On Sunday 21 September 44 parishes in the Wellington Diocese, joined 3000 churches around New Zealand, Britain and Canada in Back to Church Sunday. This movement began in 2004 in the Anglican Diocese of Manchester, UK, with 160 churches involved and has expanded exponentially until last year when 1900 churches were involved and 20,000 people came ‘Back to Church’. The initiative focuses on the 20% of the population who once came to church, but for a variety of reasons no longer do. They may have got out of the habit, shifted town, had a major life-change or been hurt by something that once occurred. These are the open de-churched; those who once came, would be happy to return, but just need a catalyst to make that happen.
In New Zealand 44 parishes of 61 in the Wellington Anglican Diocese were involved. This included Anglican churches in the geographical area from Wanganui to the Wairarapa and down to Wellington. Next year all Anglican Dioceses in New Zealand will be involved along with members of the Baptist Church
In year five of the programme in the UK, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, the United Reform Church, and Elim Pentecostal churches will be taking part along with churches in Canada. In 2009 churches in Australia will also be involved.
For members of the congregations the project is about relationships and hospitality. They were encouraged to choose someone they know who used to come to church, invite them to come, collect them on the Sunday and simply ‘bring them back’.
Research by the Diocese of Lichfield after last year’s Back to Church Sunday suggested that 6,000 people came back to church on that day and that, six months later, between 700 and 900 (12-15 per cent) had become regular members. About a further 3,000 are still in touch with their inviting churches and may have come at Christmas or to a social event.
The Archdeacon for Mission for the Wellington Diocese, Tony Gerritsen, reports that parishes have averaged just over 20 people per ministry unit coming back. Parishes have valued the resource material sent from the UK, but all say that the personal invitations were the great success card.
Anecdotes to date are great and the Wellington Diocese used the 4 months prior to the event as a chance to do a full WOF check of each parish from the quality of worship to the state of the toilets and the existance of websites and welcome packs. It’s been a wonderful success, says Archdeacon Gerritsen with a high level of enthusiasm for next year. It occurred on 13 September a time preferred by most as it’s the beginning of Spring and a quieter time in the church calendar.
Back to Church Sunday – a world wide success and VERY simple to implement with great Kingdom gains and success
For more information please contact:
Archdeacon Tony Gerritsen
27 Springdale Grove
Palmerston North 4410
06 355 4508 or 021 222 0161
Below is the link to the UK Back 2 Church website: