Monday, April 14, 2008

You get what you pay for--should churches charge for events?

I read an interesting article today on the psychology of price. One of the points of the article is that people often instinctively believe that higher priced items are better in quality. They also often will ignore or undervalue things that are free. See http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/apr2008/sb20080414_027855.htm?campaign_id=rss_smlbz.
On the second page of the article he indicates that churches would be better to "charge" for outreach events, even some nominal fee. Otherwise, people will ignore the event because it will be perceived to not be of much worth. On many church related things, this has been my experience as well. People are more likely to come to a marriage seminar or financial peace seminar if they have to pay a registration fee than if they do not. People value the Strengths Finder assessment when they have to pay for the book, even if at a reduced cost. Churches will value an outreach seminar more if they have to pay for it. We have a "free concert" for a Russian singing group on Sunday night at High Pointe. In retrospect, we probably would have more people come from the community if we had charged some kind of small admission fee.
This is a delicate balance for churches to walk. If a church overcharges, they will be viewed as being after people's money. But if they charge something reasonable, ironically, more people will usually come and more people will be reached.
Why do we place a higher value on expense things?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

James- I remember 1 thing from my economics teacher in high school- "tinstafl" (there is no such thing as a free lunch). I have found this to be true. We equate the term "cost" with money, but it can also mean time, character, etc..

When some event is of value, but there it is FREE, red bells and sirens go off in our heads. When you go to "look" at owning a time share condo, they give you a "free" 2 night stay with a few "free" shows. My wife will tell you, although we didn't pay financially for the hotel stays and shows, we did pay with our time and frustration level (not that all time-share condo people are bad).

When your church brought the singing group in, how about charge a fee (publicize that half of the money goes to a local charity or a charity within your church)?

Also, the culture and economic climate around your church affects whether people will not respond to "Free" events. In a poorer area, people may be more open to attending free events,etc.

As my friend "J-dog" (James Nored circa 1980) says, the gospel calls us to a life of sacrifice ( a cost). Many tv preachers just preach about getting your raise, nice car, bigger house, being happy because God wants you to be happy period. BUT, those certain tv preachers don't talk about "cost" or "sacrifice."

Matt B

JB said...

James,
In our society today we hear that nothing is free. Why can't we as a church be different and show them that what we have is already paid for. We need to be able to share the gospel at no financial charge to those who need to hear it. Ultimately it's not about filling an auditorium because an event was "percieved" to be worth a fee. But let's work with those who do show up. In my experience in the retail world EVERYONE wants something for free. With today's economy they are finding that often times they will get it. Another lesson from the retail world...just because it's expensive doesn't mean that it is quality. You are right, there is a balance. I like Matt's comment about if events are charged for, that the money is donated to charity or missions. Maybe another option is donations. Let the event goers put their price on it. Great subject!
Thanks.
-JB

Tara said...

Wow. Why we place a higher value on expensive things...huge topic. I won't even dive into that one, or I'll be typing all night.

Great post. Preach on, Brother J-dog.

jeremy said...

If something is free, it's no big deal to miss it because you're not losing anything. If you've paid and decide not to participate/attend, then you've wasted your money. This thinking is independent of the actual value of whatever the event or occasion is.

I've sung in a volunteer choral group that gave free programs. I think people within the church who are used to going to these events for free may not continue to go, even if it was a small fee. However others in the community (granted you get the word out) may be more inclined to attend.

My experience is that marriage and financial seminars have usually have some cost associated them through some sort of book or workbook, or kit. I think that makes a difference.

A final side note: I read a long thread once on a church web designer's blog that asked if the church web site is a ministry (volunteer) or just another expense like building a building or a sign (paid). This thread of comments eventually led in the same direction as your post, what is the value of free?

Mr. E said...

Our church has offered "free events" and pay events in the past. Surprisingly more people come to the pay events. Didn't know that until a deacon told me. This was true for most of our events except the "Trunk or Treat" event on Halloween.

Anonymous said...

As Christians, we should see that there is great value in free...

Ephesians 1:5-7 (New International Version)

5 He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace


As for church ministries, I don't think there would be anything wrong to charge a fee to cover costs, but not as a marketing strategy. If at all possible, our focus should be on those who are less fortunate, even if we risk seeming less worthwhile to others.

Thanks for the opportunity to voice an opinon. Great topics on your blog!

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Mr. E said...

James -- Have you read about the "Church of Oprah"? If not you should check on this. Read my blog for more info about this "new" religion of Oprah's. I want to hear your blog thoughts about it.-- Mr. E