Case Study: Back to Church Sunday Yields Record Attendance

Date Posted: 9/24/2015

Quitman UMC members are still celebrating the joy of inviting people to church – some that visited for the first time and others that returned after long absences.
Rev. Dr. Richard White breaks into a big, wide grin when he thinks about Sunday, August 30. “In response to our Vibrant Church Initiative recommendations over a year ago, Quitman UMC formed a laity team to help the church create bridges out to the community,” he shares. “I get excited just thinking about how our small-but-significant VCI Bridge to the Community Team organized a Back to Church Sunday that produced amazing results on August 30 and beyond.”
According to team member Mary Ann Nichols, the team took a “divide and conquer approach” by starting campaign planning about a month before the event. Notes Mary Ann, “We had a meeting with our very creative and very organized committee. We brainstormed. We assigned jobs. We met two times to organize and once to stuff bags.” She adds, “We set the date and determined every member should be urged to invite two people. We publicized in church newsletter, bulletin, Facebook, flyers around church and phone tree.”
The key components included:

  • A catchy flyer that created a consistent look for the event, and was useful as a poster in adult classrooms and hallways, as a bulletin insert and newsletter article, and an event posting on the church website and Facebook
  • A postcard that was sent to inactive members and previous visitors
  • A Phonetree message reminder
During worship services prior to the event:
  • Prayer cards were passed out and members were encouraged to prayerfully consider whom they should invite.
  • Each of the 3 Sundays prior to the event, funny announcements were made, including a prompt for people to raise their hand if they had invited a guest.
Day of Event:
  • A tent was set up near the entrance to the church where visitors were greeted and provided with coffee, donuts, and a gift bag that included: a handwritten thank you note from the pastor, flyer announcing our mid-week Wednesday Night Live (WNL) program for fall and a coupon for a free WNL dinner, business card showing church Mission and Vision statements, brochure showing map of the facility and listing of regularly scheduled activities, a notepad and church pencil and candy.
Glorious Results
According to Dick, “About 190 people attend Quitman UMC on a typical Sunday, but on Back to Church Sunday, attendance hit 273! Our Sunday school average is about 110, but we were ecstatic to have 156 in Sunday school that day, and see former members we had not seen in quite a while.”  Team member Kathy Vargas reports that the classes showing the largest number of visitors were the young adult (31 up from 20) and youth (22 up from 10). “Overall, this was a one day increase of over 40% and we anxiously anticipated who would come back to our Wednesday Night Live service three days later,” she says. Dick adds, “I am happy to report that we served 101 at that following Wednesday Night Live, about 20% above last year’s average. The following Wednesday, the youth continued to be strong with attendance of over 30. And, in the past about 12-15 adults attended a Wednesday class, but we have since had 30 adults which is at least a 50% increase.” He is most excited to report, “One class had seven non-members.”