A small church down the road from me had a tent revival (they called it a “crusade”) this week. I intended to go but, well, missed it. The church that hosted it is a very small SBC church. I think the tent evangelist was an independent Baptist.
The tent is bright yellow and screams ‘Waffle House’. Advertisements said they would have ‘concessions’ every night which I took to mean that they were selling hot dogs and the like. Waffle House caters. That would have been a better fit, though expensive.
The church next door (I didn’t put it in the picture) is about as strong a contrast to the tent as you can imagine. A tent revival or crusade may be old fashioned but the tent is bright and cheerful, shiny, looks new, clean and inviting. The church is dated, red brick, with a cemetery and an adjacent small building for fellowships. Think 1950s, though the few people left are good people. I’ve been there for a funeral and for worship. I’ve known some of the recent part-time pastors. The future looks difficult from where I stand but a church with a couple of dozen people can be tenacious. I wish them well.
One thing seems certain, it is a lot more appealing, seems to me, for a guest to drop by the tent for a service than to show up on Sunday morning for the normal worship.
Business schools used to do case studies on Waffle House restaurants. Years ago, my marketing class was asked to list the reasons they thought WH was so successful. Undergrad business majors quickly noted that they were bright and had roadside appeal. You could see inside the restaurant and see both the chef and customers. You know what’s going on inside and you can see, more-or-less, what kind of people dine there and how they dress, etc. Potential WH customers mentally process all this and more in a few seconds. What WH does makes it easier to come to a positive decision about dining there.
How about your church?
Chances are there are a number of things that are not appealing, that confuse potential guests, and lead them to decide against a visit. Unkept grounds, broken windows, a fortress-like design, outdated messages on signs, and the like might be some of these.
I like the concept of a tent meeting, call it revival or crusade, as an event that introduces people to your church. They drive by. They can’t miss the big tent. They see what it looks like inside and out. They can see where to park and how they can drop in and grab a rear seat without too much difficulty.
My state, Georgia, has seen baptisms decline for ten consecutive years and that while the population is growing. Maybe trying something new and different in evangelism might help. Could it hurt? I think not.
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has three big tents that they rent for church events. The cost is $650 to $1,150 depending on what size. The cost is reasonable though free would be better. I understand that the GBMB has maintenance and other costs associated with the tents. Maybe the charges are close to cost, since the GBMB provides a person to supervise the put-up and take-down of the tents. I don’t know how often the tents are rented.
I can see how a tent meeting would be benficial to a church’s ministry. My old pastorate is by a state route with a lot of traffic. The street design is such that speeds are slow. One could be sure that a tent by the church would generate a lot of interest from the community and from passing traffic. I didn’t avail myself of the idea while pastor but I would now. Sometimes old things work well.
Have it catered by Waffle House and I would guarrantee a winner.