It's back-to-school season for many Americans. But this year, Christians are looking to make it back-to-church season for the millions who haven't stepped foot into a worship service in a while, or at all.
With only 20 percent of the U.S. population attending church, Outreach Inc. has launched the "Back to Church Sunday" campaign to draw the millions of unchurched and de-churched (who attended church only as a child) back to the pews.
According to Outreach, the number one reason people don't attend church is because they say they're too busy. Every week, 150,000 people walk away from the church.
"People are busy. Their circumstances tend to control their schedules," said Eric Abel, vice president of Marketing Products at Outreach, Inc. "Some had a bad experience in church. Sometimes people just can't decide which church to attend, and others are afraid there won't be anyone there like them."
The way to bring them back is as simple as an invitation.
"One action can inspire someone to return ... One question could change everything: 'Would you like to come to church with me?'" says Outreach's promotional video.
The campaign is based on a recent statistic that shows most people would be willing to go to church if they were invited.
LifeWay Research revealed in a survey earlier this year that 82 percent of unchurched people are open to visiting a church through the invitation of a family member, friend or neighbor.
Despite the openness, most Christians do not make that simple effort to introduce or re-introduce people to church.
Only two percent of church members extend an invitation to an unchurched person each year, according to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay.
Organizers of the new campaign are hoping to change that.
Already more than 167,000 people have indicated they invited someone to church, according to the campaign's Facebook page. The invitations are for Sept. 13, which is National Back to Church Sunday.
To help churches prepare for that Sunday, Outreach has made available planning guides that provide tips on greeting, sermons and following up. A booklet titled Rethink Church was also created recently to respond to the top ten reasons people leave the church.
Organizers caution, "Rebuilding trust with this group is essential, and building trust requires authenticity and consistency. Otherwise, your returning guests may feel that you have tried a 'bait and switch.'"
On the Web: www.backtochurch.com