Remember Talking Jesus last year? Four days of mission and evangelism when all the Bishops from the Northern Province plus their hand-picked teams descended on our diocese and supported us with our events? Well every diocese in the Northern Province is doing one of these weekends, and Carlisle Diocese just had theirs. I was part of Bishop Paul’s visiting mission team sent to serve three churches in Whitehaven in Cumbria, one of which is fully lay-led.
In Part 1 you’ll read why their mission weekend worked (the secrets to their success), and Part 2 is about by how easy it could be for your church to put on similarly successful events that bring your community together, build confidence and help you to share the Gospel in a way that makes sense to the people in your parish.
So, onto the headlines. What worked well and why?
Prayer: The most important aspect of the mission, which surrounded every stage, from events’ earliest conceptions, to whom people might invite, to how God would work in their lives and bless the mission as a whole. It might be an obvious one, but seriously… prayer, prayer, prayer.
Invitation: The second most important part of the mission was Christians actually saying to their friends, “Do you fancy coming along?” The whole weekend of events wouldn’t have worked without personal invitations. Simple as that. So many people came into contact with their local church and perhaps with the Christian message for the first time, because they were personally invited, which only happened because people invited their friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Invitation cannot be underestimated.
Simplicity: The most surprising thing for me was how none of these events was that whacky, extravagant, high profile or newsworthy. They were all based on the existing resources each church had, whether that was links with venues or using congregation members’ gifts and skills. With the exception of the family fun day which must have required a fair amount of planning, the rest just required a good venue, good refreshments, good sound systems, a good reason to gather people (quiz, football, pie and peas), and of course people to do a talk/the evangelism bit, which was done by the visiting team. This gives me huge confidence that such events are easily replicable in our churches.
Variety: The home team came up with a wide variety of events, not only in target audience, but also in terms of how evangelistic they were. Some events were purely about making those first tentative connections with people who had no contact with the church. These events focussed more on the activity than the message. Other events were much more explicitly about the Christian faith. This was really, really good. It meant when people were considering who they wanted to bring along to something, they could choose a suitable event depending on their friend’s interests and on where their friend was on their faith journey. There really was something for everyone. What all events had in common was how they were rooted in personal relationships (bringing a friend along) rather than going out and telling complete strangers about Jesus. This meant easy follow-up and a sense that people felt relaxed and cared for.
Venues: most events took place outside of their church buildings, held in community centres, schools, sports venues and even in a brewery. This was a helpful reminder that mission is something we do in the community, not just from within our church buildings.
Size of Mission Team vs Area Covered: We kept bumping into the same people at different points throughout the weekend because there were four of us covering three churches in a small-ish location. This meant more relationship building and deeper conversations about faith, rather than dozens of one-off encounters. Any bigger an area to cover and we’d have been too thinly spread. Any fewer churches and there’d have been less for us to do. As it happened we had almost no time off in the four-day mission which was a good thing. We were a well- used resource.
Coming Up… Mission Weekend Part 2: What Did The Churches Do and Could We Do It Too?