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Church Vandals Score Xbox

December 6, 2006 by

Here’s an odd little story: Three teenagers break into South Hills Evangelical Church in Missoula, Mont., steal money and smash windows and computers causing several thousand dollars in damage. In response, the following Sunday’s sermon used the incident as an example to talk about mercy and forgiveness and the church gave the teens several hundred dollars worth of gifts, including an Xbox and a DVD player.

Church pastor Jason Reimer said the congregation wanted “to reach out and extend love and mercy to them”.

“A lot of us, whether we’re churchgoers or not, have been in their shoes before and have made some bad choices,” Mr Reimer said. “But God forgives us.”

Ah, love and mercy in the form of an Xbox. I love the idea and I love the gesture, but the practical side of me wonders what this accomplishes. Maybe this is one of those things where Christians are just supposed to act and let God sort it out, but I can’t help but wonder if teens across the country will see this as a good way to score an Xbox. I can see it now: “Stupid Christians, let’s trash their church and see if they turn the other cheek.”

If the teenagers escape a jail sentence, the church hopes the gifts will help keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

If the gadgets are not enough, the SHEC also offers a skateboard park, a centre for teenagers, a weight room and an addiction recovery service.

Let’s hope this section is just bad reporting–otherwise it sounds like actually ministering to the teens was the church’s last course of action.

A church responding to vandalism in such a mind-blowing way is cool. That’s faith in action (and consequently good marketing). But I think the specifics could use some help.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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11 Responses to “Church Vandals Score Xbox”

  • Ted
    December 6, 2006

    Hmm… I like this for the fact that the teens were shown true, tangible, love and forgiveness. But sometimes getting caught and getting your name all over the papers can be just as helpful. But I do applaud the pastor for stepping up to the pulpit and not talking about the ‘bad’ kids… but loving them and challenging the congregation to do the same. Keep on loving the teens!
    (Oh, I work for Youth for Christ, so I am a bit partial to teens)


  • jasond
    December 7, 2006

    Uh, not the brightest idea. Showing forgiveness is one thing, but giving them an xboxes and DVD players? What good does it do if my daughter breaks all of the dishes on the counter to get a cookie and then I give her a dozen? That may be an oversimplification, but really, what’s the difference? They were trying to get stuff for free and they did. Jesus may forgive us for the stupid things we do but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a penalty for it.


  • Steve W
    December 7, 2006

    If someone takes your Xbox, give him your PS2 as well?


  • Jeremy
    December 7, 2006

    Isn’t it enough to not have them prosecuted? I think the couple hundred dollars in gifts is well meant, but unwise.


  • Church Marketing
    December 7, 2006

    I agree with Jeremy, I think that the bible calls us to be compassionate and forgiving, but if you take it too far then I think you encourage behaviour which is in direct conflict to the word of God… Great post by the way :)
    I think that God wants us to love one another… If you reward behaviour which is likely to lead to further negative behaviour and eventually spiral out of control, are you acting out of love.


  • mollusk
    December 8, 2006

    I’m surprised that a church would be in the business of giving out an XBox at all. The games I’ve seen don’t exactly espouse the christian ideals.
    “Here you go kids, go shoot ‘em up”.


  • JG
    December 9, 2006

    The practical side of me says, “What the heck were they thinking?” The spiritual side of me says, “Turning the other cheek could be not pressing charges.” Or if we really want to show grace and mercy lets give them the church bank account numbers and codes. That should teach them to repent. Anyway.


  • Roby
    December 10, 2006

    I strongly believe what gets rewarded gets repeated. This is true in not so obvious situations as well as blatant acts.


  • matt
    December 11, 2006

    This is the coolest story I have heard in a long time. Every time these guys look at or play this xbox they will know there is good in their world. The type of kid who vandalizes a church probably doesn’t have anyone in his life showing him unconditional love. This type of gesture could very will make an eternal impact on his life.


  • Matt
    December 11, 2006

    This is definitely an interesting situation. Our church has had a few thefts in the past couple months. We have also had kids from the neighborhood walk in and kick holes in our big screen TV, steal cd’s, break our foosball table, break our couch, and as a result, there are no longer items left in the youth room. I don’t think very highly of people who vandalize or steal from churches. I would be scared to death that God would strike me dead if I were to steal from a church. I guess if you weren’t a Christian, you wouldn’t believe that. Where are the principles and integrity? I guess it just baffles me when things like that happen. Our youth pastor figured out who these kids were and invited them to youth group. They were treated with love and they have been coming ever since. While they never admitted to vandalizing the church, they committed their hearts to Christ and that is all that matters. You never know what an act of kindness will do for those who are searching.


  • Sara
    December 13, 2006

    If the church leans right, I’m sure shoot-em-up games fit right in with the republican doctrine. Sorry, that was below the belt.
    I’d have applauded the church if they showed up for court, dismissed the charges after seeing the poor kids sweat while facing some serious consequences, and instead asked them to attend church. But I don’t agree with rewarding criminal behavior with free gear. That’s what they were after in the first place. I’ve seen many churches broken into (even while open) because the perpetrators know that we have some great technology, musical instruments, or unattended purses with no security systems to worry about.
    Wise as serpents, innocent as doves.



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