Probably one of the most difficult problems evangelists face is that of keeping up a steady week-night attendance. For years this has been one of our most perplexing problems.
Oh, of course, by special programs, moving pictures, contests, prizes, et cetera, one can give "artificial respiration" to the week-night meetings. But in the minister's mind there is always the feeling of partial defeat the audience is not coming just for the Word of God.
A plan was tried in Colombo, Ceylon, which doubled the week-night attendance. And then the same plan was tried again in the campaign in Singapore with even better results a simple, effective, yet dignified plan that takes none of the time of the minister or his associate
Now, probably somebody else has tried this and will say, "Oh, that's old. I did that years ago in ." My defense is an attack. Then, fellow evangelist, if you did, why didn't you share the idea with me long ago? I have been struggling for improved methods for twenty- three years and grasping at every straw of improvement. When, in desperation, by chance or by inspiration I come upon a new plan, I reproach myself that I have been so long in discovering such a simple one. So here it is for the benefit of my fellow warriors in the field of evangelism those who may not have thought of this plan before.
It is very simple: A book-a-week award for perfect attendance that week. Almost all have tried the plan of a Bible award for a month of perfect attendance or for perfect attendance throughout the whole series. That is good, but it doesn't encourage the building of a better week-night attendance every week.
You see, this plan is fresh, every week. If one misses this week, he can receive an award book next week. If he starts attending late in the series, he immediately begins to benefit, because a new book is awarded every week. Sup pose you are holding meetings Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. You pass out the following card to everyone on Sunday nights:
(Front of Card)
FREE BOOK AWARD
$4,000.00 worth of books to be given away!
• You will always treasure this wonderful library of books that is to be given to those in regular attendance at the BIBLE AUDITORIUM LEC TURES.
• BE SURE to bring this card back with you this coming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights and get it punched at the door as you leave.
• NOTE: This is your card and is not transfer able, so be sure to fill in your name and address.
Wed. Night _____ Thur. Night ______ Fri. Night ______
(Back of Card)
• We have obtained $4,000.00 worth of the very finest religious books which we are going to give away as attendance awards at the BIBLE AU DITORIUM LECTURES from time to time as announced.
• This card is being given to you on Sunday night. If you are back the following Wednesday, Thurs day, and Friday nights, you will be given one of these award books (value 12.00) entirely free of charge on Friday night.
•This FREE offer is to all adults and to children eight years of age or over. Tell others about these beautiful gift books and invite them also to come and take advantage of this free offer.
The card explains the plan, so you don't have to take time announcing the plan to newcomers each Sunday night. By his very attendance that Sunday night he already has one night to his credit. He will try to come Wednesday night. Then Thursday night it rains. But the award is half-earned he can't afford to miss now. Since we have launched this plan, our attendance on rainy nights is almost as large as on good-weather nights.
Yes, you have already thought of another thing, I am sure the increased attendance means an increased offering. So you pay for the award books out of increased income. You ask, But won't it hurt the bookstand sales? It may, but I believe it is far better to give two hundred books away every week (and get the money back in the offering) than to sell the books to a comparative few.
Another thing, you can pick the book you think your audience should be reading that week. What a blessing it was in Singapore a few months ago, after the trial by jury, to award The Marked Bible to all with perfect attend ance the following week!
As far as book sales are concerned, you can offer for sale the books already awarded as gifts, if you think best. Charge full retail price, of course, so that those who get the books as free awards will see how much they really are getting as an award. Naturally, the higher the price (within reason) the books sell for, the happier the people are when they are given a book after a week of perfect attendance.
At the week's close the cards are collected as the books are awarded. These attendance cards become an invaluable asset to the visitors in checking on the week-night attendance of the various attendants.
You can launch this plan about the third or fourth week of your series. Advertise it widely, "$ worth of books to be given away FREE." At the hall put on an impressive dis play of some of the books to be awarded.
Each Sunday night play up the new book in your announcement period. Have in the lobby of your hall a big display of the new books being offered. If people see and handle the books, they are more likely to be tempted to try to earn one. Have your award cards printed in different colors, so that you can change colors each week.
Then, if someone has tried hard and for some unavoidable reason failed to be present one night, be merciful. Let the visitor who is caring for that name see that the gift book finds its way into that home the following week. Very few ask for exceptions to be made, but there are a few worthy exceptions; and if you weaken just a little and err on the side of liberality, you will win a friend.
In the Singapore campaign we gave away nearly three thousand books. There is a way to keep people from permanently borrowing your songbooks offer a songbook as an award one week. That is what we did, and the result was one of the best week-night attendances we ever had.
There's the suggestion. Maybe it will help in your meetings, maybe it won't, but better to try and fail than not to try at all.