By Michael C. Mack
In March, Pete Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, returned to the Philadelphia area where, in 1980, he helped lead the Phillies to their first-ever World Series championship. Brian Jones, senior minister with Christ’s Church of the Valley, interviewed Rose during each of the church’s three services as part of its series on “Second Chances.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of Rose’s banishment from the game as a result of allegations that he bet on baseball games, and the 10th anniversary of his admission that he bet on baseball games. Rose is ineligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The event brought many non-churchgoers to CCV that weekend; guests included the national media. Before asking him some tough questions, Jones told Rose, “This is your kind of church. You would fit in here, because we’re a church all about second chances. So the questions I’m going to ask you are not coming from a position of judgment and that sort of thing. I’m just asking some honest questions, and maybe you can teach us something.” To see the interview, go to BrianJones.com and search for “Pete Rose.”
What can church leaders learn from CCV’s experience? Outreach pastor Terri Stone shared some thoughts:
Why did you decide to invite Rose to CCV for an interview?
Through the process of planning a series titled “Second Chances,” our team came up with the idea of inviting a well-known person who could genuinely speak to the concept of second chances. We believed a good candidate would be someone who would draw a crowd of unchurched people who could benefit from hearing someone’s personal story, with a discussion about God’s being “a God of second chances” woven in. One thing led to another: the series timing came up, which coincided with baseball and opening day, and then Pete Rose. His name was at the top of the list for people to interview.
What’s the best thing that happened?
The best thing that happened is the turnout of non-churchgoers that day, and how many have returned since then. The other thing that was great was Pete couldn’t believe what our church was like. He thought we were welcoming, accepting, down to earth, and normal. His agent said we’re the only people who, in an interview, asked him about his father. This was one of the things we hoped and prayed for—that Pete’s experience would be filled with grace and respect.
What is the number one thing you learned about bringing in a celebrity to church services and interviewing him live?
We learned that our message to the congregation needed to be different. We hyped the event for weeks by talking about how many people would be attending, that we needed everybody to attend first service, and that we needed an army of volunteers to staff the day. As a result, our hype kept our own people away from the perceived “chaos.” What we should have done was encourage everybody’s participation by sharing with them how vitally important their attendance would be to event success.
If another church asked you for one or two tips about bringing in and interviewing a celebrity, what would you tell them?
I’d say, “Do it!” My first tip is to have purpose behind who is chosen. Second is to plan, plan, plan—it’s key to plan every part of the day, from pre-event advertising to parking, to staffing children’s ministry and guest services, to how Communion and offering are handled. This way event-day execution comes off with very few to no glitches.
Michael Mack is the author of 16 small group books and discussion guides, including I’m a Leader . . . Now What? (Standard Publishing). He also leads church training events and consults with churches through his ministry, Small Group Leadership (www.smallgroupleadership.com). You can email suggestions for his Best Practices column to firstname.lastname@example.org.