We’ve all been there. Your ministry team worked hard to put an event together. You prayed it through and knew that God would bless it. You dreamed about how many would come to know Jesus and join the church through the event. But when the time came, the event flopped. No one from the event connected to the church. No one from the event showed up the following Sunday. The event did not go according to plan.
Honestly, You Shouldn’t Be Surprised
- Big Event Capture Rate is Very Low
- Invites Must Be Personal
- Event Competition is Fierce
The number of people that will connect to your church from a large community event is very low. In fact, the capture rate of visitors is so low that for our church, the metric of success at big events has been changed to the community’s perception of who the church is.
In the past, churches could put on events and people would just come to them because that was the only social event going on. Now, church events are just another of many social events going on in the community. As the competition among social events has increased in the community, many churches have opted out of doing events at all. The church’s lack of involvement in the community, then, has led the community to believe that the church is out of touch and/or dying. Thus the church becomes a place where grandparents go and people who are busy and social only go when they are invited or a really fantastic event is going on.
I say all this because big events are better for marketing to the community than connecting people to the church. Because the community has the perception that the church is dying, the church needs to change its perception in the community. Therefore measure the success of your events by the way in which it ministered to the community and who was ministered to, instead of thinking about how many people will connect to the church because of this event.
Questions to ask after a big event:
How will my community think about our church differently because of this event?
How will family ______ think of our church differently?
Will these people be more inclined to give our church a try because of this?
You did all the things the marketing program told you to do to be a success. You sent an email, you sent a postcard mailer, and you sent a fancy text with a graphic. But none of it worked.
Let me share with you a little secret. Those methods have very low capture rates and are way too general for the church. Think about it for a second. Those are widely used in the secular marketplace. Most of your people get the same treatment from their dentist who they see every six months. So don’t get surprised when you see the same results with the same tactics. In truth, the recipient probably saw all of those efforts as spam and junk mail.
I say all this because invites must be personal. People are bombarded with general information about everything and they have learned to tune it all out. Churches must learn how to invite people. This means, calling them, texting them as a person, visiting them, and ultimately letting them know that you personally care if they are there.
Questions to ask about your big event marketing:
How would you react to your church’s marketing?
How would you feel if someone personally invited you to the event?
What would you want a church to do to invite you to church?
Let’s face it, this is a fast-paced society and everyone is going fast. There are a ton of things happening at school, with sports, with friends and other stuff. Maybe the reason your event did not go according to plan was that some other event was going on and the people chose that event over your event. This should not surprise us. People are consumers and they want the best product. If the church’s choir cantata is on the same night as the school’s big student presentation, no one is showing up at the church. This should not surprise us.
Questions to ask about your big event’s schedule:
Are there any other events going on in the community?
Is this event drawing a non-churched crowd?
Is this event better than staying home and watching the TV?
What Do You Do Now?
- Don’t Get Down
- Encourage Your People
- Get Personal with Visitors
Just this past week I was talking to another pastor about their recent event and how it did not go to plan. He was really discouraged about it. When an event does not go according to plan it is taxing on a pastor. Pastors wonder how it will be perceived among the church members. They wonder what it will cost them in leadership influence. He will even wonder if their volunteers are discouraged. When things don’t go according to plan, the effects can last longer than just the event and pastors know it. Pastor, you also need to know that your people will know if you are down about it.
Find the silver lining and focus on that. Did you minister to the community? Yes! Awesome! Did you minister love others as Jesus commanded? Yes! Awesome! Did you set the example of service to your church body? Yes! Awesome! Did people have a great time? Yes! Awesome! Did you get to know some people that you can reach out to in the future? Yes! Awesome! Pastor, don’t allow yourself to get down about the event not going according to your plan. Know that God has a plan and He is seeing you through it.
Let’s face it, your team put in a great effort. Congratulate them on that! For some of your people that may have been the first time that they have served and it may have required a faith step for them. For others, they may have served outside of their normal comfort zone. For all, the event was an opportunity to serve like Jesus calls them to. Therefore, encourage your people! Send out handwritten thank you cards for their efforts. Get gift cards for the key volunteers. Put on a luncheon to thank them. Pastor, encourage your people for stepping out and serving.
Follow up requires conversations. People want a pastor who knows them and their family, not a person that puts more events on their calendar. You want people to connect with your church body, you must connect with them. So think back to the event; Who did you talk with and connect with? Who can you connect with now over coffee? Start small and grow. Who are the top 5 or 10 families you could really connect with? Pastor, get to know some new people.
PhD Evangelism @swbts.