Ed. note: this is an excerpt from a longer article on summer communication strategy, but I feel the topic is so important, I wanted to post it on it's own.
Yes, that is all caps and I am shouting. I'm going to sound very harsh now, but I feel strongly about this and I think the extensive Biblical support for caring for the "least of these" and being concerned about the poor supports my concern.
Here is the situation I've seen in the PR of some churches (and as is the habit of our ministry, we don't name names of bad examples):
- The church hosts a summer event but states clearly (or sometimes not at all, which is horrid) that everyone is welcome to free popcorn and punch, but there will be a charge for hotdogs and burgers.
- Or there will be free chips and salsa, but there is a significant charge for tacos.
How do you think that feels for a family that might have taken a huge step to go to the event they heard that was going on at the church but they have four kids who would love a hotdog or a taco, but then they find out that there is a charge for food (popcorn and chips do not a meal make) and they simply don't have the money for it. What will they do?
Or what about the single person who is working, but woefully under-employed, lonely, and hears about the event? Chances are they will be too self-conscious to stay if they can't sit down with the group to eat.
Most likely both will quietly leave and probably never go back to that church again.
Some might respond "Well the church can't afford the free food, so we have to charge." My answer would be, "Yes, you probably can--if you ask for donations to support it," as there are many people with excessive resources in our churches today who need to be challenged on their use of those resources. But if you don't want to do that, don't have that money-dividing event.
Perhaps it is because my husband and I have worked in ministries where the price of a hot dog or taco (especially if you have lots of kids) is a big deal, but I KNOW people like this and I know the pain involved. That is why we NEVER did anything like that for our outreach meals or events (and we hosted some big ones) and our ministry grew tremendously I think in part because of that. We raised money ahead of time and some people in the ministry gave sacrificially so all could be included.
I think Jesus' words here apply:
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, (the people who can't pay for the taco) and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14
When our hospitality is lavish and without cost, when all are welcomed, when we work hard to make sure that what we do makes sense to all attending, when we follow-up with genuine messages to invite people back to our church, when we do these things we are are doing more than summer outreach, we are painting a picture of the coming Kingdom of God.
An event like that is pleasing to the Lord and worth all the work it takes to do it well.