John R. Bisagno
We live in a highly modernized age. Yesterday’s methods will not suffice for promoting today’s product. The days of mimeographed handbills in filling stations are gone. The twentieth century demands twentieth-century methods. Let it be clearly understood that we are still promoting the oldest product in the world. It does not change, but our means of attracting people to it must. We must ever be geared to the times, but anchored to the rock when it comes to revival publicity.
Several “P’s” are important in a good revival: preaching, prayer, promotion, and publicity. Advertising is merely the means by which you tell people what you have to offer them, and you will advertise your revival one way or the other. You may advertise it well, or you may advertise it poorly by failing to make it known at all; but you will give some kind of image to the world as to what you are trying to do. No advertising, a shabby presentation of the gospel, and meager crowds are certainly bad revival publicity.
First of all, be sure that you have an evangelist worthy of advertising. There are men who have the gift of preaching the evangelistic message. Get one of these men. Don’t just swap pulpits with one of your friends who may or may not be able to preach. If you do, you invite people to a barbecue without any meat. The publicity might bring them there the first night, but they are not likely to come back the second. Face the fact that you need to bring a man of outstanding preaching ability to your pulpit or the general public is not going to be interested in hearing him preach.
You need something special to offer. The means by which we pipe the good news to men must be made as attractive to the public as possible. Don’t write it off as unimportant. You will find that it is extremely important. Some men have the gift of delivering the gospel in a more appealing way than others. Get one of these men. Make sure that you have something good to advertise to begin with.
Second, advertise the personality delivering the message. Let me reemphasize, publicize the preacher. I can hear some saying, “But we are advertising the Lord. We are advertising new life in Christ.” This is a mistake. Religious advertising often repels rather than attracts. Don’t preach in your publicity. Build your advertising around the person delivering the preaching. Christ said, “1, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” But if you don’t get them through the front door to hear the gospel preached, Christ may have little opportunity to draw them. Publicize the man delivering the message. It is the message and the Christ that draws and saves, to be sure; but it is through the foolishness of preaching that God has ordained to get them in touch with the message.
Revival publicity should not be overbearing in its religious zeal. To say, “Are you tired of sin? Try Christ. Find new life in Jesus,” is to preach to them. Don’t give the plan of salvation in your publicity. God uses personalities. Advertise the preacher and the team. Then, when the people come to hear, it will be the team’s job to point them to the Christ. Again, you will need to be certain that you have a man worth advertising.
Third, much free publicity can be had for the asking. Newspaper articles with fresh, interesting material about the evangelistic team and the services are always welcome at the local newspaper office and will be published free of charge. Let your article be well written and factual, with time and dates clearly stated, typed in capital letters, and double spaced. This material, along with pictures of the team, should be submitted at least two weeks before the campaign begins. A word of caution! Do not spend all of your advertising dollar before the crusade begins. We often publicize too early and when the meeting begins, we have no money left. At least half (and three fourths in my opinion) of the money should be spent while the revival is in progress, and most of this in the font’ of newspaper advertising.
I believe the best advertisement for the money is still a newspaper ad. Television is good, but the expense is usually prohibitive. Radio is good, but don’t overdo it with long announcements. A ten-second spot announcement, such as “You are invited to hear Brother Smith at the City Baptist Church, 7:30 P.M., January 19,” is sufficient. Most radio stations also carry public service announcements of community events. Write them ahead of time, giving details, and they will be delighted to advertise your revival campaign.
Many radio stations have interview programs for visiting personalities. A month in advance of the revival, make arrangements with the station to have the team interviewed during their week there. If the visiting singer or preacher is an outstanding personality – perhaps a world traveler or an author – many newspapers will be delighted to arrange for a personal interview. Ask your visiting team to send pertinent information and articles from other places to you ahead of time. Take time, personally, to show this information to the religious editor, and seek to arrange an interview for the team.
Newspaper advertising must be done carefully. A few hints should be helpful.
1. Always use a picture, even a thumbnail cut of the evangelist’s head, in a small ad.
2. Don’t preach.
3. One column (six, eight, or ten inches) is a very good ad size – in my opinion, the best for the money.
4. Publicize special sermons to be preached on special nights if you are fairly certain that the schedule will not be changed.
5. Don’t carry the pastor’s picture.
6. Ask that the ad not be placed in the religious section. It will be better read elsewhere.
Change the ad two or three times during the revival. Put at the top or bottom, “Five days to go,” “Three days to go,” “Last day,” as the case may be. (A sense of urgency is always appealing.)
Fourth, handbills or window placards should be used only if you can afford to do them with one or two colors. People seldom read revival posters in black and white. Be sure to use a picture, and do not call it a revival on the window placard, but merely say, “You are invited to hear Evangelist Jones.” If window cards are to be used, large cardboard posters are much better than small 8 by 11 paper handbills, and they will be better received by the merchants if distributed by adults rather than by children. Drop by immediately after the revival and offer to take down the cards and thank the merchants for displaying them. It is well, in the distributing of these cards, to take along your own thumbtacks and tape. If you really want to advertise in a big way, staple cardboard placards to small boards and distribute them to church members to be placed in front yards of homes.
A large banner, three feet by fifteen or thirty feet with bright colors, will not cost much and can be reused by changing the names and dates. These are best displayed across the main street of the town, if possible, and/or in front of the church. A sign stuck in the churchyard that merely says “Revival in Progress” is a waste of time. People do not go to hear revivals; they do go to hear John Doe preaching a revival. Advertise your revival with good publicity in front of the church.
Small printed invitations to be distributed among business associates and friends are good, but must be professionally and attractively done. In small towns it is often profitable to broadcast services live during the week. For Thursday night of the revival print a small, newspaper-type program, giving details about the progress of the revival, to be distributed by teen-agers throughout the community. Be sure to alert them not to place them in mailboxes. Attach big signs to the church bus and let it stand in different strategic spots in town the week before and the week during the revival.
Of course, the oldest way is still the very best: “Go, … and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” Encourage your people to call their friends. It is a good idea to cut a telephone directory into sections and ask them to call everyone in their section. People should be urged to write letters and cards and call friends. Nothing is as good as an invitation from the members of your church, who are pleased that you have brought someone to their city of whom they can be proud. They will be delighted to help you advertise someone worth advertising.
Article “Advertising” excerpted from “The Power of Poistive Evangelism”. Written by John R. Bisagno.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”