Can you run a beach mission without the beach?
Christians not only flock to the beach with the gospel. With time off from everyday life, many use their holidays to head inland to country towns, or to stay and serve their own suburbs.
Menai Anglican Church is about to run its third Summerfest next month.
Inspired by the opportunities that a concentrated effort on evangelism creates on a beach mission, they sought for a way to recreate this in their own suburb.
“We’re a church in Menai. We’re called to be God’s light here and reach the community around us,” says the Rev Andrew Hartman, the “Go” pastor at Menai responsible for mission and evangelism.
"We're called to be God's light here and reach the community around us"
After serving on a beach mission team, then seeing EV Church Central Coast run its local mission called Summerfest, he thought that using a similar model would be a great way for Menai to reach the lost.
“There are thousands that live within five minutes of our church and, these days, more and more people just don’t know anything about Jesus,” Hartman says.
“We weren’t doing a heap of evangelism. It seemed like we’ve got a commission here to reach the people for Jesus and they’re right around us, our neighbours and friends and family. We can not only make those connections throughout Summerfest, we can do it together and continue those relationships into the next week.”
There are big differences, however, between the opportunities at beach mission and the opportunities in the local suburb, so the team at Menai is constantly working out the best way to reach its neighbours during the week.
Summerfest Menai consists of a kids program, youth program and adults program, and while these programs work well, interaction with people can be limited.
Tom Stanton, team member and youth group leader at Menai, explains that “Menai is not near the beach, there’s not really a big central meeting place. It’s challenging to figure out how we interact with people.
"There are thousands of people that live within five minutes of our church"
“We rely a lot on doorknocking, but it’s the time of year people are away or not everyone is on holidays. This year we’re trying to think about how to do this better. We’ve got to improve on our community connections. How do we reach more people?”
Hartman sees Summerfest not only as a week to connect to the community, but also as a way to encourage evangelism in the whole church.
“It’s a way to kickstart evangelism, to help people be intentional and to share the gospel,” he says. “We wanted this to happen, so having a week to dedicate to it – to training and then to doing it together and pushing people out of their comfort zones – it’s meant to be a firelighter to get them going in the relationships and opportunities they already have in their everyday lives.
“Stuff is happening through the week, but they’re thinking about the people they’ll see when they go back to school or uni or whatever. We want them to continue with that mindset to reach people with the gospel.”