Over one million invited 'back to church'

More than one million people are believed to have accepted an invitation to church as a result of the Back to Church Sunday initiative which takes place again this weekend. Since it first started a decade ago, the concept  has been adopted in 17 countries by 25,000 churches.

Founder Michael Harvey, whose book Creating a Culture of Invitation in your Church was published in July, said he was thrilled churches were developing the initiative creatively. "Over the past two years the most encouraging aspect has been the way churches have creatively built a series of invitations into their autumn programmes, often culminating in a key invitation to Christmas services.

Michael Harvey founded Back to Church Sunday in 2004

"This autumnal programme provides a wonderful excuse to become not just a welcoming church but a welcoming and inviting church."

One church in Cornwall tied Christmas invitations to small knitted sheep, with the date and time of their family Christmas service and evening carol service.

"During family services and a major family baptism on Advent Sunday we invited families to take a sheep home, place it in their front window and return it to the sheep fold by the crib during one of the Christmas services," said Ruth Murfitt of St Gomonda Parish Church in Roche, Truro. "More folk than ever came, complete with returning sheep."

The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Todwick, Sheffield combined Back to Church Sunday with Harvest, Remembrance Sunday, Christingle and carol and crib services. Church member Vicky Camber said: "Some people invited the same person to each service, others have considered who to invite to what. We have seen good numbers at all these services. It will become an established part of our calendar."