Districts offer Return Back to Church graphics and social media to churches
By Lindsay Peyton
The nine districts in the Texas Annual Conference are simultaneously launching a new “Return” campaign to ease the transition from isolation during the pandemic to school, church and their community. The “Return to School, Return to Church, Return to Community” initiative is designed to make it easy for churches to invite new members back to church in the fall. A planning guide outlines a schedule and communications, as well as offering free graphics, slides, signage and video scripts. In addition, 10 grants of $500 each go to churches with the most innovative idea to use the campaign. Grants are due June 29, 2021. More information can be found here.
Summer is just beginning -- but that doesn’t mean school moves to the back burner. It’s never too early to start preparing for students to return to school. The next couple of months are actually an ideal time for churches to start planning ways to support children as they head back to the campus in the fall. In fact, this school year will be the first time many youth will reenter the classroom after months of virtual learning. Parents, teachers and students will need time to adjust. Their church families can rally around them with prayer and encouragement.
Back to church Sunday
Heading back to school in the fall is also a time when families may plan to go back to church – or even visit a congregation for the first time. In fact, there is a 25 percent increase in church attendance during back-to-school months, no matter churches size. When churches participate in an intentional outreach campaign like “Return,” the increase in attendance is even higher.
Bishop Scott Jones explained that COVID-19 has left many cities throughout Texas more disconnected and secluded than ever in history. “Now it’s time for our church to reach out to be in community to our friends and neighbors,” he said. “At you return back to church Sunday, be sure your church is intentional about inviting new members into your community.”
Jones suggests promoting Sunday school or small group classes, as well as children’s and youth events. “Let’s face it -- we’re coming out of a difficult time,” he said. “Most of us are ready to return. And what better place to go back to than church.”
Here are a few ways churches can get involved in the “Return to School, Return to Church, Return to Community” campaign:
- Host a back-to-school drive. As vacation nears completion and families across the Texas Annual Conference begin to slip back into their normal schedules, hosting a back-to-school drive is an ideal addition to your church calendar. Start by selecting a date and then promoting it. If your church supports a local school, reach out and ascertain their specific needs. Perhaps there’s even a project you can join on campus or a way church members can volunteer. Let your schools know you care – and families know that there are opportunities for youth at church.
- Schedule a Back-to-Church Sunday. Choose a date and make a plan for “Back to Church”—and invite community members to attend. Cases of the virus are down, and vaccinations are up. Now is a great time to help parishioners and neighbors reconnect. This is also an opportunity to share the hope and love of Jesus with your congregation and community.
- Send a letter to your congregation. Pastors can send words of encouragement to church members as they open their hearts to spiritual renewal. In a letter to the congregation, clergy can promote their Return-to-Church Sunday, as well as a congregation-wide school drive or volunteer opportunity. Ask members to promote the occasion on social media.
- Videotape a message. Create a video to share the Return to School, Return to Church, Return to Community campaign with your congregation. These days, many are accustomed to playing a video to learn information about church. Let everyone know it’s time to come back—and how you will be there to support as they dip their toes in the water.
- Make a pulpit announcement. During a sermon, pastors can encourage members, as they head back to both church and school campuses. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulty and challenges of the past year. Pastors can also explain how the element of “Return” is a focus for churches throughout the Conference, connecting congregations of all sizes together. In addition, church leaders can point members to resources for help.
- Spread the word on social media. Don’t underestimate the power of a Facebook post or even a fun TikTok video. Take time to share the campaign on the church’s social media. Members can also get involved and spread the word on their own platforms, inviting more neighbors to get involved. Don’t forget the hashtags: #UMC #Return2Church.