I've been wondering about organizing a UK free beach mission in the summer... some people who describe themselves as naturists are genuinely ``spiritual'' but have not yet found Christ. The mission would be to all on the beach -- naturist and textile, nudist and gawker even!
I haven't yet got any definite plans for where and when, although I really want to go for it eventually; perhaps a pilot scheme at St. Osyth in the late spring, then either Studland or Cornish beaches in the summer. It could be on a free beach (i.e. clothing optional) or a full nudist-only beach.
If you're a committed Christian, not embarrassed about being naked in public or seeing others naked (or at least reasonably prepared to try naturism -- see my notes on what it's like to try naturism for the first time if you're interested but not sure whether you'll feel too embarrassed) and interested in taking part in such a thing (or know of any with which to join instead), please do mail me about it. I'll put more details on this page if and when they take shape.
A mission, of course, can be expected to change not only those we reach out to, but also those who reach out; and not only evangelize non-Christians, but also encourage Christians; this idea occurred to me a while ago:
If only more Christians would be as keen on absorbing God's love as sunbathers are on absorbing the sunlight -- and God is gentler than the sun!
The general idea is to meet people and talk to get things started; but don't just talk, listen to find where people are, and be prayerful and attentive to where God leads you to lead them. So, it will be friendship evangelism -- getting to know people (particularly those who are there for quite a few days, for example on a week's holiday) and leading them towards Christ; there could be more organized parts to it, such as Bible studies or discussion groups (Genesis 1-3 should be a good starting point -- I've started some notes which might be suitable for this).
We could have some kind of focal point for getting people to come to us -- perhaps running a volleyball game, and providing drinking water. Perhaps a barbeque?
One advantage over many missions is that we'll be talking to people who've already found a form of freedom -- and, at that, one that isn't like what many people expect it to be. And so we have a good starting point.
It would be wonderful to find somewhere where we could set up a camp adjacent to the beach, but I don't think this is common. At some places, there may be `undesirables' (to just about everyone except themselves) in the dunes along the beach, but they must need to see a bit of witness as much as anyone else, so we shouldn't let that put us off (although it may be a bit offputting). Of course, some helpers could turn up just for the day if they prefer, and reside elsewhere.
It would be possible to do this simply with prayer and thought for preparation, but there are other things that might be a good idea too.
As well as general planning, we should plan some Bible studies, with leaders and co-leaders. Since to start with we might not get much attendance, we should allow for having a strong team presence, and also be prepared to split into more groups with fewer team in each if more visitors join us.
We could do this with no equipment, but things it would perhaps be useful to take include:
Team discussion before getting started each day would be as good as anything; if we get any team members who've been on beach mission they could lead a session -- if any have done free beach mission before, even better, although for our first time I wouldn't be surprised if none have experience of this!
To start with, we could at least discuss where visitors to that beach seem to be spiritually, and on subsequent days pool our experience.
What is the spiritual background typical on a free beach? There tends to be some amount of laissez-faire, and some hedonism; probably a few people into dodgy things, but most just liking the comfort and relaxation, and some liking a feeling of being closer to nature.
We can approach people, and we can let them come to us. If we approach people, it might be best for team members to go in pairs (male and female preferred) or in small groups. We could get people to come to us by holding a service with hymns and open prayer on the beach! For either of these, handouts would be useful. (Should we have musical instruments for this? Instruments by themselves might be thought of as disturbing the peace of the beach, but along with singing would probably be better welcomed.)
At a swim I went to recently, I met a couple for whom it was their first nude swim, and got chatting with them; it was lovely to see their evident delight in being free from having to hide parts of themselves. What a good analogy for having moved into the freedom of Christ -- and what a good starting point it could be for evangelism!