Has your church ever sponsored some type of giveaway to attract new visitors? Common giveaway items for churches are gift cards, food, and Bibles. But Ignite Church in Joplin, MO has taken the giveaway idea to an entirely new level.

This Father’s Day, the church gave away AR15 assault rifles to two lucky dads.

The church members loved this. Tons of dads signed up. On Father’s Day, many people brought friends to church so they could enter the raffle as well.

Before anyone starts throwing stones (the media has already accused the church and its pastor, Heath Mooneyham, of “luring men into church”), let’s get more of the story.

A few weeks before Father’s Day, the Ignite team was brainstorming ideas for a Father’s Day giveaway. Maybe a grill? Or … how about some assault rifles? The team chose the rifles and did a couple of announcements so people could start signing up.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pastor Mooneyham, who said that they chose the AR15s over a basic handgun because men between the ages of 18 and 35 (the church’s target audience) get extremely excited about this type of gun. According to Mooneyham, the church will do anything it takes to reach these guys.

There were no press releases and no media coverage before the event because the church’s intentions were anything but a media stunt.

So did the rifle raffle increase attendance on Father’s Day? It sure did.

On a Sunday that is historically low in attendance, Ignite Church was at 75% capacity. And you know what’s even better? They saw 8 new brothers give their lives to Christ. Also, unchurched people have taken notice and have told the pastor and other members that they want to visit Ignite Church even though the giveaway is over.

Not everyone found this marketing stunt to be effective. Mooneyham said they have received comments from critics calling them a cult and a militia. Ignite Church also got a message from someone who hopes “God kills them all.”

When talking about his critics, Mooneyham said, “You know, maybe this giveaway was wrong. But I am just a sinner saved by grace, and if it turns out I made a mistake, then I’ll ask for forgiveness from Christ.”

After speaking with Mooneyham, I could sense that this man is about reaching the lost and unchurched. He is not about media stunts.

“More and more people are leaving churches instead of coming to church. I hope all churches will do whatever it takes to get people in their doors,” said Mooneyham. “We will never water down the message of Christ to these people.”

So what do you think? Is this type of marketing effective or offensive?

 

Ignite Church is an ARC church plant of just over 5 years old. They average 700 people every Sunday with their average member being age 28. To learn more about Ignite Church, check out their website.