By Bob Buchanon
There are more people in the world that know about Coca-Cola than know about Jesus Christ and His gospel. All of us, individually and in the congregations, must become concerned and involved in trying to reach more people with as many scriptural methods of spreading the gospel as possible. The church in the first century saw the need of going to the people with the gospel. The apostles went to the temple area often to teach (Acts 3, 5) for that was where the people were. Paul often went to the synagogue in various cities he visited (Acts 13, 14, 17) and he entered the market place in the city of Athens (Acts 17:17).
Just as the Christians did in the first century, we must go to the people and not rely strictly upon people coming to us. Gospel meetings, lectureships, and other such public meetings that we have are very important (space is given to a discussion of improving these by other writers elsewhere in this paper), but the Lord ordered us to “go” not just to invite others to “come.” One such way of reaching more people is to have a booth at the city, county, or state fair. Literally thousands a day flock to the fair.
It has been my privilege to directly work with fair booths for three years and to assist about six churches in planning theirs. My interest in this program, basically, was founded on the principle that a study of God’s Word can do more to enrich an individual than any other form of study available today. The aim of the booth is to reach those persons who, for the most part, have not had an opportunity for such a study.
As soon as your decision is made to become involved in Fair Exhibit Evangelism, it is vitally necessary that you establish your main purpose and goals. The more time spent in constructive planning, the more fruitful the end result will be. The first thing one needs to do is to develop a theme. You might want to use a theme like God’s Work Is Today’s Only Hope, and when you speak to the people in the aisles who are concerned about what is happening to our nation and to our community and you feel that the only real hope that we have is found within the Word of God, then it will be easy to encourage people to study the Bible that they might be able to help themselves and direct their children. With the cooperation of Truth Magazine and Searching The Scriptures, we developed the theme An Unchanging Kingdom In A Changing World for use in our 1974 booth. In conjunction with the bicentennial, we chose The Truth Shall Set You Free. You can easily come up with good themes to suit your purposes.
Once you have established a main theme, try to select all your tracts, visual aids, courses, etc., to complement it. This type of approach will necessitate the use of a number of people to read and evaluate all the materials.
We used a variety of methods to interest the individual at the fair; some of which have been the use of two telephones with two-minute sermons, slide shows, tape recordings, wall charts, motion pictures, and the use of a special quiz machine that I own called I.Q. Computer which was tailored to suit our specific needs and desires with 64 different Bible questions. What will work in one location may not work in another. The methods used should have only the purpose of getting the people’s attention. Some things that I have not used yet, but keep storing the information for later years include: a closed circuit TV, a puppet show with Bible characters, Jule Miller’s film strips, advancing slides showing Bob West’s Theophilus cartoon character, and a “walk through” history of how we got our English Bible.
The basic design and cost of the booth, itself, is something that the individual working with the program should come up with and tailor to fit the surrounding area with which he is working.
Each year, I have tried to come up with some “crowd stopper.” What I mean by this is just some little simple Bible riddle or puzzle that you can use to walk up to someone and say, “Here is a little riddle that a lot of people here at the fair are really enjoying.” This serves several purposes: (1) It gets the people to stop in the isle long enough that you can at least begin a conversation with them, (2) It shows them that whatever it is that this booth is offering it is different from most of the others because it is free (3) It shows them that you have nothing to force on them.
After giving them the “stopper,” I can then procede with step two–getting them to fill out one of our religious survey cards. The only ones that refused to sign one of these were the ones that felt in the beginning that there was “some catch” to it. I have recommended saying something like: “We are taking a survey of the people visiting this year’s fair. If you would, we would certainly appreciate it if you would fill one of these cards out for us.” While working with the church in Pekin, Indiana, we had some ink pens printed with the address on the side for the Bible correspondence courses offered by the church and told the folks that upon the completion of filling out the survey card they could keep the pen. Our survey card began by asking such questions as: what church do you prefer to attend, how often do you attend, do you have any difficulty in understanding the Bible, and what subjects do you wish preachers would talk more about. The bottom of the card gives space for their name, address, and age and opportunity to sign up for Bible courses, bulletin, tracta-month, filmstrips, etc. The survey card will have to be designed to offer what is available from the church sponsoring the booth.
For a congregation considering undertaking a program of this nature, I would not recommend entering into it on a one-year basis. The first year’s program might not show the results that others have experienced that have done it for several years. We feel that if it is undertaken on a three-to-five-year basis, your diligence and patience will be rewarded.
Before noticing more about the specific function of the workers, let us mention a few things we should remember about our conduct.
(1) Be Friendly. Smile and speak to as many people as you can-even though they may not come into the booth. This may influence many more to come in and look around and favorably impress those who do not. Do not take it personally if they fail to visit your booth. If you will only observe, each person has only a few booths that he visits.
(2) Show Interest In People. Of course, you are interested in people or you would not be here. But concentrate on those that may come in to look around. Show by your actions that you are interested in them as people rather than “customers” or “statistics.” Workers should guard against becoming involved. in talking to one another so that they ignore the visitors.
(3) Invite Visitors To Take Literature. Literature should be displayed in the booth in racks or on tables. The only thing that we have used for mass distribution has been our “crowd stopper.” These are very inexpensive and it does not matter if many of them are later tossed on the ground. But with today’s prices for tracts, we do not want to see them destroyed. I have always encouraged the “take what interests you” approach. Inform the visitor that the tracts are there, they cover various subjects, they are free, and one may take any that interests them.
(4) Guard Against Being Negative. Be tactful and positive in your conversation. Do not try to arouse an argument by your comments or questions. Do not compromise the truth, but speak it in love. When strong questions arise, suggest that a study in their home where more time would be allowed would be more productive.
Function Of Workers
The number one objective of our booth is to interest that person to the point that we may form a contact with him to later save his soul. Remember, the worker must take the initiative. We must make the initial contact. Therefore, we must use the approach and contact method. As a visitor approaches the booth, step out and make the contact. Use a “crowd stopper” and explain the displays in the booth. For example, you will point to the recorded telephone messages and explain those. Next, point to the I.Q. Computer with a brief explanation. Then conclude by pointing to the literature in the booth, emphasizing that the literature is free. Finally, ask, “Would you like to step in and have a look at the booth?” Leave the visitor to visit the booth and to explore areas of his gown interest. But, still your work is not over. Keep a close eye on the visitor while he is in the booth. It may be that you can assist in some way or explain a question. I do not recommend “clergy uniforms,” but I have recommended that each worker in the booth wear black or blue pants or skirt with white blouse- or shirt. This lets the visitor know who to direct their questions to. As the visitor starts to leave, take a registration card and pencil or pen and ask the visitor to fill out the survey card. You have already been an assistance to him. Now ask him to do something for you.
People are going to the fair? Are you? A fair booth has been successful with as little as $50 and a 6 foot square floor area. You will have to work out your own plans. The Lord’s people must always work to destroy the works of Satan and exalt Jesus Christ. The fair is one place to utilize a new way of propagating the gospel. Good luck with your booth this year!
Truth Magazine XXI: 28, pp. 442-444
July 21, 1977