Hosting events can be a great way to bring in new people from your community, disciple attendees, and to serve those in need. From marriage retreats to Christmas services, events provide an excellent opportunity to attract people to your church and bring them to Christ.
While hosting events has many benefits, events can also be costly – in money, time, and creating a strain on your team. If you don’t have a plan in place to decide which events to host in the upcoming year, you may end up promoting too many things at once (and losing your audience in the process).
Instead of dealing with these headaches down the road, you can prevent them from happening in the first place with a yearly planning session. Schedule a meeting with your church’s staff and leaders and have them come prepared by providing them with the following questions before the meeting.
Question #1: What events did we do last year?
Repeating the same events, especially if they have a successful track record, can be a great strategy. Just make sure you also consider these follow-up questions:
- Was this event successful (and how do we measure success)?
- Do we want to repeat this event (if not, why)?
When it comes to defining success, don’t just focus on attendance.
Some goals to consider besides attendance numbers are:
- Did this event get more people connected to small groups?
- Did we get members signed up to serve in various roles?
- Did this event add to your congregation?
Did hosting that event last year achieve your goals? If so, that’s a great reason to include the event in this year’s schedule. If not, see if you can pinpoint why the event wasn’t successful and make adjustments or scrap the event completely.
Question #2: Who are we trying to reach?
Before you can effectively plan an event or decide how to promote it, you need to know who you’re trying to reach.
Are you trying to reach…
- Newly married couples?
- First-time moms?
- Young adults starting college?
- New believers?
- Single professionals?
- Children 12 and under?
With any event, you’ll need to strategize what you’ll do, where it’ll be, which day, etc. based on the people group you’re trying to reach. Normally, you wouldn’t hold an event (that would be successful) for both single professionals and retirees. The method you’ll use to promote your event will differ based on your intended audience.
Consider what you’re leading people towards with this event. Kris Dolberry with LifeWay states, “Events that are used as on-ramps help people get connected to the church, to a group, or to a serving opportunity.” For example: A weekend Ladies’ Brunch could be an easy way for women of your congregation to invite their friends who don’t normally attend church. The event gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what your church is like, what you believe, etc. During the event, you could extend an invitation for everyone to come back on Sunday for services.
Question #3: What types of events would advance the vision and mission of our church?
Eric Geiger advocates that church leaders must think through their existing strategy, “There will always be new ideas, both from people within the church and from other ministry leaders within your network. We don’t suffer from a lack of ideas, but churches often suffer from failing to filter ideas through their ministry strategy. When leaders fail to think strategically, complexity is inevitable because we will always drift there.”
To filter potential event ideas, consider the following:
- Any event you host should have a direct tie into supporting the church’s mission and vision. Yes, a financial seminar might be a great help to some people but does that directly advance the vision of your church? If you’re going to invest time, effort, and money into hosting an event, make sure it supports the overall direction of your church.
Question #4: What events do we have the capacity to handle?
This question will require you to be realistic. If you burn out your staff and volunteers with several large events in a single month, you’ve done more harm than good.
Consider the cost of each event – financial and resource costs:
- How many volunteers will we need for these events?
- How does that number compare to how many volunteers we typically have on Sundays? If the number of volunteers for the event is significantly greater than the volunteers we have on Sundays, how are we going to add to our volunteer ranks?
- How long will it take to plan each event?
- Who (staff and volunteer leaders) will need to be involved in the planning process for this event?
- How many people do we expect will attend the event?
- Do we have enough sound, lighting, and other equipment to host multiple events in the same week?
- How long will it take to complete the setup and teardown for each event?
Question #5: What types of events have people requested?
Maybe your church is seeing an influx of young families and they’re looking for parenting advice. Perhaps you’ve had several people come to you recently asking the church to host a job fair for the community.
Bring these events to the table and discuss whether any of them advance the vision of the church and are ones the team agrees it should add.
Now that you have a propose list of events, it’s time to put them all onto a single calendar and determine which ones to keep (and when). Ideally, have someone put every proposed event on a large wall calendar before the event working session. During the meeting, discuss each ministry area’s proposed calendar of events.
Consider the following:
- Do we have any events on the same day or within the same week that could conflict with each other (the teardown of one may conflict with the setup time needed for the other, etc.)?
- How many large events do we have each month and do we have the capacity to handle that many big events in that timeframe? If not, do we need to eliminate or move certain events?
- Are we overloading our congregation with back-to-back events? They have jobs, soccer practice for the kids, school activities, and more competing for their time. Are we adding to their already crammed schedule and potentially taking away family time?
- Will we end up asking the same volunteers to serve at multiple events within any 6-8 week timeframe during the year? If so, you may need to spread events out a bit more or put additional effort first into developing a larger volunteer team.
- How many nights and weekends will our staff end up working due to these events (since most events are on evenings and weekends to allow people in the congregation to attend)? Do we have a plan to compensate them with other days off?
Once you’ve carefully considered each event and the schedule as a whole, decide which events will remain on the calendar. It might be painful to eliminate an event, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Keep notes from this meeting for next year to review events that didn’t make the cut and see if they’ll work in the future.
Taking the time to intentionally plan your church event calendar will save your team money and stress in the coming months. This process will also help you keep events aligned with your church’s vision so you stay on-track.
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