Looking for suggestions on marketing my wife's counseling practice to churches

23 replies
Hey guys,

My wife just achieved a tremendous milestone in her Counseling Career - she received her Associate License of Counseling. Though this is only the Associate license, it has been a LONG time in coming, and after 3,000 hour of counseling, she can be considered a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Alabama. In short, my wife's dream just became much closer.

In looking for ways to get her 3,000 hours (and get paid,) I have looked for ways for her to generate an income.

She has 3 options:

1. Volunteer at a local counseling agency where everyone works for free
2. Get a job with a regular agency
3. Start her own practice

There are pros/cons to each, and this is not the time to go into those.

I had an idea a few days ago, and it may have been God-inspired. My wife, being a Christian, counsels from a faith-based perspective. She has never "worked" in a Christian environment, but, has been able to incorporate her faith into her counseling, and it has worked well for her.

I had the idea about seeing if she could partner with 10 local churches to do their counseling for them. In this arrangement, she would be available to each church for a certain amount of hours for a set fee monthly. I was thinking about 5-12 hours a month (haven't decided yet) for a fee of $250-$500 a month. This could be varied due to the size of the church or the size of the church's budget.

I think that the plan has a large amount of brilliance to it. Many pastors view counseling as a responsibility that they don't do well, but feel obligated to anyway. It would let them farm it out in a way that lets them still use someone with the same worldview and has an outside view.

I suppose my question is - how would I market this? I could send emails and/or direct mail. I even thought of creating a site with a video of my wife on it talking about her practice. Here's the issue: When it comes to marketing/sales/presentation, my wife's skill set is less than adequate. She's a great counselor, but, I do the "talking" for the two of us, is that makes sense. (God did make a good match.)

How would you market this? If I did it in email or direct mail, how would you phrase it?

Thanks so much!

Jeremy
#churches #counseling #marketing #practice #suggestions #wife
  • Profile picture of the author mydream247
    Hi Jeremy,

    First of all Congratulations to your wife for achieving her dream, God has placed gifts in each of us, and it is up to us to seek him for direction to our calling.

    My wife and I have a ministry for at risk youth, men and women counseling, and we are service pastors at our church, as well as divorce counselors working with couples dealing with drama of divorce.

    I can tell you first hand there is a Huge need for counselors.

    I would suggest contacting churches directly by phone, ask to speak with ministry director, many of the pastors are out during week, and have staff on hand, let them know your wife is licensed and willing to do FREE counseling sessions to church members who may have need.

    I suggest free sessions maybe 2-3 this will allow the church to get feedback and recommend her services, also those who attend sessions will spread the word, and she will grow from word of mouth.

    also put together a guide or handout you can give to church with advice relating to her area of counseling this will show her expertise and passion for her calling.

    I hope this has helped, good luck and God Bless you and your family.
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    • Profile picture of the author sandalwood
      Jeremy,

      Congratulations to your wife. When I lived in Mississippi and Florida I noticed there were two types of churches within the same denomination - one black and one white. Since you mentioned Alabama, I naturally assume that is where you reside. If I am incorrect please advise.

      Sometimes there was a mingling of the races in Christian churches but not often. The catholics enjoyed the mixture far more than the christians.

      Is your wife looking to counsel on the white side of town or the black side of town? This makes a huge difference in how you approach the particular church.

      When I know, I'll offer my suggestions.

      Tom
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      • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
        Originally Posted by sandalwood View Post

        Jeremy,

        Congratulations to your wife. When I lived in Mississippi and Florida I noticed there were two types of churches within the same denomination - one black and one white. Since you mentioned Alabama, I naturally assume that is where you reside. If I am incorrect please advise.

        Sometimes there was a mingling of the races in Christian churches but not often. The catholics enjoyed the mixture far more than the christians.

        Is your wife looking to counsel on the white side of town or the black side of town? This makes a huge difference in how you approach the particular church.

