10 things to consider when planning an evangelistic event

We hate events … so why are we writing an article about them?

As sterile, programmed, churchy, and administratively taxing events can sometimes be, there is tremendous value when they are done well. They are “excuses” to build relationships, expose non-believing friends to the people of God, and they even lead to life change. With this in mind, here are some tips for how to build bridge events that can have a spiritual impact.
Build a bridge on a foundation

There are two biblical principles that are foundational to putting on bridge events – common ground and spiritual journey.

As far as common ground is concerned, Paul was scandalous in his approach to his outreach. He actually tried to fit in with Jews and Gentiles alike. The Corinthian church was confused by his methods. What is he doing hanging out with those people? Is he aligning himself with their agenda or lifestyle?

Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that in his desire to “fit in” (common ground) with Jews and Gentiles, his purpose was to “bring them to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:22-23). How? Be where they would feel comfortable, have relationship, and gain credibility so at the right time he could share his hope. Both Paul and Jesus clearly had strategies and vision to reach people.
We are all on a spiritual journey but God is ultimately responsible for the spiritual growth. We just play a part in “planting, watering and harvesting” (1 Cor 3:6-9). Think of your event in these terms. A “harvest” event may be a great idea after several weeks of “planting and watering” events. This strategy can help people take steps in their journey from apathy, to awareness, and finally to be active in seeking God’s truth.

What is the purpose and desired next step?
The church is about challenging people – non-believer and believer alike – to take their next step towards deeper devotion to Christ. In an event format, define the purpose and the clear next step for the non-believers attending. Is the goal to simply get people on the church campus and feel comfortable coming back? Maybe the goal is to connect them with church opportunities (i.e. Celebrate Recovery, a parenting class, men’s camping retreat, etc.) Is this an “altar call” event where the Gospel is preached and a call is given to respond?

Your next steps need to be compelling. You can’t assume people will come back, sign up, or inquire more about your ministry or church. Ideally, every next step decision would be encouraged through relationships with church members. Other ideas to link persons back to the church would be for a relevant teaching series, a ministry highlighted at the event, or even a raffle prize pick up. Come up with an action plan for those who choose Christ, persons looking for a church home, and questions related to church services or programs. Be ready with a seven to 21 day follow-up strategy to leverage those who attended. A bridge event without a follow-up strategy is wasteful.

Why will people come?
What is the common ground? Investigate your community’s needs, hobbies, sports, festivals, and be strategic with holidays like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, or other cultural celebrations. What are their ways of having fun, connecting with one another, and their concerns about the community they live in? What isn’t going on in your community that could set you apart? Will the church campus be a hindrance, be neutral, or be an advantage?

Define success
Define success in measurable terms.
Quantitative – How many do you hope to have attend? What percentage will be non-believers? To track this will require feedback after the event. How many new believer Bibles/kits were given out to people? Was there an increase in attendance at church the following week resulting from the event?

Qualitative – Has the event unified your congregation to serve the community? Is there a sense of anticipation in the community? Are other churches coming to learn from you? How will your church members want to live differently after serving?
Cost

Don’t go into an event like this without a financial plan. But don’t be misguided that you have to cover the entire cost. Consider partnering with other churches, have vendors come on consignment, or look for donors. Stick to your plan as a good steward with God’s resources. Identify what team member will handle the accountability with revenue and expenditures.

Stall zones
These are areas or activities that keep people lingering, strategically encouraging people to stay longer and hang with people from the church – zones such as food areas, entertainment, sporting activities, live music, people to talk with, and free materials that are relevant and up-to-date.

Safe zones and safe people
A pastor once said the church should be a “safe place to make dangerous decisions.” Where do you have places for people who want to know more? Do you have leaders who “get” what the event is for and are trained to help people take steps toward Christ? Do they have a grace-filled pre-evangelistic mindset? Are they winsome and open-armed regardless of who shows up – pierced, tattooed, multicultural, homeless, and whoever else shows up.

Training for volunteers
It’s very important that your volunteers (ministry partners) are in step with your vision, value, voice, and vehicle of the event. Make sure they are informed on the purpose of the event and what makes it successful – as well as, how to share their faith and what the next steps will be once the event is over.

Prayer
We’ve learned that for most of us prayer is an afterthought to planning. Don’t let that be the case here. Make it a priority. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, pray for his plan, his people to serve, his people to come, and his people to choose him over all else.

Logistics
Here are a few things to consider:

Time and duration: What day of the week and for how long during the day would it be most productive for having touch points with the most people?

Parking: Where will those who attend park? Do we have enough parking on campus? Will we need additional parking across the street? Will we need to rent shuttles to move persons back and forth? OR would it be best to have the event somewhere to better accommodate those who will attend?

Volunteer participation: This should be the heart and soul of your leadership team. Recent research shows church has become a “negotiable obligation.” People are actually telling the church that they long for Monday to regain their weekday routine. Take this in to consideration when planning the event. Look at community and school calendars and find a time where the most people can be involved with the least inconvenience.

Marketing and communication: A good friend of ours, Rex Miller with Millennium Matrix, brings to light the need to understand communication cultures of oral, print, broadcast, and digital media. A closer look into how we communicate with our community and congregation will be a significant factor in who attends, what happens while they are there, and what they take from the experience. What are your community’s and congregation’s preferred methods of communication?

Events are not the end all, but they are great excuses to build relationships with people in the community and help them take steps towards Christ. Hopefully, from these 10 things to consider you’ll be able to foster a healthy bridge experience for your congregation and community.

For more tips and tools from the authors, visit: Pastor Kerry Mackey at www.streettotheseat.com and Pastor Erin Kerr at http://personalpeacelifestyle.blogspot.com.

© Kerry R. Mackey and Erin Kerr, All Rights Reserved

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