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And here is your slinky

Before entering into officership, I worked for the Army for 15 years, and across both my employment and my service as an officer, I’ve attended hundreds of conferences and seminars.

At the majority of these, they either give you a small gift or you receive a ‘showbag’ with various items in it, often including merchandise from the key speaker or the company or department sponsoring the event.

Occasionally, it’s a stress ball or a key ring or a drink bottle or post-it notes, but most often, it’s a pen. I suspect if I’d kept all of these pens, I’d now have hundreds of them from a vast array of churches, interchurch groups, charities, government agencies and large corporations, and I could open a pen shop.

About 25 years ago, I attended a conference where the speaker said we were moving quickly to a paperless society as everything was going online, and if we didn’t get moving fast we’d be left behind with all the other agencies who refused to go digital. Then he gave us a pen as a gift.

Yep. A pen. I’m assuming it was to write a reminder on the back of my hand saying: ‘Stop using paper’.

What sort of gift should we give visitors who come to our church, as a way of saying both ‘welcome’ and ‘you should come back again because now we’ve given you a gift and you should feel guilty if you don’t come back’?

How about a frisbee? It’s fun, and playing with a frisbee alone doesn’t really work. You need others, you know, a community, a church. Of frisbee catchers. You could even print a Bible verse on it, perhaps Psalm 46:10 – “(Fris)bee still and know that I am God.”

Maybe something more practical, like, say, a Batman comic. You could staple a card to a corner of the cover saying: “Don’t just wait for a crisis, you can call on God anytime, bat-chum”, and include 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing, citizen.”

Personally, I think a slinky would be great. Tell them that with God on our side, we’ll always ‘spring back’ and give them a card quoting Psalm 85:11 – “Faithfulness SPRINGS up from the ground and righteousness looks down from the s(lin)ky.”

Perhaps we need to think more strategically. Let’s give a visitor 20 jigsaw pieces of a 200-piece jigsaw and say, “The next 20 pieces will be available next week, see you then!” and so on for ensuing weeks.

I remember an old soldier telling me years ago that during the Depression in the 1930s, his corps did a promotion offering each visitor that coming Sunday a gift. It said that every man would get a coat hanger and every woman an oven lighter. When people arrived for the meeting, the women received a match, and the men received a nail.

Alternately, let’s just give them a pen. We’ll include Colossians 4:3 – “And pray for us, too, that God may o-pen a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ …”

– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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