Advertising and Organizing for Revivals


By: Robert J. Wells

One of the problems of all revival campaigns is that of getting a crowd. More good preaching and singing goes to waste for want of a crowd than for any other reason. Though you may have the greatest possible combination of preacher, song leader, choir and musical program, very little can be accomplished if there is not a crowd for them to minister to. It is imperative then that those phases in the preparation for a revival campaign which have to do primarily with getting a crowd be given a place of major importance in the planning for the campaign. In fact, I think that it is not an overstatement to say that so far as the mechanical and human elements of preparation for a campaign are concerned, there is nothing more important, there is nothing that plays a more vital part in building a successful campaign than well-developed advertising and special delegations, because these are the two best means of attracting a crowd. For the purpose of this message we will consider, first of all, some of the most important means of advertising a revival after which we will give consideration to the all-important matter of special delegations.

I. Various Methods of Advertising That Have Been Successfully Used in Revival Campaigns.

I think that the most successful types of advertising usable in the promotion of revival campaigns can be considered under eight different classifications. The suggested methods of advertising presented under each of these classifications should be carefully considered for the purpose of determining which methods would be most suitable for your particular community, town or city. Without elaborating or attempting to “sell” you on a vigorous program of advertising, I want to suggest that for best results you had better utilize as many of the ideas presented as it is possible and practical, both from the standpoint of facilities and expense.

It is to be expected that there will be some considerable difference between the advertising program adopted for the average single church campaign and that which would be adopted for a great city-wide union effort. It goes without saying that in a city-wide effort it would be advisable to use at least some of the ideas presented under each of the eight classifications, for it is not an easy task to arouse a great city and to create in the hearts of the multitudes a desire to attend the revival services. On the other hand, the smaller single church campaign would naturally be limited in its resources, and of necessity would have to restrict itself to the use of a limited number of the suggestions offered.

However, it should be carefully emphasized that regardless of the size of the campaign, advertising is of extreme importance. It is my honest opinion that if churches would plan to spend a good deal more in advertising their revival meetings properly, they would reap a much greater harvest than they do. It seems that in order to do this it would be necessary to care for the expense of advertising, or at least a considerable part of it, through the regular budget of the church, and thus not make it necessary for this
expense to be covered by the offerings during the campaign. This will not always be necessary, and may not always be advisable, but I offer it as a suggestion, hoping that some may profit thereby because I earnestly believe that if sinners are to be reached and our churches filled during our revival campaigns, we must make a sufficient investment in advertising.

1. Radio

Aside from personal contact, there is no better way to advertise than by the use of radio. This is especially true of a gospel service. You can reach more people effectively by means of radio than by any other means. In this way you are enabled to inform the people of the special revival campaign, the place, the time, and special characteristics of the program. In addition to this you are able to put on a demonstration of the type of meeting you are asking them to attend, and as an added feature you are able to perform a real ministry in giving forth the Word while utilizing this unique channel of advertising.

Use Existing Programs

To begin with, all existing gospel radio programs should be utilized both for the purpose of making announcements and as an opportunity for the evangelistic party to present their messages in song and in word by way of ministry which, of course, is the best kind of advertising.

Purchase Extra Time

Then whenever possible, extra time should be purchased wherever available at reasonable hours and used for special revival broadcasts, at which time the messages of the evangelist and singer should be featured and the theme and facts concerning the revival campaign should be kept before the public. Whenever it is possible to secure such time during the hours of the regular
services, such as, the morning service (if there is one), or the noonday service, or better still, the evening service, it should be purchased by all means, and arrangements should be completed to broadcast the services from the place of meeting by remote control. No better means of advertising a revival are available.

Spot Announcements

A third method of using radio for advertising a revival meeting is the use of “spot announcements.” Such announcements usually consist of a word of invitation and a carefully worded statement concerning the facts you want the public to know about the revival, namely, the place and location, or address, where the meetings are being held, the time and dates of the meetings, and something about the program. All of this information must be compacted into a paragraph which can be read in approximately one minute. For best results, such “spot announcements” should be made frequently, at regular intervals, and of course if it is possible to have them appear just before, or immediately following the most popular programs during the day or evening, it is a distinct advantage.

