Church planters in Virginia had a unique opportunity this past week involving NASCAR. An anonymous donor offered to provide tickets to NASCAR’s Rockin Roll 400 at Richmond International Speedway. The idea was for church planters to use the tickets in any way they can to help build their church.
First of all let me say up front that if you’ve never been to a NASCAR race, it’s something you have to do before you die. Watching 43 cars fly around a corner and all come within a foot of a concrete wall as they make a turn is amazing. Especially when about a third of them are on the edge of loosing contrl because their back end is fishtailing towards the wall. It leaves you with the kind of feeling you have when you’re watching a circus performer. You’re just thinking, “Did I just see what I thought I saw???”
Anyways, back to the reason for the event. Church planters used the tickets in all kinds of ways. Personally here’s how I used the opportunity for our church:
- A construction forman offered tickets to any of his workers who would come to church sometime in September. What this did for him was open a door for him to talk about his church, his faith, and invite the guys he works with to church. Sure, people ought to be doing this all the time, but we all know that for some people it’s hard for them to jsut start talking to their co-workers about church and their faith. Four of his construction workers took him up on the offer.
- I posted an ad on Craigslist offering 2 tickets to anyone who lived in the area near our church who would visit church in September. I had several people that responded to the post. The lucky winner gave me $100 cash deposit that he’ll get back when he shows up at church. This did a few things for us. First it put our church name out there on Craigslist which can be picked up by search engines. It also exposed our church to a group of people that hadn’t heard of our church. Best of all, it was all free advertising. I’m also betting that the lucky winner will brag to his friends about getting free tickets from our church. Can you say BUZZ Marketing???
- Two tickets went to two guys that just recently started coming to our church. Neither of them had even attended a church in the past 5 years. One of them was baptized the week before the race. They’re both NASCAR fans and are feeling all the more blessed for having decided to start coming to church.
- We meet at a school that is in a very strategic location. Another church was meeting there about 8 years ago, but didn’t have a good relationship with the school’s staff and had to leave. We have been doing everything we can to build a good relationship with the school’s principal, teachers, and custodians. The custodian is a big NASCAR fan, but hadn’t been to a race in 13 years. We hooked him up with 4 tickets for him to go with his dad, brother, and a friend. I don’t know if what happened the following Sunday had anything to do with the tickets, but they rearranged some things in the school that will cut about 20 minutes off our setup time in the morning and make it easier for us to put out more chairs if more people show up for church. And that was a good timing for us because we had to put out an extra 30 chairs on Sunday.
- I work from Buffalo Wild Wings at least one or two days a week. I’ve gotten to know the manager there and most of the staff. Several of the waitresses have expressed interest in coming to church. I offered tickets to the manager to give to anyone on his staff that wanted to go. When the next shift started he brought over the bar tender. She’s a huge NASCAR fan and was really wanting to go to the race. Here’s the funny part, our tickets are in the non-alcoholic section. It was sooooo funny watching her mentally work through the dilemma: “I want to go to the race, but I’m not sure I can sit there for 4 hours and not drink beer.” It gave me a great opportunity to share with her about the role alcohol is playing in her life. Best quote from the conversation: “You’re willing to pay $180 (which is what it would cost her to buy tickets to the race in another section) to drink beer at a race? That’s an expensive Bud Light if you ask me.” She caved and took the tickets. When she saw me at the race she called me over and introduced me to who she came with as the pastor that works at her bar. In addition to the opportunity to share with her, it also helped build my relationship with the manager of the store. He’s already provided free food for our block party, offered to give us 10% of the store’s sales on a Wednesday night, and now has offered to help us out with any future special event we have. Oh, and they give me a free coke with unlimited refills every time I go in there to work. Gotta love it.
- Four tickets went to a family in which only three of the four of the family members come to church. Their oldest son recently graduated high school, loves NASCAR but doesn’t love Jesus or going to church. His parents told him that he could go to the race if he’d come to church.
- Two tickets with to our neighbors who came to our church on launch Sunday. They hadn’t been to church since they got married. Now they love coming to church. They had kind of drifted away a little this summer. Inviting them to the race helped pull them back in. Oh, by the way they joined a small group the day afte the race which should help with the drifting away thing.
- One ticket went to a guy in our church who lost his wife to cancer last year. He and I drove up to the race together. It was good to spend time with him. I’m starting a series on the book of Job this month and it was good to talk to him about his Job Story before the series started.
So there you have it, that’s how we were able to use NASCAR to further the growth of God’s kingdom. I don’t know who it was that made all this possible, but if you’re reading this, THANK YOU. Also it’s good to be connected in a mission’s network like the SBC of Virginia that makes opportunities like this possible. I think the Verizon guy said it best: “It’s the network.”