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Beach Reach: Followup as Fake Friendship

Beach Reach: Followup as Fake Friendship July 27, 2021

Hi and welcome back! We’re quickly approaching the end of our Beach Reach training. Now, our trainers need us to know how to perform follow-up with our sales marks. Whether we failed or succeeded — though, let’s be honest here, we largely utterly failed — to make any sales, follow-up is critically important to our recruitment process. Today, let’s learn how to pretend to be friends with the normies we despise and look down on for rejecting our demands.

a better use of a week at a beach than beach reach
(Ben McLeod.) I’m not sure what these kids are doing, but I hope they remember the fun they had for their whole lives. This looks like a way better use of a week at a beach than Beach Reach.

(Training docs link. Previous Beach Reach posts: What It’s All About; Why Evangelicals Use Evangelism Techniques That Don’t Work; How and Why to Craft a Testimony; Deploying Small Talk; Atheists and Cultural Catholics Have Entered the Chat. When I talk about evangelism as a sales process, the product isn’t Jesus or even belief in Jesus. It’s active membership in the evangelist’s own group. Also, check out these related posts: The Truth About Christian Zingers; Being Genuinely Helpful vs. Being Christianly Helpful; The Duggar Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Grifting Tree; Teen Evangelism Hits a New Low; How John Stott Moved the Evangelism Goalpost. SBC = Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination behind Beach Reach.)

Followup in the Beach Reach Sales Process.

In Week 4 (student handout; trainer handout), we learn that followup represents a critical part of the Beach Reach sales process.

Followup, in sales jargon, means touching base with a prospect to either reinforce a new customer’s purchasing decision or try to further influence that person to purchase. And yes, it’s very important indeed to salespeople.

That’s why, when people purchase a product online, they often get a little card or small gift to thank them for that purchase. Sometimes, folks get emails for years to come. If the purchasing decision didn’t result in an actual immediate purchase, like if someone just put a bunch of stuff into their online shopping cart and then left, then followup can spur them to make an actual purchase. If the prospect outright rejected the sales pitch, then good followup can lead the prospect to reconsider.

In Beach Reach terms, almost all prospects reject the sales pitches volunteers make. I’ve tracked it for years, and yes, Beach Reach makes next to no sales. It’s clear to me that most volunteers never even get to the point of being able to issue a formal sales pitch at all.

Most volunteers will be lucky if someone in their volunteer group that week manages to score even one purchasing decision. Even that win will probably come from an existing Christian who just drifted out of the faith for a while. Regardless, that lucky successful salesperson will be a superstar soulwinner to the rest of the group forever more, and they might even be able to parlay that vast success into a new career in evangelism.

So the trainers of Beach Reach are well aware that their brief opportunity to manipulate heathens on the beach will not be enough time to fully manipulate their marks into buying their product (active membership in their religious group).

They will need more extensive contact so they can conduct more manipulation.

And they will get that extra contact, they hope, through followup.

How to Follow Up the Beach Reach Way.

Week 4’s trainer handout gives us a YouTube video to watch (which led me to the marvelous gem of cringe that is the entire Beach Reach official channel). Here it is:


“Beach Reach Follow Up,” Jan 22, 2020, from BeachReachSPI.

It’s only a minute long, but it’s just remarkable. Their heathen in the video looks like a nice Baptist girl, just she turned her floral cap backwards. She looks like the worst thing she’s ever done is show up a few minutes late to her small-group meeting. However, we’re supposed to assume she’s a typical Spring Break party animal in need of a free van ride somewhere. And she is remarkably, even surreally amenable to everything her salesperson wants her to do.

the backwards cap is how you know she's a sinner
She seems nice. I hope one day she can look back at her involvement with these shameless manipulators and opportunists with grace and humor.

The speaker in the video tells us that at this point, he assumes that the mark accepted a free van ride. During that ride, fervent but inept fundagelical salespeople sandwiched the poor schmuck in between them, then hit that mark hard with the awful talking points they learned to simulate conversation like normal people.

The speaker’s advice sounds like something a pickup artist would employ:

  • Get the mark’s phone number. Make sure it’s really their phone number by “shooting them a quick text.” Don’t fall for the old fake-digits trick!
  • Take a selfie together in the van and send it so the mark remembers who you are and that they did, in fact, really meet you. (Implication: what if they were so wasted that night they don’t even remember that weirdo Christian they met that one night?)
  • “Let them know they can call you personally if they have any trouble or have them request your van.”
  • If a mark actually converts while sitting in a weird fundagelical church van, make sure to send their info to the local SBC church in their hometown — and to the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) at their college, if one exists there.
  • The day after your encounter, touch base with the mark. Also touch base again the next week, two weeks later, and one month later. (I assume all dates are from the initial point of contact, not from the last followup date.)

The student handout does advise gaining permission to keep in touch, though the video guy never does.

It is a lot to expect every Beach Reach volunteer to do this kind of fake friendliness after every single encounter they have. But here we are.

Followup As Love Bombing.

The followup Beach Reach suggests looks a lot like love-bombing. Evangelicals generally know about this concept, but they often have trouble connecting it to what they do to their marks.

In 2013, a Jewish blogger discussed this behavior from evangelicals. The writer knew they were trying to impress Jews with their great appreciation and respect — but it was just really skeevy and weird considering how evangelicals typically behave around Jews. In turn, the Christians involved in these weird pro-Israel groups had a billion excuses for why they were behaving with over-the-top affection toward their usual culture-war enemies. It never occurred to them to ask how their behavior might come across to actual Jews.

