“We are using rules to survive (mixing in some Zombieland inspiration) that tie in with the salvation story,” he tells me. “ACF is in a unique position because we’re located right next to a military base. Our church tends to attract a younger crowd of singles and families with small children. We see using The Walking Dead for Easter as a way to break down some barriers for people who may have a bland taste in their mouth from church or have been hurt in the past.” Montgomery admits that a church mixing zombies with Easter is a bit ironic, especially considering the popular Internet meme showcasing Jesus as a zombie, but he says, “We hope that our Easter service will break down some walls for the unchurched/dechurched population.”
But if visual stimulation or pop culture doesn’t interest potential attendees, how about free shit? Sound too good to be true? Think again. For instance, all first-time visitors at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, outside Nashville, will receive a $5 Starbucks gift card just for showing up. That might not sound like a big investment, but considering the fact that Long Hollow is planning 31 Easter services at five locations, five bucks for every visitor could add up rather quickly.
Still, David Hopper, a Nashville marketing blogger, says that the church’s marketing campaign is “smart” and worth the investment. After receiving Long Hallow’s promotional ad along with a rubber ball inside a plastic Easter egg at his front door (two different times!), Hopper wrote a blog post about the church’s “come to Jesus” gimmick called “5 Marketing Lessons from a Hipster Church.” Regarding the Starbucks gift card, Hopper praised Long Hallow’s “ethical bribe,” writing that, considering the “lifetime value of a churchgoer … $5 is a bargain to get somebody in the door.”