It is naturally obvious that the effectiveness of radio advertising largely depends upon the kind of program or announcement presented. Much time and great care should be taken to see that the best possible material is produced. The better it is, the greater the impression made. The production of a radio program demands the very best that one has to offer, and this is something that should always be kept in mind.

2. Newspaper

In my judgment, the next best means of advertising is the newspaper. Aside from radio, there is no better way to reach the multitudes than by means of the daily or weekly newspaper. Generally speaking there are two ways in which we can take advantage of this very effective method of reaching the masses to advertise revival campaigns.

The News Article

The first, and I think by far the most effective, is through the news article. A good news article, well written, properly illustrated, will do more to attract people to the revival services than almost anything else. These news articles are not always easy to get, and yet when the proper approach is made and when news reporters are caused to see that something really worthwhile is taking place in their city, they will be surprisingly sympathetic. This is especially true of union campaigns. The fact that various denominations and churches and pastors of many different theological viewpoints unite together for the purpose of sponsoring a great evangelistic campaign is “news” and as such will command the attention of news men. In every such campaign the chairman of the publicity committee should see to it that the newspapers are furnished with daily reports of the activities concerning the revival. Sermon subjects, special activities, outstanding features of the program, and anything of the nature of “human interest” should be brought to the attention of the news men daily. Much of this material will be acceptable and will find its way into the columns of the daily paper. A good heart-to-heart talk with the editor by the chairman of the campaign, or by some representative minister, will do more to assure the cooperation of the newspaper than anything else. This kind of advertising is invaluable. It is the kind which cannot be bought and which will do more good for the campaign than almost any other kind of advertising. Hence, those in charge of the preparation of the campaign should take great pains to see that this matter is not overlooked. If among
those who are cooperating in the campaign you can find someone who has had training or experience in the field of journalism, it would be well to have such a person write the articles. If this is done the chances for their acceptance will be greatly improved.

The Display Ad

The second kind of newspaper advertising is the display ad. Display ads can be anywhere from one column inch to a full page in size. Display space can usually be purchased by churches or religious organizations at a comparatively reasonable rate. If this kind of advertising is to be effective, there are several things that need to be kept in mind.

Copy. First of all, concerning copy: To begin with there should not be too much copy, but what there is should be well written. It would be advisable to write and re-write the copy several times before deciding upon its use. Then the copy should be well balanced in the ad. It should not be top-heavy or lopsided. It might seem unnecessary to suggest that it should contain all of the facts, but strange as it may seem, many have overlooked this all-important factor with the result that this very effective means of
advertising has been wasted. The time, the location of the meeting, together with pertinent remarks concerning the program, the type of meeting, the sponsors of the meeting, and the theme or slogan, should always be included. Copy should always have a punch. It should contain modern terminology, and not theological terminology.

Eye Appeal. Secondly, some consideration should be given to eye appeal. If you are using a small display ad, then it will be necessary to attract by a variety of type faces and the most pertinent information should be presented in bold-faced type as large as possible so that it will be easily read. In most cases newspapers will give advance proofs and these proofs should be carefully checked with these things in mind.

Pictures Sell. Then, of course, it is an advertising axiom that “pictures sell.” If it is at all permissible from the standpoint of the size of the space to be used, pictures should always accompany a display ad. A picture of the evangelist, or of the evangelistic party, or of those sponsoring the campaign, or of the place where the campaign is to be held, or of some of the great crowds attending the services would attract. If the space is comparatively small, it would be better to use a small picture of the evangelist. If the space is large, then it would be all right to use a good group picture. Since the evangelist is the most important factor in the
campaign, it would be well to feature his picture. When people glance over a page containing advertisements, they will be attracted to those ads which have the most “eye appeal” and generally to those containing pictures.

