From Luv 'em by Elizabeth Pass
About three times each year I organise a party or event for families whose young children were baptised in the previous four years (have to draw the line somewhere). An attractive invitation card (prepared and printed on home computer) is individually addressed, placed in an envelope and posted by hand to each of the families who qualify.
One term it was a balloon party in church after the morning family service. There was a balloon for each child, with their name written in thick felt tip, and the balloons were all strung in the foyer and distributed as the children came into the service - we had a congregation festooned with colourful balloons!
Then after the service there was a simple lunch with sandwiches, crisps and juice to which parents contributed by bringing 'a plate' of whatever they chose. This particular family service was geared to these post-baptism families in style and content.
Another time we had a teddy bears' picnic party after a morning service, with food, teddy bear songs, games and prizes!
We find that there are only a few families who never respond. But there are a number of families who do come to these events, and to the child's baptism anniversary Sunday (also by individual invitation) even though they don't come regularly on Sunday mornings.
So we feel that we fulfil our own church obligation to keep in touch and support our baptised children, whether or not they choose to fulfil their own parental baptism promises.
From Luv 'em by Jan Harney
There is a large group of people who don’t need convincing to come to church. Instead, they think that they need to convince us to allow them to come – because they may not qualify or ‘be good enough’.
They are the thousands of people who flock to UK wedding shows every year looking for venues and advice on their wedding. Research tells us that they secretly long for a ‘proper wedding’ but are nervous of approaching us. And they have hundreds of guests that they would love to bring to church.
Thankfully the Church of England has now got an excellent rapport with The UK Wedding Shows and they invite us to take a free stand at most of their events, in exchange for publicity. The high ‘footfall’ at these events means that we have significant conversations with around 250 people as well as handing out masses of literature – suggested hymns and readings and answers to FAQs.
The fact that our goods are free and come accompanied by a friendly smile means that (even if the person is marrying elsewhere) we have a perfect opportunity to do some PR for the Church – and even the chance to talk about Jesus at regular intervals. We can also put people in touch with their local church, supplying contact details and even telling the vicar to expect their call.
Manchester Diocese is participating in the Church of England’s Weddings Project, which aims to attract more couples to marry in church, build a good relationship with them and care for them beyond the marriage ceremony. Click here for details.