Hugging Our City

Recently, our church was profiled in Outreach Magazine regarding an outreach we’ve been doing in our community for the last several years. It’s been a hit each year, and our congregation and community both love it.

For Valentine’s Day, our church buys bags of Hershey’s Hugs, thousands of ziplock snack bags, confetti, and printed business cards with our “Hug” graphic.

We assemble these bags during a church fellowship time, putting 3 Hugs in each, a small spot of confetti, and a card.

We then bag up 25 of these into plastic grocery bags, and give them to our members to distribute on Valentine’s Day.

The goal is for each person in the church to distribute Hugs in meaningful ways. We specifically targeted people who were working in stores, restaurants, and other places of service. The reason for this was to be a blessing to those who were having to sacrifice their own time to make sure others had a good holiday.

How it impacts the community

The results have been wonderful. We’ve received so much positive feedback that we almost couldn’t keep up with it. Phonecalls came in, our website traffic went through the roof, stories from our saints about people shedding tears at the kindness… a few of the workers, cashiers, waitresses and waiters that got a “hug” actually came back and returned it with a real hug with tears in their eyes.

Our church attendance generally picks up immediately after this campaign, whether from direct contact, or simply as a by-product of “sowing seed”. We don’t always reap “where” we sow, but the law of the harvest is that we always reap “what” we sow. These workers return home and share our church’s kindness with other people, and our church has been blessed because of it. We have a very good reputation in our community not only because of this outreach but because of the consistency in doing this type of outreach.

How it impacts our church

We can’t begin to explain the impact this outreach alone has had on our own people. Because of the low-confrontation nature of such an outreach, it has given confidence to people who were hesitant to be public about their faith previously. People that never thought they could do evangelism have become the biggest contributors. People who had negative experiences with rejection and vowed not to do outreach again (it’s true) now do personal evangelism consistently as a personal ministry. Our members requested to modify the card from saying, “Have a great Valentines Day” to just “Have a great day” so they could give more out all through the year. One of our ladies has taken it on as her personal ministry and regularly assembles and gives these bags away. She’s making a difference in people’s lives!

And a twist

Every “Hug” package that our church gives out has a link to www.HugGrandRapids.com on the business card, and encourages people to, “Pass it On… Send a virtual hug to a friend”.

We registered the Hug Grand Rapids domain name and designed and built a website that allows people to visit it, type in an email, name and message to a friend, and send them a “virtual hug”. The site emails a “hug” to the friend with a link back to the site, where that person can, in turn, send a hug to other people. The site has a running tally of how many hugs have been sent. Every email carries a link that says, “Sponsored by the Pentecostals of Kentwood” which promotes our church’s website.

This year, we’ll again give hug packages on Valentine’s Day at our local restaurants, shopping malls and hospitals. We’re hoping that the website will continue year-round because of its novelty, and will be a constant reminder and advertisement for our church.

So… there you have it… this is our Hug Grand Rapids campaign!

Resources

For anyone looking for supplies, here is an incredible price for 3×5 ziplock bags from uline…
http://www.uline.com/ProductDetail.asp? … 93&ref=208

…and here is an equally incredible price for crinkle-paper (confetti)…
http://www.uline.com/Browse_Listing_190 … ds=packing

…and here is a link to purchase Hugs from Walgreens (generally cheaper than bulk online)…

http://www.walgreens.com/store/product. … od2499555#
$.33/oz, which coverts to $5.28/lb

Author: Jay Jones

Jay is an author, veteran church planter, speaker, and the pastor of the Pentecostals of Kentwood. He's a passionate worshipper of Jesus Christ, a husband, daddy, pastor, and a ‘pretty good guy’. Jay is also an ordained minister of the United Pentecostal Church, where he currently serves as a Presbyter in West Michigan.

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