Methodists hit pubs in 11th commandment drive
The Methodist Church this week is seeking to overturn the traditional impression that it wants nothing to do with pubs by taking to bars across Britain to promote a phone text competition for under-40s.
In a campaign to discover what under-40s think are the pressing spiritual issues of the day, 250,000 drinks mats featuring six designs are being distributed by specialist marketers Thirsty's to 250 city and town bars frequented by students and under-40s.
There are six separate drinks mat designs, which include suggestions for a possible new 11th commandment: 'Stop war'; 'Reduce emissions'; 'Eat more donuts'; 'Remove all packaging'; 'Never give out your password'; 'Do not disturb'
This new wave of publicity follows half a million postcards that were distributed at the start of February in cinemas, colleges, students unions, cafÈs and bars by leading specialist marketing company Boomerang Media to launch the phone text competition.
Competition organisers, the Methodist Church together with satirical website Ship of Fools hope that under-40s might spend a few minutes thinking and maybe discussing what they would like to be the 11th commandment. More than 500 people have already sent in their entries.
The competition is being seen as the beginning of a dialogue between the Church and adults in their 20s and 30s.
Like other churches, Methodism has recognized lower numbers of this age group attending traditional church services. This is the first of a series of initiatives designed to help Methodist leaders to understand better the culture of under-40s and what they think about God.
Explaining the Methodist Church's reasons for holding the competition, the Rev Jonathan Kerry said: "The church has often been guilty of telling people what to think and also lacking a sense of humour. So we thought it was about time that we do the listening as well as have some fun. We can also be criticised for being out of touch with the under-40s. We hope that this can be a way of finding out some of the things that matter to them."
"We hope people will want to collect the drinks mats and postcards, discuss them with friends, and use the quick and popular medium of text messaging to tell us their ideas. This isn't about 'bums on pews' - there'll be no pressure to get further involved."
Simon Jenkins, Editor of shipoffools.com, said: "What is exciting about this competition is to take the 10 commandments out of boring buildings and put them on the street where they belong."
The drinks mats and postcards were designed by the Methodist Church Communication Office. The postcards were distributed nationally to 260 multiplex cinemas, 850 cafÈ bars and almost 370 universities and colleges. The competition concept was developed by a Methodist group chaired by Mr Kerry, the Church's Co-ordinating Secretary for Worship and Learning. The group included several people in their 20s and 30s.
To enter the competition, participants need to text ELEVEN plus the suggested 11th Commandment to 84880 (for example send 'ELEVEN Thou shalt not text and drive').
The best five commandments received by the closing date of 31 March 2004 will win a camera phone.
Later in the year the organisers hope to publish a book with the best competition entries. This will allow the Church to share what people say with a wider audience, said Mr Kerry.