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Lessons from the PLMF

Lessons from the PLMF

Jun 29, 2006 / By: Michael Spielman
Category: Ministry Updates

As many of you know, Abort73.com became a last minute sponsor of the Pro-Life Music Festival (PLMF) which took place last weekend on the campus of Grace College in Winona Lake, IN. My wife, Carrie, and I, along with our two kids, Seth and Melanie, left home at 5:30 in the morning on Friday to make the three and a half hour trip. We arrived in good spirits, with very little idea of what lay ahead, but hopeful that our time there would be well spent. Though this was our first festival exhibit, we were happy with the Abort73 "booth" we threw together, and I was looking forward to gaining an audience with the more than 5,000 festival attendees. Two days and 25 bands later, I was thoroughly exhausted and a little bummed at what seemed to be a general lack of interest in Abort73. I tried to go into the weekend without any expectations, praying only that God would be honored in the trip, but clearly I must have been anticipating a larger reception. When all was said and done, we sold a whopping 4 shirts, 2 hats, and 2 DVDs. Having sold almost 100 shirts in two days at a summer camp last year, with only a few hundred students in attendance, I obviously had an over-inflated expectation for this event.

All the same, I have no regrets about our decision to go. If nothing else, it showed me the need to be more effective at quickly communicating the purpose and approach of Abort73.com to those who've never heard of the website and to those who've given very little thought to abortion. Of course, that wasn't the only value in our being there. We still managed to hand out a few hundred Abort73 pens, postcards and newsletters, the Abort73.com banner was prominently displayed during the whole two-day festival, and our half-page program ad was given to everyone as they arrived. Though the immediate returns seemed very low, the overall impact could be much broader, and the more I've thought about it, the more everything makes sense.

Coming in, I was under the impression that because this was a "pro-life" event, most of those in attendance would be actively involved in opposing abortion and would, therefore, be very interested in the work we're doing (if not already familiar with the website). In reality, this was a free music festival, those in attendance were there for the bands, and abortion probably wasn't on the radar for most of them. Almost no one had ever heard of Abort73.com, and when I'd tell them that it was a new website for educating students about abortion, more times than not, I'd get a confused stare in return. From a program standpoint, there was very little mention of abortion. To my knowledge, none of the bands addressed the topic from stage, so it's not surprising that people seemed puzzled to find us there. Bryan Kemper, of Stand True ministries, did get to speak about abortion between bands on Friday night, but didn't have time to get much beyond a general urge for more involvement. With that as a backdrop, and with 30 other vendors selling apparel as well, it's no wonder our sales were so low. The strength of our shirts, in this setting, turned out to be a weakness because nobody had heard of Abort73.com before, and there didn't seem to be much interest in learning more. Because our shirts are essentially just advertisements for our website, they're a hard sell for those who have no familiarity with Abort73.com. Whereas other pro-life (or band) shirts have self-contained messages, ours are designed to be a gateway. Their single purpose is to get someone to visit the website. That, of course, presupposes that the wearer is familiar and supportive of the website. We've taken this approach because we don't want the shirts to be a dead-end, but rather a front door into a comprehensive abortion education (you can learn more about our T-shirt strategy here). Obviously, though, for the shirts to even be worn in the first place, I need to do a better job of communicating the vision.

So how do we address this problem in the future? Number one, I need to remember that most people have still never heard of Abort73.com. They need to learn what it is quickly. They need to understand why we've designed the shirts the way we have and what their purpose is. To that end, I think a poster or two could be a great addition to future exhibits and would also be a good fit for our pending ministry packs (wouldn't it be great for youth pastors all over the country to have an Abort73 poster up in their meeting spots?). It would also be beneficial to bring a couple computers to events like this so people could visit the site themselves, on the spot. Finally, and probably most beneficial, I need to try and work out an arrangement in the future where I could give a 20 or 30 minute presentation to all or most of those in attendance. It was just such a presentation that led to so much interest at the summer camp I mentioned, and I don't see any reason why something like that wouldn't work at this venue as well. Not only would it better introduce people to Abort73.com, but it would also bring a valuable educational component to the festival.

One of the major motivating factors which led me to the creation of Abort73 in the first place, was the conviction that almost all pro-life activity, be it a website, a rally, or an event, was failing to actually educate anybody about abortion. The debate, on both sides of the issue, is often reduced to catchy signs and slogans without any presentation of the evidence that is necessary to validate or refute the opposing claims. By removing the central educational components, it becomes impossible to demonstrate to those who support abortion, that abortion kills innocent human beings, but it also becomes extremely difficult to convince those who do oppose abortion, that it's bad enough to actually do something about it. To me, this has been the plague of so many pro-life efforts, and so far, I think the Pro-Life Music Festival suffers from it a little bit as well. That's not to say it's a bad event. In fact, I greatly admire and respect the conviction and tireless efforts of PLFM founder, Martt Clupper. It's amazing that one guy could pull so much together. Were that I had his talents! What I am saying, and this is ultimately true of all human endeavors, is that there is still much room for improvement, and perhaps in the coming year, Abort73 and the PLMF will find some ways to help make each other even more effective in the future. We'll see...

Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.

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