Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Back to Church Sunday will soon be upon us

Doing anything special for Back to church Sunday? Going to church, maybe?

You may know that Sunday September 27th is Back To Church Sunday, a national initiative to encourage folk back to church. In the  Paxton Benefice we were not slow in planning some different kind of worship on Sunday Septmeber 27th  – and indeed all week leading off from September 27th we have ” Back To The Future” – events geared up to invite people to dip their toe into church activities and find out they might even enjoy them!

I shall in due course put a programme up of events on a page at the top of the blog – but for now here is an interesting article I stumbled across about why many people dont come to church – and I see special mention is being made of fat people and bald people… they have special needs apparantly – according to this book preview….

Churches should try harder to make bald and overweight people feel welcome, according to new guidance that is being issued to clergy.

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
25 Jul 2009

A Church of England book published this week says they should be regarded as worshippers with “special needs” alongside the blind, the deaf, breast-feeding mothers, very short people and readers of tabloid newspapers.

The advice is part of an initiative launched this week to make churches more friendly and less intimidating to newcomers in an attempt to increase attendance at services.

Among those considered to warrant particular attention are people who are blind, deaf or in wheelchairs.

However, it also warns that bald people could be “in trouble from those overhead radiant heaters some churches have unwittingly installed” and that special arrangements may need to be made for people who are overweight.

“Some pew spaces and chairs are embarrassingly inadequate for what is known in church circles as ‘the wider community’,” the book says.

Consideration should be given to recovering alcoholics who want to receive communion wine, it suggests, and for those who “find loud noises from organs or music groups distressing”.

The book, called Everybody Welcome, claims that only one in ten church visitors return because existing worshippers tend to be so unwelcoming.

It urges churches to become more professional in their attitude to attracting newcomers and suggests they follow the example of department stores in appointing customer-care managers.

The book has been co-authored by the Ven Bob Jackson, Archdeacon of Walsall and one of the Church’s leading experts on growth, and the Rev George Fisher, director of parish mission for the diocese of Lichfield.

They warn that churches’ failure to realise how unfriendly they can seem to visitors could lead to long-term decline in the number of people worshipping.

Although church attendance has steadied over the past couple of years, the number of worshippers fell by 100,000 between 2000 and 2002 – a drop of nearly 8 per cent.

The book reveals that 90 per cent of people who visit a church do not join them.

“We may not realise how unwelcoming we appear to the outsider,” it says.

“In many churches it is normal not to speak to newcomers. We are not usually openly hostile, we just ignore them and eventually they go away.”

Church leaders are told that they need to adopt a new approach to including people who are not regular worshippers and to make provision for people with special needs.

“Most of us do not have to wait until we are 96 to have some sort of special need or weakness that makes a significant difference to our experience of the worship event,” the book says.

The Church’s drive to make congregations friendlier includes simple steps, such as encouraging worshippers to make eye contact, to smile and to remember people’s names.

“The first step is to find out a person’s name,” the book says. “When first introduced to someone, keep using their name in your conversation – that helps it to lodge in your memory.”

In an attempt to become more professional, churches are told they should think about appointing “customer-care managers”.

Some clergy have already attended customer service courses, run by John Lewis, the department store, to learn how to be more welcoming and create an experience worth returning for.

Clergy and their congregations are advised in the book to view the Sunday service like a football match.

“When we gather together for worship we are like members of a team taking to the pitch on match day,” it says. “How well the match goes and the subsequent result will, of course, directly impact the post-match drinks. The buzz of an exciting game will last well after the final whistle and energise many a conversation.”

A Church of England spokesman said that the aim of the initiative was to give congregations a plan in how to transform their welcome to create a church that is “compelling to join”.

“If we are to effectively reach out to the whole of God’s people in all its diversity, we have to be prepared to meet individuals’ needs.

“We want to ensure that we are a Church that is able to make people feel at home, whatever their shape or size should be, and whatever their age and background.

“While some of the ideas can sound a bit trivial, the fact is that being blasted by an overhead heater or worrying about where the toilet is doesn’t make it easy to focus on worshipping God.”

He added that thousands of people have accepted invitations to return to church, but that the challenge for the Church was to retain these people.

Around 20,000 people returned to their local church for Back to Church Sunday last year, which saw members of congregations inviting friends who had stopped attending services.

Nearly three million people attended an Anglican service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day last year and 1.5 million attended on Easter Day.

The Church hopes that the advice given in the book will help to retain those who accept similar invitations in the future.

Anyone agree?

Everyone is welcome  in our churches – even a man like this:


September 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. The book may be good material for a discsiion group.

    Comment by Peter Hagger | September 4, 2009 | Reply

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