Hot Chocolate Day was a success!

southside mug on table

Last Friday, we experienced a great success in ministry. We served people free mugs of hot chocolate and coffee in front of Wal-Mart. It was a great experience.

It came to me on Black Friday

The whole idea came to me last year on the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday” as it has been called) while I was standing in line at a Best Buy store in the bitter cold of November in Chicago. I don’t even remember what was on sale that I thought was so important that I should wake up at 3:30 am and stand in line from 4 am until 5 am. I don’t remember what I was waiting for, but I remember how cold it was.

As I was standing there, I saw some people holding cups of coffee or hot chocolate, and I saw some ambitious types passing out flyers to the people standing in line, and I got the idea for a servant evangelism campaign. Servant evangelism, by the way, refers to a ministry where believers simply serve other people because the good news really is good news. It is nothing like traditional types of evangelism. It’s sharing the good news by doing something good for someone.

My idea was to go to the stores on Black Friday next year and give people a cup of hot chocolate with a little note saying that it was a free gift from our church. I thought about it because I was cold, and I really wish someone else had been walking down that row offering people free hot drinks!

Reality Is Sweeter than Dreams

This year, since I’m in the middle of a church planting venture and my level of freedom to take big risks has been expanded quite a bit, I determined that I wanted to put my plan into action. I shared the idea with our launch team, and even though we were all concerned about the possible expense of it all, the idea shifted from a me idea to an us idea.

The final idea was to purchase travel mugs with our name on them so that we were giving people something of value they could keep with them as they shopped rather than something they would look to dispose of quickly. We decided to set up a station in front of the newly opened Wal-Mart on Lafayette’s southside and to begin not at the “Black Friday” stampede time, but to go at 9 am when the shoppers would be less obsessed and might actually be able to stop and talk with us for a few minutes. We also decided to give away a $25 gift card to Wal-Mart so that we could entice people to fill out a registration card. Finally, we decided to have both hot chocolate and coffee available for people.

From that point on God worked all the pieces out perfectly:

  • The older Wal-Mart in town rejected our proposal, but Kris at the prime target new Wal-Mart told us that it was the coolest idea she had ever heard and thought it would be a great blessing to their customers that day.
  • Angie, the owner of the nearby coffee shop that donated coffee to our information meeting, agreed to also provide coffee for our giveaway. As we later discovered, she gave us her best coffee that day—coffee which retails for over $27 per pound!
  • ended up providing the best price for our mugs. We got them for under $3 each including a rush order, printing on both sides, and shipping! In fact, the mugs arrived two days early! About 5% of the mugs were damaged, missing or unusable, but we are still waiting to hear from the company if they will do anything about it. Nonetheless, the mugs we received looked great!
  • Jen and Katie (yes that Katie) washed nearly 550 mugs by hand to make sure that they were clean before we gave them to people filled with hot chocolate.
  • printed 1000 beautiful postcards for us at an awesome price so we could have some informational piece to hand out. Those came early too.
  • Laura and Kyle joined Jen and me at Wal-Mart while Jen’s mom came down to watch the kids.
  • Jen and her mom boiled maybe 30-40 gallons of water throughout the day, and both Jen and Laura took turns shuttling coffee and carafes back and forth to the Euro Cafe across the street.

At the end of the day

We arrived at Wal-Mart just before 9 am, and were passing out mugs of hot chocolate and coffee within minutes. By 5 pm, we had handed out over 500 southside church travel mugs, received 195 registrations for the gift card contest, and took $0 in donations despite a number of people who really wanted to give us money! We also got to meet a number of people who were really astounded that we were doing what we were doing, and a few of those people are currently looking for a church.

All in all, it was an incredible day. God kept us safe, gave us favor with Wal-Mart and Euro Cafe II, led people to our table, and even made sure we had all the mugs, postcards, hot chocolate mix and everything else that we needed to have a great day.

Oh, one more thing. I know I already mentioned it, but it really should be mentioned again. Jen washed 550 mugs, and boiled nearly 40 gallons of water in addition to shopping for the best hot chocolate mix, getting the tablecloths, getting huge insulated containers, and much more. Send her a note of appreciation if you can.