Let's face it. Most people in the world really don't care about what is happening with churches. Most people don't wake up on a Sunday and ponder the decision on if they should go to church or not, let alone wonder what church they should attend. As a church leader, this is a hard reality to swallow - because I care a LOT about these things!
With starting a church in a rural community, we wanted people to begin to take notice of churches in our town. We want people to see our church as something that would cause them to begin to ponder the first question above and get to making a choice about the latter.
We decided to use positivity in our first 'official' message to our town: we are FOR you!
Many churches are known for being against things: against gay marriage, against drinking, against sex, against foul language, against crude t-shirts, the list goes on. We wanted, from the get-go, to be a church that was totally for this town.
Because we cling to an UP-SIDE-DOWN identity (find out more about what that is by watching this short video here), we want our town to be better because the church is here. We want businesses to succeed, we want families to succeed, we want to take pride in our community and we are willing to actually DO something about it.
So #forNEEPAWA was born.
I needed a simple website to refer people to. I took to my web-design of choice, Weebly, and created forneepawa.ca to tell our story and explain our vision to anyone curious enough to ask and search.
Next, we needed an event to get some attention and provide a service that people would appreciate. Lo-and-behold, this weekend was the 2nd annual Neepawa Fair. Because it was in it's infancy - being only the 2nd time the town held a fair - we found ourselves being in the right spot to get behind and support it!
I hastily put in an order for some tees that would be eye-catching and intriguing for people. We included the PAC Neepawa logo on the front and the words, "we are #forNEEPAWA" on the back. We were fortunate to have them arrive in time for the weekend!
I then purchased ~600 bottles of water and had custom labels with the forNEEPAWA.ca printed for them. I loaded my Toyota Camery to the max and drove home with my car's suspension nearly bottomed out from all the weight - clearly the multipurpose Camery wasn't built for this. That night, my wife and I plus two other households got to work peeling the labels off the water bottles and putting our new labels on.
I have no idea if that is illegal or not. So far, no water police at our door!
Then, we spent the whole day outside handing out water to anyone who wanted some! We ended up giving out about 350 bottles - you'll be surprised how long that takes! It was funny to watch people's reactions change. We would walk up to them and ask, "would you like a free bottle of water?" and their first response was "no thank you," as if they were being panhandled or sold something.
Once their brain could catch up with their mouth, they would quickly recant their refusal of water and gladly accept it. A few would send side-ways glances my way about what kind of strings were attached to a free bottle of water.
There was no "God loves you," or "come to our church," or "God bless," when we gave them out. We'd just say "you're welcome" when thanked for the generosity. People don't like gifts with strings attached, and to give a bottle of water for free and have the 'religious' string attached to it through a tract, saying, or anything else can easily be sniffed out as a string.
We did want to get our name noticed and our 'brand' recognized, but the gift of water required nothing from the recipient.
We have ~250 bottles left that I'm sure will find their way into the hands of thirsty people throughout the rest of the summer.
Our cost for this promotion:
Web Hosting & Domain: $70/year
T-Shirts: $300 (plan recoup this through sale of shirts)
Custom labels: $180
Pretty cheap promotion with high-visability in the end. You should give it a try for your next promotion!
What do you think about this promotion? Done something similar? Leave a comment below!
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.