It’s been a few days since ‘Love Bicester’ mission finished and I’ve got a few moments to write some of my reflections down, catch up with myself and ponder what worked and what didn’t.
I’m keen to do this as I have a hunch that what the churches in Bicester have just engaged in is a valuable lesson for the church in towns and cities up and down the country to think about how they too may play their part in reaching people around them with the good news of Jesus. ‘Love Bicester’ is a weeks focused mission seeking to reach as many people as possible in the town with the good news of Jesus. So, what springs to mind when you think of a town wide mission? Perhaps you think of the cost, or of big events, or the vast amounts of planning or perhaps it is simply impossible to do…
For Bicester Churches together they worked on a modest budget of thousands (not tens or hundreds of thousands) and were able to reach many people (not just the same ones or keen Christians) but many different kinds of people out and about in their community right were they live. In fact around 70 different missional projects went on over the week all with the aim to let others in on the news that God knows and loves us. Granted, Bicester is a small fairly well to do ‘commute to the city’ kind of town, yet what the church embarked on is, I believe, brave and initiative.
So, limited budget, no ‘big’ events where everyone was encouraged to attend (apart from a funday in the park and a launch night too for the churches) and no prescriptive way of what the church could do or not in demonstrating the Christian message. Yet, what was really extraordinary was the amount of faith sharing that went on by the Church.
This was markedly different from previous mission weeks that were purely run by a small team where the speaker was the focus. So what was the strategy for Love Bicester? It was simply, small groups. Be that home groups, cell, care, missional or whatever groups,small groups simply worked out what they could do that showed people they were loved and known by God. To prepare small groups for this task I wrote a simple Bible Study looking at 6 stories of mission from the book of Acts. The studies had minimal teaching but lots of challenges and prompts for discussion in the group. This clear vision helped the church and the small groups work out what was expected of them in this week. The first thing you encounter when searching for Love Bicester on line is this unashamed clear goal:
I have since adapted this small group material and made it available for other small groups to use in whatever context they find themselves in. You can find a way of ordering this free resource here.
The result of this small group study in Bicester and the challenges were an array of ways of engaging with people with the Christian faith. Here are some of the ideas that they came up with, but you can see the whole event calender here.
- A pamper afternoon for ladies run at an Anglican Church. One of the organisers shared with me how painting the nails of another gave her the opportunity to listen, pray and talk.
- Robots vs Humans… Dr Nigel Crook from Brookes University talked about robots and what it means to be human from a Christian point of view. People got an opportunity to also meet Artie the real-life robot!
- A cream tea for seniors facilitated by young people. An idea by the ‘youth’ was to host a cream tea where they would serve older people. I attended (not because of my age I must add) but to encourage the young people. The task of serving was straight forward, the hardest was sitting and talking with the older people yet many of them did and this bowled our guests over! ‘This should be in the papers!’ Remarked one guest.
- A fun morning with craft and bacon butties on a new housing estate. This happened in the rain and people from the community still turned up and huddled under gazebos.
- Games and youth activities in the park. I had my first ever experience of playing ‘ultimate Frisbee’ and simply spent an afternoon ‘hanging out’ with young people.
- A walk for the blind and partially sighted at a national trust house.
- A men’s breakfast with a guest speaking.
- Sports and picnic in the park (due to the rain the picnic didn’t happen but the sports did!)
- ‘Here to listen’ sofa by some shops…
Here are some of the pictures from some of these activities:
If I’ve given the impression that this wasn’t hard work to administrate and organise, please do forgive me. Love Bicester not only had the luxury of the weekly prayer breakfast for Church leaders who support one another and communicate well together, there was also a small team who sorted out and pulled together all the different activities and communicated with the Churches to inspire and enthuse them for the mission week. (And what a cracking job they did too!)
Lastly, it is worth noting the last weekend where there were two community events, one hosted by the Churches, a Funday, and one served by the Churches who joined in, the BIG lunch. The two events were very different to each other. The Funday was free and had a good mix of grace and ‘content’ of the good news. The Big lunch served as a fundraiser to many charities and clubs in and around Bicester. Non the less, it was a great event in which the church got in the mix and helped serve, but didn’t have much gospel content in presentation or engagement. This isn’t a bad thing. Many Christians simply got involved, shared some of their lunch, waited on tables giving cream teas or simply spend time in the centre of their town with friends.
The Funday worked incredibly well as a means of changing the perception of Church by showing thousands of people a grace filled exuberant day. 4,000 people came along to participate in all the activities and Garth Park was filled with so much enjoyment. The Funday was a great climax of the Love Bicester week and here are some of the pictures from the day:
It was such a privilege to serve as mission enabler with Love Bicester as I wasn’t the one doing the mission, but simply journeying along with the Church who had worked out that they really can love Bicester in such a way that it shows many that they are loved and known by God.