I just recently returned from being in Haiti with my wife and family. It was a part of our alternate holiday plans as we continue to re-imagine what Christmas is all about. While working closely with two local–and very different–church congregations in Leogane (just outside of Port-au-Prince), I gleaned many lessons for church marketing. This is part one in a three-part series.
Bring Nothing Less Than Your Best
I was deeply moved by the incredible lengths the Haitian people go to bring their best. Every church service was an opportunity to dress up in the best they had–which was way better than anything I packed to wear. Guys wore suits, women wore dresses. Although the churches do not have a dress code or turn people away based on their appearance, the culture in Haiti suggests that unless you’re dressed to the nines, you shouldn’t even walk into a church service. The point here is less about external positioning and more about internal posturing toward God. They dress their best, bring their best and give their best because that’s what they feel God does for them. How can we foster this in our church communities?
Provide Utility, People Come and Stay Longer
Electricity in Haiti is scarce. The government rotates the power grid so that you get about two hours of electricity in the middle of the night. This means days and evenings are without power unless you are wealthy enough to own a generator (few do). Businesses are also affected by this and very few of them have generators. The two churches we worked with did have generators and they could afford to run them once a day for a couple hours, sometimes longer if a service was in progress to amplify the sound. An auxiliary benefit to churches being one of the only places in town with electricity is that people will bring their cell phones and line them up along the walls to charge their batteries. It’s crazy the amount of people in Haiti who have cell phones, although many don’t have a calling plan, they just use them for the games. Some will even hold their phone up to their ear to pretend they’re talking to someone!
I couldn’t help but think about the possibilities for churches outside of the third world to provide utility in exchange for prolonged participation. This is not about baiting people to come and manipulating them to stay. This is about practical help on the outside while spiritual help is being nurtured on the inside.