Assemblies of God USA (AG) is one of the largest Pentecostal organizations that refer to a Pentecostal group of two spiritual crises. Founded in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, this new church was called to achieve a better understanding and unity among the Pentecostals, combine missionary efforts and coordinate publishing of religious literature. The supporters of the Assemblies of God view the Bible as the word of God, being a sufficient guide for the faith and actions of a person.
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The Bible is interpreted by them in a fundamentalist way, which means that they fully rely on it in various situations. Today, the identified denomination focuses on providing the word of God to many people all around the country, including adults, teenagers, and families. This paper aims at exploring how AG impacts teenagers with such problems as substance abuse and interacts with them via marketing strategies. Since the mentioned target population tends to be less attracted by the church and religion in general, related marketing issues can be viewed as a challenge to AG.
Marketing Challenge Encountered by Assemblies of God (USA)
According to the doctrinal provisions of AG, a person owes his or her salvation to the bloodshed by Christ, which is expressed in the holiness of life. The possibility of salvation is understood in the Arminian spirit that states that a person has free will). The two blessings are the conversion through water baptism by immersion and the Holy Spirit, which is allegedly expressed in receiving the gift of speaking in foreign languages.
The Assemblies of God adhere to the Trinitarian doctrine – faith in the trinity of God, and their followers believe in the resurrection of Christ, adopt a dogmatic position about the fall of a human, and admit the possibility of divine healing of the sick. The supporters of the Assemblies of God are premillennialist since they believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth before the onset of his thousand-year kingdom. The field of activity of the Assembly of God is rather extensive: they are engaged in charity, produce printed publications, broadcast, organize educational institutions, including Sunday schools, and conduct missionary work in the United States and worldwide.
Today’s young people can connect to Wi-Fi, access the Internet, and read Facebook, but they know little about how to apologize, enter the temple, and what loyalty and honor are. The youth lives now and today, while the role of the Church is hardly large since the modern generation tends to be disoriented unlike previous populations (Chiswick & Mirtcheva, 2013). To assist young people who have problems with self-control and addiction, Assemblies of God launched a project called Teen Challenge International.
It strives to ensure that teenagers who are addicts may recover from their destructive behaviors through religion. The key purpose of Teen Challenge to help these teenagers and their families overcome feelings of loneliness, despair, chaos, and frustration. Education and age-appropriate care may be noted among the most important instruments applied by AG. For example, Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge opened a detox center that is available to people facing drug overdose.
Speaking of the Teen Challenge program, it is essential to stress that, first, the basic needs of young people should be met in the mentioned detox center. Only after that, they may be able to become receptive to the gospel (van Veen, 2017). Without such a sequence, it is clear that many of them may die in the nearest future or encounter complications. In other words, AG goes in line with its 16 non-negotiable Truths, namely, the one that proposes seeking and saving all who are lost in sin. Along with the physical services in this detox center, patients are taught about God’s words, life, and teaching.
The key benefit of the project is the opportunity to separate from the outside world and stop life-threatening relationships and impacts (“Faith-based care,” n.d.). Instead, thoughts and feelings of adolescents can be turned from devastating to positive ones based on the spiritual journey to discover the truth of God. The living examples – people who survived overdose or handled other difficulties – come and tell their stories to allow teenagers to understand that any person is capable of improving, considering God as a key to recovering.
The challenge of assisting young people with addiction to recovery presents to society as one of the main issues that need an urgent solution. As stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the overall tendency shows the decline in youth drug abuse, while these numbers are still representative of the fact that many young people need special attention and education (“United States adolescent substance abuse facts,” n.d.).
Also, AG’s research reveals that out of 19.7 million addicted Americans, 7.2 percent are adolescents (“Teen challenge transition,” n.d.). In this connection, AG’s faith-based recovery program for teenagers seems to be a viable option to help them in their combat with addiction. Another issue that should be clarified concerns the services needed by the target audience. If previously, the majority of parents and care providers were sure that they need long-term treatment, it is evident now that short-term programs are much more effective.
The Teen Challenge project may be implemented into practice using applying modern technologies, in particular, the Internet to reach teenagers and communicate with them. The solutions of their problems is not an easy task, yet Christian values and the voice of Divine morality can restore the life of a young man or woman destroyed by sin and help to rebuild the coordinate system of correct life. It is in the Church that a young man meets peers who show the reality of life in common sense by their behaviors (van Veen, 2017).
Since the absolute majority of contemporary teenagers spend a lot of time on social networks, AG may use this trend to attract them to its denomination. For instance, the research shows that the organization has its accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and that it actively posts new events, spiritual statements, and other inspiring publications.