        When I know, I'll offer my suggestions.

        Tom
        Well, we tried (rather unsuccessfully) to market her earlier this year when she was working with a local agency that billed mostly to Medicaid. We visited a church or two (on the other side of the railroad tracks) and met with no success. I was thinking that our "bread and butter" client would be your "good ole' boy" churches, but we're obviously open to everyone.
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        • Profile picture of the author sandalwood
          Originally Posted by Jeremy James View Post

          Well, we tried (rather unsuccessfully) to market her earlier this year when she was working with a local agency that billed mostly to Medicaid. We visited a church or two (on the other side of the railroad tracks) and met with no success. I was thinking that our "bread and butter" client would be your "good ole' boy" churches, but we're obviously open to everyone.
          From my experience working in Florida I found the ministers in the black churches to be the most powerful men in the neighborhood. The approach was straightforward telling them this is our proposal. It was either accepted or rejected.

          My suggestion with white churches is contact through the gatekeeper or secretary. From what I gather, this is the person who has the ear of the decision maker. Your objective is to get an appointment with the decision maker or decision makers to present your proposal. I almost never had a problem if I explained what I was doing very clearly to the gatekeeper.

          Funny to talk about white and black churches, isn't it? Most people aren't comfortable even broaching the subject. Sort of rubs a raw nerve but those silly christians do things a bit differently than say a moslem or a jew. Just have to accept it and move on since they have to be marketed to just like any layman business owner.

          Good luck.

          Tom
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Solem
    Hey Jeremy,

    Congrats to you both!

    Mydream's advice sounds right on the money to me as far as marketing and getting in touch with prospective clients goes. I just wanted to add that my church uses a counselor who in addition to operating out of his own office, meets with clients at a number of local churches in the same "denomination". Now, he also used to pastor one of the churches too so he certainly knew other pastors and had a solid foot in the door, but I think one of the best things would be to speak with your own pastor and ask for his advice about reaching out to others in your area.

    All the best,

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author LegitIncomes
      The main thing with Churches and "farming out" counseling, is that the pastor/priest is going to want to know exactly what your wife believes, and how she will be using those beliefs in counseling.

      For example, obviously as far as relationships go, pastors would want to make sure your wife is against divorce, not living together until marriage, etc... and that her counseling reflects these beliefs.

      If the pastors are confident in your wife's beliefs, the referrals will come easily.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
    Our goal in this is to get the churches to each write a check to her, each month, for $250-$500. If we could get 10 churches a month to pay $500 for her to counsel 10 hours a month, she would average needing to work 25 hours a month for a total of $5,000 a month. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

    Plus, she misses some of the drama of when she did the Medicaid counseling earlier this year.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
    How would/should I broach the thing of my wife not being the salesman of the family? How awkward is a sales call/presentation/contact from me (the non-counselor) if my wife is with me, particularly in the sales interview?

    My wife is a "just give me the work/client and I'll do it." The business aspect is NOT her strong suit.

    Thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author saxmar
    Hi Jeremy,

    Congratulations to your wife for accomplishing her dreams,
    and I admire your support of her dreams.

    If she is not good at sales, she could do a direct mail campaign
    offering a free workshop to churches.
    It sounds like she would be better at educational based marketing,
    and the free workshops would help her establish relationships
    with prospects who can contact her later for counseling services.

    She (and you) could also deliver flyers in person to churches
    to promote her free workshops.

    As far as whether to market to white or black churches,
    the color that matters is not black or white...it is green.
    She needs to target mega-churches with active and large
    special interest groups full of prospects who have the ability
    and willingness to invest in counseling services. For private practices
    you need self pay clients in order to thrive, so these prospects
    must have disposable income. You are more likely to find them
    in mega-churches than smaller churches, and it doesn't matter
    if the church membership is majority black or white.

