This morning as I was heading to University Hospital here in Augusta for two early surgeries (my job is to pray, not to operate) my car radio was tuned to NPR. There I heard an interesting story about last night’s Emmy Awards show, which I did not watch since I watch so little television besides ball games, old movies, and news so it makes little sense to watch them hand out awards for shows I’ve never seen.
Anyway…the story was about the trend of “product integration” in television programs. As I understand it, product integration goes far beyond product placement. Product placement means that in a television episode you might see only Diet Coke cans and never Diet Pepsi cans. But product integration means that a particular product is woven into a series or into a story line in a way that is, as the purveyors of the practice like to put it, “organic and natural.” What they mean is that the product is not just seen in an episode but it is actually woven into the plot and the script. Companies are willing to pay to have their products used that way and production companies are willing to receive such money.
All of this got to me to thinking about the possibilities of product integration at church. After all, we live in lean and troubled economic times and we may need to find some ways to bring in additional revenue in order to get our message out about the Savior who had some pretty interesting things to say about the proper use of money.
What follows are some scenarios that I think might be effective. If you are a minister imagine yourself leading in such activities. If you are a church member imagine yourself participating in them.
We could solicit bids from the publishers of various Bible translations and editions to ascertain who would pay the most money for the use and promotion of their Bible in our services. The Bible publisher that has its bid accepted would have its Bible placed in the pew racks and in the pulpit and in all Sunday School classrooms. The person reading Scripture during a service would say, “Please turn in your Holman Study Bible, translated by Southern Baptists for Southern Baptists and published by LifeWay Christian Resources, to John chapter 3. And please remember this week’s special at LifeWay—you can find a link to it on our church website. Hear now the Word of the Lord.”
I doubt seriously that we could convince an organ manufacturer to pay to have an organ placed in our sanctuary. But, perhaps we could negotiate a reduced price if we agreed to weave the product into our ongoing church conversations. So, the pastor might just happen to uncover a trove of sermon illustrations that just happen to include Allen organs. Here’s an example: “I walked into the sanctuary the other morning and, just as I came around our beautiful Allen organ, I found a man praying at the altar.” Or, “Can you imagine what it will be like when we are all around the throne of God worshipping God forever and ever? I’ll bet that heavenly choir will sound as good as our choir does when it’s accompanied by our organist playing that wonderful Allen organ.” You get the idea.
Baptism requires water. If your church baptizes by immersion it requires a lot of water. Perhaps a bottled water company would agree to sponsor the baptism services. So, we could have the “Crystal Springs baptismal service” or the “baptismal service brought to you by Crystal Springs.” Naturally (not to mention organically), Crystal Springs water would be available at all church activities and dinners. Again, for this to be true product integration, Crystal Springs water would have to be woven into our ongoing conversation. So, the pastor might mention in the announcements that at next Saturday’s ministry day we will be taking Crystal Springs water to folks doing yard work in our neighborhood. Bible study leaders would be encouraged to throw in appropriate and not too obvious references to the product. For example, one might say, while discussing the Exodus, “You know, it would have taken a lot of Crystal Springs water to drown all those Egyptians” or, if talking about the story of the woman at the well, “I’ll bet if they had it back then Jesus would have specified Crystal Springs water when he asked the woman for a drink.”
When the pastor finishes a baptism, she could spread her arms and say, “See, here is Crystal Springs water—what is to prevent you from being baptized?”
The Lord’s Supper
Welch’s Grape Juice. It’s too easy—I can’t do it.
So you see, there are all kinds of ways to integrate products into our services and ministries. It would be challenging but it would be fun—and it might even be profitable, which is, after all, the point.
I know, I know—it sounds like we would be selling our birthright for a mess of Quaker Oats pottage, like we might lose more of ourselves than we would if we followed the Jenny Craig diet plan, or like we might end up feeling so dirty that even Dial body wash wouldn’t make us feel clean, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. In times, like these, maybe we just have to be as cunning as serpents (from which Black Jack brand snakeskin boots are made) and as gentle as doves (Have you washed your dishes today? Why not go back to the dependable Dove dishwashing liquid?).
[Please note: this post was brought to you by no one except my own imagination. Also please note: I have become painfully aware that some folks don’t recognize satire when they see it and don’t know when I’m trying to be funny. This post is satire and I’m trying, regardless of my success, to be funny.]