Read in 7 mins Leader Resources » Ministry Basics » Planning Events Print / Download Article Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email Gone Fishing: Get Kids to Return After a Special Event Published: November 12, 2021 How to get kids who bite at your special events to get totally hooked on your ministry. When I was young, my dad thought fishing was a must-learn skill. He’d lived through the Depression and believed strongly that fishing was a skill all eight of his kids should master—just in case we ever fell on hard times. And despite the fact that for supper we all preferred Mom’s fish sticks baked straight from the box, we did eventually learn to fish pretty well. Similarly, many churches and children’s ministries have also learned to fish well. It takes knowledge, understanding, the proper techniques and tools, and enduring motivation when the fish aren’t biting. We in children’s ministry passionately seek to be “fishers of men, women, and children.” As a children’s minister, knowing how to fish well is much more than something to fall back on during hard times; it’s a crucial aspect of your ministry. Special events are wonderful, effective “bait.” They draw your community’s interest and attract people to what your church has to offer—Jesus. But if you’ve ever lost sleep worrying about how to bring new kids and families into your ministry after the event, you’re not alone. That’s because even after you’ve successfully managed to attract a child or family to a special event, your real work is just beginning. You have the bigger question to tackle: How do you turn them into regulars in your ministry? What works? Grab your rod and tackle box—let’s find a nice, sunny bank and learn what it takes to become an effective fisher in children’s ministry. Communicate and Stay Visible Is your ministry visible in your community? Is your information updated, professional, and accessible for people who want to learn more? Do you communicate what your ministry is doing—inside and outside your church—well and often? Make your ministry known in your community for its dedication to kids and families through concrete actions and excellent communication. Tackle Box: Visibility and Communication Presence Never miss an opportunity to set up information booths at community and church functions. Updates Keep your websites, brochures, and bulletin boards up to date. Media Take advantage of free local community news updates. Contact Include your ministry name, phone number, and website on everything you hand out, including giveaways such as pencils, pens, and treats. Accessibility Host events that bring the community into your ministry space—this lets you show it off and gives you the opportunity to treat community members as your treasured guests. Mail Kids love getting mail. Cards, birthday greetings, invitations to church, or email messages all make kids feel special. Parents Contact parents. A phone call, email, or direct mail will remind them of your ministry and show them you care about their children. Programs Highlight what your ministry offers. Send families information about other entry points or services at your church–MOPS, sports camps, divorce care, seminars, special needs programs, food pantry, and your regular services. Invitations Continually encourage your regulars to invite their friends to your programs and services. Touches A good rule of thumb is to “touch” families seven times, or to find seven ways to communicate and invite them into your ministry following their initial visit. Publicize the Benefits Recently my church sent out a community mailer invitation to check out our church. To encourage parents to bring their children to our children’s ministry, I wrote an article pointing out the benefits of our ministry, highlighting our commitment to partnering with parents and to growing their children into loving, caring people. Even parents disinterested in God and church typically recognize these universal values for their children. As a result of the mailer and article, we had many families accept our invitation to visit on behalf of their children. Ask yourself why kids and families would choose to add your ministry to their already packed calendars. Then communicate clearly to parents what their children will learn and how it’ll impact them. Pray With and for Your Guests Suncrest Church in St. John, Indiana offers a regular prayer update for church members and guests through its website. Regulars, children, and guests can share their requests and report updates by submitting them online. Everyone who opts in gets an e-update with the latest prayer news and requests. It’s also proven a great access point for parents and kids who’ve attended a special event. “Asking parents if they’d like to be added to our e-updates opens the door for some great conversations,” says Sue Hertzfeldt, the children’s ministry director who manages Suncrest’s prayer program. Recruit a Follow-Up Team Sometimes children’s ministers invest all their energy and volunteers into making sure the special event is perfect—and then they’re too exhausted to take on the follow-up. Before any special event, recruit a follow-up team to take over after the event. This team of fresh volunteers brings new energy and dedication to connecting with kids. Plus, it allows families and kids to experience yet another positive aspect of your ministry—kind and approachable people serving as supports for your ministry. Remember, if the same team responsible for the event is also in charge of follow-up, exhaustion can set in. Scale back. Pass the fishing rod to a refreshed, enthusiastic fisher. Tackle Box: Follow Up Survey Call and survey families about their experience at your event. They’ll give input on how your event and ministry team served them—and they’ll feel valued. Updates Ask parents for permission to add them to your mailing and email lists for updates and ministry information. Mail Send a packet of information about your ministry, special