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Bringing people back to church

Back to church: Bethlehem Christian Church is one of thousands of churches throughout the country participating in National Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 12. The movement encourages churchgoers to invite friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who do not currently go to church regularly.

Just imagine what could happen if every regular churchgoer invited someone to church next week.

Pews would be packed, parking lots would be filled and, leaders of a back-to-church movement hope, it would continue to be that way every Sunday.

Bethlehem Christian Church, 1549 Holland Road, is one of thousands of churches throughout the country participating in National Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 12. The movement encourages regular churchgoers to invite any person who does not regularly go to church or has not been in a while to come back to church.

“I think so many people are finding reasons to get away from church,” said Bonnie Speight, head of the outreach committee at Bethlehem. “This is a way to hopefully bring people back.”

Speight stumbled upon the national movement’s website, www.backtochurch.com, and thought it would be good to reach people in the area who don’t go to church.

“I’m hoping that it will work, and if it doesn’t, we’ll try again next year,” she said.

According to LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, only 2 percent of regular churchgoers invite someone to church in any given year. However, 82 percent of un-churched people say they’d be open to visiting a church if a friend or family member invited them.

Most people who stopped attending church didn’t lose their faith, according to the research — they simply fell out of the habit of going. Others have never been regular churchgoers, but they say they believe in God.

“I have friends that were never even taken to church when they were young,” Speight said.

Bethlehem has two services every Sunday, at 8:30 and 11 a.m. The 8:30 a.m. service generally features more contemporary music, though on Sept. 12 the later service will feature a mix of contemporary and traditional music.

In between the services, the church will host a reception for visitors. Members already have hit neighborhoods around Suffolk with information packets encouraging people to come.

“It was very interesting talking to some of the people we got to talk to,” Speight said. “Hopefully, they’ll show up. I just think people need to get back to church.”

Palm Tree Baptist Church, 8165 Whaleyville Blvd., also is listed on the movement’s website as a participant.

For more information, visit www.backtochurch.com. For more information on Bethlehem Christian, call 539-4274. Call 986-4303 for more information on Palm Tree Baptist.