Back in the sixties Esso ran a promotion with the slogan ‘Put a Tiger in Your Tank’ to encourage drivers to fill up with Esso petrol (gas). Garages were giving customers stickers and tiger’s tails, but it was the kids who wanted them, including me. There was only one problem. Esso was more expensive than the alternatives and my father was not going to put a tiger in his tank so that I could have a tiger’s tail. Then one of my friends discovered that an Esso garage on our cycle route to the beach would give stickers and tiger’s tails to kids on bikes. The next Saturday we kids turned up en-masse and persuaded the garage attendant to part with his giveaways without any purchase of fuel.
Fast forward fifty years and I can’t remember when I last received a freebie when purchasing fuel, other than Nectar points. I did come across a garage in York with a rather unique gimmick to attract drivers, in addition to competitively priced fuel. The Daleks on the roof caught my attention. Inside the garage I found stormtroopers and other life-sized figures from the world of science fiction. I don’t know if the science fiction theme attracts local drivers, but it made me want to return next time I visit York and need fuel.
Should church take a lesson from the world of commerce and use gimmicks to attract new attenders? I was surprised to hear this week that some churches give out coffee mugs to first timers, while others hand out goody bags. The church my family call home has no such goodies to distribute, but does provide free coffee and tea to everyone before and after each Sunday morning service. Some of our members believe this to be a gimmick, but feedback suggests that most people consider hot drinks on arrival to be part of the overall welcome, which is something our church seems to do well.
Unfortunately it will take more than a cup of coffee or tea in the foyer to put a tiger in the tank of the majority of those who sit in church Sunday after Sunday. But isn’t that what church should be doing? Surely being in church should be a transforming wall shaking experience that results in an explosion of joy? Shouldn’t worshipping God together result in radiant Christians heading out into the world to face the week with much more than tigers in their tanks? If it did, then we wouldn’t have enough coffee and tea to quench the thirst of those queuing to join us in worship each week.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV