I have just the attended another Street Pastor training day today. In the morning we met with a group of new trainees who hope to launch Street Pastors in Tain shortly, and who had come to Inverness for training.
It may be of interest to note some questions that Street Pastors encounter in their first few sessions on the streets and a sample of the replies that I have developed over time.
1. “Are you a Street Patrol?” is asked because some people mis-read the label on the uniform as if we were a police patrol. This leads naturally into a discussion about a Pastor and what it means.
2. “Are you paid?” “No; we are all volunteers.” This usually surprises them, and it usually leads to a disarming of their suspicion about our presence on the streets. It produces an opening to genuine conversation, especially when they realise we are not the police. I remember one millionnaire saying on television: “I would do nothing without being paid for it.”
3. “Why do you do it?” This open question allows a variety of answers. “For the love of God” is my current response, although there are many responses to this one – “to help others”, “to help you”, etc. Many Christians will go for years without being asked for “a reason of the hope” that is in them 1Pe 3:15, but a Street Pastor, showing a little Christian kindness on the streets, will not go far without being asked why he or she is doing what they do. It is time for every Christian to be taught and to learn this lesson.
4. “What is a Street Pastor?” A short answer is: “We are like good Samaritans taking care of people on the streets”, but not everyone nowadays know about the good Samaritan although they may have heard about the Samaritans organisation to help those with suicidal thoughts. So this can lead to a profitable conversation.
5. “Which church are you from?” This is as common as the earlier questions and is a second-tier question once they realise that we are Christians. The answer to this is: “We are from various churches in town.” It is amazing to see how pleased people are to discover that churches are acting together. At least, that is how they perceive it; it is really Christians acting together, rather than churches acting together. Would that each Christian congregation would learn how to help their community.
6. “Which church do you attend?” This is an attempt to talk about ‘church’. It is better to deflect this with: “We don’t talk about church. We introduce people to Jesus.”
7. “Where is Jesus?” is not so common, but is a follow-on from the previous answer. I reply: “Jesus is in heaven. We are His body, His arms and legs, doing what He wants us to do. We show you His heart, His concern for you.”
8. “Are you trying to make people religious?” This reflects the usual opposition people have to being ‘preached at’. I answer: “No, we don’t talk about religion. We come from various churches to show people God’s love.” This might lead into a conversation about the difference between true and false religion and a discussion about Christianity in general.
Conversation is not the whole function of Street Pastors although every encounter begins with words. Rather, Street Pastors are looking out for those in manifest need, such as the homeless, beggars, those coming out of clubs the worse of consuming too much alcohol, etc., to determine in what way we can help. It is an eye-opener to the night-time economy.
The afternoon session and the latest Street Pastor initiative.