Methodists take to pubs in search of the 11th commandment

We've had the 10 commandments for more than 3000 years - a newphone text competition for under-40s asks: isn't it about time foran 11th?

The Methodist Church this week overturns the traditionalimpression that it wants nothing to do with pubs as it takes tobars across Britain to promote a phone text competition forunder-40s.

In a campaign to discover what under-40s think are the pressingspiritual issues of the day, 250,000 drinks mats featuring sixdesigns are being distributed by specialist marketers Thirsty's to250 city and town bars frequented by students and under-40s.

There are six separate drinks mat designs, which includesuggestions for a possible new 11th commandment: 'Stop war';'Reduce emissions'; 'Eat more donuts'; 'Remove all packaging';'Never give out your password'; 'Do not disturb'

This new wave of publicity follows half a million postcards thatwere distributed at the start of February in cinemas, colleges,students unions, cafŽs and bars by leading specialist marketingcompany Boomerang Media to launch the phone text competition.

Competition organisers, the Methodist Church together withwebsite shipoffools.com hope that under-40s might spend a fewminutes thinking and maybe discussing what they would like to bethe 11th commandment. More than 500 people have already sent intheir entries.

The competition is being seen as the beginning of a dialoguebetween the Church and adults in their 20s and 30s. Like otherchurches, Methodism has recognized lower numbers of this age groupattending traditional church services. This is the first of aseries of initiatives designed to help Methodist leaders tounderstand better the culture of under-40s and what they thinkabout God.

Explaining the Methodist Church's reasons for holding thecompetition, the Rev Jonathan Kerry said: "The church has oftenbeen guilty of telling people what to think and also lacking asense of humour. So we thought it was about time that we do thelistening as well as have some fun. We can also be criticised forbeing out of touch with the under-40s. We hope that this can be away of finding out some of the things that matter to them."

"We hope people will want to collect the drinks mats andpostcards, discuss them with friends, and use the quick and popularmedium of text messaging to tell us their ideas. This isn't about'bums on pews' - there'll be no pressure to get furtherinvolved."

Simon Jenkins, Editor of shipoffools.com, said: "What isexciting about this competition is to take the 10 commandments outof boring buildings and put them on the street where theybelong."

The drinks mats and postcards were designed by the MethodistChurch Communication Office. The postcards were distributednationally to 260 multiplex cinemas, 850 cafŽ bars and almost 370universities and colleges. The competition concept was developed bya Methodist group chaired by Mr Kerry, the Church's Co-ordinatingSecretary for Worship and Learning. The group included severalpeople in their 20s and 30s.

To enter the competition, participants need to text ELEVEN plusthe suggested 11th Commandment to 84880 (for example send 'ELEVENThou shalt not text and drive').

The best five commandments received by the closing date of 31March 2004 will win a camera phone.

Later in the year the organisers hope to publish a book with thebest competition entries. This will allow the Church to share whatpeople say with a wider audience, said Mr Kerry.