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A mega event with a huge stage and large crowd.
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Hosting a Mega Event: Reaching a Multitude for Jesus

Why and how to stage a mega-event extravaganza!

Sixty volunteers. Eighty hours. Two thousand dollars.

Blowing up balloons. Selling tickets. Passing out fliers. Making airport runs. Cooking meals. Hawking books and tapes. Coordinating registration. Arranging housing. Setting up. Taking down.

But why all the work?


If you’ve ever had a Christian entertainer perform for your children’s ministry, this is just scratching the surface. Most churches spend an average of 50 hours preparing for a big event with a big-name performer. And with volunteers so hard to get, most big events demand a high volunteer involvement.

Are these big events worth it? When you’re making your children’s ministry budget, can you afford to set aside $2,000 for one event? Children’s ministers who’ve had big events would ask, “Can you afford not to?” These people have experienced the success of big events-with anywhere from 200 to 2,400 people attending one event.

We asked these big-event-planning children’s ministers why they have big events and whether they feel they’re worth it.

Top 10 Reasons to Host a Mega Event

Each ministry has its unique reasons for putting in all the hours to pull off a successful big event. Here are big-event veterans’ top 10 reasons.

1. Family ministry

“We have big events to minister to the families that attend our church, not as an outreach,” says Shannon Kearney, a pastor of family ministries in Oregon. Kearney likes to use big events to counter the pressure to separate families. “So often in our church’s programs, families are broken up into different age groups. A multi-generational program brings them together.”

2. Just for kids

“There is a lot of competition outside of the church [for kids’ attention]. We feel like we’re providing Christian entertainment and something of value,” says Jan Muncaster
of California.

Sharon Baldwin, a director of Christian education in New York, says, “Almost all of our Sunday school kids attended our last big event. At an event such as this, kids say, ‘Hey, church is fun!’ It makes kids feel that this is their church, too.”

3. Outreach

Nora King, a pastor in Tennessee, says that their big event helped them reach out to the community. “It let people know that we’re here and that we love kids. It also  brought in new children.”

Patty Russell’s big event in North Carolina “was able to reach kids in a new and different way,” she says. “A way that may have been these kids’ only opportunity to accept Christ.” Approximately 1,000 children attended Russell’s big event. Sixty to 80 percent of them were unchurched.

4. Training

Some churches combine outreach and staff training when hosting a big event. Some big-event organizers offer a leadership conference that includes a one-day seminar for children’s workers along with an entertaining program for the children.

5. Variety

“You can get in a rut just offering Sunday school and Wednesday night programs. Big events tell kids they’re special. They also give kids an avenue to invite friends; they learn how to reach out to others,” says Baldwin.

6. Boost for the children’s ministry

Having a big event, according to David Hagedorn of North Carolina, “stirs an excitement in the church itself. People want to be involved, and this gives them that opportunity. It also adds credibility to children’s ministry. People see it’s much more than just baby-sitting!”

7. VBS alternative

Bob DeVries, a director of children’s ministry in Michigan, uses Christian entertainers instead of a traditional VBS format. “It’s kind of like a Bible school/day camp,” he says. “We hold it Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon in the church sanctuary. I spend about 60 to 80 hours preparing for the event. This includes recruiting and developing volunteers, and then doing follow-up. It takes about 60 volunteers.”

8. Recruiting

Big events are also a way to recruit more workers for the children’s departments,” DeVries says. “A new volunteer sees the blessing of leading a child to Christ, and they
get excited. They want to participate in children’s ministry more.”

9. Relationship-building

“I feel that a big event can have a bigger impact in the community, and present the truth, and challenge people,” says Dean Stone, a conference director and former children’s pastor. “By hiring professionals that are trained to do this type of ministry, it enables our adult volunteers to build relationships with the kids during the week. In fact, most volunteers have so much fun that they want to know when they can do it again!”

10. All of the above

“I wanted a special event for our Sunday family service that could hit all ages and meet the needs of everyone,” says Bob Nooe, a children’s minister in Washington
state. “This type of event opens the doors of the rest of the church to children’s ministry. It gives the children’s departments credibility and provides the church exposure to the community around us. It also gives us a connection that opens up other opportunities. So many kids bring other friends that it gets our foot in the door!”

The Nuts and Bolts of a Mega Event

Now that you know the reasons for all the hard work that goes into big events, here’s how you can jump in and have your own big event.

Count the cost of the event.

Warning! “If you don’t plan properly, you can do more harm than good,” says Hagedorn. “You need to realize how much time it’s going to take and what’s involved.”

Before planning any big event, consider the time necessary to prepare for the event, the amount of work involved, the volunteers you’ll need, and the cost. Also, remember that there’ll be a lot of wear and tear on your church property. Is your congregation willing to pay the price?

Plan ahead.

Start planning three to six months before your event. Get it on your church calendar and research several entertainers. Determine what kind of Christian performer your kids would enjoy. Request the entertainer’s promotional information and the names of at least five other churches who used his or her services. Call these references and ask for the pros and cons about the performer you’re checking out. Choose a performer to book; some performers are booked out for a while, so make this your first
priority.

Communicate.

Once you’ve booked a performer, make sure the person knows what your goals and expectations are. Inform the performer of any uniquenesses in your church that he or she needs to know. For example, did a family’s house recently burn down? Or has there been a lot of racial tension in your community?

Enlist volunteers.

Hagedorn warns, “Make sure you have enough people to help out. Otherwise, you’ll soon suffer from volunteer burnout.”

His church has 450 regular members, with two paid staff members. More than 50 volunteers helped prepare for their two-day event that attracted 500 to 600 kids.

Coordinate event logistics.

Find out what the entertainer requires from your congregation in the way of publicity and setup. Read the fine print. Some big-event personalities require you to
buy radio air-time for one week. If so, check into having radio ads handled as public service ads to cut costs.

Will your congregation need to provide housing and meals? Assign people to work with airport transportation, ushering, sound, and lighting.

Follow-up on the event.

Once all these new kids come into your church, who’ll maintain contact with them? Enlist and train adults and young people who can contact visitors by phone or in person to welcome them back to your church. Create an informational packet about your church to give to your visitors at the big event.

Caution! Beware of the law of diminishing returns. DeVries says, “You don’t want kids to always expect something bigger and better. Church isn’t Candy Land. Don’t take the approach that you try to outdo each event the next time.”

Big events are not for the faint of heart. They can require tons of preparation and organization, many willing volunteers, and money. Too much work? Well, as Bob Hahn of Illinois puts it, “Anything good in the kingdom always takes a little elbow grease!”

Cost Cutters for a Mega Event

If you’d like to stage a big event but the costs are prohibitive, consider these thrifty ideas:

  • Find several churches within a 200-mile radius to share the cost of a performer.
  • Use local talent. But if you’re depending on church members, weigh the cost of people’s time carefully. Pennie O’Brian of Michigan says, “It’s easier to have someone in to do a big event than to plan it from scratch yourself. I’d much rather do it that way. I mean, why reinvent the wheel? Someone has developed a successful children’s ministry program-use it.”
  • Get an individual or a business to sponsor the event.

Suzanne Perdew is a freelance writer and editor in Oregon.

Looking for more outreach ideas? Start here!


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