Back to Church Sunday offers an inviting welcome


Michael Harvey, co-founder of the Back to Church movement and author of “Unlocking the Growth”, says essentially, “the heart of the “Back to Church Sunday” movement is to get a movement of invitation going. I’m interested in inviting, which is different than bringing.”  He adds that, “It’s okay for people to say yes or no. The problem is, we aren’t hearing enough invitations.”

Harvey’s “Unlocking the Growth” seminar offers ideas for increasing the number of people at church. It is designed to inspire church leaders and lay people to help their church grow and at the heart of the growth movement are invitations to families and friends to come to church.

“It’s so easy to drift away from church these days,” says Harvey. “One day becomes two days and two days becomes two weeks.” He says that after while it has been so long that people find it awkward to return.

“That is why invitation is so vital.”

According to Harvey, research shows that the number one reason people don’t offer invitations is that they fear the answer will be no.

The Back to Church movement began in 2004, and early results were amazing.

Harvey, who on Friday was in his second week of a three week tour which started in Western Canada with stops in Vancouver Island, Edmonton and Winnipeg, then Toronto, prior to coming to Williamsburg, said of the smaller venue “I’m always delighted to visit places like this.”

He explains that the results of the movement are tracked by having churches register. Last September, he says 14,000 churches in 17 countries took part and 200,000 people accepted invitations.

“You can do the math and it’s only about 14 people per church, but it’s a start. We’ve almost convinced ourselves that people aren’t into church, but it’s not true. The welcome to get them past the threshold has got to be invitational.”

In 2004, Harvey gave up a demanding job in London, England to teach church leaders to see new possibilities within their churches. Since then he has spoken to thousands of church leaders and has challenged churches of all sizes to double their congregation in a day.

In addition to the hosting Lutheran pastors, a number of South Dundas clergy accepted the ‘invitation’ to attend Friday’s seminar along with the general public. 

The Seaway cluster of pastors who invited Harvey to speak at Williamsburg included Pastor Norine Gullons of the South Dundas Evangelical Lutheran Parish of South Dundas, Rev. Jo Barkley-Probst of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Riverside Heights, Rev. Bruce Thompson of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Brockville, Rev. Robert C. Wiesner of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Belleville and Rev. Steve Hoffard of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Kingston.

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