A third factor to be kept in mind is the size and the location of the ad. Naturally, a small one-column, one-inch ad, hidden away in a maze of other ads, is not going to be very attractive and will not be read by very many people. The more space available, the better the display will be, and of course, the more effective its general appeal. An ad on the church page will be of real benefit in reaching church members and those who are generally interested in religion, but it will have little effect in reaching the unsaved. Many churches and campaign committees have discovered that an ad of sufficient size with real “eye appeal” is very effective on the amusement page, or perhaps, even more effective alongside the favorite comic strip. Frequently it is possible to select the position in which your ad is to appear, and whenever this is possible careful attention should be given to this all-important matter. Newspaper advertising should be carefully planned and generally planned well in advance so as to take advantage of choice positions, etc. Here again it would be very helpful if someone who has had experience in layout work, copy writing, or journalism could be given the responsibility of producing the display ads.

3. Signs and Posters

I think the third most effective method for advertising a revival campaign is through the use of signs and posters. This means of advertising is especially effective because it accomplishes two very important objectives. First of all it informs the public of the revival campaign and then it becomes s constant reminder. Signs and posters placed in strategic locations will keep the revival before the public day and night. There are several different methods of utilizing this type of display advertising, and I will call your attention to them very briefly.

Large Street Banner

There is the large street banner, hanging across the main street at a place where the greatest number of people will be able to see it every day. Such a banner is usually suspended by rope or cable from buildings on either side of the street or from telephone poles. It is generally necessary that permission be received from the city officials before this means of advertising can be used.


Then billboards have been used to great advantage and with real effectiveness in advertising many city-wide campaigns. There is a third way of utilizing this kind of advertising, and this is through display signs generally erected on frames and placed at important highway intersections, on the building where the meetings are to be held, on each of the churches co-operating in the campaign, and at strategic places wherever crowds gather. Good results have often been obtained from an A-shaped board on a
principal street corner.


One of the most popular methods of advertising revivals is through the use of posters displayed in store windows, in the windows of the homes of Christians and all who are willing to cooperate, on telephone poles, in automobile windows, etc. Posters of a similar nature can be used in reaching great crowds of people when displayed in busses, street cars, and other transportation vehicles. Another comparatively inexpensive way of utilizing this type of advertising is through bumper strips. Such strips should contain only the most essential information in large letters, and should be distributed to all who are willing to place them on either the front or rear, or better still, both bumpers of their automobiles.

In the use of this type of advertising it is necessary to keep in mind that “eye appeal” and attractive copy with a punch are as vital here as in newspaper display ads.

4. Handbills and Cards

One of the most popular methods of advertising a revival meeting is through the use of handbills, cards, folders, or tickets. Literature of this type is generally distributed through the various cooperating churches to begin with; sometimes through a well-organized canvass or house-to-house visitation, and of course through those who attend the services from night to night. In the preparation of such literature always keep in mind the necessity of making the copy not only accurate but also attractive. Modern type faces and good quality paper should be used as much as possible. The use of color is extremely advisable here, and any kind of color splash or attractive picture will contribute greatly to the effectiveness of such literature. A small card of post card size, containing the pictures of the evangelist and song leader, and general information concerning the meeting, with location, etc., on one side, with sermon subjects listed together with appropriate comments on the reverse side, printed on good stock with modern type face in two colors is about the most effective kind of literature of this sort. It is important that such literature be properly distributed and great care should be taken to see that none is wasted.

5. Using the Mails

Mail advertising is productive of great results then properly used. Mailing lists should be built up, including evangelical preachers, Sunday School superintendents, teachers, young people’s leaders, prayer group leaders, and all true believers in the community or city. These lists should be as complete as possible. A well-written letter to these various groups will be very effective in securing their cooperation, not only in their attendance at the services but in giving additional publicity among their churches and friends.