events, and programs along with a handwritten invitation to attend. Returns Track kids’ and families’ guest attendance, and follow up at regular intervals. Give Kids Good Reasons to Stay Part of effective fishing in ministry is dangling compelling reasons to return. That means you promote what’s big, what’s next, and what’s unique. Create a “Whatever you do, don’t miss what happens next week!” atmosphere. Prepare Ahead to Make a Good Impression When families take the step from visiting for special events to actually attending a service, they’ll very quickly decide whether to come back. So be a good host! Don’t announce from the pulpit that a cry room is available when it’s actually locked and the lights are out. Do a walk-through from a guest’s perspective. Is it clear where to go? Are your safety precautions up to standards? What would you think—honestly—if you were a first-time guest? Tackle Box: First Impressions for Kids Peers Provide child greeters as well as adult greeters. Children enjoy being warmly greeted by their peers. Information Assign knowledgeable volunteers to give tours, answer questions, give directions, explain security procedures, and provide refreshments and information packets to new parents. Welcome New children love getting a special treat as a welcome gift. We let kids select a gift from a basket, which also holds the registration cards. We ask parents to fill out a card and tell them we’ll mail them an information packet and CD for their child when they return it. Gift Some churches provide a gift bag for parents as well. With one of these gift bags in hand, your other congregation members can recognize new visitors and welcome them. Recognition Get down and speak directly to children at their level the first time you meet them. This demonstrates to parents that your church is a place where children are valued and welcomed. Help families reclaim family time. Families know that spending time together creates a sense of security and strengthens their bonds. Sponsor family nights to provide opportunities to strengthen, honor, and encourage families in your church or community. As new families meet your other families, connections grow. Tackle Box: Family Time Games Host game nights with refreshments. Service Provide opportunities for families to do service projects together. Fun Host a family fun event. Community Bible Church in Cedar Lake, Indiana hosts what’s become a favorite community event in a local park each summer—Family Flicks and Franks. This free event lets families watch a family friendly movie on a big outdoor screen while the church serves hot dogs. “This event is our gift to families in the community,” says the children’s director Sue Wells, “and it reminds the community that we’re here.” Help Kids Build Meaningful Relationships I can’t emphasize this point enough: Relationships are the key to retention. Children need to have friends in your ministry if they’re going to get and stay involved. They also need to connect with their adult leaders as they grow in their relationship with Jesus. A major filter in all your ministry endeavors should be relationships, relationships, relationships! Tackle Box: Relationships Names Get to know kids by name. Play name games to encourage kids to learn each other’s names. Play Dates Tap your top parents to reach out to new parents by inviting their children over for play dates. Buddies Assign peer buddies for new children. A buddy’s purpose is to guide new kids through your ministry while getting to know them. It’s a new environment. Match children with common interests, schools, or situations. Friends Kids feel safety in numbers, so encourage them to bring their friends from outside your church. Extensions Provide fun connection activities outside of your ministry that let new kids link with regulars to socialize and have fun. For example, a group of suburban churches plans an annual overnighter for their combined groups of fourth and fifth graders. By planning it together and pooling their resources, they do it up big. They encourage kids to invite friends, making follow-up much easier. Because the new kids have already had an awesome experience and already have friends who attend, they’re more apt to try the children’s ministry after an invitation. Make Kids Feel Special “In my experience, many special event attenders attend simply because the event is special and makes them in turn feel special,” says Sheila Halasz, a children’s ministry expert and writer. When children feel special, they’ll keep coming back. “When a regular Sunday allows kids to still feel special and loved,” says Halasz, “kids are happy to come to not only the big events but also the smaller everyday events. If we have a larger event, we always take pictures. I email kids their pictures the next day with a special note thanking them for attending and inviting them to the next regular event.” Take notice of kids. Learn who they are. Be generous with your time, and encourage your team to do the same. Personal contact and invitations are essential connection points. Give Kids a Taste of Jesus Rhonda Haslett of Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana challenges children’s ministers to mingle with kids and listen to their ideas—while acting as an extension of Jesus. “Be Jesus with skin on,” advises Haslett. “Even at fun events, kids notice real people having a real life with God.” Debra Vos was the children’s ministry coordinator at Crossroads Community Church in Schererville, Indiana for 20 years. Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out. © Group Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use or duplication permitted. Get our FREE enewsletter! Join thousands of other children’s ministry leaders, getting fresh, helpful ideas delivered weekly to your inbox. Sign Up Please enter valid email address Sign Up Recieve offers and promos from Group? Got it! Would you also like offers and promos from Group? Yes! No Thanks, you're all set!