A ministry fair is a great way to reach potential volunteers in your church. Hosting one can add an atmosphere of celebration to your church and help people get excited about serving God.
If you’ve been to a trade show, you know there’s an array of vendors at tables and/or booths. A ministry fair is much like that, where tables or booths are set up for each of your church’s ministries. Ministry leaders promote the opportunities for serving in their areas.
Our church’s ministries have used food, videos, props, hands-on experiences, skateboard ramps, and other methods of drawing curious people to their booths. You might find a ministry fair would help at your church, too. Depending on the size of your church, your ministry fair might be a few tables or take up an entire facility. Regardless of size, here are some key elements to help you plan a fair that fits your church and meets your goals:
Take a step back and ask why you’re having a ministry fair. People won’t buy into the event unless they know what it’s for. Write a short purpose statement, such as, “The ministry fair’s purpose is to help people grow spiritually by finding a place to serve.”
What are your goals? If your primary goal is to get people involved in ministry, how can you set up your ministry fair for success? If you find that numerical goals help you in planning, establish the number of people you want to sign up to explore a ministry.
Schedule the planning process so that you have enough time to put the event together. A rough plan might include:
- Putting together a proposal for the fair and getting it approved by your church leadership.
- Determining financial needs and getting approval from leadership.
- Setting a date for the fair. Look at your church calendar to see when a fair might be of the most benefit. Avoid major church events or holidays so you can attract maximum attendance.
- Gathering a team to help plan the event.
- Finalizing the location and time of the event. We try to hold our events in a centralized location after each of our Sunday services.
- Contacting ministry leaders to research their serving opportunities. Ask the leaders to participate in the fair and to have a plan for following up with people who express an interest in serving.
- Putting together an information card for each serving opportunity so that people who come to the table can take one for more information and consideration. On the card, include information such as the description of the opportunity, time, location, length of commitment, contact person, and any special skills required.
- Planning a sign-up process so you can collect names and contact information. Sign-up sheets or cards work well but have a plan for where these sheets or cards will go after the fair. We use carbonless two-part paper so that the leader can take a copy home and the church office can have a copy of the process.
- Promoting the fair in multiple ways. Promotion from up front (either the teaching pastor or a leader plugging the event) is key to the fair being successful. Without promotion, people won’t see the value of the fair and won’t attend.
- Thinking of ways to make it exciting and festive. Use banners, lots of colors, balloons, streamers, food, or other elements that will create a celebratory atmosphere.
- Communicating setup guidelines to ministry leaders. Encourage them to be creative in promoting their ministry. Assign each leader to a table and tell them to decorate as lavishly as they want.
Put together a team that will be able to effectively plan your event. Whether the fair is large or small, don’t go it alone. Having at least one other person to help eases the burden and is more fun too! (Not to mention that you’re modeling equipping that person to do the job.) When you recruit a team, find people who are gifted in different areas. Some of the positions to consider for your team are:
- Ministry leader coordinator: communicates with ministry leaders and helps them determine the best way to promote their ministries.
- Data management: organizes volunteering opportunities and displays them in a consistent manner so that people can clearly see the ways they can volunteer.
- Facility logistics: handles facility reservations, table set-ups, and equipment rental, if needed.
- Publications: prints flyers, sign-up cards/sheets, brochures, maps, signage, and promotional materials.
- Décor: oversees table covers, themed decorations, and name tags/uniforms/shirts.
- Follow-up: processes sign-ups, contacts potential volunteers, and helps them get connected.
- Prayer coordinator: covers event with prayer.
You’ll need a place to hold your fair. It may be in a room or lobby, or in multiple rooms. We find that putting tables near each other facilitates the best traffic flow, and that slow areas benefit greatly with enticing refreshments. Some locations to consider might be:
- Hallways/lobbies Gym/fellowship hall
- A large room or multiple rooms close by each other
- The back of the worship center/sanctuary if there’s enough room
- A large outdoor tent in the parking lot
- Outdoor patio area
Consider traffic flow, lighting, temperature, and height of ceiling (for signage). Will you need electricity or kitchen facilities? These factors may determine where your fair is located. Outdoor fairs have their own challenges, too: shade so leaders don’t get sunburned, rocks to hold down materials if there’s wind and a backup plan for rain.
Just putting a fair together doesn’t guarantee success. If you don’t have a plan for promoting and building anticipation for the event, people won’t attend. We’ve found that attendance at our ministry promotional events is most successful when it’s tied into a sermon series on serving or when the event is talked about regularly in the weeks beforehand. Repetition is an important part of getting through to people because most people don’t hear things (or at least well enough to remember them) the first time. Try to tie your ministry fair into a plan for promoting the bigger picture of serving.
After the event, evaluate how things went. Did the event meet your goals? How should things have been done differently logistically, or be streamlined for next time? How was the fair from both the ministry leaders’ and attendees’ point of view?
An effective ministry fair can have a great impact—both for ministries who build their volunteer base, and volunteers who will grow and learn spiritually as they serve God and follow Christ’s example of servanthood. Developing an organized plan will help you create a fair that functions smoothly and meets your goals!
Angela Yee is the pastor of service and communications at Bridges Community Church in Fremont, California. She also is the author of The Christian Conference Planner: Organizing Effective Events, Conferences, Retreats, Seminars and Workshops.
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