“Events don’t work.” Maybe you’ve heard this one or twice. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself a time or two.
If you’ve bought into this line of thinking, let me share three reasons you may want to reconsider event-focused engagement:
1. Events can still be effective
At First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, we would hold three big events throughout the year: Vacation Bible School in June, Back-to-School Bash in mid-August and Fall Festival around Halloween. Fall Festival drew the biggest crowd of anything we did (typically 500-600 people), but Vacation Bible School provided us with the most opportunity for meaningful impact. After VBS each year, we had VBS Family Sunday, in which the kids performed a couple of songs they learned during the week and we would hand out certificates. This may seem like a small thing, but this was our highest attended Sunday for several years — higher than both Easter and Christmas!
In August, we would invite the families who were a part of our Vacation Bible School to the Back-to-School Bash. This provided a way to follow up a couple of months after VBS had ended.
If you can provide a free, fun event for the whole family, you still will draw a crowd in many places. Folks who would not come to a worship service will come to a Fall Festival in the parking lot or a Back-to-School Bash at a local park.
2. Less may be more
Notice I said we only did a few big events each year. While these were not the only ways we engaged our community, they were some of the biggest. When it comes to engaging your community through events, you do not have to fill the calendar. In fact, I believe two or three well-planned, well-executed events throughout the year are more effective than many events that fill the calendar and drain your congregation’s energy. If you’re in a replant or revitalization setting, chances are you have a limited number of volunteers to share the load. You don’t want to stretch their time and energy thin. I would advise you to plan three or four big events throughout the year, then be sure to follow up with those who attend, especially with those who do not have a church home.
3. Stay focused on the purpose of events
If you’re skeptical about events even for a minute, let me remind you of something Mark Clifton said in Reclaiming Glory: “You don’t serve your community to get people into your church …. You serve the community to get your church, the people of your church, into the lives of the people in the community.” This also is true for events. You don’t put an event together so people will see how amazing your church is and will want to show up on Sunday. That may or may not happen (probably not). You do events to provide the people from your church an opportunity to engage with the people of your community. It’s a starting point for relationships to be built.
If it’s been awhile since your church hosted an outreach event, let me challenge you to put one on the calendar. You may be amazed at how the community responds, and how your folks’ morale is boosted when you pull off an event successfully.
Published July 8, 2022