Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Churches Can Learn from a Beer Commercial

Latest Guinness beer commercial has heart and tells a
story that we should all pay attention to.
Photo: BBDO New York
There is much buzz on the internet today regarding a new commercial for Guinness beer. This is not your typical beer commercial where they show scantily-clad women on the beach and me yucking it up with a note on the bottom of the screen to “drink responsibly.”  No, this one is different. It has a surprise twist at the end. While it doesn’t show Clydesdale's or Dalmatians, it has heart. Watch it below and then let’s continue…


The ad created by BBDO New York begins with soft piano music and shows six many playing basketball. Then we see that they are all in wheelchairs. Watching them play is pretty impressive, but you think that it’s not very realistic. Where did they find six who can play basketball in wheelchairs? Then you see that only one of them actually needs the wheelchair. He is the only one who is considered handicapped. The voice over announcer speaks: “Dedication. Loyalty. Friendship. The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” That’s it. It’s so powerful and yet simple.

Here we see a group of friends who instead of making the “odd man out” conform to five other’s “rules,” they instead choose to conform to his. Instead of the five “healthy” men tolerating the “handicapped” man’s viewpoint, they instead embrace it.

For centuries, churches, like society at large, have put labels on people and fit them into boxes. In recent years, churches all around the country have started holding car shows at their church during Father’s Day weekend. The motive behind this is to be used as an outreach to the community and to make church more palatable for men. Many churches women’s ministries focus on crafts for the same reasons. These are both valuable, but what churches fail to see is that not every man is “into” cars and not every woman wants to scrapbook. God has made us all different, and yet to the church, men and women has specific roles, desires, likes and dislikes and that is just the way it is. These ministries are great if you fit that mold, but if you don’t, you’re the odd man or woman out.

If you’re a single mother working during the day, you can’t be a part of the weekly morning Bible study. If you’re a man who isn’t a football fan, you won’t get much out of an afternoon with the guys at the field. If you don’t “journal” as part of the private Bible study time, there might be something wrong with you. This of course is not the message the church is trying to send to its’ members, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t receiving it anyway.
Some churches focus on a 60 second “greeting time” during the service where everyone is supposed to turn around and shake hands with someone they’ve never met. While the gesture is usually genuine, the experience is can uncomfortable for everyone involved. The purpose of course is to build community. Regular churchgoers can go home with a smile on their face knowing that they “met” someone new that day, while the new person goes home alone  not feeling any better than they did when they came.

Despite what we want to think, the solution for making people feel a part of church isn’t an easy one. Making friends and true connections is not easy for many people. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically feel like you belong if you attend a women’s event, but that is how many churches think.

Many churches are afraid of mixing up the genders for some reason, but the ones that do, seem to have stronger ministries. Take a choir for an example. It is well considered that anyone can join the choir whether they are a man or a woman. There is room for anyone who wants to attend. Even if you don’t sing that well, you’ll have others around you to help lift you up. So, why can’t men be a part of a book study or women be a part of a woodworking group? Why do we need to label everything as a “men’s” or “women’s” ministry?

Finally, this isn’t to say that churches should abolish their traditional ministries, but instead, create new ones. Lots of new ones. A group doesn’t have to have hundreds of members to be considered a ministry. People who go to home groups already know this. Anyone who attends a men’s breakfast or a women’s luncheon are well aware of those who don’t “fit in” for some reason. Instead of expecting others to fit in with us, why aren’t we trying to figure out how we can fit in with them?

What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss.

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