Fifteen Dollar I-Pod cards for first time Church visitors?

by DeMarco Morgan

In a world of iPods, cell phones and the Internet, churches are finding it hard to get their message across to teenagers.

However, one South Florida church said it knows how to reach a younger audience: giving each visitor a gift card just for showing up.

Pastor David Hughes of Church by the Glades said music seems to be a sure thing when it comes to connecting with teens.

"Music is a powerful vehicle for communication," Hughes said.

That's why he is giving away $15 iTunes gift cards to first-time visitors.

"Our goal is to present the life-changing truth of Jesus Christ," Hughes said.

He said it is part of his "i-living in a self-absorbed world" series.

"If we can find some way to serve a cultural wave and bring people to church and then expose them to the word of God, we want to do that," Hughes said.

This isn't the first time the pastor has thought outside the box.

Hughes posted a billboard on the side of a South Florida highway that resulted in 50,000 hits on the church's Web site
Nineteen-year-old David Rodriguez said he agrees with his pastor's way of communicating.

"It's not lame," he said. "It's not boring. I'm living it up, having the time of my life."

Hughes is not the only church leader who understands the need for churches to reach out to the younger generation.
A reverend in Ft. Lauderdale at the new Mt. Olive Baptist Church said it is his personal mission to capture young people's attention.

"We cannot compete against all of the technology and everything that's vying for their attention," Rev. James Melton said.
Melton said he likes the gift card idea, but he said churches have to do more to reach out.

"The church has to go outside," he said. "We have to go to where young people are. We have to engage them as they are and accept them as they are."