Still reflecting on ‘that’ sermon from the weekend and the response to it, I started out writing this post after reading some of the negative things that have been said about it from those within the church. That always really gets to me, in-church-division: we should be united around Jesus, supporting each other and working together, yes even in difference, but instead, some of those whose words have impact, chose to be divisive. So I decided I didn’t want to be one of them and instead going in a different direction, but for what it’s worth: I loved the sermon, thought he preached The Gospel to 2 billion people and totally nailed it.
That sermon got people talking, and not just Christians but a huge range of people, with comments like, ‘wow is that what church is like?’ or ‘I’d go to church if all preaching was like that…’ so, a friend and I put together a list of 10 top tips for those who had been touched by the sermon and wanted to know more. But then I thought, well what should our response as a church be? Or as church leaders? Or as Christians? So here’s some thoughts for churches on how to capitalise on all this interest. Now these are not full on evangelism, but suggestions of starting points to engage people, perhaps a stepping stone to something more. Some might work in your context, some might not, and if you’ve got more ideas, let me know, I’ll add them in.
1. First up, recognise this is a huge opportunity. Stats suggest that 3.4 million tweets were sent during the wedding and the most tweeted moment was not Meghan arriving, the dress, or even the first kiss, but Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon with 40,000 tweets per minute. So, people are interested and asking questions, so go on and take the opportunity and act now! I think the key is to engage people, not just invite them to church but get them talking, show them church can be interesting, relevant and lively – surprise them maybe.
2. Get your congregations in on it – tell them not to waste this opportunity – it’s so easy to start a conversation with a non-Christian friend by asking them if they watched the Royal Wedding for example… Maybe you could send out an email to the church with some ideas of what they could do this week?
3. If you haven’t already, why not reference the Royal wedding and the preach in your church social media/email/website? and do it THIS WEEK! People are talking about it NOW so strike while the iron is hot.
5. Why not put some signs up outside your church inviting people to come and find out more if they were inspired by the sermon or the wedding.
6. Go hang out in the local pub or café and chat to people, if you’ve got a dog collar wear it – I am sure you will get some people asking you about the sermon and off you go with conversation…
7. Host an informal discussion somewhere in the community (local community café, pub, village hall, ie: not necessarily the church). Maybe ask some simple questions like, ‘what did you think of ‘that’ wedding sermon? Or: ‘inspired by the royal wedding sermon? Want to know more, come along…’
8. Or go one further, +Michael said: Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine our governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way. Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. Why not host a gathering asking people how you can help facilitate a neighbourhood and community where love is the way?
9. Send out an invitation to come to church next weekend using the Royal wedding and/or sermon as your hook eg: ‘think THAT preach was good? Come and hear ours…’ you could follow it up with a discussion/grill the vicar time, over coffee and cake. And for those saying you are not sure why people are surprised as there are lots of preachers like that in the UK – there are some, yes, but ask yourself are you one of them? You don’t need to preach like someone else, we all have our own preaching style, but 3 things that +Michael had that we can all have are: authenticity – preach as you are; integrity – preach it like you mean it; and Jesus – mention Jesus without being afraid, he is kind of important after all.
10. Feeling braver still? How about asking people to rate your sermon next Sunday?! – use some of the public quotes that are around, to help you, for example Piers Morgan, Ed Miliband, Miranda all tweeted about it – there are a few quoted by ITV here. You could ask people which one are you? You could even hand out feedback forms!
11. Have you got a school visit this week or an assembly – engage the kids, ask them what they thought or what they remembered about the preach. Richard Watson who is hosting the @OurCofELike this week, did just sat this morning with great results…
12. For a youth group or older assembly you could make some nice graphics out of a few quotes from the sermon and ask them to think about which they liked most and why. An easy and free graphics editor (aside from Instagram, and if you are not on insta but are doing youth ministry then you need to be…) is Canva.
13. Do you do weddings at your church? Then let people know and use the Royal wedding as a prompt.
14. Put posters up around the parish asking people to join in a conversation online – use questions that allow open answers, not just yes or no! Something like: remember what it feels like to be in love? (as the Bishop asked) and point them to your social media with a suitable hashtag.
15. Also, finally, make your posts/posters etc look better and more engaging by using images – check for copyright, don’t just use on you found online – websites like Pixabay give you the option to download photos for free, on a range of themes including weddings.
So there you go, just some ideas and do send me any others you have or let me know if you try any out, be great to hear how you get on.