You’re organising your first Lunchbar. You’ve crafted a compelling title, booked a brilliant speaker, snapped up a super venue, and printed out posh publicity. Do you want the good news or the bad news?
The good news is the Lunchbar will be a complete success if the CU get behind it. The bad news is it will be a complete flop if they don’t.
A motivated CU is full of people who are praying for the Lunchbar, who turn up with (or without) their non-Christian mates, and who offer to serve on the catering, flyer-ing or stewarding teams. Sounds ideal! But it’s not guaranteed. How do we motivate the CU?
1. Barbados! A friend, annoyed by my shivering on a cold British July day, said I’d feel much warmer if I breathed out, relaxed and said ‘Barbados’! Barbados is meant to conjure up images of digging your toes into warm shining Caribbean sand before swimming in aquamarine seas, squinting at the sparkling sun. Think about walking back up the beach, the water evaporating from your shoulders, before stretching back, putting on your shades while the waitress brings out some chilled cocktail on a tray. You feel relaxed, at peace, and increasingly tanned and irresistible. What on earth has this got to do with mobilising the CU for Lunchbars?
Your first priority as organiser is to ‘envision’.
And that means describing stuff. It means describing the Lunchbar so people can see it in their mind’s eye. I can’t pray for, or feel comfortable inviting my friends to something I know nothing about. But if you snappily enthuse about the ideal venue, the intriguing title, the free food, and the talk and Q&A, I’ll begin to imagine it.
It also means describing the Lunchbar in a way that I can see the benefits. No sun or sand, but maybe my non-Christian friend hears a really good answer to the question that I struggle with. Maybe they stay and chat to CU friends and see we’re all normal. Maybe I hear a brilliant reason to be a Christian, or a new way of explaining something that I can use in conversation. Maybe I’m there to pray with someone who wants to become a Christian! If you don’t have stories from past Lunchbars, find a friend at a different Uni who had done them well, and recount their experiences.
2. Your second priority as organiser is to pray. Your Father delights to hear you, and already knows what you need, so you can pray with joy and confidence. And He is able to do more than you ask or imagine. Pray, and invite everyone else to pray too. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if you see less than you asked for (oh wait, you didn’t ask!) As the CU prays, they’ll also realise how important the event is, and will find themselves aware of all the details.
3. Your third priority is to maximise the CU’s involvement. With involvement becomes ownership, and a CU who ‘owns’ the event will volunteer to help out and will turn up on the day. If they’re not involved, it will just be you and your little project. How can you involve people?
a) Weeks (preferably months) before, put pens and paper on people’s chairs, launch the idea of the Lunchbar and ask them what question they’d like addressed. What questions have their friends asked that they’d love to hear a good answer to? Who would they like you to invite to give the talk? Collect in the answers, and maybe read my article on What Makes A Good Lunchbar Talk Title?
b) When you recruit for people to give out flyers, help out with food, or serve as stewards and with the follow-up, explain clearly what is involved, and then ask for the required number of people (5? 10?) to put up their hands. Just saying ‘if you’re interested, see me afterwards’, sounds fine at the time, but ‘afterwards’ everyone forgets. Best ask for people to make a solid public commitment (hands up) that they’ll feel obliged to honour.
c) Invite them to pray!
4. Your final task is to explain that a Lunchbar serves not one, but two main purposes. They are wonderful evangelistic opportunities that help people overcome their objections and serve as gateways to the Gospel, but they’re more than that. If you only emphasise the evangelistic side, people who don’t feel they can bring friends won’t turn up, leaving empty chairs and low morale. But if you also encourage the CU to see it as a training opportunity, learning how to persuade their friends of the truth of the Gospel and respond to difficult questions, then you may well double your numbers!