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On June 22, the movie Evan Almighty opens in theaters across the U.S. It’s the latest movie to be heavily marketed to Christians. In conjunction with the movie a new website has been launched called Ark Almighty, which bills itself as a way to help churches live out Jesus’ call to love one another by facilitating the posting and fulfilling of needs within the church. Is this really a generous effort to help others or just a slick movie marketing campaign?
Evan Almighty is the sequel (or perhaps spin-off) to Bruce Almighty, which starred Jim Carey and Morgan Freeman. In this film Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) wins a seat in Congress and moves to Washington with his wife (Lauren Graham) and three children when God (Morgan Freeman) intervenes and asks Evan to build an ark. The movie plays out as a humorous, modern-day story of Noah’s Ark as Evan attempts to follow his new calling in life. (Watch the trailer to the right.)
This PG-rated movie with biblical references is obviously intended for families and Christian families in particular. It’s being promoted by Grace Hill Media to Christian organizations, leaders, and pastors complete with video clips and sermon resources. But the most innovative and potentially impactful aspect of this movie’s marketing is the website Ark Almighty. The site is self-described in this way:
ArkALMIGHTY is a good deeds program that matches up the needs in your congregation with the talents and skills of the members of your church. Gathering the needs of your attendees, these requests are compiled on a Craigslist-type website administered by your church. Then, the members of your church can easily search through the needs and find ways they can help.
Maybe there’s a single mom in your midst who doesn’t know how to teach her son to throw a baseball, or an elderly person who needs a ride to the doctor, or a young couple who would love advice on saving for a home. Maybe there’s a college student who could use help moving into her first apartment, or a widow that could use a helping hand washing her windows, or a recently laid-off worker who could use help polishing up his resume. There are countless needs out there that, up until now, have had no way to be met. But now they do, thanks to ArkALMIGHTY.
Ark Almight is completely free for churches and their attendees to use. It’s free of advertising except for a small “About Evan” navigation tab on the top right which takes you to page with information about the movie. The website also includes the emblems (and presumably the endorsements) of Youth Specialties, International Bible Society, and Willow Creek Association, some very well know and reputable Christian organizations.
Based on the information and sample church available on the Ark Almighty website, I think I can safely say there is really nothing terribly innovative about the website itself. A church could easily create a similar needs/skills board on their own website an using open-source classified ad application like Noah’s Classifieds. Many web hosting companies such as OurChurch.Com offer cPanel/Fantastico which allows a web administrator to install Noah’s Classifies in about 60 seconds and completely customize it’s appearance to match the rest of the website. Additionally, many content management systems also have a classified ads component that integrate seamlessly, eliminating the need for church members to register separately for the needs/skills board.
But, that doesn’t mean Ark Almighty is a bad idea or I’m dissing it in any way.
After all, how many churches are actually operating a needs/skills board on their website? How many even thought about it until now?
What I like about Ark Almight is:
- It’s raising awareness about an innovative way for churches to help their attendees to serve one another, which is good for those in need as well as those who serve. Plus I think it will enhance the sense of community within those churches who participate.
- It’s easy. If your church doesn’t have a website or your web host doesn’t provide Fantastico/Noah’s, now you have another option.
- It’s got momentum. I don’t know how many churches are using Ark Almighty and I can’t exactly describe it, but there is something exciting about being a part of something that other churches around the country are also doing.
What I would really love to see is a church start an Ark Almighty group that extends outside their wall to the community. Or perhaps a couple Christian families taking the initiative to start an Ark Almighy group for their neighborhood. That would be an awesome way to extend grace to those outside the church.
But back to the original question… Is Ark Almighty helping others or a shameless movie promotion for Evan Almighty? I say, yes and yes. Yes, it’s helping others. And yes, it’s obviously a tool to help promote the movie, but in my opinion its been done in open, forthright way which they can be proud of.
What’s your opinion?