Fall is a time when many churches host community outreach events like fall festivals, craft fairs or trunk-or-treats.
Beyond creating a fun and festive time for attendees, church leaders’ often envision these events as outreach to unchurched members of the community. However, the intended purpose of outreach often falls by the wayside in planning and preparation for the actual event.
It’s been said that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Here are 13 ways that can help your church events achieve their intended purpose as outreach events.
- Plan for outreach beyond sending a postcard. Because most information of importance to millennials is found online, a simple postcard is seen as a marketing ploy and will have little impact.
- .Create a special events greeter team to welcome and converse with guests who come to your event. This may mean remembering to have bilingual speakers on your greeter team.
- Train church members who are parents to reach out to guests who come to your event. Oftentimes, parents will huddle with parents they already know and fail to welcome others who need a church home.
- Have a “make and take” station for kids to create a simple craft that includes information about your church.
- Consider having a photo booth for families to have a picture taken. Gather information so that the photo can be sent to them and include information about your church.
- Have young parents who come to your church primed to enthusiastically invite other young adults to their Sunday School class or small group. It’s amazing what a face-to-face invitation can mean to a guest.
- Consider if having the event at your church is the most advantageous location for outreach. Would a local school parking lot or park open the door to people who may not be comfortable coming to a church location?
- Make sure your church’s website is attractive, easy to navigate, up-to-date, and gives a true picture of what your guests can expect if they visit. Be sure your church’s physical address and worship service times are easy to find.
- As you design your website, remember that millennials want to know the why of your ministry offerings and how your ministry will benefit their family.
- Make sure your website includes detailed information about your children’s ministry. You can lose young families if this information is missing. Be sure to include the fact that your workers have undergone background checks and trained in your church’s written safety and security policies. Here’s a compilation of helpful safety and security policies and procedures.
- Use social media like Facebook to let guests know what they are missing by not being at church. After an initial contact has been made, contact guests through text messages, Instagram or Snapchat. Phone calls and cold calls are considered disruptive to family time and are not appreciated by many millennial parents.
- Plan for a follow-up event that impacts parents and advertise it at your outreach event. Parenting classes, budgeting classes, marriage enrichment or sex education classes are all practical offerings that will catch the attention of parents.
- Enlist your children’s ministry teachers and leaders to attend the outreach event. Consider purchasing matching T-shirts and have name tags that let guests know who these leaders are and the ministry in which they are involved. Encourage teachers to approach families that have children in the age range they teach and offer a personal invitation to attend their class.
Planning ahead for outreach beyond your event is crucial to fulfilling the outreach purpose of the event. The maxim that “build it and they will come” is no longer true. Relational outreach is the most effective form of outreach today, but we must intentionally plan for it.
by Cheryl Markland / Childhood Ministry / Baptist State Convention of North Carolina