5 Great ideas from Sweet Rest Church of Christ (Holiness)_USA
Pastor Joe Pridgen credits Back to Church Sunday for the 33 percent membership growth Sweet Rest Church of Christ (Holiness) has experienced over the past two years. “We are a one hundred-year-old church,” says Pridgen, “and two years ago we had three hundred members. On our first Back to Church Sunday, we had almost four hundred people here, and nine people came forward for membership that day. Throughout that year we had a steady stream of new people who had started with us on Back to Church Sunday coming forward for membership.
“Then, on our second Back to Church Sunday, we had five hundred people. We ran out of room in our building and at our afternoon barbeque! That day, and ever since, we have consistently had new people coming forward for membership, and as of today we have added a total of one hundred new members since our first Back to Church Sunday.”
For this Pearl, Mississippi congregation, outreach is a way of life. They are very involved in Faith in Action, a program that equips churches to transform their communities through service projects such as car repair, clothing and food distribution, health clinics, and mentoring children of single parents. The distinction, Pridgen points out, is that Faith in Action gets the church into the community; Back to Church Sunday gets the community into the church. “And nothing,” declares Pridgen, “has been as effective for us in getting people into our church as Back to Church Sunday.”
To prepare his congregation for Back to Church Sunday, Pridgen challenges every person, young and old, to invite at least ten people, and bring at least two. This strategy of setting a specific goal works – one young physician brought twelve of her relatives, and three of them joined the church! Promotion of the event is done by the steering committee at every service, in every Sunday school class, and at every church meeting, weeks in advance. Young people use their social networks to invite their friends to Back to Church Sunday by creating Facebook events, tweeting about it, and blogging. Members distribute door hangers in their neighborhoods, and invitation cards to their store customers, business associates and family, friends and neighbors.
Faith in Action gets the church into the community; Back to Church Sunday gets the community into the church
The actual day is declared a casual day, and guests are told they don’t have to dress up in church clothes, and they don’t have to bring their wallets, because this will be a day where they receive, and nothing will be asked of them. Every guest is given a copy of Rediscover Church as a gift, and everyone gathers after the service for a classic southern Supper on the Lawn. This past year, Sweet Rest Church used Back to Church Sunday as the impetus for starting a second service. “We announced a new 8:00 service to everyone on Back to Church Sunday, and the next week we started it, and it has taken off,” says Pridgen.
Pridgen is talking to the other pastors in the Pearl Ministerial Alliance about banding together to do Back to Church Sunday this year, and invite all of Pearl back to church. “I told them, ‘You have to do it,’” says Pridgen. “This is probably the single best way to get church members mobilized to invite people to church. I told them that God has really blessed this at our church, and they’d really miss an opportunity if they don’t join us this year. Back to Church Sunday has been one of the best things to happen to Sweet Rest Church in the fourteen years I’ve been here!”
5 Great ideas from Sweet Rest Church of Christ you can try:
- Challenge people with specific goals for number of invitations to give and visitors to bring.
- Make use of social media to broaden your reach.
- Reduce visitor anxiety by explaining what to wear and what to bring (or what not to bring).
- Serve food! Combine a social event with the church event to help create community.
- Follow up with a handwritten note from the pastor and a personal phone call from a church member thanking guests for coming, and inviting them back.