Starting a Workplace Christian Fellowship Group

1. Introduction
This Group Resource page contains a number of practical suggestions connected with the setting up of a Christian Fellowship in a place of work. However, it does not pretend to be exhaustive. It offers one route to the formation of a CF at work, and we are sure that some of the information in this page will be of help even to those who adopt a slightly different approach to the launch of their Fellowship.
Some may already have progressed well beyond this page's starting-point. If so, we hope you will have no difficulty in locating your own entry point, so that you can read on from there.

2. First Steps
1. If more than one Christian is already keen to start a CF at work, meet together at lunch-time or after work to pray about it, seeking the Lord's wisdom and leading. (If there is just you with the idea at present, approach personally one or two like-minded Christians at your workplace.)

2. Talk together about your vision and aims for a Fellowship. Do you share the same salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? Do you have similar goals? Do you see the usefulness of a CF at work in terms of encouragement to Christians, outreach to non-Christians, or both? Thinking through these questions now will avoid confusion, and will also give you a definite challenge to present to the other Christians in your workplace. Some will need that - life is busy and something vague and uncertain will not win them over.

3. List all the Christians you know in your workplace. Consider how to approach them (i.e. by letter or personally). If you know five Christians, it is probably better to see each of them personally. If there are 10 or more, then because of the time involved it may be more realistic to send a letter. If you write a letter, avoid making it an invitation to a meeting to discuss the start of a CF at work. Some would not be able to attend, and would feel left out. Instead, make it a letter outlining your aims, and asking for their prayers, and for their written reactions to your ideas, by a given date. This will compel them to study the proposal. Chase up those who do not reply.

3. Further Preliminaries
Take time to consider the response to your conversations or letters. The general reaction may be that it is a good idea, but... "but don't make me a leader," or "but I'm very busy with all kinds of other commitments." Don't be put of by these reactions. If there were not some reservations about the idea, a CF would probably have started long before this! To counter these hesitations, attention should be given to three questions which may already have been raised in the replies.

1. What is a Christian Fellowship at work for?
There are really two parallel aims; to provide encouragement and fellowship for Christians, and to be a means of making known the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to non-Christian colleagues.

2. What kind of framework do we need to achieve these aims?
The basic framework of a Christian Fellowship at work is a regular meeting, plus a range of other specific activities or witness ventures which are not meeting-based. Meetings are important and to be encouraged. But we must not limit our thinking to meetings only. There is much other useful work a CF can do, which can involve people who find it difficult or impossible to get to meetings.

3. What demands will a CF make on the individual Christians?
Involvement in a CF at work need not be a huge time commitment. CFs should be run so as not to put great time burdens on any one person. CF activities should not often encroach into evenings or week-ends. On the other hand, even busy Christians (which should be all of them!) ought not to excuse themselves from CF involvement simply because they are too busy to attend many meetings. Even if they work through lunch every day, there are still aspects of the CFs overall work open to them, such as: praying, putting up notices; arranging a book stall; distributing Christmas cards, designing or photo-copying programme cards; compiling a list of Christians in their workplace and keeping in touch with them regularly; baking for a buffet lunch; visiting a colleague in hospital; writing an article for the house journal; and contributing to CF funds.

4. Preparing For Launch
At this stage you could issue a progress report to all the Christians at Work. Attention will then turn to practicalities, and beneath each of the following questions, we give our own suggestions.

1. How frequently are you going to meet?
Most groups meet once a week, with twice a week, once a fortnight and once a month being the next most common frequencies. Those meeting twice a week usually devote one meeting to prayer.

2. At what time of the day are you going to meet?
Most CFs meet at lunch-time for half-an-hour. The advantage of this, compared with meeting after work, is that regular transport arrangements and evening commitments are not threatened, and outsiders are more likely to come. Whenever you meet, keep rigidly to advertised timings, avoiding late starts and finishes. If timings are seen to be reliable, people will be more willing to attend.

3. Where are you going to meet?
Off-site meetings have some minor advantages, but for relevance, economy of time and the likelihood of outsiders attending, an on-site venue is preferable, if a room is available.
A regular booking of the same room is the ideal, but if this is not possible, you may have to use a variety of venues, and devise a way of letting everyone know, possibly at short notice.
It is necessary and right to seek the permission of your management for the CF to exist, to be known by the company name, and to use meeting rooms on work premises. In the vast majority of cases permission will be granted. Most managements have encountered CFs before. Some will be encouraging and helpful; others will merely give permission and leave you to your own devices.
This may be a good time to contact Christians at Work, whether or not your CF intends to affiliate. CaW has in the past helped to convince managements that CFs are neither rare nor harmful!

