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Leafleting? Are you joking?

29 May, 2014 Lewis Allen

Leafleting? Are you joking?

Each week at least a couple of us from Hope go into Huddersfield town centre. We leaflet for an hour. I could say we ‘tract’, but it’s such an outdated and horrible word I try to avoid it. So, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, come sunshine or drizzle (not driving rain – who wants to stop to take a leaflet in a downpour?), we hand out leaflets.

Many Christians think it’s the biggest waste of time. I suspect that there might be one or two in our church who think that, but they’re far too polite to say it. Why do we do it, then, and how?

Firstly, the how. We go to the same place each week, to the intersection of two streets, one of them pedestrianized. It’s a busy place in the middle of town. Perfect.

How do we give out leaflets? Easy, we give them out. We’re not forceful, obviously. Nor are we shy and retiring. We love to show friendliness and tact. If people are angry, we don’t push it. We love to surprise people, if we feel they can cope with it. So, a lighthearted comment about a t-shirt, or a football scarf, a joke about us being dangerous fundamentalists out to brainwash people, that sort of thing. Often we see people who looked hostile to what we’re doing actually break into a smile and take a leaflet when we show a bit of warmth. I try to approach people with the tone of voice and body language which communicates that I expect people to receive my leaflets, whilst keeping very polite if they don’t. I can count the actual hostility we’ve had from people on the fingers of one hand in the last three years.

We seek to engage people in conversation. Unless people are in a real hurry, or clearly don’t want to say anything, we try to ask questions. ‘Is there a church you’re involved in?’ ‘Do you have any faith?’ ‘Is Jesus somebody you’re interested in?’ Serious questions, but ask them gently and with a smile, and it’s amazing to see the flash of vulnerable honesty that people sometimes show. And amazing conversations sometimes do happen. We’ve chatted to confused people, rough sleepers, addicts, self-righteous religious people, cult members, confused Christians, muddled church-goers, desperate asylum-seekers – the list goes on. Sometimes we’ve swapped phone numbers and followed up people, we’ve continued the conversations in a pub or a café. Leafleting has opened many doors and hearts for the Gospel.

One of the joys of the work is that we leaflet outside one of the town’s better-known pubs. It’s the haunt of some very loyal (and many heavy) drinkers. We’ve got to know a number of the guys there. They’re always pleased to see us, and we’ll chat on the street or in the pub with them over a drink, sometimes about their lives, or ours, and also about the Gospel. It’s slow work, but real, Gospel work.

What leaflets do we use? I wrote one a few years ago. It has our church’s contact details, a map of where we meet, service times, and a sentence of two about what sort of church we are. There are a couple of hundred words in the form of a gentle challenge about the choices we make in life. Jesus is introduced as the source of real life, and we make the invitation to find out more about Him and the church. Simple stuff, but put together carefully, in content and layout. We don’t believe in off-the-shelf stuff, with a church-specific sticker overlaid!

We believe that this is very important work. We don’t’ have church premises and, as we’re a new plant, we need to work hard on raising our profile. We’ve given out many thousands of  leaflets by now, which stands us in excellent stead for when that time comes when we have a building, as we’ve been sowing awareness of who we are (whilst putting a friendly face alongside that info). Above all, we’ve been sowing Gospel seed. God will honour that.

Do we have people into church as a result of leafleting? As you might guess, very few  (at least, so far). Some have come in, some, we believe, are waiting for that crisis, or that burst of confidence, before they check us out on a Sunday. At least they know that we are here, and what we are about. We pray that these seeds of Gospel awareness and need would by guarded by the Spirit in many hearts.

Nearly three years ago we gave out a leaflet to a student. It sat on his desk for a year before he came. He’s now converted, a baptised member of the church, and will be starting a ministry apprenticeship with us in September.

God uses leaflets. Do you?

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