In times past, Baptist churches often held high attendance Sundays to encourage their members to invite unchurched neighbors and friends to worship or to bring back into fellowship those who had quit attending.
High attendance emphases are rare these days, but the core idea has new legs and a broader application through something that began in 2006 called Discovery Day.
The SBTC emphasis combines a high attendance effort with intentional plans to engage seekers and nominal church-goers in new Sunday School or Bible study units.
During the same week, churches participating in Discovery Day are encouraged to emphasize a specific ministry to their community.
Craig Beall, SBTC church ministries associate, said many churches opt to assist a local crisis pregnancy center, since Sanctity of Life Sunday often is the same day, or some other community outreach.
“The whole point,” Beall said, “is to make it a safe Sunday for people to invite guests. This is really when you need to make visitors feel special and valued. It’s always a great thing if you can say to them, ‘Look, we have a new class beginning today and you are welcome there.’ A new class is always less intimidating to people when they haven’t been to church at all or perhaps they are church members who are reluctant for whatever reason to join a group Bible study.”
“The big thing, if you are going to be effective, you need to follow up with these people who visit and start new classes and new groups,” Beall said. “That’s where I’ve heard reports of churches being most successful with this?in starting new classes, new ministries, and engaging new people.”
Last year, participating churches reported a 31 percent increase on that day in Bible study attendance, up from a 24 percent rise in 2006.
Al Magness, associate pastor for assimilation and development at Anderson Mill Baptist Church in Austin, said the church saw its highest attendance ever for a non-holiday Sunday last year on Discovery Day.
“This year we will have a baby dedication, which will help us focus on Sanctity of Life Sunday. But a big part of our focus is encouraging people to take the next step, whether that is a salvation decision, joining the church membership, answering a call to ministry or simply joining a small group.”
Magness said Anderson Mill will also use that Sunday to begin a new DivorceCare group and new home fellowship groups, as well as a DiscipleNow weekend for the youth.
“We try to make it easy for people to take that next step, whatever that step is,” Magness said.
Beall added: “I think the power of this is that it’s a statewide event. The printed materials that are available, most churches would not be able to produce on their own. Also, there is power in people praying at the same time across the state for the same results in their local churches. It can be a joint effort across congregations.”
Last year, in its second year, the SBTC church ministries office provided 50,000 promotional pieces requested by churches, and Beall said this year interest from churches is up significantly. He said participating churches include congregations of 40 people to those exceeding 1,500 members.
In October every church was mailed a Discovery Day promotional mailer followed by a letter from Beall in November explaining the event. Interested churches may download free Discovery Day promotional materials at sbtexas.com/discoveryday, or call the SBTC church ministries office toll free at 877-953-7282 for help with resources.