Prizes for attending church?

A church in Georgia has come up with a great new idea to get people to come to church: A gas card giveaway. Yes, worshipers are being lured in by the possibility of winning one of two $500 gas cards being given away by First Baptist Church of Snellville.

Church attendance is generally a good idea, but if someone has to offer a prize in order for you to show up, I think you've got problems. Are we really that pathetic of a generation? It used to be a foregone conclusion that you went to church in order to pray, worship, and be a part of a religious community. Now people are only going if they can win material goods?

The church's pastor defends the giveaway by saying that the gas card giveaway is not just about luring people into the church. He says that the church also wants to help people meet their physical needs, and help with purchasing gas is one of those needs.

There has been plenty of publicity due to this promotion, and the pastor says they even had to add an extra phone line to handle all the inquiries by potential church members. I guess I must be old school when it comes to church. If you have to create a gimmick, make the church service into an entertainment venue, or otherwise bribe people to show up, there is something wrong. Church is about faith and worship, not prizes and play.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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