6. Telephone

One of the very best means of modern communication is the telephone, and certainly it should be used to the very best possible advantage in the promotion of any revival campaign. Three suggestions might be helpful. First of all, and obviously, all who are interested in the campaign should be urged to use the telephone frequently for the purpose of calling their personal acquaintances, friends, and relatives, and giving them a personal invitation to attend the services. Secondly, with proper organization and cooperation, it is possible to contact every person who has a telephone in a city of almost any size. After enlisting as many as possible to cooperate in this work, simply divide the pages in the telephone book among these people, and have them call every person on a given page, or a section of the page whichever it may be. Naturally this will be easier to do in a small community or city than in some of the major cities. In such calls a simple introduction of the person calling, followed by a genuinely gracious invitation to the services is all that is needed. The third suggestion is that wherever possible a follow up call would be of special benefit. Such calls would be handled by saying: “This is Mrs. So and So calling again. I am wondering if you have attended the revival services as yet.” If they have not, then give them another hearty invitation. This is a very inexpensive means of advertising and one that is tremendously effective.

7. Specialty Advertising

We could spend much time offering many, many suggestions under this particular heading; however, we will confine ourselves to a very few. First of all, there is chalk writing. In many places it is possible to write on the sidewalk with chalk, giving information concerning the evangelistic campaign. This method is practically without cost, and although it is not a very durable kind of advertising, it is effective in many cases. Then there are door hangers. A door hanger is a handbill containing the same information suggested under section four in this message, but with a slot or hole provided to enable it to be hung on a door-knob. Obviously, it would be impossible to overlook such an advertisement. This same idea has been used through agreement with milk companies to have similar type handbill hanging from each milk bottle distributed in a given territory. Another type of advertising used very effectively in many places is the sound truck where information concerning the meetings, together with appropriate music, is broadcast over a loud-speaker system from a truck which travels up and down the main streets of the city.

Parades have been used very effectively, when on a given occasion great crowds of people gather together, having made proper preparations with signs, banners on cars and trucks, with brass band, floats, etc., advertising the meetings. A parade should never be attempted unless it is well planned and properly executed.

A very elaborate means of advertising which would come under this heading is that of aerial bombardment. It has been done very effectively in a number of places. If this specialty is to be used, announcement should be made well in advance over the radio and through the newspaper that the city will be bombed at a certain designated time. Circulars will then be printed in very large quantities announcing the message to be conveyed concerning the revival. At the designated time airplanes will fly over the city,
dropping these leaflets which will flutter down over a wide territory attracting great attention, making an unusual impression, and distributing widely the printed circulars.

8. House-to-House Visitation

Beyond possibility of contradiction the very best way of advertising a revival campaign is by means of house-to-house visitation. This method is emphasized in another chapter of this book, but because of its extreme importance, we think it should be included in the list of the various ways and means for advertising a revival campaign.

II. Delegations

It has been said many, many times, and I say it again for added emphasis, that the most important committee, aside from the executive committee, in planning for a revival campaign, is the committee on delegations. This committee can do more to fill the auditorium or tent in which the meetings are being held, to develop a spirit of enthusiasm, to bring in the unsaved, and to make the meetings generally a success, than any other committee. It has been estimated that if by getting special delegations to attend the services you can increase the size of the congregation by ten percent, you will have increased the number of unsaved in the audience by about one hundred percent.

The great importance of this committee demands that one of the most alert, efficient and aggressive men available should be selected as its chairman. He should then be given the assistance of the very best workers available. He will need them because although his task is of primary importance it is not an easy one by any means. To begin with, the delegations committee should contact all of the churches and religious institutions, Sunday School classes, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and special organizations, both in the community or city in which the campaign is being held, and in other surrounding communities, reaching out as much as from fifty to one hundred miles in every direction. Arrangements should be made for each of these groups to attend the revival services on some designated night when a special section would be reserved for them. If careful work is done here, it will assist greatly in substantially increasing the attendance from night to night, and should assure a good solid crowd for every night during
the campaign.

