Macomb – Christians are told to “meet the people where they are.” St. Isidore Catholic Church in Macomb is living out this motto by meeting people in an unexpected place: the movies.
Now through next February, patrons at the Emagine Macomb Theater on 23 Mile Road will see a commercial before every movie inviting people to visit St. Isidore or go online for information. The theater is less than two miles from St. Isidore.
When a representative from Emagine approached the leadership of the church about advertising at the theater, the initial reaction was tentative. But they agreed to a meeting and soon found themselves intrigued by the statistics. Almost 80 percent of the population sees at least one movie a year, and 70 percent of those are under the age of 50—the demographic St. Isidore is most trying to reach.
“The more we thought about it, the more we realized it fit perfectly with our mission here of ‘bringing the word to the community,’” said Matt Kush, director of music and creative development at St. Isidore.
Kush notes that a movie theater delivers a captive audience that cannot skip ads as one can do online or when watching television. Since many movie-goers use their cell phones before the movie, the commercial invites viewers to go directly to the church’s website for a free t-shirt.
When movie-goers go to the website for the shirt, they’ll find a short message above the form, including a line that reads, “We hope that you will wear this shirt out to start conversations with others about God and share your faith with them.”
“The shirt offer is a simple call to action with no obligation,” said Kush. “If they wish, they may sign up to be on our email list or ask to be contacted. We plan to send email blasts once a month to give them something to chew on spiritually.”
The t-shirt is mailed with a brief card from the pastor, Fr. Ron Victor, inviting them to upcoming parish events, including Mass.
So far, the parish has received two t-shirt requests per week and all have checked the box to receive email blasts.
As Kush stated in an article in the parish bulletin before the commercial was released, “Emagine Macomb houses nine screens that show approximately five movies each per day and sees over 10,000 visitors each week. What a great place to send our message and invitation!”
The objective of the 30-second commercial, he says in the article, is to “get their attention, tell them who we are and why they should care, tell them where we are located, and give them a simple way to respond and remember us.”
“So many churches expect people to come to them, but we need to bring God’s word to them and expect nothing back,” Kush said. “We need to let them know that God is there for them.”
Last year, the parish began an increased effort to reach out to the community with new events to bring people to church beyond Sunday Mass, including a speaker and music series during Advent that drew hundreds of people each week. As a result, parish registration has gone up by 50 percent in recent months. New members who signed up online cite St. Isidore’s sense of community and welcoming environment as their main reasons for joining, in addition to location.
“We’re incredibly blessed to be at a church that does something like this,” Kush said. “It’s very out-of-the-box, but the congregation has been really positive about it.”
To view the commercial online, go to www.stIsidore.church or click on the link that accompanies this story on The Michigan Catholic website.