Do Gimmicks Bring Pre-Christians Through The Door?

jefferson-hills-satan-hates.jpgGimmicks are a often used in marketing to help products stand out. Think of the different colors on a tooth brush. They aren't designed to be a functional part of the toothbrush. They are there to help the tooth brush stand out among the competition. Tooth brushes with cartoon characters are meant to reach out to kids. It's a gimmick that hooks people into a product that has nothing to do with the product. Just like marketers, the church uses gimmicks in an effort to bring more people through the door. But, are gimmicks really effective?

What Is Effectiveness?

Before we can ask if something is effective we need to ask ourselves what it is for a church to be effective. In my mind this is a fairly simple idea. The mission of the church is to go and makes disciples. To make a disciple isn't just building up the membership of a local congregation but, bringing non-Christians and pre-Christians the message of God. An effective church preaches Gods message to the unchurched.

An Example Gimmick

There are a lot of gimmicks to looks at. Gas cards, free breakfasts, and bill boards are some of the ones I've read about recently. Recently I became aware of an odd ball of sorts. It's which is a website tied to a Billboard campaign (the image at the top is one of the billboards).

SatanHates is a gimmick of the truest form. There is no added value because it's not serving anyones needs like a free meal or gas cards do.

Those Pesky Assumptions

I find this not only interesting as a gimmick but, also, for the assumptions they made. For example, they made the assumption that people in the area don't think of Satan as mythology (as in bogus). According to Barna 59% of Americans reject the existence of Satan. Or, they aren't concerned with coming off as dealing with mythology.

They, also, made the assumption that Satan would be a hook for a certain demographic to get them interested enough to go to a website that leads them to a church location.

Do These Work?

I'd be really surprised if this brought in anyone who is unchurched. It may bring Christians not affiliated with a Church in the door or bring in some Christians who move from another church but, I don't see this gimmick working for the unchurched.

First, it's based on the idea that something about Satan would catch someones eye enough that they would check out a website. And, that the same person who was interested enough to check out a website is, also, interested enough in the topic to check out a church. This is a really high barrier to entry to get someone unchurched through the door.

Second, who is the target demographic? I can't imagine one. If the demographic for a marketing campaign isn't fairly obvious the campaign needs to be rethought.

Third, it doesn't go out and serve others or teach the message. It seems to be based on the idea that we need to let people know where we are so they can come to us. Reading through the teachings of the new testament and the way they operated in early church times this idea seems to be in opposition to that. It the church is to play the follow the leader (Jesus) game this doesn't seem to do that.

So, here is my question for you... am I wrong? Have you seen gimmicks like this work?

I agree

I agree with the generals and the specifics of this post. If a church is going to advertise and use gimmicks then they have to be relevant and targeted to a specific audience. Our hope is that we are reaching the unchurched.

The comment about people rejecting the idea of Satan reminds me of the line in The Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And poof. Just like that, he's gone." Satan is effective even if we choose to not recognize it. Just like there was incredible suffering in German concentration camps even if people at the time didn't know it or even later when they chose not to believe it.

Back to the topic at hand, we are always looking for ways to reach out to those in our community who are unchurched and dechurched. If we found a method of communicating that worked, gimmicky or not, we would consider it. But it would really have to effectively target those who do not currently go to church. I would love to hear others effective use of "gimmicks" or marketing to reach their community.


I think to be effective with gimmicks they can't really be gimmicks. Maybe a twist that reaches out to a felt need. And, in order to do that you need to know the demographic you're reaching out to. The most effective way to know the demographic is to be personally connected to them and personally know what's going on. This would even provide the best form of advertising... Word of mouth to people you know.

They Work.

Yesterday we had a "gimmick" work. It was simply a flyer posted in the place we meet: a bar/nightclub. It had a picture of the South Park satan, along with "Satan Hates Harmony Church". And then our day and time. We had a unchurched couple drive 20 miles on a Sunday morning back to the bar they frequent every week to come to our service. Now the guy wants to get involved playing in the band, and the lady loved it. So, despite your preconceived notions, they do work. But I agree with you, they can be over-the-top. A flyer and a billboard are totally different "cost-effectiveness" ratios. That flyer might have cost us cents on the dollar for that one return, but the billboard is a totally different ballgame in terms of finance and effectiveness.

Were they Christian?

The mission of the church is not to grow in numbers of attenders but to 'seek and save the lost'. That is, those who are unchurched and don't know the message. Were the couple that came unchurched? Were they pre-Christian (as in they were never part of the church)?

If they were Christians than it's part of the statistic that 97% of church growth is getting them from other churches. This isn't outreach. This isn't the mission of the church.

Who was the target of the flier? The unchurched or other Christians? If it was the unchurced and the couple that came was Christians than it wasn't effective at it's purpose.

So, were they unchurched or Christian?

I guess a side point is that we need to think in terms of the mission of the church and not so much in the number of people that come through our doors. Our effectiveness at the mission of the church isn't measured by the number of people who come through our doors. was working pretty good...until the brewery burned down. : /


Did it reach the unchurched?

When I look at this I don't see a gimmick. I see something unconventional but no gimmick.

What is the added thing that is a shinny hook with no added value? A brewery has added value... the beer.

It really is a shame the brewery burned down.