America Goes Back to Church En Masse

The fourth annual National Back to Church Sunday exceeded all previous records.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—On Sept. 16, in the largest grassroots movement of its kind, 13,152 congregations of various denominations, styles and theologies united in a single cause to invite an estimated 7.5 million friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to attend church on National Back to Church Sunday. Participating churches saw an estimated 38 percent increase in their attendance.

“I’ve heard from a number of pastors and churches that this was a great tool they used to mobilize their people and reach their community,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a supporting partner of National Back to Church Sunday. “Many are enthusiastic about the focus the fourth annual National Back to Church Sunday has injected into their congregations.”

The movement is based on the simple principle that 82 percent of people will come to church if invited by a friend, according to Thom Rainer’s The Unchurched Next Door. Yet, from a recent LifeWay Research study, only 48 percent of church members invited their unchurched friends to church in the last six months.

“We turned National Back to Church Sunday into our Back to Church Weekend, starting with a free garage sale for our community and distribution of more than 100 brochures about our church,” reported Pineview Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ala. “We are a small church averaging about 30 people in weekly worship attendance, but we estimate that almost 200 people walked through our doors this weekend. This was a great way to spread the word about our worship service and make people feel welcome.”

Brian Loughmiller, mayor of McKinney, Texas, issued an official proclamation of Sept. 16 as National Back to Church Sunday in his community. A representative of his office was scheduled to present the proclamation in person at Eternity Community Church.

At Victory Christian Center in Victorville, Calif., every child went home Sunday with a tote bag of school supplies. In Medina, Tenn., attendance at rose to 171 from an average of 135. “We also baptized nine people on National Back to Church Sunday,” said Ronnie Ragan, campus pastor.

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The number of churches participating doubled from 3,800 churches in 2010 to 7,600 churches in 2011 and skyrocketed to a total of 13,152 churches this year. With a 38 percent increase in average attendance, 97 percent of responding pastors said they will participate in National Back to Church Sunday next year.

“Churches now have the opportunity to capitalize on the momentum created by National Back to Church Sunday,” said Philip Nation, director of adult ministry publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources and spokesperson for National Back to Church Sunday. “By their attendance, people have shown they are interested in making a connection with church and with God. We have to show them the way.”

Many will employ the 30-Day Church Challenge to engage returning National Back to Church Sunday visitors and to transform their congregations. Featuring inspirational sermons, weekly challenges, video-based lessons and the 30-Day Church Challenge book, the five-week series based on the biblical model of the church, found in the book of Acts, will challenge church congregations to devote themselves to authentic community, develop worship lifestyle, commit to spiritual growth, embrace stewardship and generous lifestyle, and engage in sharing God’s love and the Gospel with others.

The next National Back to Church Sunday is Sept. 15, 2013. Churches are already registering at Reports of this year and future plans are being posted at

National Back to Church Sunday is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America back to church. The campaign empowers churches and church members with the tools they need to welcome their neighbors, friends and loved ones back to church, while providing the unchurched an easy way to find a welcoming church in their community.

LifeWay Christian Resources, in operation since 1891, is one of the largest Christian resource organizations in the world. LifeWay Research exists for the purpose of equipping church leaders with insight that will lead to greater levels of ministry effectiveness through research-based books and reports based on statistically validated surveys. LifeWay Research is one of the most trusted sources of information about the church, culture and faith.

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