Monday, July 07, 2008

Water Bottle Ministry

Probably some of you have already given out (free) water bottles, but I want to share my experience with this ministry to help those of you who might try it in the future. We received permission to give out water bottles from the Wal-Mart in Oakland, TN, and we proceeded to do so this past Saturday, July 5th. We were required to set up our tables at least 15 feet from the two main entrances. Three of us were near one entrance, and four were near the other entrance. We had put labels on close to 200 bottles, not knowing how many we would be able to distribute during the allotted time. The labels had a photo of our podium with an American flag (a nice touch on a fourth of July weekend), our street address, phone number, website address, times for worship and Sunday School, and an invitation to attend. We set out our American flag near the busiest entrance, and all of us wore red shirts with our mission name on them. Seven men, including me, distributed the bottles. I was surprised that so many people were willing to take a bottle. Maybe 70% of the folks to whom we offered a bottle did take one. We distributed all our bottles in the first 30 to 45 minutes, so I had to buy more bottles inside Wal-Mart. Altogether, we distributed about 480 bottles from 12:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The weather was cooperative—very hot and no rain. Many people were thirsty. After we ran out of bottles with labels, we gave out the newly-bought bottles along with flyers with our address, etc. on them. Eventually we ran out of flyers and gave out only the bottles. Several people seemed interested enough to ask questions, and we felt like the bottle distribution helped us immensely in getting the word out about our church plant. In short, we plan on doing it again later this summer, and we will prepare about 500 bottles with labels. Oakland has been the fastest-growing community in the state of Tennessee, but there are no ballgames on the weekends during the summer. It is difficult to find a crowd of people on a Saturday to whom we can distribute materials about our church plant, so this ministry was an efficient use of our time. We have found that fewer people come to the door when we do our door-to-door survey in the summer months.

Some logistical details: We had to turn in a letter with our church plant letterhead to Wal-Mart requesting permission to distribute bottles. We used two very large coolers, each of which could contain 100 water bottles plus ice. My impression is that the most inexpensive way to do this is to print the labels myself. I used full sheet labels, and I would cut them in half. It takes a half-page label to wrap around the bottle and provide enough room for our information. My ink-jet printer made nice labels, but they would smear when they were rubbed while wet. I could put three bottles in a large zip-lock bag, and this system kept them dry while in the cooler. After removing them from the cooler, however, they perspired and became wet. I didn’t notice any smearing when I saw them in people’s shopping carts, so apparently they were not rubbed after people received them. There are weather-proof labels for laser printers available that might solve this problem.