Publicizing Your Children’s Series
When planning a series of children’s meetings, much thought should be given to methods of advertising your campaign. Obviously you cannot expect children to attend if they do not know of your meetings; therefore a good publicity campaign should be conducted. The purpose of this article is to offer some helpful suggestions as a guide in this planning.
In most centres, the results of radio or newspaper advertising do not warrant the heavy expense. Handbills distributed from door to door are often discarded before their message is conveyed to interested children.
Attractive blotters, distributed to children in the vicinity of schools, are in most cases effective in announcing meetings. However, the ball point pen has lessened the demand for blotters among students.
On occasion, we have used a card, printed in the form of a ticket, which states that the bearer and friends will be admitted free to “Happy Hour Meetings”. Children like to get something for nothing and so will not be inclined to discard a ticket which they think is of some value.
There is an advantage in allowing space on the back of the card for the child to write his name, address and age. This will save time in registration work and will help you to retain an accurate permanent record of all those who attend. As an added inducement you may offer a prize for bringing the card, properly filled out.
In preparing the card or blotter, use words which will appeal to the child’s mind. For this reason we suggest using some title for the series, such as Happy Hour, rather than colorless expressions like, Children’s Gospel Meetings, or, Special Meetings for Boys and Girls. The use of Happy Hour will often reach those who normally would not be inclined to attend religious services, or those who might not be permitted to come because of religious bias. A word of caution should be added here: let your advertising maintain the dignity and restraint which should characterize the work of the Lord.
When distributing the advertising matter, be sure to display a cheerful smile and a happy mien which will make a favorable first impression on the kiddies. Also, whenever possible, try to catch the name of as many children as you can, without asking them directly. This may be done by a quick glance at the books they are carrying, or by hearing some other child call to them. You will be pleasantly surprised at the way children will be drawn to you when you address them by name. Once you make a favorable contact with a child, try to induce him to bring his pals with him to the meetings.
Be constantly on the alert to prevent a child from corralling a handful of blotters or tickets; there is no point in needlessly wasting your advertising. The writer usually holds only one or two dozen cards in his hand, concealing the remainder in an inside coat pocket. If the children begin crowding in an unruly manner, give out the cards in your hand and then stop until order is restored.
Tom Wilkie and James Gunn (of the editorial staff of Food for the Flock) were engaged in pioneer work in a small Ontario town some years ago. When adult interest in the campaign waned, they decided to try children’s meetings.
Brother Wilkie obtained a supply of Gospel medals and took his stand near the schoolyard gate just at dismissal time. Without saying a word, he allowed the medals to run slowly through his fingers from hand to hand. Soon he was surrounded with youngsters, attracted by the glitter and tinkle of the medals on display.
“Gimme one, Mister!” shouted one. “May I please have one, Sir?” asked another, more politely.
He maintained his sphinx-like silence until the corner was packed with curious, clambering children. Then he announced the meetings, promising a medal to each child who would come. That evening there was a large and attentive audience, yet advertising expense was negligible.
Undoubtedly, the best form of promotion is to contact the children through other children. Use those who come to your Sunday School as a means of reaching their friends. Various contests and prizes may be employed to get the children working to bring others to your meetings. Be sure, though, that the children work to win, because rewards which are earned too easily are not appreciated. Develop a spirit of competition among the children and watch your attendance grow.
Some months ago, I was standing outside a school in Minneapolis, waiting to distribute announcements of our meetings. As the first children came out of school I tried to sell them on the idea of coming to the services, but they did not seem to be enthused.
Just then I caught sight of a girl whom I recognized as having come to similar meetings two years previously. When another girl said, “Hello, Ruth”, as she passed, I was quick to pick up her name.
“Hi, Ruth!” I said, “Do you remember the Treasure Chest we had at the children’s meetings two years ago?
At first she looked puzzled, but soon recalled who I was and her face broke into a sunny smile. “Oh, it’s Uncle Ernie!” she exclaimed. “Sure, I remember; and I liked the stories we heard too. If you are having more meetings, I will be there tonight.”
She not only came, but she brought others with her. Working enthusiatically, she won first prize in the contest for building up the attendance. One night she brought twenty, I believe, to the meeting, including several adults who had never before been inside the hall. I feel confident that the precious seed of the Word, planted in the heart of this dear girl, will eventually become fruitful in her salvation.
When children come to your meeting for the first time, speak kindly to them and welcome them without making them feel conspicuous. If possible, let them sit with friends whom they might recognize in the audience. Try to call these newcomers by name a few times and be sure to bid them good-bye at the closing, saying that you hope to see them again the next evening.
More is accomplished through fewer children, if they come regularly night after night, than through a large crowd that comes once but never returns. Strive, however, to have the largest possible number attending the most possible nights.
Scripture assures us that in all labor there is profit, so put forth your best effort toward increasing your attendance.