More than likely, I am not personally acquainted with your church. That being said, I’m reasonably sure that I know something about your church that is absolutely true: your church will host some kind of event this year.
One unfortunate reality of church life is that many events are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst precisely because we don’t ask enough questions to help us plan events strategically.
Here is a template for asking the right questions to plan effective and strategic church events.
Six important questions for any church event
1. The Why Question: Why are we doing this event? Effective events, even fun fellowship oriented ones, need a reason. If there is no reason to do it, should we?
2. The Who Question: Who is our target, who do we need, who are our partners? This question helps us keep our focus on people, rather than things. We need to know who we are trying to reach with the event. We need to identify who of our membership will host the event. We need to identify what resources in our ministry networks can increase the event’s effectiveness.
3. The What Question: What kind of event is it going to be? (traditional, annual, seasonal, fellowship/community building, outreach, spiritual growth, etc). Clarity on the kind of event helps us with the Why and Who questions. Different event types require different motivations and different resources.
4. The Where Question: Where is the best place for us to hold this event? Will this event be more effective on church property or in a “neutral” location? Should it be held inside or outside? What rooms in our facility will be used?
5. The When Question: Is there a particular time of year, day, or week that is the best time for this event? An outdoor event is probably less effective in January in Wisconsin or August in Texas. Something designed to reach “working people” probably shouldn’t be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Have you checked the local community and school calendars to see what schedule conflicts might exist?
6. The How Much Question: How much is it going to cost? Someone in your church IS going to ask this question. If we don’t use this question to determine how we will conduct the event, someone will use it to question ifwe will conduct the event. Do we really want money to be a reason to say, “no"?
The most important question we must ask, but most seldom is
We can work our way through all six of the previous questions but miss the most important one. In reality, this question should provide us with the primary determination of whether or not an event should go on the church calendar. So, what is this most crucial question?
7. How does this event fit within our mission/vision journey?
Think of mission as the map of where you are headed and vision as the picture on the front of the travel brochure. (Based on concepts from Will Mancini’s Church Unique). What kind of culture are you creating? What stories are you telling in your community? What do you want your members to be saying about your church to their unchurched friends? What reputation are you building within your local context? How will this event help you achieve your goals?
Events aren’t effective in isolation. They are steps, not goals. They are means, not ends. Keep your events vision-centric and watch your effectiveness and influence grow.
Photo source: istock
Gerry Lewis / Gerry Lewis serves as Executive Director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur, Texas. He is also a Church Consultant and Leadership Coach. His weekly blog and podcasts can be found at drgerrylewis.com.