More than one million people are expected to rediscover church this weekend during National Back to Church Sunday.
More than 20,000 churches are participating in the event, which was designed to empower church members to invite their friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers to attend a special worship service. That's a drastic increase from the 13,100 churches that participated last year.
"I think probably the biggest reason it's growing is because it's working," Scott Evans, founder and CEO of Outreach Inc., told The Christian Post. Outreach, a leading provider of church communications resources, is one of the founders of NBCS.
Churches that participated in the outreach effort last year reported their attendance jumped by an average of 38 percent on NBCS, said Evans. The event coincides with the fall "ministry season," he says, when many churches typically plan evangelistic events or sermon series anyway.
The annual event first occurred in 2009 in response to a LifeWay Research survey that revealed that 82 percent of people who don't go to church would be at least somewhat likely attend if someone invited them, Evans says. The same survey also revealed that only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church in a given year.
Evans says pastors want their members to invite others, but creating outreach events can sometimes consume many resources. NBCS makes it easy on pastors, however, by providing church members with opportunity, encouragement and resources to extend an invitation to their loved ones.
"It's really just about equipping their members to be inviters, and their members are the best outreach tools," said Evans.
But even church members, not just those whom they invite, have something to gain by participating in the event. Evans says between 3 and 4 million churchgoers are participating in the outreach effort this year, and he hopes they will find new joy in reaching out and be inspired to invite more people to church in the future.
Many pastors will be preaching this weekend about the church, its calling, how individuals can benefit from attending and what Christians can do together to reach the world for Christ, says Evans. Many churches will open their services with a video, "Welcome to Church," which explains what the church is and how it has impacted the world.
"It's just a great reminder that you're not just coming to a building filled with pews," said Evans. "You are coming to a revolution 2,000 years in the making that has changed the world and is continuing to change the world, and it's made up with people like you and me."
Evans says many churches have decided to work together for NBCS this year, breaking down "denominational barriers" in order to reach their communities.
Individuals looking for a church to visit this weekend can use the map that shows participating congregations on BackToChurch.com. Churches interested in participating this weekend should register through the website, Evans says, and about 100 churches are still signing up each day.