How to be happy
Tim Thornborough is Creative Director at The Good Book Company. He shares his experience of running a Life Explored feeder event at his church in Wimbledon.
We’ve been pondering how we do our outreach events at my church for a while.
Like many churches, we have relied on a diet of guest services, regular Christianity Explored and Life Explored courses, and the occasional general-interest event—a quiz, wine tasting, celebrity interview, etc—with a gospel talk attached to it.
When I was offered the chance to devise an event before Easter, I decided to try something a bit different.
I had noted how self-help books on the theme of happiness have been very popular of late. I was also attracted to a TV format that might loosely be called “infotainment”—where a comedian gives a lecture, interviews people, and takes an interesting romp through a subject in a light-hearted easy style.
So, heart in mouth, I offered to run an evening called How to be Happy, and created some publicity to run it twice—once in the function room of a local pub, and once at my home church.
How to be happy
The evening was structured around me talking, a happiness quiz, doing the UK Government’s Happiness Index survey live (yes, there really is one), presenting interesting facts and questions about the idea of happiness, and interviewing three people: an economist, a church minister and a psychiatrist.
All three of the interviewees were Christians (even the minister!), but the aim was to have an event that got people thinking, talking and asking questions about happiness—their own, and happiness in general—rather than having a full gospel presentation.
It was billed as “pre-evangelistic” in the sense that the aim was to raise interest, and get people to come to a Life Explored course, where the theme of happiness is central.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be something that people found it really easy to invite others along to.
There was finger food and drink; and we packed the pub function room with over 70 people—almost half of them guests; and 100+ at the church, with a similar proportion of guests to church members.
And the conversation really flowed. People were very engaged with the questions.
The economist was able to talk about how happiness is measured, and why some countries are now turning to happiness as a more important index of progress than GDP or GNP.
Life Explored helps people uncover what they’re really living for, and see how, in Christ, God meets their deepest desires for happiness.
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The minister talked briefly about how Jesus talked about a different kind of happiness—joy and being “blessed” — a happiness that we can experience despite our circumstances. At this point we showed the LE trailer and invited people to come to the course.
After a break, I interviewed the Psychiatrist, who gave some very practical pointers to how we can be happier—many of which connect with what we have on offer in the Gospel: friendship, community, meaning and purpose. But this was done with a light touch: the main point was to get people engaged with LE.
The format worked really well in both venues, and was helped along by having some live music.
Overall a great success, and I will be pondering if we can repeat the “gospel infotainment” format with other subjects that people will find interesting and engaging.
If you find the idea intriguing, or potentially useful, Tim would be glad to hear from you and would consider coming to run the event at your church.
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