It was Neptune Township Day, and the annual festival in Neptune, New Jersey was in full swing with a parade, bounce houses, carnival games, and exhibitor booths. Fanning out amongst the crowd were the fifty or so members of the Redeemer Lutheran Church handing out invitations to the next day’s Back to Church Sunday event and engaging people in warm and caring conversations.
Pastor Randy Steinman, parish pastor at Redeemer for the past 27 years, was thrilled to see his people overcoming their traditional reticence because of something as simple as invitation cards. “Those invite cards were a great teaching tool to get our people to offer an invitation,” Steinman explained. “These are people who won’t typically open their mouths about their faith. But we role-played in triplets during our worship service, and I challenged the congregation not to leave a pile of cards in the laundromat, but to actually hand them to people with a verbal invitation to come to church. Then, on Neptune Township Day, we set up a booth with our Back to Church Sunday banners, and we mingled with the crowd and handed out 500 invite cards. We were surprised at the number of people who came, not only the next day on Back to Church Sunday, but in the weeks that followed.”
In fact, Redeemer Lutheran Church had a 20% attendance increase on Back to Church Sunday, and in total gained four new families as members over the ensuing months. Two of the families came in response to receiving the Rediscover Church booklet in the mail, which was sent to all the people on the church roll who had stopped attending for one reason or another. One of the recipients appreciated the booklet, saying, “It gave voice to some of the things I’ve been thinking but didn’t know how to talk about without feeling ashamed.” Steinman appreciated the non-judgmental way the booklets handle issue after issue, explaining what many people feel inside, and bridging the gap between them and church.
Steinman made use of all the other promotional tools as well, because like the rest of the Outreach product line, which he uses at holidays, he felt that the quality of the door hangers, banners, invite cards and booklets made this a very easy event to rally his people around. “We also had a number of our people checking the church roster on the Back to Church website, and reporting to me whenever they found that another Lutheran church signed up. It became a matter of Lutheran pride that we were among such a great group of Lutheran churches participating in this nationwide event!”
Back to Church Sunday is going to become a part of Redeemer Lutheran Church’s annual cycle of events. And this year, Steinman is going to make sure the other nine parishes in his district are involved in a collaborative Back to Church effort. His vision, though, is more about evangelism than increasing membership. “If our Back to Church Sunday promotion gets someone to walk in the door of the Methodist church down the street, that’s just as much of a win as if they had come in our doors. I want our people to see evangelism not as a church membership generator, but in its purest sense of drawing a person closer to God. If we plant, and another church waters, and yet another church harvests, then we all win!”
Great Ideas from Redeemer Lutheran Church you can try:
- Participate as a church in a community event with a strong, friendly presence
- Have congregation members do a series of role-plays: telling a neighbor about their favorite Bible story, getting to know a neighbor, and inviting a neighbor to church
- Mail Rediscover Church booklets to people who have stopped attending your church
- Partner with other churches in your denomination or your community to sponsor an area-wide Back to Church Sunday day
For more information on Back to Church Sunday please visit www.BacktoChurch.com.