Avenue Community Church is a relatively recent church plant and is a little over three years old. It’s near Leicester city centre in an adjacent suburb. It is attended by a mix of young professionals, students and family. We have around 120 adults and around 35 kids. We’re an independent evangelical church and are associated with the FIEC. We meet in a school hall.
Mission at Avenue Community Church: We run an on-going drip feed of evangelistic events.
So there will be two or three of these events each term. There is no specific preparation for each event other than ongoing reminders of our desire to share the gospel and praying.
However, we also have evangelism training seminars every so often to equip and encourage. We’re planning to use Six Steps to Talking about Jesus (Matthias Publishing) in our home groups as a general training course but we have also created our own in-house training material. We have also drawn on outside ‘experts’ to help train us – like evangelist Roger Carswell.
We haven’t done any week-long missions, only fairly regular one-off events. One of our strategies for missions is for them to be many and varied. For example at Easter we have a family type of event, in the form of an Easter egg and treasure hunt followed by tea and cake, and an all-age talk on the meaning of Easter. A very different event involved inviting a Christian singer song writer, Mark Stone, along. He sang through some of his songs and talked through some of the meanings behind them.
We have also had a number of events held in local pubs which have picked up on topical events such as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, fundamentalism and atheist Richard Dawkins. These events have included a presentation and allowed space for questions.
We have found that the pub makes it easier for non-churched people. As it happens we meet in a school hall, so we wouldn’t be inviting them to a church building anyway. But coming to a school hall, when you’ve got nothing to do with school, is a bit weird.
Pass the salt…
For other events, we have held very nice sit-down meals where we have booked out a fairly well known restaurant for a three course meal followed by an after dinner talk. Members of staff at the church have spoken at these events as well as speakers from other churches. This event is in the style of an after-dinner speech, with a fairly seeker-sensitive message.
Gospel at Christmas
At Christmas we have held carol services in pubs which have gone down very well. We have established an agreement with the pub and then advertised the event. The evenings have usually involved four or five carols, a solo and a couple of readings. We have the talks in two ways: either a five to ten minute straight talk or extended introductions and comments on the carols and readings. These events have probably been the easiest evangelistic invite we ever had and many have come. You could say that the evening is a cross between a carol service and a pub sing along. People actually thought that it was really great, and hopefully there is enough gospel content to make people think.
The overall strategy of what we’re trying to do is to host a great variety of events that would be suitable for different people, and with a variety of content. In this context the restaurant meal would be very much an ‘interest raising’ event; it’s quite an easy thing to invite someone to. The aim of the evening is just to make people think that they ought to think more.
We have also held a variety of invitation-type services in which there would be a much more straightforward presentation of the gospel. We often run these with all-age services so people can come with their kids and not have to take their kids off to Sunday School - which they may never have done before. So, all-age guest services are quite a strong feature of what we do.
We do use some visiting speakers but most of what we do is fairly in-house as we hope that means there is a degree of confidence in what will happen and be said. We certainly expect to be training people within the church – although that is something we could probably be better at. Using more outside gifted evangelists is something we will probably explore further as well.
Christianity Explored is the main organised course we run as follow-up. It is often mentioned at the events but we encourage people to ask what their friend thought of it and consider asking them whether they would like to come along to Christianity Explored. However people may be followed up more individually as well. With many guests it’s a case of them saying ‘that was interesting’ and then inviting them along to another event. It is always important to keep praying and to look for opportunities to discuss.
In the past, our church has learnt that often we haven’t sold the event to people well enough. Giving people real insight into exactly what will happen at an outreach event serves to give people more confidence in inviting their friends. We need to tell people what the talk will actually be on and what the evening will involve.
I think that we’ve also learnt that a variety of events is good. Some people will have neighbours who have kids of a similar age. So a family event will work really well; such as the Easter Egg hunt. Others have friends who are young professionals, in this case an event ‘down the pub’ is great. Looking back, we have learnt that imaginative ideas are often the most fun things to do.
I am very conscious as the minister that evangelism is not my great gift or strength and so one great lesson I think we’ve learnt is to ‘have a go’ and to keep on ‘having a go’.