As more than 600,000 people across the United Kingdom are being invited to special church services for Back to Church Sunday this weekend, one of the founders of this movement is on a mission to mobilize long-term church growth.
Michael Harvey, who first helped to launch Back to Church Sunday back in 2004 in Manchester, England, has spent the last year travelling across the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, preparing churches to invite their friends back to church by running seminars called “The 12 Steps to Becoming an Inviting Church.”
Harvey explains how he came up with this teaching series. “I noticed the national church statistics on Back to Church Sunday were that 80% of congregations don’t invite their friends to church,” he told the ASSIST News Service. “This was right across the board of all the churches that participated. So I was really seeking out why 8 out of ten of us actually find it difficult to invite a friend to church. So the seminar came out of that problem.”
Michael, who’s also a business consultant with MJH Associates, which helps business unlock their growth, has run his seminars in almost 100 locations constantly travelling on planes, trains and automobiles and even a hovercraft. Despite spending so much time on the road he sees this as a “calling” to make an impact around the world.
|Canterbury Cathedral: around 1.7 million people attend Church of England worship each month Photo: Edward Sykes from www.telegraph.co.uk website)|
Michael Harvey says that wherever he travels he comes across churches all facing the same challenges.
“Everywhere I go, church leaders are grappling with exactly the same problems; that people are afraid of their friends saying no. In every seminar this comes up. I answer this in the seminars by saying, ‘Who do we know in the Christian faith who was rejected?’ That generally hits home to the church that actually it’s okay for us to ask a friend and for them to say no. It’s absolutely fine.
“But we don’t ask our friends because we’re afraid they’ll say no to us. So the highlight for me is if we can get to grips with what is stopping us growing and it seems to be the same right across the Western church. Once we overcome this then we can see thousands of people added to the church.”
Harvey says that he wants churches not to be put off if things don’t always go to plan. “The 12 steps of becoming an inviting church in my view is a learning tool,” he explained. “I want the whole exercise to be a learning experience so that when thing don’t go as well as we want them to, we can actually reflect on what we’ve done.
|Michael Harvey at one of his seminars|
“Then we can see what God might want to say to use through what’s gone on in the process. So my hope is it’s a learning experience for church leaders. And as a result of that in years to come many people will be added to the church.”
As Back to Church Sunday is continually being launched into other countries around the world, including the United States, Michael is always hearing from different pastors tell him their inspiring stories.
“I speak one-on-one to leaders around the world and one pastor in Canberra in Australia had just done his Back to Church Sunday and he told me that sixteen people had come to his church and early signs indicated that some of these people are going to be added.
“There was also one lovely story of a family with the mum and dad bringing along their son’s girlfriend to church and then the following week the girlfriend brought their son. It shows that once you get invitation going it’s like a ball rolling down a hill. It gathers pace because those who are invited find it much easier to invite than those of us who have been in church for a long time.”
Straight after this weekend Michael starts on his journey again to prepare for next year’s Back to Church Sunday and will be launching his second seminar which includes “The Ten Keys to Keeping.”
One of the key countries Michael plans to take his teaching to is America, and he’s already planning a speaking tour. If any US churches would like to book Michael to come and run one of his seminars, they can contact him at: Michael@mjhassociates.org.uk or go to: www.mjhassociates.org.uk.