And that’s how it usually goes. Evangelicals don’t know how to behave around normal people. Their social behaviors are almost all scripted, transactional, surface-level, and authoritarian. So, they don’t know (or even like) concepts like reciprocity, social capital, theory of mind, and consent. In lieu of these important social concepts, they have a sort of cargo-cult lexicon of substitutes they use among themselves. But when they try to engage with marks, especially marks who seem sorta friendly to the idea of purchasing their product, they lose their minds like a dog who just saw their owner get the leash out for walkies.

excited very excited!
Sample dog.

You’d think it’d be more like the door-to-door evangelists visiting Bernard Black in Black Books. When he invites them in to distract himself from doing his taxes, one gets scared and thinks the invitation is really some kind of prank:


I’d love to hear about Jesus! What’s he up to now?” — “IT’S A TRICK!”

The Bait and Switch of Friendship Evangelism.

Bear in mind that Beach Reach wants their volunteers to act like this followup is just friendly engagement that friends would do to be friendly with their new friends. It is not presented as them seeking to further influence marks (or reinforce a purchasing decision). Instead, it is presented as them jus’ bein’ all friendly-like, like that’s just how Jesus inspires TRUE CHRISTIANS™ to act!

Indeed, the student handout specifically tells volunteers:

Use this [repeated contact] as a way to show that you care about them even after they leave the island.

And of course, of course, the volunteer does totally care about each and every mark!

Right? Right?

Oh yes, absolutely!

At least, this act persists until the volunteers realize their marks will never, ever purchase their product, ever. Remember Jadon, our drive-by Beach Reach veteran? He never once brought up a single non-Christian he still talked to from his two stints as a volunteer. But he mentioned a couple of Christians (one a sales success from a fellow volunteer) that he still kept vaguely in touch with. Unless he spectacularly bombed a pitch, I doubt he even remembers any of his sales rejections, much less keeps in touch with them.

This behavior mirrors what I’ve seen over and over again from sales-minded evangelicals. At first, they come on very strong with the love bombing. But when they realize that you will never buy their product, they either ghost you or retaliate viciously against you for this rejection, now that they know there’s no risk of potentially alienating you as a buyer.

And I can see why they ghost those who reject their sales pitches.

The Reality of Beach Reach Followup.

It’s exhausting for evangelicals to keep up with people who will never, ever purchase their product. Worse, such contact must feel like a raised middle finger to all their beliefs. Sure, ghosting really contradicts all their overtures of friendship, but it wasn’t real friendship anyway. Well-indoctrinated evangelicals don’t know how to have real friends anyway, especially not friends from outside their bubble. And their leaders sure wouldn’t want them to have such friends, because such contact vastly increases the chances of a fundagelical running into repeated contradictions of their beliefs.

Luckily, it’s extremely doubtful that most Beach Reach volunteers will actually faithfully keep up contact for long with anyone they meet during their week volunteering. At most, they’ll keep up with those who seem like likely prospects, at least until they realize no sales will be forthcoming. They have a lot better chance of meeting fellow evangelicals that they get along with, as Jadon did.

The way Beach Reach training handles followup definitely sounds more like an overtly secular sales situation than evangelism, but evangelism truly is sales at its heart. It’s usually really inept salesmanship, but hey, ineptly-done salesmanship is still sales.

The Ruse That Doesn’t Work Anymore.

However, Beach Reach training sounds most like a studied attempt to make these volunteers’ marks think that a real friendship is developing between them.

That ruse generally worked on my generation of teens. It worked grandly, in fact, even on me! But I don’t think today’s Gen Z college students make that mistake as often or as reliably as us older folks did. They react even more poorly than I did upon realizing that there was never a chance of making real friends here.

Perhaps we have the anti-MLM movement to thank for how quickly people have learned about these tricks — and for the increasing strength of young adults’ collective rejection of Beach Reach’s tactics. After all, MLM (multilevel marketing schemes) sellers/recruiters use many of the same tricks.

Whatever the cause, Beach Reach’s success numbers have been dropping despite more volunteers than EVER going on the trip. (See endnote.) Thankfully, since Beach Reach was never about making sales anyway, that’s a failure its organizers are happy to absorb.

NEXT UP: The darkest part of the entire very-dark Beach Reach concept. See you tomorrow!


Endnotes.

Beach Reach Stats: These come from my spreadsheet of the SBC’s annual reports. Remember that the dates reflect stats from the year before, so 2021 means 2020 performance. In addition, I included the denomination’s baptism ratio (baptisms per recorded SBC-lings) for each year because I find it interesting as a correlation with Beach Reach’s consistently lackluster performance. In similar fashion, I’ve calculated successes per volunteers after each conversion count.

  • 2015: 700 volunteers, 78 conversions (1:9); SBC baptism ratio 1:51.
  • 2016: 750 volunteers, 70 conversions (1:11); SBC baptism ratio 1:52.
  • 2017: 700 volunteers, 65 conversions (1:11); SBC baptism ratio 1:54.
  • 2018: 900 volunteers, 51 conversions (1:18); SBC baptism ratio 1:59
  • 2019: “over 850” volunteers, “some 36” conversions (1:23ish); SBC baptism ratio 1:60
  • 2020: “almost 800” volunteers, “some 42” conversions (1:19ish); SBC baptism ratio 1:62
  • 2021: no stats reported and only 1 week completed due to pandemic, so it was probably especially bad; SBC baptism ratio 1:114

Thus, it is more likely that my evaluation of their success — with 1 member per team maybe getting one conversion in their entire week-long stint — is being overly generous. Instead, it’s more and more likely with each passing year that entire teams do not see even one member achieve even one sale.

Hooray Team Jesus! (Back to the post!)


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.
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