Monday, January 14, 2008

stalked by a church

Old Hat has a post up called "Baptists of the Corn." I can relate to part of his story and I'd like to send you over there to read him, but first let me share our stalked by a church story:

Several years ago we too visited a church once and then felt stalked from that point forward. And, yes, by the end of the first week the attention was just plain creepy and we never went back. I can no longer remember the exact sequence of visits, calls, and gifts, but I'm sure my kids will recall that week and I'll make corrections as needed. This wasn't a small town church either. We were living in a large city.

We had decided to visit during their Saturday night service because we thought this would be a good time to get a feel for the church and it's people. The service was OK and we might have gone back for another visit - except for their subsequent follow up. Our mistake was filling out a visitors card. After this experience, we have never made that mistake again. If a church wants to catch us visiting, someone had better notice when we're there because we are not going to leave a paper trail again.

It began on Monday when we received a phone call thanking us for visiting, which I thought was a nice touch at that time.

Tuesday we received a package of information about the church in the mail. We were good with this too and commented on how prompt they were to send out information.

Then, on Wednesday, I returned home to find a gift bag by our front door with a plastic bag of homemade cookies in it and more information about the church. This started to creep me out. Although I'm fairly certain that the church outreach team wasn't trying to poison us, I also did not know these people or who made the cookies. A small town might be able to get away with sharing homemade baked goods, but in a city, cookies follow the "candy from strangers" rule as far as I'm concerned. Over the years I've met some very kind people who have kitchens that are disaster areas. Additionally in the mail Wednesday we received even more information.

I believe this is the day the initial fund raising information started being sent to us.

Thursday is very likely the day we had another large information packet with a VHS tape mailed to us The tape may have presented the complete fund raising program information and explained why this newly built church needed a 2+ million dollar expansion. We had written instructions that informed us that after viewing the tape we were to return it to the church so they could share the exciting news with others. Our problem was that we didn't have a working VCR and couldn't watch the exciting news on the tape. This likely didn't matter because we were inundated with fund raising information from that time forward.

While other organizations might look at taking all those homemade cookies and having a bake sale to start raising money, I was a bit shocked to see this church ask in the fund raising information to be named as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. They included information on how to get a home equity loan and donate the money to the church. They called themselves a life changing church but it looked more like a life charging program from our perspective. My son, Wonder Boy, called their fund raising plan a "give like you're rich quick scheme" which just about sums it up.

We never set foot in that church again but continued to receive requests for donations for probably 2 or 3 years afterwards.

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