    A lot of churches have relationship ministries and grief support groups,
    and she could tailor a free workshop around a topic of interest to
    these groups. The free workshop would help her introduce her services
    without being trapped into providing ongoing free services.
    She could distribute handouts during the free workshop offering
    an introductory counseling session.

    She could also promote herself as a christian counselor and offer
    free workshops in your community. This would attract her desired
    client base, but it is still important for them to be able to pay
    out of pocket for counseling services. Hopefully your wife can
    build her private practice this way and not have to deal with
    the hassle of trying to get on insurance panels.

    She can also target her free workshops towards niches
    within the church, such as women dealing with domestic abuse.
    Or parent and child relationship issues. These people would
    probably feel safer discussing their issues within the church.

    Having you in her corner during the workshops would
    probably impress the workshop participants, and help
    them warm up to working with your wife after the workshop.
    Family businesses impress a lot of people, especially businesses
    based on trust and relationship building like counseling.

    Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
    Thanks for the suggestions. We're excited.
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    • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
      Post flyers and advertise in, or write articles for, the newsletters of the area churches, public and private schools, and public and private helping organizations. Since confidentiality is a huge concern, many people may not want anyone - even a pastor -
      to know who is seeing a counselor.
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  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    I am going to play Devils Advocate... maybe not the right terminologh now but...

    Why can't the head preacher/minister/pastor do the counseling for 10 hours a month?
    Why should they use you?
    What benefits will the church see as a result of bringing in your wife?
    Why should they pay your unlicensed wife $50 an hour?
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    • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
      Originally Posted by vndnbrgj View Post

      I am going to play Devils Advocate... maybe not the right terminologh now but...

      Why can't the head preacher/minister/pastor do the counseling for 10 hours a month?
      Why should they use you?
      What benefits will the church see as a result of bringing in your wife?
      Why should they pay your unlicensed wife $50 an hour?
      1. Many pastors are looked at as counselors, but in reality, either hate it, stink at it, or both. Some may like the speaking/administrative aspects, but, dislike the one on one time.
      2. A licensed, Master's level counselor who counsels from a clinically trained, yet Biblical perspective.
      3. More of the pastoral time can be utilized in studying, preparing sermons, church administration, visiting the sick/shut ins/members. Also, if the pastor doesn't draw enough of a salary which causes him to work full time, this is one less thing he has to do.
      4. Well, my wife does have a license (granted, it's an associate, but, in reality, it's not THAT significant,) and the going rate is $95 for 50 minutes of counseling.

      Jeremy
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  • Profile picture of the author pbrite
    Very good suggestions in here. I'm working on my counseling degree as well (Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy ). I am also a deacon. If she just got her license then I think she should hit up each and every church she can find and drop off flyers or business cards. There is always something going on at a church where a faith based counselor can help. The problem is in reducing the stigma so in addition to the flyer ask for an opportunity to meet with the pastor so she can offer a free workshop on something everyone relates to. For example, a mommy stress workshop or other life skills. The workshop should be faith-based to take any further stigma out. "Free" workshops can make great connections for either private clients out of the church or paid workshops down the road.


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  • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
    http://www.facebook.com/nomorehandcuffs

    I met him at a facebook event a year or so ago. I think to do churches right you need to do speaking like he does and that is what I would suggest to her and you.

    Also why not contact him and see if he has some advice for her?
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
    Since my initial writing, I have reached out to 2 counselors who are doing the same thing, but neither has gotten back with me, yet.

    I have also reached out to a number of pastors, none local, and with the exception of one, all have been in tremendous support and think it would be a great idea.

    What I will have to design is a simple site with her biography, what her belief system is, and how it affects her counseling. Because various denominations within Christianity have doctrinal differences, we'll just focus on the basic beliefs that most agree on.

    I think we may call it CSCS - Church Support Counseling Services.

    Here is one challenge that I'd like to ask for some advice in.