This committee should plan to feature special groups for each service throughout the campaign. For instance, it would be very helpful to begin on a Sunday afternoon, or a Monday night, by featuring ministers and Christian workers. Then this could be followed up in the succeeding nights during the first week of the campaign when the evangelist will most likely be dealing largely with Christians and church members, by securing delegations of Christian business men, church officers, Sunday School teachers and officers, men’s and women’s Bible classes, and family night when all members of the family will be invited to sit together. It is sometimes very helpful on such an occasion to offer a special reward to the head of the largest family represented, and whenever possible, some appropriate booklet to the head of each family represented. Dr. John R. Rice takes advantage of such an occasion to give a copy of his book, Bible Facts About Heaven, free of charge, to the head of each complete family in attendance.

Then on the ensuing nights in whatever order seems to be best, delegations should be secured from other groups. There could be a students’ night, when high school, college, university, seminary, Bible institute, business college, etc., students would be invited to attend. On such an evening they could sit together in large groups representing their separate schools, and some spirit of competition could be injected to create added interest and enthusiasm. Youth night should be especially emphasized, and it seems that the best night in the week for this emphasis is Saturday, which has become popularly fixed in the minds of young people as “youth night” through the activities of the “Youth for Christ” organizations all over America. Each of the following groups could be featured as delegations on various evenings: department store and retail store employees; railroad and transportation workers; professional workers, including nurses, doctors, lawyers, bankers; insurance company employees; city, county, state, and federal employees; public utility workers; sons and daughters of Israel; labor unions; school teachers; farmers, etc. Perhaps, at the very last of the campaign, preferably on the last Sunday afternoon, there should be a new converts meeting, when the converts of the campaign would be especially invited to attend, at which time they will be recognized and given an opportunity to give their testimonies. Then the evangelist can give a message which will be especially calculated to instruct them concerning their duties as Christians, and give them encouragement and help in living the Christian life. In a recent campaign conducted in Warren, Ohio, such a meeting was planned for the last Sunday afternoon of the campaign. The evangelist wrote a letter of invitation which was multi-graphed and sent out under his personal signature to each of the converts of the campaign. For this special occasion a little inexpensive folder, approximately 2×3 inches in size, containing the picture of the evangelist, the song leader, the names of the committees and members and a few appropriate remarks had been prepared, and each new convert was promised one of these campaign souvenirs for attending this special service. On the final Sunday afternoon of the campaign, in spite of the worst weather during the entire campaign, there was a large number of converts in attendance, and the crowd was thrilled again and again as these newborn babes in Christ gave testimony to the fact of their salvation. If there are any large plants or organizations in your community or city which have not been referred to, special delegations of employees from these plants should be arranged for if at all possible.

Last, but not least, is Sunday School night. Some of us have used the following plan with success, and when used on the one night during the week when it is hardest to get a good crowd, it becomes one of the most popular nights of all.

Plans are made to have a Sunday School night on the second Monday in the campaign. Monday is selected because it is much easier for boys and girls to remember an announcement made in the Sunday School for a Monday night than for any other night. Careful preparations for this night need to be made. In order to do this, it is necessary to secure the hearty cooperation of the superintendents of all Sunday Schools cooperating in the campaign. These superintendents, in turn, will secure the cooperation of the departmental superintendents, and in turn, the teachers. Announcement should be made one week in advance in the Sunday School, departmental, class, and church sessions. Then a post card or a mimeographed letter should be sent to each Sunday School pupil as a reminder. Each Sunday School teacher should be made responsible to personally contact each class member for the purpose of assuring their attendance. Then, of course, announcement should be made each evening during the first week of the campaign, and great stress should be placed on this announcement on the Sunday preceding Sunday, School night. If some award is offered for the teachers and officers of the Sunday School having the largest percentage of their enrollment present, it will greatly assist in creating the proper competitive spirit and will assure greater interest. As a result, on Sunday School night you will discover an unusually large attendance, and Monday night, which would ordinarily be one of the hardest nights during the
campaign, will become one of the most successful from the standpoint of spirit, crowd and results, because g goodly percentage of those who attend on Sunday School night will be unsaved people.

