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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No More "Gas Guzzling" Excuses for Not Attending Church

Gasprices We've dealt with this before here at MMI; but it's still popular out there, so I'll bring it up again... Read this article from ChurchExecutive.com and let me know what you think.  Good or bad idea?

CHANDLER, AZ -- The Crossing Community Church believes it's "ruining a perfectly good excuse" for not going to church: high gas prices. And people are taking notice.

Throughout the month of May, the 7-month-old church gave away $10 gas cards to first-time visitors. The first Sunday after the offer began, seven new families came to visit the church, and every Sunday after that has garnered about 20 new families, bringing the congregation size from its normal 85 or 90 to about 140.

"We've received a lot of real positive feedback," Lead Pastor Mike Harper, 45, says.

That feedback includes some positive press: The church was interviewed by four different television news channels, has done radio interviews and appeared in several different newspapers, including The Arizona Republic. All press has come from the Phoenix area of which Chandler is a suburb.
The Crossing considers itself an "extremely non-traditional" Assembly of God church, and began with Harper and five families in October 2005 after a two-year renovation of a former church building.

Harper served as an executive pastor at several megachurches before pastoring this new church plant. Though he has no marketing experience, he receives support from a group of church planters called Church Multiplication Association (CMA), based in Oklahoma City. CMA meets weekly through a conference call, and it was during one of those calls that Harper got the gas card idea from a couple of 20-somethings with Church at the Well, Birmingham, AL.

"We had been throwing around the idea of something that would impact the community," Harper says. "When gas prices started to escalate we knew this would be a great time to do it."

The church launched the campaign the week before Mother's Day, sending press releases to television channels and newspapers, and mailing 40,000 fliers to area homeowners. Beyond just this gas-card campaign the church has used other marketing techniques, such as e-mail marketing with Constant Contact.

Harper and Jeff Poole, the church's creative arts pastor, found Constant Contact on Granger Community Church's WiredChurches.com Web site. The two also like to use churchmarketingsucks.com. The Crossing even has a Marketing Philosophy section on its own Web site, www.thecrossing.tv. Harper names 25- to 35-year-old men as the church's target market, saying "If you get the man, you get him at the head of the house and you get the whole family forever."

Though some do scoff at the church's marketing efforts, Harper doesn't believe there's anything wrong with marketing the church. "It comes down to your vantage point of how you view the Gospel," Harper says. "If you think it's the best product out there, you need to get that message out using every means possible."

And he's not alone. Another church in the Phoenix area is getting press for promoting an iPod giveaway. Though $10 gas cards are much cheaper than iPods, The Crossing has already spent $500 on the cards, which come mainly from QuikTrip gas stations. The church pays for some of them, while members donate many. Even though the promotion says it will end in May, Harper says that as long as news media continue to generate interest, the church will keep giving away cards.

"This is a short-term work that meets a short-term need, just like the feeding of the 5,000," Harper says. "But it gets people in a place to hear the Gospel and let Jesus meet their long-term needs."

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May 24, 2006 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink

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I liked the idea before and I still do. However, I think it will be important to track results. Does the gas give-away result in people finding Jesus and connecting in sustainable and relational ways to the church? Obviously some will come just for the gas card, especially with the press (is that all bad?). I'll also assume that Crossing has established a [quantifiable] desired outcome, and a way to not only track that outcome but follow-up with the people attracted through this effort. In a month or two they'll sit down to debrief about whether the effort was successful based on the desired outcome.

It goes without saying, of course, that the unchurched who come for gas will hear a gospel message and sound biblical preaching, will experience a welcome embrace from the community of faith. Giving away gas does not equate to a church that has a watered down message (in case anyone might leap to that illogical conclusion).

If it works, great. If it doesn't, they should cut their losses and try something else.


Posted by: Wendi | May 24, 2006 1:58:38 PM

Jesus worked the crowds and He also worked one on one. How one gets the crowd is a challenge. This church saw a need and met it. Very clever. I wish I had thought of it.

Jesus saw a bunch of hungry folks and fed them from a boy's snack. There wasn't enough money in the treasurer's purse, so He multiplied the loaves and fishes.

I have known churches that give away $20 bills to first time visitors and others will spend as much on "Friends' Days" in gifts and incentives.

Posted by: Dan Moore | May 24, 2006 6:47:13 PM

This is a Great idea. Perfect timing too.

Posted by: Jeff Ruble | May 25, 2006 5:09:31 PM

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