“If this is your first time visiting our church, fill out the connect card and bring it to the connect centre to exchange it for a free gift at the end of the service.”
How many times have you gone to a church and heard a statement similar to that? Probably every Sunday at every church you’ve ever been to. And more than likely, the “free gift” that they gave you was a branded mug, tumbler, or other product. Did you know that most of these mugs end up in cupboards never to be seen again, or in the trash? The truth is, No One Cares About a Mug with Your Churches Logo on it!
Churches are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year on branded products to give to guests, or out as prizes in ministries. But the majority of people don’t care about this. The argument I hear the most is that this: “If they see our logo on a mug in their cupboard, they’ll remember our church and come back.” I disagree with this. When someone looks at this mug that they’re never going to use in their cupboard, are the going to remember to go back to your church, or are they going to remember how un-meaningful and impersonal this “gift” was.
See the problem with branded gifts is that it’s just another way to advertise your church. If someone has entered your church already, you don’t need to advertise to them, they’re there! They made it! If they’re going to come back, its going to be because of a meaningful interaction with them, not because you gave them a mug with your churches name on it.
So what should you give instead? Here are my top 3 “free gift” ideas for newcomers.
1. $5 Coffee Gift Card (Tim Hortons, StarBucks, etc)
A coffee gift card has real monetary value to the person you are giving it to. It’s something they are almost guaranteed to use, and when they use it, they’ll be thinking of where they got the card from, and the kindness behind that gift. A $5 Tim Hortons or Starbucks card will go a long way then giving them an empty mug that has no drink in it.
You could even include a note saying that you value them, and a number for the pastors to give them a call and get together to share that coffee with. It’s all about connection, and relationship, and a gift card to get a cup of coffee is a great starting point in a conversation to meet with a pastor or someone from the church to get to know them more.
2. A Bible
The biggest thing I see is the impersonality of the interaction when a guest exchanges their connect card for their gift. Take a minute to ask who they are, find out if they’ve ever been to church before, and just get to know them a bit. In this conversation hopefully you can discover where they are at in their relationship, and offering them a free bible could be a great way to encourage them to start their journey in faith.
Maybe you couple this with the gift card and say, “I’d love to get to know more about where you are at with your faith journey,” that way you aren’t assuming that they are a new christian, or not a christian at all, but you give them the ability to feel comfortable and explore their faith with a bible, and the opportunity to meet and discuss over coffee.
3. Free Ticket to an Event
The best way to build community is to get people out to events, or to social gatherings. Maybe there’s a concert coming up, or a comedy night, offer them free admission to this and set them up to attend with someone that is going so they can get to know someone and enjoy a night out at an event that may interest them.
This is a very specific gift, so you’ll have to plan around events happening in your church/city, but also gauge the audience of the person that you are giving this too. Maybe you offer them a gift card with the option to get this as well if they are interested.
There’s no universal gift that’s going to work for every church. Find out what your demographic is and try to cater to that. If you live in a community with a lot of coffee shops, that may be an indicator of the type of gift you want to give. Maybe your church is located in a rough area of your city that doesn’t have a lot of believers, maybe that’s an opportunity to offer them a bible. A lot of people don’t read the bible simply because they don’t have one. They don’t know that its available online. Meet the people where they are. People don’t care about coffee mugs with your churches name on it. Take that money and invest in a ministry that actually matters, discipleship.