Church fun days boost Southsea congregation

(l to r) Ellie Bolton, Lucy Nelson, Molly Nelson and Lily Eldrid paint their nails at Funday Sunday

A church in Southsea, Portsmouth, has seen attendance soar by 45 per cent since starting a fun day initiative.

St Jude's Church holds a Funday Sunday every two months where people can come to church for breakfast and children's games followed a family service.

While the grown-ups sit down to bacon sandwiches and coffee, the children can have their faces painted, play table football, or have a go on the Wii.

This is followed by a 45-minute presentation on an aspect of Christianity that incorporates comedy sketches, messy challenges and lively songs.

There is the opportunity for the guests to text the leaders, with the responses appearing on the big screens during the morning.

Funday Sunday is intended as 'church for people who don't do church'. Word gets out through special invitation cards handed out to friends and family by members of the congregation.

The vicar of St Jude's, the Rev Mike Duff said: "I've been impressed by our congregation's willingness to invite their friends and neighbours to join them on our Invitation Sundays.

"Each time I see dozens of new faces, and we also hear how much people have enjoyed their time with us. Some have chosen to join our regular services, our Alpha courses or our midweek groups."

Funday Sundays have proved a massive success with the regular 200-strong congregation swelling to as high as 350 when the fun days are hosted.

The event has contributed to a 10% increase overall in the number of people attending regular Sunday morning services in the last two years since it was launched.

Funday Sundays coincide with another evangelistic service at St Jude's called 'Come and See', which invites people to participate in a more traditional service of Choral Evensong or Evening Prayer, followed by tea and cakes.

This service typically attracts around 70 people and is held on the assumption that guests know nothing about Christianity.

Rev 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.

"Many people who would like to come to church would prefer something more traditional, so we try to make it a more reflective service, but just as welcoming."

He added: "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."

In the coming months, St Jude's will be using Funday Sundays to explain more about baptism, Communion and wedding services.

Madara Sniedzina, who originally comes from Latvia, will see her children Alex, 4, and Elizabeth, 2, baptised on the Funday Sunday teaching about the meaning of baptism.

She said: "I like Funday Sunday because it explains things and makes it easier. I think it will be a more relaxed service for our family and friends."

Funday Sunday leader Helen Bolton, a mum-of-three, said: "Whenever we have a baptism service, we often have lots of visitors join us on a Sunday morning. We thought it would be good to hold a baptism during Funday Sunday, which is specifically designed to be welcoming. Hopefully, we can help people to understand some of the symbolism that is used, and do so in a fun way.

"We also thought that Communion services can be difficult for people to understand if they aren't used to the language involved. Why is it bread and wine? What do we mean by it being the Body and Blood of Christ? I hope we can make those words come alive for people on the day."

Funday Sunday will take place from 10.30am on March 3, April 28, June 30, September 29 and November 24. Come and See services start at 4pm on each of those days. For more information, see www.stjudes-southsea.org.uk

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