Evangelistic events come in all shapes and sizes — crusades, concerts, jugglers, ventriloquists, humorists, and just about everything else you can imagine. We’ve approached outreach events from just about every angle — from serving on the church staff organizing the events to living on the road as full-time performers presenting the events.
We’ve learned that outreach can be a tricky thing. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’ve spent hours of your personal time and what seems like years of your life worrying over details, only to have no one show up.
We travel a lot — so much so that we like to say we’ve seen it all. We’ve performed in the best — and the worst — circumstances. And over the years, we’ve taken note of the things that consistently make successful outreach programs stellar events in communities. We’d like to share some of this tried-and-true wisdom with you.
A fundamental question every event coordinator must ask is, “How will I get people to come to this outreach event?” The answer is simple: To draw a crowd, you must provide something that people can’t get anywhere else. Your event must be unique, exciting, and enticing. There are many different programs to choose from when selecting an outreach event and many great personalities who’ll perform brilliantly. However, there are important questions you must get the answers to before you commit to any prospective program.
- Does this program share the gospel in a clear way? Having fun, gathering with families in your community, and inviting unchurched people to know Jesus are all goals of outreach programs. But for an event to be truly evangelistic, it’s important that your intended message doesn’t get lost. Determine how your program and any presenter will treat the gospel.
- The performer or speaker who delivers the gospel message has a great deal of responsibility. So whoever it is — yourself or an outside speaker — this person must know how to share the gospel on a child’s level without watering it down. In other words, present the message so a preschooler can understand its meaning. At the same time, grab your preteens’ attention.
- Does the program appeal to the entire family? Many parents come to outreach events with their children. And although programs are essentially geared for children, the program needs to be palatable for all your guests. Make sure the performer or program you’ve selected will appeal to the entire family.
Choose an exciting program. Not only must your event keep your guests’ attention, it must also generate interest in the gospel, too.
- Will the audience get involved? It’s great to be a spectator; but when people are involved in what’s happening on stage, the event becomes something they’ll remember for a very long time. Give all your audience members opportunities to be involved.
- Are fun and humor key elements of the presenter’s program? A presenter’s ability to personally connect with your audience is one of the biggest keys to a successful outreach. Yet there are a lot of well-meaning presenters who have trouble relating to an audience. Just think: If the visitors in your audience are bored to tears or can’t relate to the presenter, will they return? Probably not. Investigate the program, and make sure it’s well-balanced. Look for humor, excitement, and an easy-to-understand gospel message.
- Does the performer have strong references? References count. What other churches say about a program may make up your mind or completely change it. Either way, you’ll be a more informed consumer and a better steward of your church’s resources if you take the time to investigate the program you’re considering. Videos and brochures are designed to make a performer look great, but the opinions of those who’ve used the prospective program can be invaluable. Request a list of references — any reputable performer or company will be happy to comply.
- Will this program achieve your goals for the outreach? What do you want to accomplish with this outreach? How does that compare with what the program offers? Make certain you and the presenter you’re working with have a very clear concept of your church’s specific goals.
Volunteers are the backbone of any outreach, as they are in so many other areas of the church. Here are specific positions you’ll need to fill.
- Greeters — These volunteers are the first point of contact for children. They make sure every child completes a registration form, and they answer questions about the event. (For a sample registration card, go to www.cmmag.com.) Make sure greeters are friendly and well-informed.
- Crowd Controllers — These volunteers sit in the audience with the children. Their purpose is to make sure kids don’t get out of control. If your program is strong, you shouldn’t have a problem, but it’s a good idea to have them there just in case.
- Counselors — These volunteers need to be well-trained in leading children to Christ. Many kids who respond to the gospel message won’t fully understand the meaning of salvation. These counselors need to know how to guide kids and answer their questions.
- Follow-Up Team — Sunday school teachers make great follow-up team members. They should call visiting children and families within 48 hours to invite them to Sunday school.
Promotion and Publicity
Spread the news about your outreach event with an all-out blitz of information, starting with your congregation members. Here are the must-have elements of a successful promotion and publicity campaign.
- Posters — Most speakers and performers provide professional- quality materials. Take advantage of these. Hang posters in your church and in kid-friendly areas around the community.
- News — A carefully prepared news release should contain the five W’s and H — Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Purchase an advertisement in your Sunday paper. Try to get an article or story written about the event or the speakers in the religious section of the paper by contacting the religion editor.
- Radio and Television — Public service announcements, community activities, calendars of events, or local radio and TV talk shows are great ways to get the word out. Variety is important. If your budget allows, consider purchasing radio and TV spots.
- Neighborhood Canvass — Produce a professional-looking flier that promotes your outreach. Take time to proofread it to ensure that all the necessary information is there. The more professional and less error-ridden your flier is, the more likely people will read it and pay attention. Recruit volunteers to pair up and take fliers to neighborhoods in your community. Volunteers simply knock on the door, briefly explain the event, and leave a flier. If no one answers, just leave the flier.
- Personal Touch — Call all the churches in your area. You can form a volunteer committee to do this, but the calls should be made during business hours on weekdays. Make contact with each church’s children’s minister. Other children’s pastors are often willing to bring a vanload of kids to another church if something exciting’s going on. Calling other churches to get the word out is a must if you want your event to be successful.
- Children Involvement — We recently performed at a church that had a clown troupe of kids from the children’s church. The troupe did a skit before our program and then sang praise songs each night. These preliminary activities took about 30 minutes. The church members and the children’s parents were there every night to watch these kids perform. Inviting kids from your ministry to take an active role in the event not only gets them excited about it, but it also brings family members and friends to take part.
- Web Site — Put your Web address on all promotional materials. On your Web site, post promotional photos of the event or the performers. Or post pictures of past events at your church. This is a great time to also promote your children’s ministry.
- Social Media — Broadcast your event on every social media tool you use.
- Prayer — Prayer is the most important ingredient for your outreach event’s success. Without God’s blessing on the event, all the work and planning will be wasted. So spend time intentionally seeking God’s blessing and help. Get your entire congregation involved in this step. Consider these ideas.
- Ask all prayer groups and small groups to pray for the event.
- Ask each family to pray for specific individuals and families to attend.
- Form prayer teams specifically to pray for the outreach.
- Ask the children’s church and the adult congregation to pray for the event and its results.
It always amazes us to see how many children’s pastors endure the expense and hard work of a big event, but never try to get the kids back to their churches the following Sunday.
If you want kids to return to your church after an outreach event is over, give them a real reason to come back. Some churches sponsor an ice cream social or pizza party on the Sunday after the event. Plan something that’ll keep kids and families interested in coming back.
The day after the program, mail all the kids who attended a special “We loved having you” note, and include a coupon or special invitation to the next special event. In other words, don’t just give kids a verbal invitation to return; give them something tangible that’ll remind them to return.
Another way to connect with kids after an outreach event is to have your Sunday school teachers phone the kids who don’t already have a home church. A simple phone call introduces the teacher to the child and parent, and allows your church a chance to personally invite each of these kids to attend a Sunday school class.
Ned and Joan Way are professional illusionists, jugglers, and evangelists based in Louisville, Kentucky.