Bait And Switch

Mark Johannesen
September 9th, 2021

Let me get you to think about buying a car.  Actually going to the car dealership to buy a car. If you’re like me, before you’ve even walked in the door of the dealership, you’ve done some research online. Perhaps you went to Consumer Reports website or you looked at a copy of Car And Driver with a hope to educate yourself. 

And then, as you whittled through the options, you began to see certain models that impressed you or fit into your budget. And eventually you come to a place where you’ve done as much homework as you can and you’re ready to hit the dealership showroom. So, you make your way over to the showroom and deep down there is a hope inside of you that it might be possible to simply walk the showroom floor without a salesman coming over to pressure you into buying a car.

And then you find the car that you looked at online and it’s around the same price as what you saw and has many of the same features. 

And then it happens. Mr. Car Salesman hunts you down and he starts making small talk. And deep down you remain guarded and wished that he wasn’t there.

And then the salesman asks if you want to take the car for a test drive. Now, there’s a part of you that wants to and there is a part of you that wants to run out the door.

But you agree and soon you’re behind the wheel headed down the highway. And that’s when things switch into another gear. As you’re driving the salesman starts to tell you about all the features and as soon as he has won you over and he knows that you’re going to seriously consider buying this car, he starts telling you about the more upgraded version. 

That updated car has the back-up camera and is even able to “back it up.” It’s got the BOSE stereo system. The warranty is for an extra year and he names how all the reviews give it WAY more praise than the model you began looking at.

The sales tactic that the salesperson employed is called “bait and switch.” And the premise is to simply put something shiny in front of a prospective buyer, to real them in like a fish on a hook, and then to get them to buy something more than what they intended to buy.

Why did I take you through all that?

Because as we build relationships with students, it might be what we do.

Once I wrote to a number of parents and students who all went to the same school and told them I would be at their lunch hour with cupcakes. And just as I had hoped, a dozen Jr. Highers came, said hi, chatted, and got cupcakes. Then, 45 minutes later, another dozen high school students came, grabbed cupcakes, and a number even ate their lunch with me. 

So… Mission accomplished. Right?

But a part of me felt like I pulled off a “bait and switch” on those students because my gracious offer turned into a promo moment for our youth ministry. 

Well, let’s kick this conversation up a notch. Have you ever planned an event and cleverly found a way to insert some sort of message into that event? 

My answer – Yes I have. 

A few years back I hosted a Superbowl Party and I billed it as an event for friends to hang out, watch the game, eat food, and things like that. After the event a well-intentioned student told me that he had hoped I would have used the event to share the gospel with those there, but I told him that I wanted the event to be that which was advertised and not something that it wasn’t.

While I want to teach and model the gospel repeatedly, I have come to a place where I just don’t want to be a car salesman doing the good old “bait and switch.”

The gospel is not a gimmick and at this point in my life, while I want anyone that I come into contact with to know Jesus, I want it to happen as a result of either dialoguing with that person or because they willfully sat under some sort of teaching/preaching time.

As you process this here are some questions for your consideration:

  1. Have you ever used a “bait and switch” approach?
  2. As you read this post, how does the “bait and switch” premise strike you?
  3. If you disagree with my premise, would you be willing to contact me and share how you’ve come to your conclusions? 

Let me leave you with this final thought. As I was thinking about all of this, I couldn’t help but think about how Paul writes so many churches in the New Testament and as he does, he does so out of an authentic desire to care for them. As well, he is honest and up front. 

My point –There was no “bait and switch.”

If this gets you thinking or re-thinking about your methodology, then I am glad to have written this.

Mark Johannesen

No one kicked me out of youth group after I graduated.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.