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11th June 2015
Can you remember the first time you came to church? Maybe you've grown up in a Christian family and have always been involved in church life. But if it's all new to you, how does King's help you make the journey from passer-by to part of the family?
It may seem obvious, but our first and most important way of reaching out to people is through our Sunday meetings. This is where we attract the most visitors, and both meetings have different appeals. While our morning meetings have plenty for families and have the largest number of people, our evening meetings are much more relaxed, taking place in Coffee Box with a more acoustic feel to worship and smaller numbers, which for many is a great introduction to church.
One person who was new to church and started coming to King's last year said, "From the moment I entered the doors I felt warmly welcomed and the atmosphere was great. I could immediately tell that I was going to like it. The preach that evening spoke so many words to me – I felt like it was chosen just for me. Everyone in the church was so lovely and wanted to speak to me and make me feel included."
The church also runs plenty of regular events throughout the week, whether that's our parent and toddler group Totz Klub or our lunch club for the over 55s, while the Hastings Centre hosts a range of activities, from mid-week fitness groups to film nights at our café, Coffee Box. With an estimated 2,600 visitors coming through our doors each week, excluding Sundays, there's plenty of opportunity for those who are new to hear about King's and join us on Sundays.
Plenty of new visitors are interested in exploring Christianity for the first time, and this is where our Alpha course comes in. Our last course started with a taster evening that attracted over 100 people. Hosted in Coffee Box, the night included a free curry for every guest and video testimonies of changed lives from members of King's. From this, nearly 30 people (more than we've ever had on one Alpha course) signed up for the course itself, which began a week later.
The Alpha Course is for anyone, even with little or no experience of Christianity. It's a setting to hear about some of the ideas underpinning the faith, explore different topics and ask any questions – nothing is too outrageous! Some of the topics we explored on the last course included: "Is there a God?", "Who is Jesus?" and "What happened at the Cross?" During the Holy Spirit Day, which was dedicated to understanding and receiving from the Holy Spirit, several experienced him for the first time; and in another session exploring the area of healing, we were thrilled to see guests healed of aches and pains there and then. But even more exciting was the fact that several had given their lives to Jesus for the first time during the course, which we love to celebrate! You can read about some of the testimonies of guests who were on the course here.
The Alpha Course was so popular this year that we decided to run three 'Alpha Plus' sessions after the main course had finished. These seemed to be the natural next step, and we were able to cover more advanced questions, such as "What is prayer?" and "What is the Church?"
A guest from our most recent Alpha course said, "I was healed during one of the Alpha sessions. The Holy Spirit day was mind-blowing, I've never witnessed or felt anything like it."
After the Christmas break, with plenty of opportunity for those finishing Alpha to visit us at our Christmas event the Greatest Gift, our Foundations course began. Taking a step forward from Alpha, our Foundations course aims to lay down the fundamental truths to Christianity. It's primarily for new Christians, although this year there was an opportunity for anyone who was ‘still looking’ after Alpha to join in the group discussion. The seven-week course followed a curriculum set by former lead elder of King's, John Groves, and this time there were short interviews with mature Christians on different areas of faith, as well as the chance to clear up Christian jargon and discuss the practical applications of living with this faith. The course was a success, as you can find out here.
Several people committed their lives to Jesus throughout the two courses, which is really exciting! This is our hope in running the courses, and we're so pleased to see people know Jesus for themselves. In Scripture we read that one of the first things we should do when we give our lives to Jesus is to be baptised (we see it in the gospels, even in the life of Jesus). In November, we had the privilege of baptising 12 people; in February a further six; and in June another nine. These 27 made a public commitment of their faith our wonderful Saviour.
Following the courses and baptisms, guests this year have been invited to join a small group specifically running for them. It can be easy to let people 'fall through the gap' when finishing these courses, especially when the next step is to join a church of around 400, which can be daunting, so small group life is an important way of integrating new people into the life of King's.
They've also had a flavour of church life through serving. This year is the first time we've invited people to serve on the back of a Foundations course, and it is so key in demonstrating the love that God has shown us and participating in our family life. There are plenty of areas to get involved at church, from helping on the welcome team (which for some echoes their first experience of church) to helping to set up meetings, and much more.
Those who have learnt about the basics of Christianity afterwards also have the option to take part in an Exploring Membership course, our most recent of which ran this month. This is a chance for anyone who thinks they might want to become a member of King's to explore, in two sessions, what values we uphold and what the vision is for the future. Exploring Membership gives people the chance to ask questions about this particular church and decide whether they want to commit to church life here.
There are so many other courses that King's runs, which are open to all: the Parenting Course, the Marriage Course, (which attracted non-Christians for the first time this year), and the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Money Course, which has been helpful in giving principles for effective money management and helping people to stay out of debt. Even for people who aren't Christians, these sessions are full of valuable teaching and principles that are applicable to various areas of life. Our aim is to practically equip anyone for day-to-day life, and in doing so we want to share God's love with them.
It can be easy to recognise the huge amount that King's does in the process of welcoming new people, but we don't want to forget that the reason for all of these courses, events and meetings are not just so that we can create a bigger club. We want to see people enter into a relationship with Jesus that goes from strength to strength! We're grateful for the opportunities God gives us to see this happen in numerous lives, and hope and pray that through us God will continue to grow his Church.
Posted by Sian Francis-Cox