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Taking Outreach Lessons From Denny’s

April 27, 2007 by

I love what Denny’s restaurant is doing to try and attract the college crowd, via Nation’s Restaurant News (subscription required):

Denny’s plan is to become a “social gathering” place for students who want to study for exams or meet with friends over a sit-down meal instead of grabbing a quick burger at a fast-food drive-thru, Polydoroff said.

To lure them in during the promotion, Denny’s is offering meal deals because students are on a budget, he said, and using free Wi-Fi , text messages and banner ads on Facebook to communicate with students because they are heavy users of those media.

“It’s pretty new and significant for us,” Polydoroff said. “We never did text messaging before.”

Marketing support also includes direct mail, coupons and ads in college newspapers.

Denny’s is striving to communicate to their desired customers in a way that those people can understand. This is the business world’s attempt at ‘meeting people where they are at.’ Younger generations of people are more and more entrenched in the world of technological conversation and expertise.

Are our churches keeping up? How are those of us in ministry using the communication tools of technology to connect with people in their congregations? I know that some churches are taking advantage of today’s technology in communicating the Gospel, but I think this kind of thinking needs to become even more prevalent.

A major barrier is the lack of understanding that many pastors and older ministry leaders have regarding the tools available to them. So it is often the difficult task of younger leaders to take up the baton and push the marketing, communicating and evangelizing envelopes. I believe that those of us who are familiar and comfortable with things like blogging, text messaging, Facebook and other possible technological ministry venues (i.e. LifeChurch.tv’s Second Life ministry ) have a responsibility to humbly inform and teach older generations about the possibilities. Because once people are informed of the benefits they are less likely to push back or reject technological tools.

Who knows, they may even embrace and redeem these tools for the eternal benefit of souls.

Post By:

Brenton Balvin


Brenton Balvin is a writer, blogger and speaker who is passionate about helping churches create great first impressions, developing innovative ministry ideas and making sure church marketing doesn't suck. Brenton lives in Minneapolis, Minn. with his wonderful wife and three loud, energetic and basically insane small children (all under the age of four) who he is grooming for the NHL.
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4 Responses to “Taking Outreach Lessons From Denny’s”

  • Steve K.
    April 28, 2007

    Thanks for sharing this info about Denny’s. Very interesting. However, I don’t think what is innovative is their use of technology (i.e. blogs, text messaging, social networks, etc.). [I would really challenge the very idea of "redeeming" these tools, but that'll have to be a separate discussion ...]
    What I believe is innovative — and what churches need to really get ahold of — is the idea of “third places” in our culture and the significance of them in people’s lives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place).
    First place = Home
    Second place = Work
    Third place = Coffeeshop, library, Denny’s!
    See, I think churches think of themselves as a significant “third place” in people’s lives, and to some degree they are, for the ultra-involved laypeople who show up more than once a week (Sunday morning and maybe Wednesday night).
    But the fact is, real “third places” are open environments where people can flow in and out and find community (and *create* community) anytime, day or night. Most churches are not this “open.” There’s too much at risk with our multimillion dollar church buildings and expensive equipment, not to mention the man/woman-hours to make a “third place” in our church building like this function well.
    But this would be a truly innovative “outreach”: If your church has a coffeeshop/cafe in it, why don’t you run it all the time and promote it in your community? Throw in some free wifi and coffee for those who can afford to bring their own laptops and travel mugs. Then throw in some free snacks, soda, and computer terminals for the low-income neighborhood kids who otherwise couldn’t afford an afternoon snack after school or a computer of their own, let alone Internet access.
    Don’t just “compete” with Denny’s on the use of technology to promote something. Put Denny’s out of business because the real “third place” of significance in your community has now become the church.


  • Steve K.
    April 28, 2007

    Here are some good thoughts on “third places” from Alan Hirsch:
    http://www.theforgottenways.org/blog/index.php/2007/04/27/the-place-of-third-places/


  • cavman
    April 28, 2007

    Interesting. I picture Denny’s as largely for old folks. If they can pull off the big change, perhaps the church can too.


  • Chris Huff
    April 28, 2007

    In addition to these changes, they’re going to need a huge marketing push. Denny’s definitely does not have a great reputation among young people, and if it’s going to take a lot to overcome this stereotype.
    In the same way, it’s going to take a lot of work to get rid of the stereotype that the church is culturally irrelevant. Upgrading to new forms of technology is only a fraction of the picture, but I think it is a step in the right direction.



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