Our ministry is in the pedestrian mall (streets closed off to make a park lined with stores, restaurants, bars) in Iowa City. From spring to late fall, as weather permits, we are there Friday evenings with a book table giving away Christian books. A sign on our table says, “Free Christian Books.” Our books are many explaining and defending the Christian faith, a sampling being Case for Christ, Case for Faith, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist, Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, Christian Faith 101, Bibles, More Than A Carpenter, and numerous booklets from Answers in Genesis.
We have done this ministry since 2003. When people ask about churches we send them to local churches we know are solid doctrinally (not many!). We don’t know if many people have come to know the Lord because of our table, but we did have one young man who returned months later to tell us that he came to the Lord after reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and invited us to his baptism.
One of the more interesting aspects is that the unbelieving regulars of the ped mall come to see us as a fixture they miss when we aren’t there. We have had unbelievers even come to our defense when some of the ruder, more threatening people come over. Being the presence representing light in such a spiritually dark place has given us many opportunities to help people with material needs as well.
Another type of people who come to our table are Christians. Many come over just to give us encouragement, but we also get many who are looking for ways to learn more about their faith, or for information to help lead friends to Christ. Many times we have had young people come over for counsel. In several situations we have suggested other books which would be helpful, and have sent them in the mail later.
Some evenings we will have so many “customers” that we can’t keep up with them, while other times we may sit all night with only one or two people stopping. We have been blessed this past year with a couple who also think this is a viable ministry and, although they live an hour away (compared to our 20 minutes), they come as often as possible.
I can definitely say that it is a great ministry in which to practice apologetics. We have also been thankful that we have attended conferences for Biblical Counselors, which has provided us much insight and ideas for working with these people.
Perhaps you can take encouragement from hearing of our ministry and try it out yourself at a local college town - or any other open-to-the-public venue.