Giveaways.

Sorry, no giveaway here… but I have some good news if you were hoping for one!

There’s a giveaway happening somewhere right this minute. Thousands of them.

New cars, iPods, cash, guns, trinkets of all kinds!!!

If you do a search on Twitter for the phrase “RT to enter” you will find thousands and thousands of giveaways. All of them are giving something away in hopes that by entering their giveaway you will also visit their website, buy their stuff, talk about them, love them, join them, etc… I just went back to the Twitter page where I entered that phrase a few minutes ago and there and already 56 new “RT to enter” tweets ready to load.

Before I say anything else, I should confess that I’ve done my fair share of giveaways. iPods, clothes, money… and all as a youth pastor trying to get kids to come to my group. I always hated it, but I did it because I was told (and believed) that it worked.

It didn’t.

Well, maybe a few kids came hoping they’d win the prize. But for every winner, you’ve created dozens of losers. Was it really a good idea to make 1 kid happy and 99 disappointed?

I got fired a couple years ago for many reasons, but two main ones. I’ll spare you the first reason, but the second was that my attendance wasn’t high enough in my High School Ministry. I was expected to grow 30% every year, or else… I’d done the giveaways at the big events but we weren’t exploding numerically like the rest of the church.  I even did giveaways when my convictions objected, because I needed to fill seats.

I’ve since repented, and it has made all the difference.

Here’s what I suspect is at the subconscious root of most giveaways: Disbelief that what you have to offer is good enough on it’s own, so you sprinkle a giveaway on top. Or perhaps you do have something great to offer, but you have no idea how to get people interested without offering them something sparkly. If you’re a start-up business with tons of potential but no way to get the word out, that’s one thing. If you’re a church group, that’s another.

This thing we’re a part of called church started with a tribe. They were OK with slow. They preferred it. Every time Jesus was around big crowds he scared them away. The early church was a megachurch, but they did it the right way. No gimmicks. No tricks. Just the Good News and the Holy Spirit.

There were no giveaways this year in my youth ministry: Just the Good News and the Holy Spirit doing His thing. We’ve quadrupled in attendance this year. I hate to mention that. I don’t want to sound arrogant. I want to slap my old self in the face with my paltry gimmicks and cowardly approach to ministry. I want a “do over”, but that money is spent.

My advice to ministry leaders in particular, take it or leave it: Stop wasting God’s money on gimmicks. Jesus is enough. If your church or youth group is small, maybe it’s because God wants it small! If it’s huge, right on, but if it’s not… please don’t sell your soul to fill the seats. Please don’t add to the materialistic, consumer mentality by enticing people with junk when what they really need is free for all of us.

I should have aimed this one at youth pastors in particular. There are plenty of you doing giveaways that don’t fall into this category. My hope in writing this is that you’ll zoom out and see how sad giveaways are in a ministry context.

In my opinion 🙂

7 thoughts on “Giveaways.”

  1. Great thoughts man, I dropped an article into STC on this subject. I don’t think numbers has ever defined success in youth ministry.

    I think we sell Jesus and his scripture short, when we assume we have to bait and switch when we present the gospel. Jesus is and has always been enough.

  2. Totally agree with everything you said Ryan, you nailed it. Where it gets tough is when your attendance is slowly going down and you feel like you are being faithful to God’s calling and to the Gospel.

  3. That’s the part I didn’t mention. In my experience, I was being faithful (in my opinion) and we weren’t exploding. I was content with what was happening, but growth was expected, so I did the giveaways.

    The irony is that my success isn’t measured by numbers where I work now, and the growth has happened. I know we play a part, and so do some sociological factors, but call me crazy- I think God does whatever He wants to do. Small, big, whatever.

    Disclaimer: I don’t face the same pressures as a lead pastor. Filling seats = paying salaries, mortgages, expenses, etc.

  4. Fantastic insight. I’m about to do a semi-ministry-related start up and this has giving me some additional stuff to think about.

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