I continue to be amazed at the growth in our children’s and youth ministry. We shattered our church's previous records for VBS this year with 185 children coming through our doors. We continue to see around 150 kids on Wednesday evenings as well. One of the reasons I am amazed to see this is that we do zero advertising for our children’s and youth ministry. And I intend to keep it this way.
Okay, maybe zero is a bit of an overstatement. We do have occasions when we will put out information on social media about various events we are having. We will, on occasion, pass out fliers to a block party that we are having somewhere in the community. But we don’t take out ads in papers, spend money on mailings, or any of that stuff. Our advertising budget for the whole year is $300 and we could probably get away with less.
Full disclosure, though. If you are familiar with my writing ministry (and you probably aren’t), you know I’m not very good at self-promotion. I stink at it. I don’t do all those things you are supposed to do in order to get people to your blog. At times, I question whether or not I should work to get better at promotion. But I don’t question this as much with our local church. Allow me to explain why.
First, this forces us to grow by word of mouth. I come from the Steve Martin school of success. Martin tells young comedians: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” I try to do that same thing with both writing and within our church. Of course I mean different things than Steve Martin when I say, “Be so good...” For instance, I don’t mean: “Put on such an excellent show that they come back.” What I do mean is that you love people so deeply and faithfully proclaim Christ so passionately that you won’t be ignored.
And that is how our children’s ministry has grown. The children in our community know they are loved here. They know that we are going to provide a free meal for them, but it’s so much more. They know they will be loved by our leaders and that they’ll have a good time. But we also are working to increasingly reflect Christ in everything we say and do. This means that the kids are also experiencing the aroma of Christ and the life-changing gospel of Jesus. That keeps them coming back and it keeps them bringing their friends, too.
Secondly, when we get first-time guests to our Wednesday evening, their experience is markedly different than it would be if we got them here by some sort of campaign. It’s also different than it would be if we promoted ourselves as being awesome and amazing, and led them to believe they were going to have the time of their life, promising them the "best Wednesday they'll ever have." You do that stuff and kids come in with a certain expectation. It gets them thinking as consumers and, eventually, you’ll disappoint a customer.
But we don’t view our children as customers or consumers. We aren’t focusing on getting them here. We are working on setting our focus upon what happens when the kids are already here, even if that means ministering to just 5 kids. We aren’t asking on a weekly basis whether or not our ad campaign worked. We don’t measure success by how many kids showed up. We measure success by whether or not kids were loved and whether or not God met with them through His precious gospel. To be cheesy and tweak a line from Field of Dreams, we believe if we build them, they will come.
And so we don’t advertise. And we see new kids about every week.
We also understand the whole thing could fizzle and there's a chance nobody will show up some Wednesday night. But for now, we depend upon faithful volunteers being dedicated to loving children and sharing Jesus, and God is faithfully drawing children and adults to Himself here. We aren’t really doing anything but planting and sewing. We are just faithfully plodding along and, as of right now, God is working in hearts and kids are showing up. Some day those numbers might dwindle. But we’ll keep doing mostly the same thing we are doing now.
Loving people. Preaching Jesus. For the long haul.
And that doesn’t require an ad campaign.