Busselton Baptist Free Fun Fair

When Busselton Baptist Community Church moved from rented rooms in a child care centre to their own purpose-built Community Centre six years ago, they wanted to make a splash in the community to mark the long-anticipated event. It was decided to hold a “Free Fun Fair” on the opening weekend and this “one off” event was such a success that it has happened every year since. The splash, you might say, is still making ripples. Since that first year, the purpose of the Fair has evolved from “making a splash,” to the only slightly more sophisticated “building bridges to faith in Jesus” by positively raising the profile of the church in the community and promoting the pre-evangelistic and evangelistic ministries of the church. It’s also seen as a way to further God’s kingdom beyond the walls of Busselton Baptist so that people are more receptive to the gospel message, irrespective of who communicates it.

Initially, the Fair used half of the car park and the building foyer but it grows each year and now utilises every bit of space inside and outside the church building. Everywhere they look, visitors to the Fair find a multitude of fun and engaging activities that are totally free. But just as importantly, they see an army of patient, caring, smiling volunteers who work hard to ensure that everything is well organised, clearly sign posted and colourfully decorated. While there is nothing particularly radical about what Busselton Baptist does – it is something that all churches could be encouraged to try – the final package is refreshing and unique.

We haven’t yet had the community break the church doors down in a stampede following a Fair, but we have had a small flow of people joining longer-term ministries. And just as significantly, barriers against the church and Christianity in general, have been steadily eroded. We regularly hear non church-going people speak positively about the Fair at the Baptist Church. In a climate of indifference and widespread negativity towards Christianity, we think that something that provides a loud positive message is priceless.

THE TOP 5 FAIR DO’S

Do show Jesus
Unashamedly communicate the significance of Jesus by word and action. Encourage all volunteers to communicate grace in what they do, have some people giving out well-produced evangelistic tracts, and have an outdoor stage with live Christian music.

Do be super generous
A fair with only one or two draw cards is far from generous and will fall far short in the stakes of attracting people. Some activities will be expensive so complement these financially expensive activities with some less expensive labour-intensive activities.

Do show excellence
This is an opportunity to show the world that Christians can do things well. If this is the only positive encounter some people have had with the church, make it positive in every way that you can: how things are run, how everything is presented, and how friendly all church volunteers are.

Do showcase the church
Choose a small number of ministries that have a good connection with the community, and actively promote them. For example, have big posters of pictures of kids having fun at Kid’s Club, complete with a catchy description of what happens.

Do it all at the right time of the year
People generally make most year-long choices at the start of a year. This is particularly so for activities such as playgroups and after school activities. Consequently, the most strategic time for the Fair is very early in the year.

5 EQUALLY PASSIONATE DON’TS

Don’t call it a Fete
The word Fete is widely understood to mean ‘a public gathering designed to extract as much money as possible from as many people as possible.’ We are talking about something radically different!

Don’t do White Elephants
This is not the time to clear the craft group’s cupboard of excess crocheted booties. Nor is it an excuse for a mega church-wide jumble sale. This sends a mixed message to the community at best, or the wrong message altogether at worst.

Don’t charge for food or rides
For many people, the word ‘church’ is synonymous with lots of negative things, including ‘money grabbers’. Demonstrating that we are more interested in giving than receiving is a great way to raise eyebrows. So, give it away! Rides, high quality kids crafts, Devonshire teas… make it all free

Don’t run the Fair by committee
Clearly organising a Fair is too much work for one person but the formation of a committee probably isn’t the best answer! Appoint one to three pumped up leaders that occasionally meet and frequently phone and email each other, and have these leaders inspire and assist the whole church to be actively involved.

Don’t dismiss the idea
A Free Fun Fair isn’t for every church, but rather than focusing on all the reasons why such an idea is beyond your resources, try channelling energy into making it happen! It’s our experience that many who don’t serve in other ways, happily participate in the Fair. And when there is an enthusiastic work force, a lot can be done with only a few dollars.

“Busselton Baptist free fun fair” by Grant Hendry is Senior Pastor of Busselton Baptist Church, WA.