Sunday, April 25, 2010


Post cereal introduced product sampling to American commerce. The concept is simple; before someone commits to a larger purchase, let them try it first. After the concept caught on, it expanded significantly, with test drives, introductory offers, and money-back guarantees. Maybe the church could learn a thing or two.

I learned something about sampling recently when a man called and set up an appointment to talk with me. He said he wanted to talk with me about the church. I found this odd, since I knew this man from the community and had never seen him attend one of our services. In fact, he hadn't. But when he showed up for our meeting he was carrying with him all manner of CTK literature: brochures, DVDs and printed pages from our web site. He even had a dog-eared copy of Deliberate Simplicity with him. He was studying up on us, he said, because he wanted to know what we were all about before he came for a visit. The care he took in his investigation was every bit as intensive as that of Consumer Reports. He had particular ideas about what he was looking for, and he was not even going to visit until his curiosity was satisfied.

Clearly my friend is an "outlier" when it comes to being an information hound. But in an info society, where people are used to being able to browse a book online before buying it, or play a clip of a song before downloading it, it makes sense that the church provide options beyond "attend the service and you'll find out." So here are some questions:

Does your ministry provide samples of recent teaching? How about a video or audio of a recent service? Handouts? Maybe a copy of the Sunday program? Giving people a sample will make them feel that they already know you, before you even meet.

Does your ministry give guests pictures of what they can expect to see when they visit? Is there a map of the facility that they can peruse? Some may be worried about "what's behind those doors." Put their mind at ease. Take a few snapshots of the entry, hallways and auditorium so it's not such a mystery. Remember, people are already used to zooming in on buildings through Google earth and getting a roadside view. Let them come inside before they come inside.

Does your ministry allow people to "meet" some of the important people before they meet them? Is there a brochure of the directors? Are there bios on the web site? Maybe you think it's obvious who the worship director is, but for newbies they are wondering, "Who's the guy who gets up there every week and plays his guitar?"

Does your ministry give people a chance to "try" a small group, before committing to one? Some are skeptical about jumping into community with both feet. Maybe we should whet their appetite for it, by offering 5-10 minute small group opportunities in the worship service, or limited-duration groups that let people get their feet wet first.

Don't allow the enemy to use the fear of the unknown to keep seekers at bay. Give people a chance to "taste and see that the Lord is good." Sampling is a preventative strike at fear.