Believe again: New UM commercials emphasize prayer power

3/31/2006

(UMNS) The United Methodist Church has launched a national advertising campaign encouraging people to “believe again” in the power of prayer.

The ads, which started March 29, will run through April 15. The new television spot, titled “Prayer,” is the latest element of the church’s ongoing media campaign, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”

In the television spot, a boy carefully writes a note on a piece of paper, then grabs a kite and heads outside. He attaches his note to the kite and sends it into the sky. As he brings the kite back to earth, he gazes heavenward, hoping his note reached its intended audience.

“The commercial seeks to inspire us to claim the hope that prayer offers and to embrace prayer as a source of strength, guidance and comfort,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications. “Its message reminds us to ‘believe again,’ and to know that God cares about the desires of our hearts.

“Likewise, we want people to know that United Methodist churches are places where people deeply care about and support one another,” Hollon said. “We invite anyone who wants to regain a sense of hope to visit one of our churches.”

The commercial will air on 18 cable networks, including A&E, ABC Family, Animal Planet, BET, CNN, Discovery, Fox News, Hallmark, CNN Headline News, HGTV, the History Channel, Lifetime Movie, TBS, TNT, TV One, USA, WGN and the Weather Channel. It is expected to reach more than 65 million viewers. The commercial can be seen at www.umcpresscenter.org.

Mississippi churches receive matching funds
To increase the impact and reach of the campaign, United Methodist Communications awarded funding to 60 grant recipients across the nation for local media campaigns to supplement the national cable TV ads. Grant recipients matched the funding dollar-for-dollar. Main Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg and First United Methodist Church in Laurel received a grant to broadcast television advertisements expected to reach an estimated 150,000 viewers in Mississippi.

Resource materials were also developed for local congregations to explore the theme of prayer through worship, small groups and serving opportunities. The materials address prayer as a means for people to learn more about themselves and develop relationships with God and one another. These materials are available through Igniting Ministry.

The “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” campaign has been working to raise awareness of the United Methodist Church since 2001. Test market research last September showed that half of the people exposed to the church’s advertising were “very” or “somewhat” willing to visit a United Methodist congregation, according to Barna Research Group, a company based in Ventura, Calif.

Research conducted after the August-September television advertising in U.S. test markets reported average first-time attendance increases of 9 percent in September compared to the same month a year earlier.