous attendance records for first-time visitors,” said Will Kahkonen, lead pastor of Victory Christian Church in Livermore, Maine. “There were multiple commitments and renewals, and several others who requested more information about the church.
“‘Back to Church Sunday’ is one of the most successful outreach events that we have ever hosted.”
“We were pulling chairs out of everywhere just to get everybody in there,” said Todd Vinson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Keiser, Ark., on accommodating the crowd. Normal Sunday attendance at his church is 165, yet 240 came to the “Back To Church Sunday” service. The usual children’s church attendance jumped to 53, from 25.
“If there are still people not going to church, there’s a mission field,” said Vinson.
“In just its second year, ‘Back To Church Sunday’ is already becoming an annual event in churches across America,” said Eric Abel, Outreach’s vice president of marketing. “Much of the success of this year’s campaign is the heart change in those already active in church, as they leave their comfort zones to invite someone to share the pew with them. That may make them more open to inviting their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members every Sunday.”
Although there is a national “Back to Church Sunday,” the campaign is ongoing, with some churches holding events throughout the year.
The next National Back to Church Sunday will be held on Sept. 18, 2011. Survey results show 95 percent of participating churches would take part in “Back To Church Sunday” again. Churches are starting to register for 2011.
Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday. Yet 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church, and 63 percent say an invitation from a friend or neighbor would likely move them to respond