Royston is a small market town. The church is on a roundabout at a main road, near a large Tesco superstore. It is on the edge of a working/middle class housing estate.
Background: In 2004 my wife and I came up with the idea of running holiday clubs for the early retired age group. The concept was to use some of the proven tools of children’s holiday clubs, but to adapt them to older people.
Just like a children’s Holiday Club, we use a central theme to attract people and then various activities, which are a mixture of Enjoyment, Education and Evangelism. This means that over the course of the week people are introduced to the claims of the gospel in a way that is relevant to their situation, and each day the content moves them a little further on a journey of faith. We don’t give prizes, but we give incentives - such as earning a free meal in a restaurant at the final event.
We have run these weeks in a number of different churches outside of our area, helping them to conduct their own Holiday Clubs. Due to their success, all of these churches now have Glad to be Grey weeks as a regular part of their yearly outreach. One church, in Kent, even received funding from the local council who considered it so worthwhile to the older members of the community.
This is the fourth such mission we have run in this church, so the church members who were involved knew what was coming and in many ways were prepared.
However, in 2004 when we ran the first Holiday Camp, the church had no idea of what a Glad to be Grey week was really all about. They just liked the concept, which was explained to them, so they knew what was coming.
We simply encouraged the church to blanket the town with adverts in locations where they felt seniors would see them; for example in garden centres, at coffee shops and in libraries. Of course we also encouraged them to bring their friends.
After four years we now find non-Christians bringing their unchurched friends, neighbours and spouses, which is a great encouragement.
The Mission Programme
We produce a brochure which is given to anyone who shows any interest in attending, which highlights the activities that people can attend. The idea is that they choose what they attend, but there is evangelistic content to everything and incentives to encourage them to attend everything.
This is a mission we ran in the past
Day 1 (Monday) ‘Meet and Greet’
Interested people were strongly encouraged to attend this event because it explained the ‘Glad to be Grey’ concept and all the events that took place during the week. Powerpoint presentations were given of all the locations that were to be visited and any costs involved. This meant that anyone with any disabilities, health needs, or any concerns was made fully aware of distances to walk, seating and availability of washrooms etc. They were also made aware of the spiritual aspects of the week so that they knew exactly what would happen.
The aim was to make people at ease and welcome and not under any pressure. People then decided for themselves what they wished to attend, and paid any costs that involved. We also gave details of the points system that enabled people to earn a half-price meal at the end of the week.
Day 2 (Wednesday) ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’
The first activity day of any Glad to be Grey week is a coach outing. We have found this the best way for people who are strangers to get to know each other. On this occasion we stopped for coffee at a quality garden centre.
To fit in with the Seaside/Simon Peter theme we visited the Sea Life Centre in Southend. Here we gave people free time to look around some of the tourist attractions. For each day we produced an activity sheet which had some fun activities in it as well as some spiritual input.
Day 3 (Friday) ‘A day of two halves’
On this day we had two half-day events so people could choose to come to one or both events.
AM - ‘A Test of Faith’
In the morning we got people to meet at the church where they got into their cars and began a mystery car tour. Each group had to trust the instructions they were given and found their way on a short drive to enjoy a special treat! The treat was a garden party where they enjoyed a strawberry tea and a talk about Peter walking on the water. In their cars they had to put faith in the instructions they were given, so the talk takes that idea a little further. As a result the folks were introduced to the idea of putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
PM - ‘End of the Pier’ Show
At this stage we showed the film Amazing Grace on the big screen and even provided the popcorn! After the film we gave a short talk about the grace of God.
Day 4 (Sunday) – Beach Barbeque
The Sunday morning service at Royston Evangelical Church had been changed to suit the people who came along to the Glad to be Grey events. The content of the service was based around the conversation between Jesus and Peter on the beach in John 21.
Day 5 (Tuesday) - Canal Cruise
Lastly, to round up the week, all those who had been part of Glad to be Grey were invited to have a meal together. We arranged a meal on a barge that had been converted into a restaurant. So while the barge sailed down the river we enjoyed a meal followed by the final talk of the week.
My wife and I are full-time evangelists with ‘Counties’ (www.countiesuk.org) and we organised and led the week. Although the non-church people who attended thought of us as ‘holiday reps’ rather than evangelists.
We always encourage a church to arrange an enquirers course to follow-up the evangelistic teaching that has been given during the week. Royston Evangelical Church used Christianity Explored and a good number of people attended.
The fact that Glad to be Grey has become a regular part of the outreach of Royston Evangelical Church shows that the church deem it to be worthwhile, and over the four years a number of people have started to attend the church.
Glad to be Grey has proved to be a great way of getting older people to come along to church, hear the gospel and make Christian friends, and we have seen many people come to faith through it. A number of churches now do it as an annual event.