Saturday, November 07, 2009

Things you will NOT see in my church...

Gimmick Brings in Church Attendees

The Lighthouse Church of All Nations in Alsip, Illinois, has raffled a combined $1,000 to attendees in their three Sunday services over the last month. Not surprising, the attendance has dramatically increased from 1,800 to 2,000.

"I make no bones about that [i.e., being gimmicky]," says Rev. Dan Willis. "But, if I could get someone who would not normally come to church, why not?" For Willis, reports the Southtown Star, the cash is a mere carrot to get you through the doors. By sowing the seeds of responsible personal finance, he hopes to create a few converts.

To pique interest, several weeks ago, Willis hung a silver lockbox from the ceiling above the pulpit. "What's in the box?" was written on a nearby sign. When the first service of the series rolled around, Willis opened the box and $100 bills spilled out. He explained his plan: One lucky person would win $250 at each of the two Sunday services. If a special theme played during the service, the prize would double to $500.

He speaks from the perspective of someone who's been there. While trying to build the church from a tiny storefront 32 years ago, he maxed out 23 credit cards. "Here I was trying to do God's work and I had all these lines of credit open. God gave me a plan and I became completely debt free, other than my home mortgage." To help his members resist the temptation of easy credit, Willis placed two shredders at the front of the church and more than 500 credit cards were fed through the machines in a three-week period.

The raffle has been a small part of the sermons. The topics that Willis addressed during this series included avoiding debt; the budgeting process and the wisdom of living on a spending plan; tackling debt by paying down the credit cards with the highest interest first; and the value of savings.

Rev. Willis is pleased to say that he's had positive feedback from his congregation and the income of the church has increased. But, he's convinced that, if he had taught this message eights years ago it wouldn't have worked. "We were too prosperous. It was a different time." Now, he says, rarely a day goes by without someone looking for help from their numerous benevolent ministries.

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