Countless rural churches provide refreshment booths at county fairs, fall festivals, and innumerable community events. They have pie booths, ice cream booths, turkey dinner booths, craft booths, and entertainment booths. The problem is, all these booths charge money for something. Churches are really there, not to share the Gospel, but to raise money. If somebody comes to church as a result, it’s a fringe benefit, but not the main point.

So my best advice to the rural church is to turn the strategy upside down. Don’t sell anything. Give it away free. The members will personally go to the expense of baking the pie, making the ice cream, and preparing the food. Then give it away free of charge … along with a Bible, or a printed prayer, or a logo of the church. Give it away! You will have more people at your booth. And more people will be so impressed by your love and generosity that they will be willing to come to your church just to try you out. The more you give it away, the more they will come around.

I once saw a church-run dunking booth at a county fair. The pastor sat above the tank of water. The church charged people a dollar to throw three balls at him. Now what would happen if the church paid people a dollar to throw three balls at him? My guess is that they would have a lot more people … a lot more fun … and a lot more notoriety in the community. Give them a flyer with the worship times, and they just might show up later.

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