Given that so few people in our communities engage with the Church or formal religion, it is surprising when we expend so much of our evangelistic efforts at ‘bringing them to us’. Do we put on gospel services regularly and just expect people to find their way into an alien building to partake in the strange ritual of a church service? Events in neutral buildings such as cafes or restaurants are easier for visitors to come to, but this still depends upon someone being invited. The issue is – how do we reach out to the unchurched, how do we undertake the equivalent of ‘cold calling’ in our day?
When I first joined our church, it was in its early stage of being a church-plant, with a focus on the newest housing estate in West Bridgend, where building development was still taking place. The church had no regular place to meet. It had met in homes to start with, and then moved around to the local school, the local Bible College, which at that time had no large community room, and then to the local Day Nursery. Some door-to-door work had gone on, and some families had ventured in as a result. Several moves later (back to the school, back to the Bible College, to the dilapidated building of the local Labour Club and then a community centre) and we settled on renting the new premises of the Sarang Thomas Centre at Union School of Theology just after it was built. Through all the moves, the challenge was still the same – who do local people think we are and would they know where to find us?
Mission visits by two American churches over the years led to more door-to-door visitation, good conversations and good contacts but no new visitors. A Christianity Explored course was held in the local pub-restaurant and some people saw the group and came along out of curiosity. We had never met them before. Some still come along to the church. But still the challenge has been – how to meet the majority in our area who don’t have any contact with a church?
Some creative thinking led to what is now a tradition. We deliver Christmas cards to about 8,000 homes in the area every year. The card is well-produced so that people will want to display it. It advertises our Christmas carol services and contains some challenging questions, a relevant Bible text, details of our website and a contact phone number. Last year, a competition for the children in the church produced a stunning, attractive and colourful card design. Each year people have contacted us in response to the cards, come to our carol services and even joined the church.
But what of the rest of the year? How can we keep contact? Door-to-door visiting has been difficult and so many house doors in the area carry ‘no cold callers’ stickers. Open doors have become closed doors and many are suspicious because the local Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved to be unwelcome callers.
So last summer we embarked on a system of delivering prayer cards to homes in the locality during the longer summer evenings. We designed a simple card, with the logo of the church and contact details clearly displayed. The card contained the message that the church was gathering that night to pray for their street. We invited anyone interested to get in touch with us if they had any particular prayer request or wanted further information. We just dropped the card through the letterbox – we didn’t knock on the doors. While a small team of church members were out delivering the cards, a group of members stayed back in the building we rent and prayed for everyone living in the streets that were being visited.
If we met anyone while we were out delivering – a few people were putting out the recycling-or some came out to meet us, then we would take the opportunity of a gospel conversation. It was exciting to go on our delivering and wonder how the Lord would bless our endeavour?
Was there much fruit? A few people contacted us but no-one came as far as I know. Would we do it again? Yes probably, as part of our wider strategy to get the name of the Lord and the name of the church known in our community.
Any tips? Make sure that the prayer card is about postcard size or slightly larger. Think about the weight of the card. At first, we produced it on paper and the cards got scrunched up going through the letterbox. Make sure the church logo is prominently displayed. Keep the text simple – make the point that the church is praying for that street and make the offer of prayer and support clear, with a one-point contact number for phone calls or texts.
What are we doing next? Right now we are preparing to launch our evangelistic newspaper, The Bridgend Herald at a fun day held in the grounds of the local school and organised by a community association. We have been blessed with the help of the EMW in preparing this newspaper and personalising it to our local area. And of course, the church has a Facebook presence!
Pray with us that our door-to-door with a difference will make a gospel difference.