Are free t-shirts a vain waste of church resources or a strategic communication tool?

A few times every year an invoice passes across my desk for t-shirts and I cringe a little bit. We spend a lot of money every year on t-shirts. We give them out to our first time guests, our volunteer teams, our community outreach participants, people who get baptized, our family ministry has t-shirts … it seems like every time we’re turning around we’re purchasing more t-shirts for people at our church.

brown-shirtsBut why?  Is this really a good a way to spend kingdom dollars? We are choosing to spend on t-shirts over other areas and I wonder if it really is the best investment in our limited resources.

Here are some of the reasons why I’m a believer in well designed t-shirts as a tool for our ministry. (Or maybe … these are just the excuses I tell myself every time we sign those big invoices!)

  • For Our Guests // Last year we switched our “first time guest gift” to a t-shirt … our response on our connection cards for first time guests immediately jumped. It’s hard to follow up with guests if we don’t have their information and giving away a t-shirt gets us more information our guests!
  • Helps New Comers // When people arrive our campuses they are confronted by our guest services team wearing the same shirt. This creates an implicit invitation to walk up to our team and ask questions if they need help.
  • “I’m a part of the tribe!” // Teams wear uniforms and by giving our teams a t-shirt we are inviting them onto our team! It is a way to show appreciation to the people who make our church happen every week.
  • Higher Perceived Value // There is no doubt that t-shirts cost a lot of make but their perceived value is higher to the people we give them to. It’s cheaper to make t-shirts than the people who receive them think they are to make!
  • Walking Advertising // We have done some designs over the years that people actually wear around in “normal life”.  When we are able to do that we create a walking advertisement for our church.

I’d love you hear from you! Are t-shirts a vain waste of kingdom resources or a strategic communication tool? What are your thoughts?

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.