School is back in session, many of your church’s ministries are getting back into the swing of things, and families are settling back into the routine of regular Sunday attendance following summer vacations. For many churches, this is also prime time for planning a big fall outreach event. Fall events are often geared towards kids and families, but can be a wide-range of events from a Halloween alternative, to providing food for those in need during the holiday season, to a caffeine-infused high-energy all-night lock-in event for teens.
Often these events are focused on blessing the community and helping boost relationships and attendance. Staff and volunteers put a lot of time into these special outreach opportunities. Visions are cast. Advertising dollars get spent. And every detail is planned for and prepared. But, often, we forget that what happens after the event is just as important, or dare I say — more important — than the event itself. As you are planning your fall outreach event, here are some things to think about.
PUT A FOLLOW-UP PLAN IN PLACE
Make follow-up part of the event planning process. That means including whomever is part of the planning, whether it be a committee, team, or just a couple people. You want the follow-up to flow seamlessly out of the event, and to look and feel like a well-planned, unified part of the event itself.
As part of your planning, decide what your follow-up is going to look like. After the event is over, how are you going to create another point of connection for guests or invite them back for a Sunday service? Start with your end goal. Would you like to see guests at your outreach event become fully-acclimated members of your church? If so, then think about how to get there.
Asking these types of questions forces you to think through your process, and consider what it should look like and exactly what information you need from guests to make it happen. Maybe you should send a single or series of emails following the event. Maybe the follow-up is a handwritten card, or some sort of thank you gift. The follow-up process probably looks different based on the type of event, number of guests, and what resources your church has available.
COLLECT CONTACT INFORMATION
Now, hear me out. Don’t overdo it. Don’t ask for more information than you need. People are easily annoyed with excessive requests for information. The more blank fields you ask guests to fill in, the more half-empty, or completely empty, forms you will receive in return. So be strategic about what you ask for. Keep it simple. A name and email address may be plenty for what you need. Providing a form that is well-designed and easy for the person to fill out can make the process easier as well. Make sure there are plenty of pens and clipboards available. Or, provide a one-step digital sign-in process that the user can quickly tap through on their phones or a couple of church-owned tablets. Just make sure that you’re collecting something that allows you to follow-up with every guest adequately.
DON’T ASSUME YOUR EVENT ATTENDEES KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR CHURCH
A lot of times, we naively think that people already know something about our churches. We assume everyone in the community knows who we are, what we’re about, and what we do on Sundays. In reality, that is rarely the case. A family may come to your trunk-or-treat event, but that does not mean they know a single thing about your church. Make sure you provide materials and information for your guests — whether that is a part of the event itself or as part of your follow-up plan. Even information you think is overly basic (like the service time, the location, or what to do with kids) might make the difference between an event attendee returning on a Sunday.
Make sure your guests get an idea of what to expect on a Sunday morning, the basics of what you believe, and who makes up your church body. The people attending your event may get an idea of what your church membership looks like from the event itself, but make sure to reiterate details that will be important for a person or family thinking about returning to your church.
Fall is an exciting time for many churches. Planning a fall outreach event is a great way to take advantage of this season of new beginnings. So, have fun, and make sure that you have a plan in place to invite people back.