Here’s the scenario. You’re planning a weekend of special meetings with a guest speaker. Since you are the senior pastor for the church of 250, you’ve spent a lot of time planning the event, arranging the music, and making sure that everything is set. You have corresponded with the guest speaker, speaking on the phone, exchanging emails, and telling him about his hotel reservation. You’ve set aside a generous honorarium. The nursery workers are ready. The janitor will have the church cleaned and unlocked. Everything is ready to go.
Now, it’s Friday evening. 6:30pm. The meeting will start at 7pm. Two nursery workers arrive. The guest speaker is here. 7:00pm is approaching. The parking lot is strangely empty. Now, it’s 6:50. A few people trickle in. 6:55. A few more. 7:00pm. You have 29 people. It’s 7:05 and you decide to delay the start time. By 7:15, you have 32 people.
How could this be?! You planned for weeks for the special meetings. You thought that it was going to be perfect. And now you have only 32 people in attendance? How can you get people to come to a special church event? Is it just that you have a particularly apathetic or busy congregation? Are there things that you can do to help facilitate a special church event? Here are ten suggestions.
Plan it for the right time of year.
Before you schedule an event, do some homework. How does it mesh with school schedules? Is there an event such as a county fair or community art festival that week? Would people be gone for Spring Break, or the opening day of hunting season? Is the weather going to pose a problem? Having the right time of year is crucial to making sure that people will be able to attend.
Plan it for the right time of day.
We all have busy schedules, and there is no way that everyone will have a cleared schedule for your special event. What time will work best? Choose a time when most people are not working, when kids are out of school, when traffic isn’t too terrible, and when families, especially those with small children, will not have to stay out too late.
Be sure that there are no barriers to attendance.
People will not attend if there are roadblocks. Obviously, scheduling conflicts will present barriers, but consider other possible barriers. If there will be no nursery or no children’s activities, this will be a barrier for some. If the event will last a long time, people will be hesitant to attend. Even lack of music, food, or fellowship will prevent some people from coming.
Provide something of meaning and value, maybe even fun.
Few people will attend if they don’t think it’s going to be profitable. An event with a title like “A Biblical-Theological Study of New Testament Epistolary Literature in View of the Potential Coexistence of Reason and Faith and the Social Implications on Postmodernist Ecclesiology” probably won’t result in a door-breaking event. Although a few loyalists and eggheads may trickle in, your goal should be to provide a profitable event for your church. Make sure it is memorable, relevant, and interesting. To go a step further, you may want to offer a special event for the kids—a pizza party, a game time, inflatable toys, etc.
Announce your event with flyer distribution.
Use an eye-catching flyer, and post announcements on church bulletin boards and even in the community. Some coffee shops and local establishments will permit you to post event announcements on their bulletin board.
Announce your event with emails and other electronic media.
Use electronic communication to the max. You should announce the event with an attractively designed email, Facebook announcements, Facebook event invitations, Twitter updates, website/blog announcements, and any other communication means that your church uses (text messages, etc.).
Announce your event with church announcements.
Announce the event way in advance. Be sure that people know to clear their calendars. Two months isn’t too early to begin announcements. As the event approaches, keep reminding your people. Announce it before services on the data projector, during the announcements, and at the conclusion of the event. Remind the Sunday school classes and small groups. Keep printing announcements in the bulletin.
Announce your event with newspaper ads.
Depending on the nature of your event, you may even want to invite people from the community. Many local newspapers will allow churches to print announcements for special events. Find out how you can advertise in local papers and periodicals.
Announce your event with neighborhood canvassing.
If you are targeting a particularly area of the community, you may wish to canvas door-to-door in an area. Distributing flyers and speaking with people in person about the event is another way to spread the word and increase attendance.
Finally, realize that it’s not all about human effort. God is intensely interested in spreading His word and expanding His glory. Bring your requests to God. Ask that His perfect will would be done. After all, it’s not just about your event. It’s about expanding God’s kingdom and spreading His fame.