    My wife is not that dynamic of a speaker. She's great one on one, but, in a crowd, or on a video, she does not come across as overtly engaging or warm. (I'd like for us to both take a Dale Carnegie/Toastmaster's course one day.) However, I do like video, and one of the things that I have always appreciated about Frank Kern's sites is that you are typically brought up to a video of him, right away.

    (The same reason about the way she comes across also applies to why doing workshops may not be a great idea for her.)

    I need to do a site for her, and I'll probably farm that out. What type of layout/information/design should I use?

    Also, would just email marketing to pastors of local churches be a good idea?

    This will be something like a retainer program ($250-$500 a month per church,) so how could I write/promote that? The IM'er in me wants to say:

    "My wife can be your counselor at her normal rate of $95 per hour, but, if you'll sign up for 5 or 10 hours, your rate will be only $50 per hour.)

    However, I don't want to come across as hypey or anything like that.

    Thanks so much.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Jeremy,

    Market using her strengths. ie, if she is a good writer (and I suspect she is), then
    she should create written, educational marketing strategies where she expresses her helpful solutions, expertise and Christian beliefs.

    If she does do work shops, then let her establish her expertise/background/credentials and introduce the topic/outline and encourage audience members to ask questions and try to turn it into a question and answer session. That way she's more of a facilitator than flashy presenter and she still ENGAGES and EXCITES the audience and they'll really like her and feel comfortable hiring her. If she can do it accidentally, all the better.

    Example: I'm a low key guy and many moon times ago, I talked about arbitration of civil disputes to a college paralegal class. (Keep in mind, many were working in the field as admins or uncredentialed paralegals and so were motivated to learn about the arbitration process. Your wife's attendees should be motivated about her topic.)

    I introduced myself and during the intro, I said to feel free to ask questions as we go along. I then started my presentation and after about a sentence, their questions started to fly and the whole "presentation" turned into a Q and A session and went well over the two hours allotted and we had to cut off because they were closing the school for the night.

    -------------------------------------------

    I googled: award winning christian counseling websites
    and
    award winning counseling websites

    And here are some I liked and or service providers you might be interested in:
    no particular order, nor am I in any way affiliated with any.

    Cloud Townsend Resources

    Tulsa Marriage and Family | Counseling Website Marketing | Matcha Design - An Award Winning Design Firm (note the God reference on the image of the actual site:
    Tulsa Marriage and Family Therapist | Brittain Keifer Licensed Therapist | Restoring Marriage and Family)

    Award Winning Counseling in Yorba Linda, Placentia and Brea, Ed Segawa, Therapist

    -------------------------------------------
    service providers:

    TherapySites | Therapy Websites, Website for Therapists | Therapist Websites
    American Association of Christian Counselors ยป Membership (maybe directory advertising)

    ------------------------------------------

    Marriage, Couples, & Family Counseling| Scottsdale, North Phoenix

    Denver CO Christian Marriage Counselors and Therapy | Authentic & True

    Meet June - Hope For The Heart

    Best of luck to you.

    Dan
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  • Profile picture of the author Yvideo
    I would highly suggest getting a couple of Dan Kennedy Books. His marketing plans are pretty amazing.
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  • Profile picture of the author umc
    Originally Posted by Jeremy James View Post


    I suppose my question is - how would I market this? I could send emails and/or direct mail. I even thought of creating a site with a video of my wife on it talking about her practice. Here's the issue: When it comes to marketing/sales/presentation, my wife's skill set is less than adequate. She's a great counselor, but, I do the "talking" for the two of us, is that makes sense. (God did make a good match.)
    First, congratulations on your wife being so close to her dream. That is awesome!

    But I have to express a concern. I get the feeling through this thread like you are almost her agent, marketing her around to everyone, and it just seems kind of odd. If this is her dream, shouldn't she have the ability to go sell herself and how excited she is to help in this way? I get that you would have input and ideas, and maybe help put together a website or something, but if I'm hiring her, I want to talk to her, not to you. It seems like you do all of the talking, and you said as much.

