I’ll never forget it. It was a blazing hot Virginia summer and I was working the company tent at one of those big community shin-digs where vendors of all kinds line the streets of downtown hocking everything from Amish baked goods to handmade jewelry and pottery. But what happened during one of my breaks I will never forget.

As I walked around smelling the aroma of every kind of food wafting through the air and admiring hand-carved everythings, I came across a vendor tent occupied by a local church. They were handing out free bottles of water. In hot weather. In August.  In Virginia. And yet, they were struggling to find takers.

Why is that?

Because people want to avoid church at all costs. They don’t want to be sold. They don’t want to be judged. And they certainly don’t want to be tricked into some spur of the moment theology lesson. People were immediately suspicious of their motives. They couldn’t give away ice cold, refreshing water in the middle of summer’s blazing heat. Wow, what a picture.

One man from the church kept offering “free water!” but the rejections kept coming. He then offered up a peculiar question in a somewhat confused tone and with a bottle outstretched said: “Really expensive water?” 

It was enough to make me chuckle, instantly disarming me as I turned back and accepted the beverage. His intentionally sarcastic question sought to break through the noise and create value in what he had.

Nobody wanted his “free” gift because the recipient had a feeling it was going to cost them something…it was bait-and-switch waiting to happen.

Do you see the spiritual parallel here?

It’s only in retrospect that I realized that even as a Christian I avoided the church worried they would try to push their beliefs on me. Wow. The poignant illustration I will never forget.

In a day and age where even Christians are so suspicious of the church, how do we as church marketers and church communicators break through? When we have the ultimate thirst-quencher to give away how do we get people to stop and listen? Is it bigger buildings? More state of the art technology? Flashy websites? Eye-catching social media posts? Advanced ad campaigns? Great photography? Cool “church merch”?

Let me suggest this: perhaps . . . sometimes . . . it is simply just being.

Being a resource. Being a smile. Being a warm greeting. Being authentic.

Listen, there is absolutely a place for all that other stuff I mentioned but if we aren’t genuinely and regularly investing in people why. should. they. care? I’ve heard it many times over the years – people don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care and boy is that true. Maybe next time you’re out in the community – whether working an event or not – you just try to be a little bit more….real.

Put away the titles and the postgraduate degrees and the fancy suits that you seemingly wear even when you’re not. Sometimes the goal of the church needn’t be to grow the church or Sunday attendance but merely to just be the church.  To simply shine your light in a dark world by being you.

God is love, right? Let them see that.

Let them see that. Connect with the people around you. Get to know them. Engage with them in a way that they leave with a smile on their face. No tricks. No hidden agendas. Don’t act in desperation. Don’t make it a big deal.

Have your goal be to simply have a positive interaction with a stranger then allow God to move organically. I submit to you than an authentic human connection will make a more meaningful impact than you may ever know.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Well, marketing is so much more than tactics and tools. At its core, marketing is knowing your audience and their needs and addressing those needs in a meaningful way. Sometimes that’s as simple as giving out laughs and “really expensive water”.

Connecting with people is just one aspect of a great outreach event. If you need help making your next community outreach event as successful as it can be, fill in your info below to receive our FREE Outreach Event Blueprint! If you’re ready to go deeper and need help developing a strategy, give us a shout – we’d love to partner with you.