Chipotle and Crossings Church

January 3, 2007 by

Last month I wrote an entry about potential partnerships that might exist between companies and churches. Not surprising, it sparked several heated comments. I am working on a follow up post that dives a little deeper into the subject.

In the meantime, we got an e-mail from Josh Karrer, a church planter with Crossings Church out of Richmond, Va. Several months ago, Karrer approached local and regional managers for the insanely yummy Chipotle restaurant.

They worked a deal with Chipotle to give each visitor a free burrito. Crossings passes out a playing card (provided by Chipotle, pictured) that serves as the free burrito coupon. If you’ve never been to Chipotle, this ain’t your momma’s Taco Bell tortilla roll-up. This thing is huge, and costs about $6-8.

Chipotle provides the burritos for free and charges the church nothing. In exchange, Crossings earns goodwill with visitors for scoring free grub, and Chipotle wins because their name spreads to circles outside of the normal footprints they are creating.

This is a win on so many levels, including the bridges that can be built with the local business community. Way to go guys!

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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16 Responses to “Chipotle and Crossings Church”

  • Luke Dooley
    January 3, 2007

    Our church did this as well. You could say that our pastoral staff is addicted to Chipotle… So one day while in there we talked to the district manager about doing a Journey Church / Chipotle Sunday. We worked out a deal where anyone who came to Chipotle on a given Sunday with a Journey Church program ate for free.
    Chipotle is a great company with excellent marketing and top-notch food. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it….

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  • A.B. Dada
    January 3, 2007

    I’ve never really understood why so many congregations are against affiliating with the community — even businesses — to build traffic within the community. There’s nothing more fun than running into people I serve when I run through a local restaurant (instead of just online!).
    Some like to quote Jesus and the moneychangers, but it is a different story to say “Get a free burrito” than to say “You can’t worship here unless you buy a burrito first.” Huge difference between the two.
    Who knows. I’m the kind of guy who would rather GATHER at a restaurant than in a cold building that only gets used 2 hours a week. Maybe that’s just me, but I support any and all growth in the community, not just within the 4 walls.

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  • johnny brower
    January 3, 2007

    i love chipotle.
    if my church gave away burritos…i would love jesus more.

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  • Dan Wall
    January 3, 2007

    This seems a little different to me than a sermon series sponsored by Jiffy Lube. I think as long as it is a partnership and there is no money or special perks to the staff (ie: providing the pastor with a Harley Davidson–true story!) being exchanged, then it seems a little more legit.

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  • Amber Cox
    January 3, 2007

    Chipotle is a little taste of heaven on earth, so I think the partnership makes total sense!

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  • Zach
    January 4, 2007

    Umm Jiffy Lube…. Free Oil CHange coupon? I am in on that buisness baby.

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  • Julian Richter
    January 5, 2007

    I can see pitfalls in affiliating with a business. There is a danger to the reputation of the church. Take Chipolte as an example. What if they serve green onions contaminated with e.coli and your visitors wind up in the hospital? What if the manager of the local restaurant is cited for sexual harrasment? Suppose the media runs a story about Chipolte getting its tortillas from sweat shops in Mexico where workers are paid 10 cents an hour?
    Yes, you could say that by affiliating there is the possiblity of the church influencing company management to remedy these issues. But is that where you want to direct the time and energy of your congregation? Maybe that is the mission of your church. But it may not be. So investigate carefully before you affiliate

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  • jasond
    January 6, 2007

    I think that the only problem I have with this is that it’s not necessary. If your congregation is excited about what the church is doing, that should show and you shouldn’t have to entice people to come. My pastor quotes a survey a lot (don’t ask me about the details, I’m not sure) that says something like 3 out of 4 people would go to church if a friend invited them. Then theres the one that says that 80%(?) of church growth is from personal invitations (I guess that may be the same as the first). We don’t need gimmicks or coupons, we just need to get excited about our mission and be bold in asking.
    Or maybe it’s just because I don’t like Chipotle.

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  • Dj
    January 8, 2007

    I dont know. I’m all about trying to make visitors feel welcome, but a big part of me feels like stuff like this is just a big cop out.
    Its a cop out to our own responsibilities as followers of Jesus to do evangelism. We build these big buildings and have these holiday “galas” to “attract” people. And I’m all for bringing in people when we can, but most people say “Well…this is what the church is doing…so i can get out of my personal responsibility to build a relationship with an unbeliever..”
    We keep coming up with more junk to make the average Christian’s life easier when we knew from the beginning it was never supposed to be easy.
    Like I said, I”m all about making visitors feel welcome. But don’t let this kind of stuff be a cop out to our own personal responsibilities to reach the lost by meeting their needs.