By careful planning things and challenging the other Sunday Schools represented to “beat” the winning Sunday School for the first Sunday School night, an even greater interest can be developed to result in a much larger crowd for the following Monday night. This can be tried again and again with good results; so much so, that we feel it ought to become a standard fixture in every revival campaign.

Children’s Work in a Revival

In connection with every union evangelistic campaign, a real effort should be made to reach the boys and girls for Christ. With this almost everyone is agreed. But the question immediately arises: how shall this be done? There are those who advocate having children’s meetings in the mornings or the afternoons throughout the entire campaign, or a major part of it, and enlisting the services of some children’s worker for this purpose. We do not feel that this is a good plan for the following reasons:

1. With very rare exception, it is not possible to maintain great interest in a lengthy series of children’s meetings. It is almost impossible to continue building from day to day for a period of more than five or six days at the most. In fact, after the first two or three days the children in attendance are practically all Christians, making it very difficult to do any real evangelistic work.

2. Such meetings demand an enormous amount of time. This time must generally be given by the very best Christian workers in the community or the city, thus hindering them to a large extent from doing the work they should do to boost the evening meetings, to reach the adults and young people as well as children, for these services.

3. Such procedure makes a division of interest, causing some people to be interested in the children’s work to such an extent that they expect it to receive a constant and major emphasis in the evening services. Unless this emphasis is given and the children’s meetings are widely promoted, thus taking up valuable time in the evening service night after night, many individuals become peeved, and in some instances, greatly dissatisfied.

4. Daily children’s meetings do not appeal to the large group of boys and girls generally referred to as intermediates, those who are in their early teens.

But there is a way to plan children’s meetings in which this group may be included.

5. Such a series of daily children’s meetings could be better handled at another time and separate from the campaign, if it seems to be advisable.

6. There is a better way. In our opinion it is possible to get a larger total number of children, and to include the early teen-agers, or intermediates, do a much greater evangelistic work, at a great deal less cost both in energy and in money by means of large children’s rallies held preferably on Saturday afternoons. If such rallies are carefully planned, it is generally true that you will reach more boys and girls, and the percentage of the unsaved who will attend will be much larger than in the daily classes. In such a rally various children’s workers and leaders could assist in presenting a special preliminary program for the boys and girls, including the singing of choruses, flannel-graph story, etc., and the evangelist could bring the message. Most evangelists are thoroughly equipped for and capable of handling such a meeting, and of giving an invitation in such a meeting which will be effective and which will get lasting results, providing he has the cooperation of many Sunday School teachers and children’s workers who will deal carefully and thoroughly with each child as he comes forward. In many cases some little award such as a pencil on which is printed a Scripture verse or some other souvenir is given to each boy and girl in attendance. The cost of this is comparatively negligible and is very effective in stimulating a great deal of interest. The responsibility for promoting such rallies naturally belongs to the executive committee; but the committee to be entrusted with working out the various details would naturally be the committee on delegations, although it is sometimes best to have a special committee on children’s work for this purpose.

It should be kept in mind that it is not necessary to confine yourself to recognition of any one particular delegation per service. There is no reason why any number of different delegations could not be featured at one service. By all means, seek to enlist every possible bit of assistance and secure as many delegations as possible each evening throughout the campaign. If this committee functions properly, the place in which the meeting is held should be packed to capacity, and there will be many, many blessed results.

The biggest problem in every campaign is to reach the unsaved, and by all odds, the very best method for reaching them is through special delegations. Therefore, give this work the very best attention possible, and eternity alone will reveal the enormous amount of good accomplished thereby. Select the very best man you have to head up the committee, and then go “all out” to help him do a successful piece of work!

(The above material was published by How to Have a Revival, Sword of the Lord, 1946.)

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