Eight years ago I was pastoring a small church in Ashland Ohio. The church was one year old and we had around 50 people at the time. We wanted to do something BIG for an Easter outreach so we dropped 10,000 eggs from a helicopter and we emptied our checking account to do it. It cost us $3500 and 3500 people came. Watch the video below.
It became THE memory maker for many that were in our church at that time to this day. I still watch the video with tears in my eyes but I’d be doing those considering doing one of these events a disservice by leaving out what I know now as a result. Below are a few good and bad things I learned from it.
1. I found out that everybody reads the local newspaper in a small town.
When I spoke with a local person about how to market our event I was informed that the paper was my best bet. I was almost certain this wouldn’t work but it did. If you’re in a small town they take pride in their paper. Use it if you want to get a message to the people.
2. It taught our young church dependency on God in prayer.
We prayed hard that God would control the temperamental weather because of how much we’d put into this event. A big storm front came out of nowhere but the sun broke through a small hole in the sky for one hour. God was, and always is, good. He doesn’t always answer prayers like this but in this case we cried out to Him in faith and He responded.
3. Doing a big outreach event gave our young church a feeling of purpose.
We only had 50 people attending at the time of the event but 75 showed up to help. It was something that brought our people together and gave us energy, momentum, and the idea that God was using us and the event in a significant way.
4. It brought our city together.
Ashland is a small college town in North Central Ohio with a population of 20,000 people. Having 3500 show up was a large percentage of the city and it felt like the whole town was there. Back then it was still a creative thing to do and the whole town talked about it for a while.
5. It created a moment and a very powerful memory.
It taught me the power of a moment. Making memories and moments for people is something that often gets overlooked but a little thought and creativity can place a seemingly small happening in the glory days category.
1. All the eggs broke when they hit the ground.
This one doesn’t need an explanation other than the fact that it was unfortunate.
2. Bad weather could potentially cost you thousands and credibility.
The helicopter operator was there from three hours away and it was going to cost us whether we would have to have rescheduled due to inclement weather. Not to mention it was the Saturday before Easter so there was no reschedule to be made.
3. The parents behaved worse than the kids.
You can’t tell a parent not to let their kid go somewhere their not, at least we didn’t think so at the time. There were parents cursing at kids and pushing them down and out of the way and we almost called it because of them.
4. Hundreds of people left angry.
It was fiercely competitive which meant that 20% of the kids got 80% of the eggs. The added trouble was that some of the eggs had tickets for big prizes in them. Some kids left with bruises but no tootsie rolls.
5. No one came to church as a result.
I can’t say that it wasn’t an effective event but it didn’t have the pay off we thought it would have. We had a good number for Easter the following day but no one indicated they were there because of an invitation from the event.
6. The potential for harm and/or injury was ridiculously high.
I’ll explain more about this below.
I grew up in a church where we had church buses pick up people (mostly kids from lower income neighborhoods) for church. I’ll never look down on this ministry because my dad and his entire family came to church on a bus and gave their lives to Jesus. My grandfather was the last to go with them on the bus. He not only became a follower of Jesus as a result of this church’s outreach, but he also surrendered to pastoral work. There’s a strong likelihood I wouldn’t be writing this post, or even in existence, if that hadn’t happened.
My dad was a pastor over a bus ministry at a large church in Cincinnati Ohio when I was in grade school. It was a large church with over 100 buses. I think half of the church attendance on any given Sunday came by way of a bus. After all the fist fights, injuries, wrecks, and lawsuits, most churches don’t have bus ministries anymore. That doesn’t mean churches have to stop doing outreach altogether, but let’s just admit that it’s wise to kill off programs that run their course.
Ideas have a shelf life.
Here are 4 reasons why churches should stop doing the helicopter egg drop:
There’s nobody on the planet that has a better message than the gospel. Because of this, churches should be committed to finding the best and most appropriate telling and retelling of that story. What worked for one generation does not mean it will work for the next. Being consistent with our message of the gospel is good, but being predictable, routine, mundane, and boring is not.
We had the fire department, police, and an ambulance at our event in 2011 that I’d mentioned previously. The fire chief was going to call it by sounding the siren if things started to get bad. I was standing by him with a megaphone in my hand and heard him count 14 kids that were potentially being trampled. Thankfully, they all got up without injury but harming children AND damaging the testimony of a church in one fell swoop is always ill advised.
3. Tyranny of the “Annual Event”
Just because you did an event last year doesn’t mean you ever have to do it again. I actually recommend against doing any large event two years in a row because of the potential of it becoming an annual thing. Let that awesome event breath. If it was as awesome as you thought it was a couple years later, than by all means, consider doing it again!
4. It doesn’t work.
Maybe your church is the exception, but the people that come to the “egg drop” usually don’t plan on coming to church the following day. Don’t think that there aren’t wins from an event like this though. The church serving the community is always a good thing even if you can’t count lives changed. Also, the church is called to give away what God has given us and we leave the results up to Him.
In the end, this program was great but has run its course. I’m all about churches doing community outreach but the dropping of easter eggs from a helicopter is kind of like the boy band that should have retired 10 years ago. I would never advise a church to halt their outreach programs but I am suggesting switching it up for something new.