4. What sort of programme are you going to follow?
There are two programmes which will need to work in parallel - a meetings programme and one for your other activities. We suggest that you start your meetings programme with a monthly cycle of weekly meetings, without any invited speakers or special meetings, and probably without any general publicity on notice-boards. A modest beginning is always best - never launch out at a pace you can't keep up. The following is a simple cycle which you may want to adopt or adapt:

Week One: Shared Bible study - choose passage beforehand
Week Two: Share testimonies - arrange for one or two in advance
Week Three: Time of prayer
Week Four: Well-led discussion on a relevant, planned topic
Week Five (if any): Further time of prayer

After two months or so, you will probably want to change this cycle, to incorporate a better-planned series of useful Bible studies, and also some special meetings. The starting cycle was ideal to bring the meetings into being, as the format did not require much advanced preparation. Following that breathing space, the meetings programme may now need a little fine-tuning. We would suggest the following revised cycle:

Week One: Bible study series - part 1
Week Two: Time of prayer
Week Three: Bible study series - part 2
Week Four: Special meeting
Week Five (if any): Time of prayer

With this new cycle, more preparation and planning is involved, and we suggest that two or three of you meet to plan a Bible study series, and to arrange a programme of special meetings for Week 4 for a year ahead. Those given this responsibility would obviously welcome ideas submitted by other members. They would first need to decide the length of the Bible study series, which should not be interminable.

It is wise not to embark on a series of Bible studies without knowing when you are going to finish! We suggest a series of eight, 12 or 16 weeks. At two a month this covers you for between four and eight months. Once you have selected what you are going to study, divide the book, or theme, into eight, 12 or 16 sub-divisions, giving each a title. Allocate the sub-divisions to those who are going to lead them, giving them the appropriate dates, and ask them to prepare.

Leaders of studies should keep to their title and passage, and ensure that the whole portion is covered in the time available. Be crisp and expect others to be also. Bible studies are not an end in themselves, but are a means to a more effective and God-pleasing Christian life. You are not just an interest group of people who like the Bible. Choose books and themes which have practical application for life in the working environment. There is plenty of such material in the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, the Psalms, and the narrative Old Testament books, and you will probably find these more useful, in the context of a CF at work, than the prophetic books.

Special meetings in Week Four could be made up of visiting speakers - local ministers, Christian professional specialists or businessmen - perhaps speaking on subjects which you have given them, to ensure a balanced and tailored programme. Don't hesitate to give your speakers subjects. Most of them will appreciate it, as it will save them having to puzzle out what topic might suit you. Christian videos are another possibility for Week Four, as is a carol service at Christmas. What about putting on a buffet lunch in connection with a video showing or invited speaker, and invite your colleagues? Plan your menu, allocate items for the CF members to bring, and this isn't too difficult after all. Or come to an arrangement with the staff restaurant to supply a buffet.

Whatever you do, both with your meetings programme and your other activities, don't over-reach yourselves. Don't rush the CF into being. Plan patiently, and act as though the CF is going to last for 30 years - as many have. If you set too great a pace, it can lead to discouragement if ambitious plans don't succeed. By proceeding steadily, you can gradually take on more.

With regard to your witness activities not connected with meetings our advice is very clear: don't do everything, but do something. Perhaps you could start of by taking to heart one idea. For instance, could you send Get-Well cards to staff who are off sick or in hospital? Or could you buy packs of Bibles and present them to staff who are retiring or getting married? These are easy things to do in some respects, and yet they do require determination and consistency. Do something, and keep it up, for years and years and years. Don't chop and change. Be known for these little acts of care and witness, and don't give them up. After you have been carrying out one activity for a year or so, maybe you will have sufficient strength and resources to take on something else as well, not instead. Share out around all the CF members the work involved in all the projects you take on. In that way, nothing will become a burden or chore to any one person.

7. Under Way
Having read all this, maybe now is the time to call a meeting to decide what you are going to do, and to plan your timetable and who does what? If anyone is unable to attend, make sure you give them a full report on what was decided, as soon as practicable afterwards. This will keep them informed and involved. Also, keep looking out for previously undiscovered Christians - and keep in touch with Christians at Work, to register as an affiliated group please download and complete the Group Affiliation Form.