    If I am in need of counseling, I'm going to the person that can talk to me without needing her husband present. I want someone that is strong enough and believes enough in what she does to go out and get her own clients. I'd be concerned that she's running to you with everything, and frankly, her inability to speak for herself portrays a lack of confidence (so then, why would I put my confidence in her and look to her for advice).

    In this situation, SHE is the brand, and needs to be the face of it, not you, in my opinion. I'm glad that she's so close to what she wants to do, and I think it is awesome that you want to help her do it, but I wouldn't hire her if she can't speak for herself either as a church or the person needing help in the end.

    So, you may need to step out of the way so that she can step up and own this for herself. You may be hindering her dream, not helping her. She needs to do this stuff on her own.
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    • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
      I am sensing this also and agree. Dan

      Originally Posted by umc View Post

      First, congratulations on your wife being so close to her dream. That is awesome!

      But I have to express a concern. I get the feeling through this thread like you are almost her agent, marketing her around to everyone, and it just seems kind of odd. If this is her dream, shouldn't she have the ability to go sell herself and how excited she is to help in this way? I get that you would have input and ideas, and maybe help put together a website or something, but if I'm hiring her, I want to talk to her, not to you. It seems like you do all of the talking, and you said as much.

      If I am in need of counseling, I'm going to the person that can talk to me without needing her husband present. I want someone that is strong enough and believes enough in what she does to go out and get her own clients. I'd be concerned that she's running to you with everything, and frankly, her inability to speak for herself portrays a lack of confidence (so then, why would I put my confidence in her and look to her for advice).

      In this situation, SHE is the brand, and needs to be the face of it, not you, in my opinion. I'm glad that she's so close to what she wants to do, and I think it is awesome that you want to help her do it, but I wouldn't hire her if she can't speak for herself either as a church or the person needing help in the end.

      So, you may need to step out of the way so that she can step up and own this for herself. You may be hindering her dream, not helping her. She needs to do this stuff on her own.
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  • Profile picture of the author lovelysue
    Hi Jeremy,

    My suggestion would be to start her own business. That is the choice with a difficult start but if this is what she really wants to do - it is going to get to private practice one way or another.

    I can suggest that she start speaking at different places. If her target market is not the church but the people in the church - then - she can attract them with a signature talk about what kind of change she brings to the world. Lisa Sasevich teaches this in her Speak to sell bootcamp (notes on my website).

    Joining charity and church groups is also an option, but I personally do those for connecting to others and to give 10% of my time to good causes and I don't focus on getting business from there. IF I were to do that - I imagine it will require lots of time and energy and I'd personally spend them making money

    Let us know how it goes.

    Happy Holidays,
    Sue
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeremy James
    Ok guys:

    For the past year (nearly,) I have sat on this idea, and thought, planned, dreamed, strategized, but not really done too much.

    I have, after much prayer, decided that the better way will be for me to launch it as MY company, and I will provide the therapists. The hope is that this will grow, and I will hire more in the future. Also, I hope to be in more geographical areas.

    So, last week, I emailed about 30 local pastors, and heard back from one that told me "No," and heard back from a second one that I already knew, and we're going to talk.

    I think that I'd like to promote this with a 1 hour seminar. The hope would be to get about 20-30 local pastors to come to it, and I could present something about how to handle stress better, work with congregants, or enjoy a better work/ministry/life balance. I'd segue into this, and leave it as an option at the end. Of course, I'd want to give away valuable content, but then, develop some followers at the end. (I do want to grow a speaking business where I share my testimony in churches at the same time, but don't know how to blend the two - my testimony would have nothing to do with my wife's business.)

    An obvious way to promote this seminar would be to send a physical piece of mail to about 30 local churches each month, but what else could I do to attract pastors to a workshop/seminar like this, where I offer this as a service at the end.

    My goal is 10 local churches to partner with my wife for counseling services.