While AG can be found in social networks, the content and the way of the presentation should be investigated in detail. Since addicted teenagers may hide their condition and refuse to go under treatment, it may be difficult to identify them and determine the services they need.
Therefore, special research is necessary to reveal the signs that may show a teenager’s state, including his or her behavior on the Internet. One of the options that may be used is offering to participate in charity projects, promotions, and temple services, thereby helping young men and women grow in the desire to live a life that is beneficial for others (Kennedy, 2017). AG today is trying in every way to attract young people to the Eucharistic life. This approach allows gaining experience in realizing their talents and abilities, not for their egoistic pleasure, but for others and God.
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To win the target audience in social networks, AG should offer something exclusive, more interesting than those of competitors, create a group aimed at it, and explain the basics of interacting with it. In terms of Social Media Marketing (SMM), the product is moral and spiritual truths or social activities with religious motivation (Mullins & Walker, 2013). Charity is the only universal product that can be utilized in the given case. The task is to establish a dialogue with young people, help them join the community in the AG. The social network is only a bridge on the way of communication with people who seek God. Many adolescents may be interested in publications that are useful to understand church life and traditions.
The gospel tells how the apostles convey personal contact with Christ, and any Christian when on the social network examines his or her personal experience of relations with God. The lack of mission in social networks today is only in the opinion of the head of the diocesan information service that there is no talk about Jesus Christ. The weak point is that people do not speak of God as someone with whom they have a personal relationship.
It should be emphasized that the situation requires building a sense of belongings to the Church, and the context should be promotive of this important aspect as the majority of young people are indifferent to religion, and there is a lot of negative attitude towards the AG on the Internet, as it can be seen from the comments. It is critical to go online and look for an audience that will be interested- this is the core of attracting adolescents via SMM.
Projected Impact of the Project Results
Nowadays, many young people leave the churches since they stop believing in the authority of the Scripture. During the recent Empowered 21 congress, Wood announced that the denomination works with teenagers and young people, while they compose 35 percent of the total number of people visiting AG in the US, which is 3.1 million people annually (“International Pentecostal leaders meet,” 2017). According to the views of Wood, those traditional churches, of which young people are leaving today in the US, have stopped believing in the Scripture, the uniqueness, importance, and exclusiveness of Jesus Christ. It is also emphasized that it is strategically significant to work with the younger generation.
By working with the future generation, it is possible to provide them with the baton of faith. Along with William Wilson, the president of Oral Roberts University, Wood explained that they manage to attract young people by preaching true and personal relationships with God. Indeed, one may note that AG attracts young people because its members believe that God is real. They do not just talk about Him or do not merely think about Him, but promote experiencing His reality.
Through the discussed project, addicted young people can learn that a holiday and a good mood do not depend on alcohol, drug, and any other dependencies and it is possible to live happily without a cigarette in a month and get new impressions – all without drugs. The AG church is a unity of believers, consisting of people with different temperaments, characters, and preferences, but people united by one goal and common interest. It is expected that a young man will grow the ability to love and accept others, forgive, be patient, caring, learn responsibility to keep a word, serve others, and realize his role in the lives of other people.
To conclude, a religious mission on the Internet is a complicated task, although a spiritual topic on the Web is rather popular. A huge number of young people are in search of God, and the AG’s contribution to society is to communicate with them. It was revealed that one of the important challenges encountered by AG is the assistance to young persons who have such problems as drug abuse and self-destructive behaviors.
To attract them, the identified organization opens detox centers and leads accounts in social networks. If AG wants to increase its influence in social networks, it needs its SMM strategies and authority to be supported both in the Church and the secular environment. It is possible to expect that this project will lead to the fact that young people will follow God and quit their addiction, which will, probably, be the best indicator of the effectiveness based on the work of the given denomination in social networks.
Chiswick, B. R., & Mirtcheva, D. M. (2013). Religion and child health: Religious affiliation, importance, and attendance, and health status among American youth. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 34(1), 120-140.
Faith-based care. (n.d.). Web.
International Pentecostal leaders meet. (2017). Web.
Kennedy, J. W. (2017). A vision for 10,000 new congregations. Web.
Mullins, J. W., & Walker, O. C. (2013). Marketing management: A strategic decision-making approach (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Teen challenge transition. (n.d.). Web.
United States adolescent substance abuse facts. (n.d.). Web.
van Veen, D. (2017). Teen challenge opens its first detox center. Web.