“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 do three big events throughout the year: Vacation Bible School in June, a back-to-school bash in mid-August and Fall Festival around Halloween. Fall Festival draws the biggest crowd of anything we do (typically 500-600 people), but Vacation Bible School provides us with the most opportunity for meaningful impact. After VBS each year, we have VBS Family Sunday, in which the kids perform a couple of songs they learned during the week and we hand out certificates. This may seem like a small thing, but this has been our highest attended Sunday each of the past two years — higher than both Easter and Christmas!
As we approach our Back-to-School-Bash, we will invite the families who were a part of our Vacation Bible School. This gives us a way to follow up a couple of months after VBS has ended.
If you can provide a free, fun event for the whole family, you still will draw a crowd in many places. And 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 do a few of big events each year. While these are not the only type of ways we engage our community, they are 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 events that are well planned and well executed throughout the year are more effective than many events that fill the calendar and drain the energy of your congregation. If you’re in 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, and 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 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.” I believe 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 in order to provide an opportunity for the people from your church to engage with the people of your community. It’s a starting point for relationships to be built.
If it’s been a while since your church hosted an outreach event, let me challenge you to put one on the calendar. I think you will be amazed at how the community around the church responds, and how your folks’ morale is boosted when you pull off an event successfully.,Many pulpits and churches are powerless from their lack of prayer. In this message Mark Hallock challenges replanters to dedicate themselves to prayer that God would move and bring health and vitality back to their congregations as they replant.
Published September 15, 2018