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Southsea church invites friends to breakfast and family fun

A congregation that invites friends to church for bacon sandwiches and children’s games – followed by a snappy family service – has seen attendance rocket by 45% ...

A congregation that invites friends to church for breakfast and children’s games – followed by a snappy family service – has seen attendance rocket by 45%.

This is Funday Sunday, which happens at St Jude’s Church in Southsea every two months. Worshippers invite families to a fun morning that includes great coffee, bacon sandwiches, and the chance to catch up with the Sunday papers. Children can have their faces painted or their nails varnished, play Wii games and table football.

Families then they enjoy comedy sketches, messy challenges and lively songs during a quickfire, 45-minute presentation about an aspect of Christianity. And they can respond by texting the leaders, and those responses appear on the big screens during the morning.

The usual 200-strong congregation can swell to 350 for Funday Sunday, which is designed to appeal to those who wouldn’t normally come to church.

The average increase on Funday Sundays, which has now been running for two years, is 45%. And it’s contributed to an overall increase of 10% at all morning services at St Jude’s during those two years.

Recent Funday Sundays have involved bringing a real sheep into church to illustrate the Parable of the Lost Sheep, dressing as Pompey football fans to show the commitment needed to follow Jesus, and the whole congregation re-enacting the biblical story of Jesus calming the storm.

Every two months, the congregations at St Jude’s are given invitation cards to use, as they ask friends, family and neighbours to join them at what is described as ‘church for those who don’t do church’. Team members lead assemblies at the nearby St Jude’s C of E Primary School and have invited the school choir to sing during services.

On the same day as Funday Sunday, St Jude’s Church also holds another evangelistic service entitled ‘Come and See’. This is a chance for worshippers to invite friends to a more traditional service of Choral Evensong or Evening Prayer, followed by tea and cakes.

The congregation of around 70 is more than double the number who come to the church’s regular traditional service. And, once again, the service leaders assume those who come know nothing about Christianity.

The vicar of St Jude’s, the Rev Mike Duff, said: “This was part of the vision we had to open up what we do at St Jude’s to those who wouldn’t normally come. There is a small team who lead Funday Sunday, none of whom are clergy.

“It all comes out of a desire to share the good news about Jesus, and a willingness to use our Sunday mornings and afternoons for styles of worship that will appeal to those who don’t normally come to church.”

Funday Sunday will happen this year from 10.30am on 3 March, 28 April, 30 June, 29 September and 24 November. Come and See services start at 4pm on each of those days.

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