    Thanks for any suggestions you can offer,

    Jeremy James
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  • Profile picture of the author Talltom1
    Hi Jeremy,
    I got pretty interested in this thread and many of the comments and recommendations being made, so I wanted to respond with some of my own feedback. First of all, congratulations to you and your wife on achieving this milestone.

    There's a bunch of concerns that I have about what you're doing. Let me share those.

    First of all, providing counseling sessions / services to churches is almost a no-brainer. The pastor is trained as a pastor, rarely ever as a counselor in any sense. So this clearly is fertile territory for you.

    However, no one has previously brought up the issue of liability and malpractice. Sure, you've now got a therapy business, and undoubtedly you've thought of procuring the proper insurance. The problem is, the second any church 'client' enters into a business relationship with you, they also need to have a level of protection. Usually the more established churches already have a policy covering pastors and staff members, but the second they begin recommending you to their parishoners, they leave themselves open to a lawsuit and will need to adjust their insurance policies accordingly since they are now in the counseling business (more or less).

    Secondly, after reading through this thread, its obvious how excited you are about this project. My concern is that you even go to the extent of patting yourself on the back, using words in previous posts such as 'brilliant', etc. The problem Jeremy is that your target audience, pastors, will die from blunt force trauma as a result of your 'sales presentation' before they will show the slightest sign of interest. Why? Because your entire sales presentation is slanted toward how brilliant this idea is. They'd be stupid to ignore you. Yawn. Secondly, you are implying to them and forcing them to acknowledge that the members of their church are a bunch of screwed up, maladjusted people that can't survive without your wife's divine intervention. What a godsend she'll be to their congregation.

    The other issue here is that therapists like your wife, and pastors have one thing in common, they aren't necessarily 'in business' to be in business. Rather, they are 'in business' to help people. Then you come along with all of these big ideas about sales, and partnerships, yada, yada. There's an inherent incompatibility between your 'business vision' and what your target audience is doing. So craft your business model to fit into the concept of helping people, instead of running a big counseling business, or find something else to do with your time.

    That's not to say your idea isn't desperately needed. But here's how you handle it, or should've handled it. You call up a few pastors and get an appointment with them over coffee. Then you solicit their advice about what you and your wife are doing; about how you want to be their go-to resource for these types of issues. How could you and your wife best help them? Leave your 'brilliant' ideas at home, tell them what you want to do, then shut up and listen. When they begin proposing ideas of how you can help, they immediately have ownership of that idea, and you now have the opportunity to help them solve an issue.

    These individuals know intimately how screwed up their parishoners are; they also know that they aren't trained or equipped to handle those issues, but when you confront them head on like you have been, they'll slam the door in your face - every time. "You wanna make a profit or a business venture out of my parishoner's problems?"

    There's another issue in play here. Church congregations are a lesson in 'herd' dynamics. If someone says after the service 'wow, wasn't the sermon today just wonderful?' you'd better not be the one to disagree. This comes into play in a few different scenarios. First, do not even contemplate providing your counseling services on site at the church itself. Somebody shows up to drop off a cake at the church kitchen and 'oh, isn't that the counselor's car...and...that's Mildred's car too. I wonder what that's all about'. Hmmm wait til Gladys hear's about this.

    This carries over to the workshop idea as well. Every attendee is noting with interest who else is attending the workshop. Hmmmm. I wonder what their issues are? I'd be surprised if anyone shows up at all to a workshop.

    The workshop idea isn't a bad one, but consider a slight change in audience. What happens if you or your wife create a short series of adult Sunday School lessons around key issues such as divorce, marriage, abuse, etc. with hand outs that conveniently have your contact info? Attending Sunday School every Sunday isn't threatening, its what we do every Sunday no matter what the topic is. And make sure that these are bonafide lessons, not hour long sales pitches, or you'll be invited to NOT show up next week.

    So, good idea, you've got a hungry audience. Make it about them, not your passion, or your great idea, and they'll start beating down your door.

    Talltom
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