Sunday, April 24, 2011

Valley Creek Church: Easter Egg on Face

I've heard the expression "Christ on a Harley," but what about "Christ in a chopper"?

Yesterday, a local, would-be mega-church ran an Easter egg hunt with 10,000 plastic eggs, some of which were dropped out of a helicopter. Each egg held a tiny bit of toy junk, or if you were extra lucky, a coupon for one of the grand prizes -- an iPad, a Wii, an American Girl doll. All available to the first 1,000 children, limit 10 eggs per customer (um, child).

What part of Christianity does all of that fit within? Oh wait, it fits with the part about getting publicity.

Black helicopter with people inside dropping colorful plastic eggs into the air below
I read about the egg drop a week or two ago in the Pioneer Press. At the time I was confounded by the waste of resources and absurdity of it (all that plastic and 'copter fuel in the name of the Prince of Peace), but it got buried in the pile of possible blog topics and I didn't write anything.

Well, it sounds like it turned out even worse than I thought it would, if the comments on the Pioneer Press site are to be believed. All of the advance publicity led to a substantial overflow crowd of disappointed parents and kids who couldn't participate. One of the parents who did get in had this to say:

Parents were told to stay off the field unless it was in the age group of 0-3 years old. Well needless to say as soon as the eggs dropped and it was time for the kids to get to scampering parents totally ruined it by disobeying the rules running out and trampling kids scooping up eggs for their kids. totally took away any fun for the youngsters. plus there was only a 10 egg limit per child. and i can't even count how many kids left the field crying because they didn't even get 1 freaking egg!! parents were even more upset by this. they were also told not to open the eggs on the field and these deehorn parents were ripping them open and tossing them when they didn't find a prize ticket.... not to mention how many kids got lost due to the total chaos and disorganization including one kid who has down syndrome
Valley Creek Church had posted the rules for the hunt on its site, including the 1,000-child limit, the prohibition of adult help for kids 4 and up, and the 10-egg limit. They also said, "Guests are invited to arrive as early as 10:00 am for the festivities. Fun music and Easter Bunny sightings will help keep the children entertained as they wait in joy-filled anticipation for the helicopter to arrive."

The first commenter on the PiPress page wrote that he arrived at 10 a.m. and had to park a half-hour down the road because so many people had gotten there earlier. The "fun music" meant to keep everyone occupied before the egg hunt was, not surprisingly, Christian rock.

Another commenter wrote: "I don't think the church had any idea of the amount of people that the event would draw and were clearly overwhelmed by the turnout. Wonder why this article
paints a such a rosy picture of the egg drop and does not mention what a fiasco it was. I felt all the disappointed children that were turned away."

Which is a good question for the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune about their coverage, which sticks to the simplistic "Ooh, look colorful eggs and kids in rubber boots!" trope.

Children running into a field of green grass to grab eggs while a crowd looks on
I have a lot of sympathy for any organization that tries to run an event that generates a huge response from the public, but in this case, the church seems to have wanted to have their eggs and eat them too -- to get as much coverage as possible but not truly prepare for the resulting crowds.

And, of course, I find the scale and intended spectacle of the whole event bizarre and distasteful. As one commenter on the PiPress site said, "Stay home and be simple -- kids have just as much fun finding eggs in the house or their yard!"


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Years ago when we were busy installing the carousel in St. Paul's Town Square Park, a PR firm volunteered to send out periodic media alerts on our behalf. They were always labeled "Colorful Photo Opportunity," and the city editor/assignment editor always sent a photographer without a reporter, which meant uncritical, superficial stories. When we heard this egg drop announced, we said, "Colorful Photo Opportunity."

Linda Myers said...

Finding the eggs in the house or the back yard is so much more fun and exciting. Competition on Easter seems like kind of a contradiction.

peter hoh said...

Re. churches using marketing gimmicks to attract more customers: