Table Talk: A resource for getting people talking
Evangelism in the Australian context is especially difficult given the reticence of Australians to openly talk about spirituality. Churches do underestimate the huge step people need to take in order to go from having no spiritual interest, to doing one of the popular evangelistic courses. We expect that people will come into our environment (many of whom never darken the door of a church), listen to us the ‘experts’, and then make a decision to believe what we believe.
Many are keen to do this because they are spiritually hungry and keen for answers. Many do not make that step because it’s simply a step too far. We don’t seem to have resources that cater for people who need to start a few steps back. The Ugly Duckling Company specialises in resources for pre and pre-pre evangelism. I road tested one resource in particular called Table Talk which gets you engaged in meaningful conversation in a social setting about things in life that really matter.
The aim of Table Talk is to provide a safe place for people to begin to have these kinds of conversations about the important questions in life. The hope is that as you get together over six sessions, conversations will flourish and relationships will be built and strengthened.
British based Director Paul Griffiths writes that “everyone has heard of the Alpha Course — but in Europe today there are a lot of people still not yet ready to come that close to a church. We have to be ready to go to where they are, in places like the pub. We have to talk about issues they are concerned about, like sports and sex. And we have to start with questions, not just answers.”
In every game of Table Talk there are six big questions. To play the game six to eight people gather around a table. One of those present reads the two-minute introduction to that session’s big questions. Once the introduction has been read, 16 question cards (which relate to the big question) are placed facing up on the table.
The game starts as someone picks up a card and poses the question to the group. At any point in the game someone at the table can pick up another card and pose that question to the group. Games normally last between 30 and 45 minutes and people answer between 4 or 5 questions.
I road tested the resource in a small group made up of people of varying degrees of faith, from committed Christians to those who are exploring Christianity. I found it hard to get through the amount of questions in the guide simply because the conversation around the questions flowed freely enough for us not to move on but to stick to the topic and listen to everyone speak.
For Christians it’s a great exercise in learning to listen and appreciate the value of what questions can unlock, rather than seeing the evangelistic encounter as one where we have a presentation and audience who we need to convince. For non-Christians Table Talk is excellent because it provides an opportunity to talk about meaningful topics in a safe and social small group environment where trust can be built up and they can be valued for their opinion and listened to. To my mind activities like this build not just trust but credibility. Because of that I would feel comfortable asking a Table Talk group to take a next step and do something like an Alpha Course or a Puzzling Questions course (offered by The Ugly Duckling Company).
The Table Talk resource is available now in a diverse range:
TT for friends, blokes, Easter, 10-11 year olds, 11-14 year olds, 14-16 year olds, 16-18 year olds, uni students, armed forces, and for Christmas. In development is TT for Grandparents.