Friday, June 18, 1999
sponsorship of churches: It's an idea whose time has come
By DAVID EPPS
I think it's an idea whose time has come! In small ways, it's already happening in the church world.
Many years past, in my first church in Carter County, Tennessee, I found a little brass plaque screwed into a pew. As I bent down to read it, I saw, In Memory of Tom Smith - by the Joe Smith Family. Once alerted, I found little brass plates on nearly every pew.
And then I noticed the stained glass windows. Every one said, In Memory of... or In Honor of... and given by someone or another.
In fact, all the hymnals, the baptismal font, the pulpit, and every other piece of furniture, including the light fixtures and the guest book, were given as memorial gifts. The name of the church was N. G. Taylor Memorial Methodist Church.
I assumed that old N. G. was a local hero or a Methodist bishop. Nope. He was the man that gave the couple of acres of land where the church was built. Whether someone suggested, or he demanded, that the church be named after him, I know not. But old N. G. is long gone and the church remains, a testimony to the power of well-heeled donors.
In Florida recently, I watched a television broadcast of a local church service. At the end of the program, the list of sponsors rolled. Yep, the sponsors. The preceding broadcast has been brought to you by the following businesses...
Not that I am unfamiliar with sponsorship and memorial gifts. Most of the really nice and expensive altarware, paraments, hymnals, and prayer books in our church have been given as memorial gifts. And, some years, ago, I produced a church newsletter that was paid for by the advertisements of local businesses.
Which all brings me to the following suggestion: Corporate sponsorship of churches and church activities.
Which of us has not seen the Sunkist Orange Bowl or the Outback Bowl? I mean, the major colleges have seen corporate sponsorship of the venerated bowl games (for a princely sum, I might add) so, why not? Corporations spent zillions of bucks sponsoring the Olympic Games in Atlanta recently, so a pattern is well-established. Universities, too, bow to the dollar by naming entire buildings after wealthy benefactors.
Churches would never have to worry about financial considerations again! Pastor's salaries could go up. Why, some churches might even be able to give year-end rebates on tithes!
The largest churches, of course, would garner the best sponsorships. We could have the Delta Mount Paran Church of God or the Coca-Cola First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Competition could raise rates with the Diet Pepsi Presbyterian Church, the American Airlines Methodist Church, or the Snapple Episcopal Parish.
Smaller communities would benefit as well. Churches that emphasize convenience could become the 7-11 Community Chapel while the seeker-sensitive congregation could have it their way at Burger King Congregational Fellowship. Congregations meeting in a funeral home could become the Carmichael-Hemperley Charismatic Episcopal Church, and on it could go. Businesses that couldn't afford to sponsor a whole church by, say, building a new sanctuary, could still sponsor a portion of the services:
Would you stand up and shake hands with those around you? As AT&T says, Just reach out and touch someone.'
Or the pastor could announce, Mary's special solo today is brought to you by Benson's Music Shop, which also provided today's excellent sheet music.
Baker and Baker, CPA's Unlimited, remind you to invest in the kingdom first, then invest with them. Our offertory hymn is....
This Holy Communion today is courtesy of Paul Masson, and like them, we never serve the wine before it is time (or Welch's Grape Juice for those who prefer traditions only a few generations old)
Our closing prayer is brought to you this morning by Sam's Steakhouse who would like to remind you that a current church bulletin gets a 10 percent discount each and every Sunday after church before 2:30 p.m. Let us pray.
Well, you get the idea. But it doesn't have to stop there! The choir could be robed in beautiful attire with the Nike check mark on the front, the pastor could wear a tie with a huge STP logo or, maybe, an Exxon symbol. The youth pastor, the wild one of the bunch anyway, could have multiple sponsors and be clothed like a NASCAR driver to help pay his salary.
Little golden arches could decorate the acolytes garb, while the overheard projector, found most often in charismatic churches, could sport a little, but prominent, Dr. Pepper symbol in the lower right hand corner.
Even certain sermons could be sponsored: Divine Protection - sponsored by the National Rifle Association; Would A Man Rob God? - the Pinkerton Detective Agency; Prosperity Is Yours! - sponsored by the Amway Corporation; Cast Your Cares Upon Me - by the Consumer Credit Counseling Service; Healing the Pain in Your Life - brought to you by the Bayer Corporation; Give No Thought for Tomorrow, sponsored by the Democratic Party; or Render Unto Caesar, sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service.
Just think of the money that could be made! Think of all the good that could be done! Corporation logos on church signs; church bulletins with ads on the back; the possibilities are limitless! Anyway, it's just a thought. Besides, what could it hurt? [Father David Epps is rector at Carmichael-Hemperley... no, wait! That should be Christ the King Church, Peachtree City, GA. He may be reached online at CTKCEC@aol.com.