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Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

April 11, 2008 by

The Stuff Christians Like blog has been around since January. Unfortunately, I just found out about it today. Prodigal John explains how Christians like myriad things, such as: not knowing how to hold hands, calling people “seekers,” metrosexual worship leaders and comparing Braveheart to Christianity. I wish I could go on.

Apparently, Christians also like “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” What he means by that is this: churches make a lot of racket and want to bring people in through said racket. But there are problems with that.

“If a special sale is why you first bought your watch, then if that watch store ever wants to get you to buy again, they have to run a similar sale. Study after study has shown that we are creatures of habit. We repeat ourselves, so if you attract a big crowd with a car giveaway or hot new worship band or anything else, you create a relationship built on a reward not a redeemer. And when you try to take away that reward you’ll lose a lot of your guests. It’s hard to transition to God when you started the conversation with a gimmick.”

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Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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14 Responses to “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!”

  • Betsy
    April 11, 2008

    Yeah, I just discovered it last week. Brilliant stuff.
    That’s such a powerful observation. Wow.

  • fred
    April 11, 2008

    While I like the insight, I have to say, I seen the other said of it too. The church I am on staff at has been accused of using what many would call “gimmicks” to encourage attendance at various events and services. But, I have had countless conversations with people who came because of the gimmick, but left with so much more. For example, we gave away Wii’s at our Christmas services this last year. We just baptized one of the winners a couple weeks back. Since that give-a-way, we have seen an increase in attendance (up over 40% the same weekend last year) week in and week out. We haven’t given anything away since. A lot of people who came because of a “gimmick” have stuck around to hear what being a follower of Christ is all about.
    While I think the church should be cautious in using such methods/tactics, I don’t think they should be considered off limits.

  • Paul Loeffler
    April 11, 2008

    To keep it short, I’ll simply say I agree with Fred. I’ve seen both sides work and fail.

  • David
    April 11, 2008

    Sorry. I have to say it is a bland parody of a parody.
    An email forwarded too many times.

  • Carrie
    April 11, 2008

    We’ve stopped doing the big productions, not because they didn’t get people in the pews, but because they didn’t KEEP people in the pews. Our lead pastors have come to the realization that a big Easter service where Jesus flies down from the rafters, or Roman soldiers march out on stage, only serve to create a lot of confusion that next Sunday when things are back to “normal”. If our “tactics” only get people here on two days out of the year, we’re not doing our job right. We want people to know when they come to the church on Easter or Christmas, that they’re going to see what we offer every other day of the year, too.

  • brad
    April 11, 2008

    If anything is a gimmick it’s bound to fail. If anything is done with earnest intent, and consecrated expectations, then it’s already a success.
    Let’s take Carrie’s example: If a dramatic big production is put on out the joy of doing it, and lots of people get a kick out of fulfilling their roles, and have their souls fed by deploying their varied giftings, then who cares how big the audience is? Really!
    If whatever we do is just a gimmick, there’s no buy-in. On either the performers’ or the audience’s side. If it goes deeper than pure gimmickry, there’s lots of investment and connection. That’s fun to watch, fun to participate in, and fun to talk about, even years after. Bringing people into that conversation is far more valuable than turning them into temporary spectators. That’s the (missed?) opportunity in big productions, not the one-weekend spike in attendance.

  • Jon Acuff
    April 11, 2008

    Joshua -
    Thanks for mentioning my site, stuff christians like. I actually started it last a few weeks ago but back posted the dates so that I could make it easy for me to keep track off trying to write one every day versus having 124 posted on day one. I write advertising for Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church and have long been a fan of church marketing sucks. You guys and girls do awesome stuff. Drop me an email sometime.

  • Read Scott
    April 11, 2008

    I’m not a big fan of gimmicks. People can see them from a mile away. One difficulty is, how do you decipher between a gimmick and a good idea?

  • Jon Acuff
    April 11, 2008

    Scott -
    One easy way to spot the difference between a great idea and a gimmick is to measure the size of the chasm between the hook and the core concept. For instance, the church I profiled that was giving away a car created a massive gap between the gimmick and the core idea of God. That is, once the gimmick was over they had to say things like “test drive our church” or “we’re a God driven” church to connect the gimmick back to God. Because the gimmick didn’t really relate to God. But take the Nike campaign for Lebron titled simply, “witness.” It was a great idea because there was a razor thin gap between the idea of witnessing the greatness of Lebron and who Lebron is. It didn’t feel like a gimmick, it felt like two related concepts working together. That’s horribly rambling but that’s one way I look at gimmicks vs. ideas.

  • Sean
    April 14, 2008

    There is a singular technique that transcends youth/adult, seeker/believer, in/out and every other category we keep placing people in. It is the singular technique of Jesus, who had every choice available to him. That technique (which eventually becomes internalized beyond technique) is storytelling. Not the storytelling of la-la-la-ness that results in stuffed animals for sale, but real, in depth, hammered out, crafted storytelling. Touches them all. Decades of teaching this and living this in churches has taught me that it is so. Why do more than the Master?
    Once I really understood storytelling as the method, I did not need to look back. Blessings.

  • david
    April 15, 2008

    i have to admit that a church giving away a Wii is pretty similar to giving away a car, cited by Jon. i get a weird feeling in my stomach thinking about that as a means of creating relationships for ministry. for the price of a Wii to give away, even if it was donated, couldn’t some people have been fed or clothed?
    don’t get me wrong, i’m very glad that a relationship WAS built, and i rejoice with the confession and baptism of a brother/sister through the Wii give-a-way, but i’d definitely have some questions for those who prepare the budget for events and such…
    i’m also NOT from a mega-church, so i have a different perspective of budgeting for events/advertising, etc…
    just my thoughts

  • Brent
    May 7, 2008

    It seems to me that giving away a car that might cost around $25,000 is not the sort of thing our Christ would have done. That money could provide food and shelter to a lot of hungry and homeless people.
    Let’s remember what our mission is. We’re not here to build our glorious temple with its expensive auditorium-style shows. Nor is it to gratify our egos with ever-expanding numbers and larger campuses.
    We’re here to transform the lives of the people around us. We can use our Creativity to bring people in without stooping to bait-and-switch promotion.

  • newsletter templates
    August 8, 2009

    I have never thought of this. I think that is going to change how I think about marketing churches. Great insight!

  • Ronnie
    February 15, 2011

    I think sometimes we rely too much on our own methods to get people to church. You’ll notice that even in the business world, the most successful companies aren’t those that sell products with gimmicks, but by standing behind their product and providing a good experience. Church is the same way. If you learn to truly worship and act the way God intended, people will come. People will stay. People will change.

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