Are you a church thinking of running a night of entertainment for members of your local community? Want it to be devastatingly terrible? We've compiled some top tips to help ensure that your next outreach event is totally woeful.
Type of event: With the vast improvement in music and comedy produced by Christians over the last decade, it's important to make sure your event doesn't draw on any of this. Go with a Beetle Drive, or something where someone reads upsetting poetry on the resurrection. If that person can break down in tears at some point, #winner.
Venue: Venue is the next thing you need to have sorted, and you can go a long way to making sure your event is totally atrocious by carefully choosing the wrong one. For example, comedy needs a captive audience above all things. So why not have the gig outside, at a bus stop or in a car park? Music is more malleable, so in that case try to hold the gig in a place where there is already a conflicting event happening, like speed-dating or a wake. You essentially want people to be annoyed by the fact your event is happening. The look on the performer's face will be priceless.
Advertising: Please do not advertise your night in any tangible way. This is what you should do: start a Facebook page, invite a few people and then leave it. Tweet it once, at 3 am. That's your web presence.
Mention the night to your next-door neighbours as they unpack shopping from the boot of their car, but refuse to follow it up with more specific details. Tell the performers you're having some posters made up and displayed all over the venue, then hand-draw a single A4 sheet of paper that says: 'Relevant Christian Outreach of Some Kind, Thursday, ALL WELCOME!!!'. Put it somewhere obscure, like the inside door of the gents' toilets, or on a wheelie bin. For that added spice, maybe do it in pencil.
Always lie and exaggerate the situation to the acts. Tell them the word's gone out online and you've had quite a lot of interest from locals, then feign surprise when nobody turns up. The look on the performer's face will be priceless.
Time: Studies show that punters are most likely to attend events between 7 pm and 11 pm on a Friday or Saturday. So why not have your gig on a Monday morning? When it falls on its face, you can just shrug and say, 'Hey, we tried something a bit different.' Please note that lots of people go abroad in August and audience numbers are always down. You know what to do.
Sound and light: It's imperative to make sure you don't have a working microphone. Perhaps tell the performers that you have three mics, none of which work very well, and all of which are plastered with garish tape. It's always a nice touch to have a temperamental mic which cuts out intermittently during songs or punchlines – it allows the audience to play Blankety Blank and therefore feel more involved. The look on the performer's face will be priceless.
Children: Yes, loads.
Seating: In an ideal world, you'll have made sure that all seating in the venue has been disposed of or destroyed in a fire. Failing that, taking measures to place chairs as far away from the 'stage' and each other as possible will go a long way towards dissipating any possible momentum that the acts might build up. If you have an alcove in your venue that prevents people seeing the stage, place the lion's share of seating in there. Banqueting tables create a series of mini audiences rather than a communal whole, so fully max out on them.
Intro: Get someone really weird to intro the event. If in doubt, they are usually called Colin and constantly have loose biscuits in their pockets. Make sure they don't really know what's going on but think they are good at being 'up front'. Even better, get them to force everyone to bow their heads in prayer before the event starts. This will undermine any sense of welcome you may have accidentally engendered. The look on the performer's face will be priceless.
Alcohol: Drinking leads to drunkenness, which is sin. Your guests, who would never expect to go for a night out where there wasn't drink at least available, will be so blown away by how different you are, a lot of them will probably become Christians on the spot. Tap water and gross weak tea is your only safe bet. If people look a bit miffed, get Colin to race up to them and shout 'Drinking leads to drunkenness, which is sin!' right into their secular faces.
Food: Food can create a sense of community among an audience, and you wouldn't want that to happen, so be careful. However, if you throw enough courses at the punters, they will get drowsy enough to not care about the entertainment in any way whatsoever. A clever tip is putting the acts on during one of the courses. The punters will be too focused on their chicken in tarragon sauce to listen, and the noise of cutlery clanging against crockery will prove fatal to the artists' concentration. Any creative merit will be lost amid mouthfuls of the bafflingly 1980's menu. The look on the performer's face will be priceless.
Surprise ending: The phrase 'We got more than we bargained for' is always positive and never an indictment, and you will embody this mantra at the end of the evening. If by some miracle, people have enjoyed the entertainment despite your best efforts, as they are preparing to leave ask them to stay a little longer so someone who has only read the Old Testament can come and warn them about hellfire. If Colin's up for that, great. Otherwise, someone who doesn't like young people will suffice.
If you follow this advice carefully, you can be assured that no guests will be wanting to engage with your church in the foreseeable future. And remember: Always blame God. Say, 'The Lord will bring in who he wants.' Using God's sovereignty as a get-out clause for your glaring errors is not only funny, but also helps the growth of a really charming martyr complex.
Andy Kind is a comedian, preacher and writer. You can abuse him on Twitter @andykindcomedy. Or even better, book him to come to your town so others can abuse him in person. His book, 'The Unfortunate Adventures of Tom Hillingthwaite', is available here.