Among the free food, games and other prizes offered at an event hosted by the Family Life Christian Center in Clinton, Iowa, Saturday, the chance to win a $100 gas card is the biggest incentive promoted by Senior Pastor Kenny Hilliard Jr. to convince his community to show up.
“I want you to know that we will be offering $100 gas gift cards to those who come to the services. A part of it will have a drawing and you can win $100 on Family Life Christian Church,” Hilliard said in a video posted on his church’s Facebook page Tuesday night.
“Why are we doing this?” he asked.
“Because gas is high!” he responded to his question, matter-of-factly, acknowledging his awareness that the national average price of gas hit a record $5 a gallon in June.
“That’s exactly why we’re doing it. ... Since gas is high we want to pour into you letting you know that you can have a $100 on Family Life … because it’s all about the family,” he said.
Some economists have warned that gas prices will increase this summer with higher demand from travelers amid rising inflation. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the annual inflation rate in May was 8.6%, which is the highest it has been since 1981. This means that the spending power of each dollar earned by workers in America has been eroded by nearly 9%.
President Joe Biden has asked Congress to suspend the gas and diesel taxes for three months through September, Yahoo! Finance reported but some financial experts say it won’t do much to help.
“The average adult in the U.S. uses about one gallon of gasoline per day,” Jay Zagorsky, senior lecturer in markets, public policy and law at Boston University told Yahoo! Finance. “If President Biden is able to push through a gas tax holiday, the typical adult will save a bit less than $6 a month. In a time when inflation is over 8%, an extra $6 will not make much difference.”
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy agrees and suggested that government stimulus checks of $50 or $100 sent to Americans might help more.
“If they need it for gas, they'll be wise and save it,” De Haan told the news service. “And that won’t maybe have as profound an impact on gasoline demand while still offering some sort of relief.”
As government officials spar over how best to address high gas prices and general economic squeeze being felt by American households, churches across the country have been trending on social media, along with many other organizations, for doing gas giveaways. Earlier this month, Progressive Union Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, called their giveaway of $5,000 worth of gas, “Gas on God.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Hilliard, whose church opened about six months ago, explained that the idea for giving out gas cards emerged during a planning meeting with his team at Family Life Christian Center. Some who traveled long distances to get to the church, he said, had expressed worry about gas prices.
“There was a little concern with people that travel to our church that the gas price is going up,” Hilliard said. ”What we wanted to do is, we want to give back not only to the ones that are in our church, but we wanted to give to the ones in our community as well because that’s ultimately what we are here for. We are here to help the community in any kind of way we can.”
Last month, Pastor Chris Simmons who leads Cornerstone Baptist Church which serves a low-income community in Dallas, Texas, told Baptist Press that high gas prices had forced some of his members to forego in-person worship services for online engagement so they could keep gas in their tanks.
“Giving is down, because people now have to decide whether they’re going to give or get gas to get to church,” Simmons told the news service. “It is not only impacting giving. It’s also impacting attendance, because people don’t have the gas money, and they’re trying to ration gas. Some people have gone back to online, for no other reason than the gas.”
Come Saturday morning, Salem Baptist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, will also be sponsoring a gas card giveaway in the church’s parking lot from 9 a.m. until supplies last. And according to its senior pastor, the Rev. Selwyn Q. Bachus, he’s simply trying to alleviate the strain on his community as well.
“Salem recognizes that rising inflation has impacted gas prices, creating day-to-day strain on resources for many families across our community. We want to express God’s love and support during these challenging times by providing a gas card giveaway to offer some relief,” Bachus said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to helping our community fill their gas tanks.”
Earlier this month, Life Changers Christian Church in West Allis, Wisconsin, decided to give away $900 worth of gas by parsing out $15 worth of the precious commodity to each motorist. In less than one hour they had exhausted their budget.
"That's the need right now. People have to get to work, they have to get their children around," the church’s leader, identified as Pastor Jay, told WISN. “[For] some people, that $15 goes a long way."