How to organise an evangelistic lunchbar

Evangelistic lunchbars offer a versatile and interesting way to engage friends, colleagues and members of the public with the message of the gospel. They often centre around a particular topic or question and can be a useful lead into more detailed evangelistic courses or follow-up events.

An evangelistic lunchbar is a public event consisting of a talk followed by questions, as people eat a simple, free lunch. A good event will:

1. find a question that unbelievers are asking, phrased in a way they would recognise; and

2. answer it in the light of some aspect of the gospel, in order to progress their understanding.

(e.g. ‘How can you believe in a loving God when you live in a world like this?’ provides a natural opportunity to talk about the incarnation and cross; ‘What makes Christians different?’ might lead to a talk about grace, conversion and the Holy Spirit.)

Preparing for the event

Team: begin by thinking of others who might want to join you in praying, inviting and running the event. Check the topic and date with them.

Speakers: think through who might be best suited to address your topic. Be sure to brief your speaker thoroughly.

Venue: ideally somewhere public, neutral, not too big, and where the speaker can be heard clearly. A mic and a roving mic may be useful for questions.

Advertising: you may want to produce (i) invitation cards to be used in advance, (ii) posters to be put up where you can, and (iii) flyers to give out on the day. Be bold!

Passage: the speaker might like the passage, quotations or his points printed on cards. He may also find a projector useful. Check anything technical in advance at least twice.

Food and drink: keep the food simple. (You want more people bringing friends than preparing food!) Sandwiches or baguettes are cheap, as is squash, doughnuts, fruit and chocolate biscuits.

Running the event (for a 1pm start)

11.45am: set up the venue. Prepare the sandwiches. Lay them out with the squash already poured on tables for people as they come in to avoid bottlenecks.

12.40pm: if useful, some can hand out flyers outside (also inviting people verbally). Have a couple at the door to welcome guests informally, offer them lunch and show them to their seats.

1.10pm: welcome people from the front, explain the aim of the event and what is going to happen, and introduce the speaker. Mention anything that might put visitors at ease and help them to listen. Then hand over. It is perhaps kinder not to pray publicly.

1.30pm: talk ends, and then invite questions. Don’t answer the questions yourself, and don’t allow one person to monopolise the question time. (Meanwhile dessert should be laid out quietly on the tables.)

1.45pm: bring the formal part of the meeting to an end, but invite people to chat with the speaker privately, and suggest possible next steps. Thank them for coming.

Following up from the event

An early finish enables guests to be followed up in conversation. A stock of Gospels and books on the gospel or relevant to the talk title might be useful. You may also like to put feedback cards and pencils on chairs, (i) asking for contact details, (ii) inviting comments, and (iii) offering a menu of options e.g. ‘Invite me to future lunchtime talks’, ‘Tell me about a Christianity Explored course’, ‘Send me the book the speaker mentioned’, ‘I’d like to meet with someone to discuss this further’. Have baskets at the doors for these cards, and respond to them promptly.

Brian Elfick

Brian Elfick is Pastor at St Philemon’s, Toxteth, Liverpool.