The Happiness Lab

Sharon Lanfear, The Ugly Duckling Company

Sharon Lanfear, The Ugly Duckling Company

What do you talk about with your non-Christian friends?

The weather? The latest box sets on Netflix? Has the size of a Cadbury’s cream egg really got smaller? For most of us perhaps, it’s not too difficult to find something trivial to talk about; maybe even with people we don’t know so well.

But what about the subject of faith? Is it easy to share the good news with our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues? How about people in our wider community and those on the fringes of our churches?

The challenge is how do we stimulate meaningful, spiritual, Jesus conversations when for many, their only expectation is nothing more than being able to get out of the house and attend a Mums and Tots, or eat a good meal at a luncheon club?

We may have connections with lots of people through a variety of church programmes, but what’s the next step? How do we move people on in their spiritual journey?

Not everyone will be ready for a Sunday service or an enquiry course; they are not necessarily asking the question ‘how can I be saved?’. In society today, many people don’t want to be told what to believe, but they are happy to have a conversation.

So, how do we stimulate meaningful conversations? What questions are they asking?

Research carried out by Coventry Cathedral identified the most popular questions asked by people outside the life of the church, but who are interested in spirituality – Who am I? What is God like? What happens after I die? How can I be happy? Why is there suffering in the world? What is the spiritual realm and how does it impact my life?

As an organisation, we have identified mechanisms and produced resources that create spaces for these questions to be explored. Our resources could be described as pre-Alpha and pre-pre-Alpha.

One of these, The Happiness Lab (THL), is based upon the premise that happiness comes from living well and that you live well when you realise that you are a spiritual person in a material age.

THL is a six-week experiment that enables delegates to explore what psychologists, doctors and faith leaders say will make people happier. In a series of fly-on-the-wall documentaries, delegates follow twelve people as they explore a range of themes.

The idea is that, as we observe their journey, space is created enabling everyone to engage in a conversation about their own happiness. In opening a conversation on happiness and the idea that we are spiritual, we believe an attractive space is created to appropriately talk about life, faith and Jesus.

The themes of each episode are:

  • Focusing on gratitude and savouring

  • Practising acts of kindness

  • Learning to forgive

  • Investing in friends and family

  • Looking after your body and soul

  • Developing coping strategies

The outcomes: people are happier; they have learnt skills for life and come to realise they are spiritual people. As people are given permission to talk about some of the deeper things in life, a sense of belonging soon develops, a group is formed, and the questions keep coming.


The Ugly Duckling Company is one of Rural Ministries Strategic Partners. For more information about The Ugly Duckling Company or to find out more about The Happiness Lab and their other resources, please visit or email