In recent months, as churches have begun to meet in person once again, I have had numerous conversations with both clergy and lay leaders. One prevailing theme was the concern that those people who had stopped attending in-person services may not return. This could be for a number of reasons; some may have got out of the habit of Sunday church, others may be concerned about the ongoing risks of the virus, whilst others may be uncertain what the church is offering on Sundays in terms of collective worship. In research on church leaving, Leslie Francis found that most people stopped going to church because they simply got out of the habit. (Gone for Good? Francis and Richter 2007). We must be honest and say that COVID-19 has broken a number of our habits of church attendance. So, what can we do about it?
The good news is that many people come to church for the first time, or return when someone invites them. Specific invitation to a service, either in person or in writing, is a great way to re-engage a household that may have stopped connecting with worship and discipleship. To this end, the Mission and Comms Teams have been working together to serve the parishes of Southwark Diocese. We have created two simple template invitations that parishes can fill in with their name, details and the kind of service or event that people are being invited back to. (We have initially created 2 designs – one with pictures of adults and another with pictures of children and young people). You can download the document of your choice, and then fill it in and print it off using your chosen print method.
To help you further, and encourage you to engage with the ‘gone but not forgotten’ members of your community, the Mission Team can provide you with a micro-grant of £100 to use in this initiative. Perhaps you will spend the money on using a professional printer in your locality? Or to buy stamps and envelopes to post the cards out? However, you choose to use it is up to you. We want to remove one small financial barrier that might be stopping you reconnect with people in your parish! (Please fill in the grant application form and send it to [email protected]) I know that clergy and lay leaders ARE concerned for their congregations. As restrictions ease, we don’t want to ‘give up the habit of meeting together’ (Hebrews 10.25). So, let us specifically invite people to rejoin us (when the time is right). This resource is designed to help you do this. If you have any questions about the resource please write to [email protected] and we will seek to answer your queries.
Thank you again for your ministry, and may we continue to reach out to, and serves our communities in the name of Jesus Christ.