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  • Matt
    January 8, 2007

    Hey Julian-
    Just think how Chipotle feels…
    What if this pastor turns out to be like Ted Haggard. What if they knock people down during prayer services and they end up in the hospital. What if the youth pastor is charged with sexual crimes against a minor. Suppose the local investigative reporter does a story about how the church gets its communion bread from an illegal alien’s bakery.
    These are the same what ifs encountered by anyone with a reputation on the line. Any time there are people involved, there’s risk.
    I think this is a fantastic idea. It would be even better if folks from the church go to Chipotle with the visitors & extend the connection opportunities.
    And by the way, Chipotle ROCKS!

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  • Matt Donovan
    January 8, 2007

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with churches partnering with comapanies. What I do have issues with is this:

    In exchange, Crossings earns goodwill with visitors for scoring free grub…

    The point is not about earning goodwill. The point is not about getting more “traffic.” The point is to be a safe place for sinners, whether believing or unbelieving, to come and hear about Jesus. The point is to be light tot the community.
    I think partnerships with businesses are more profitable to the Kingdom on a local level. What would make the Chipotle/Crossings partnership better is if the burrito cards went to attenders and members as well in order to drive a bunch of believers out of the Church cafe on Sunday afternoon and into the community.
    I think ‘get them in the door’ tactics are often (if not always) off-target. This campaign is on track to grow a huge community of evangelical free-loaders.

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  • Sara
    January 9, 2007

    Free stuff will always bring people in the door. It’s what you do NEXT that matters.
    The church I’ve been attending decided to reach out into our poorer neighborhoods, providing transportation since many are without cars, and putting on a service on a Saturday afternoon once a month. Afterward, everyone is invited to share a meal, pick up a free bag of groceries, and pick out free clothes that have been donated. The service started out with around 60 people and two were baptized that day; one more the following Sunday. The service has grown to around 200. Word gets out when there’s a grab bag involved. We’ve also partnered with other area churches; however, thus far we have been solely providing the building and volunteers. Because of the religious segregation that still exists (racial and socio-economic), it’s a complex situation that requires more space than I have. I still want to know how many of these lives are being transformed by the outreach? Has anyone made friends? No one has said a peep other than reporting on the monthly body count.
    I’m all for the “go and serve” message – that is our mission. But I wonder about follow-up. Thousands of people followed Christ around, waiting to experience a miracle. He fed thousands; they didn’t hang around. He also went to peoples’ homes and shared a meal – the equivalent of making an intimate friend (which is why the Pharisees were so pissed off). Either way, Christ was willing to go and be with people because you never know.
    When we do these things, are we developing healthy relationships, providing spiritual nourishment, and encouraging others to grow on their own?

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  • Jon L.
    January 18, 2007

    Here’s an idea! Forget about getting free Chipotle and challenge your congregation to take a visitor/neighbour out for lunch to the local Chipotle on their own dime.
    So instead of the church getting corportate dollars, they bless a local business, the visitor gets a free lunch and you get the joy of living generously, being kind and making an effort to build something that will last longer then 2 pm Sunday afternoon. In my mind that is truly a win, win, win situation!

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  • Joel
    January 18, 2007

    I know this may seem unimportant to some who are very used to materialistic, corporate-style, church marketing but have you considered what Jesus thought of church/corporate cooperation?

    Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. Then he began to teach them and said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!” The chief priests and the experts in the law heard it and they considered how they could assassinate him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed by his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18, NET)

    In a society that is more over-indulged than any other society in history (especially in the area of food), how does giving free fast food to people who don’t need it bring them closer to giving up everything in order to follow Jesus’ call to “deny [yourself], take up [your] cross daily, and follow me.”? (Luke 9:23)
    Why is there no record of Jesus or any of the apostles meeting people’s felt needs? Sure, Jesus fed people who were hungry (i.e. really needed food) and healed people who were sick but then he had to rebuke the people for following him just for the food:

    “I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted. Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life – the food which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:26-27, NET)

    Giving out free luxury food to people who are already higly self-indulgent so that they will hopefully decide to pursue Christlike self-sacrifice seems a bit like attracting people to an AA meeting with alcohol; it might get them there and it might even keep them there but it won’t help them get were they should be going.

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  • Dai Thao
    February 21, 2007

    Yes this idea will probably get people to your door step if that’s your marketing purpose. But where’s the relationship with God? I believe that relationship with God is why churches exist to begin with. That relationship starts when a person seeks God, not for the free stuff. In fact this free stuff is in nature aganist the principle of Jesus Christ. Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of Gold, Crossing is selling Jesus for a free burrito.
    If you want effective marketing that build relationship with God, you informed the public through radio by simply saying, “life can be hectic and if the world seems to crumble around you, remember we are here for you when you need a friend, when you need to be heard, when you feel hurt and alone, remember you got a friend waiting at ABC (dont even have to mention the word church), come as our honorable guest and leave as our valued friend. this message is brought to you by your friend at ABC. Call 555.555.5555 when you need a friend.”
    Do what Jesus taught us, not what we think Jesus might do.

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  • Church Advertising
    November 14, 2009

    I remember the last article. I believe it was a church holding bible study at hooters. I still don’t know about that one. It is like saying “Have your cake and just try to avoid the frosting.”

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