The Real Mission of Big Events
There is something to be said for the missional strategy that is popular in churches today. This strategy is effective and necessary if we are going to develop meaningful relationships with members of our community. However, completely abandoning the “attractional events” may mean we’re not living out our missional strategy well.
Attractional events—like the fall festivals, trunk-or-treats, and egg hunts—can be vital to the mission of your church. The event itself is not the issue, but the underlying reason we host them might be. If we host a fall festival for the sole purpose of getting people on campus so we can market our “brand,” that is attractional. However, if the purpose is to build meaningful relationships with guests, this is missional. A missional purpose can provide great opportunities to share the gospel in addition to relationship-building.
How do we make sure we are mission-minded when we host these big on-campus church events?
Know Your “Why”
Attractional events hosted by the church should serve the community. Your on-campus festivals and activities should give the community something beneficial (maybe not tangible, but at the very least, relational). Even large holiday services do the same thing—provide a place for infrequent church visitors to feel welcome during a special time of year. Knowing your purpose for doing something will help you craft the experience. Even more, it will help your marketing efforts.
Create an experience
We need to remember the point of a large event is to provide a positive experience that meets a perceived need of the community. This may mean we stop doing some traditions or start something new. Even if the event is an annual staple in your community, don’t be afraid to change it up. Think about the guest experience—from the time they hear about the event, to the time they come on campus, all the way until they leave and even what happens after they leave. What do you want them to experience? Make sure your website and social media have the appropriate information. Include details for those not familiar with your church. Make sure you have plenty of volunteers. Create good signage. Will they want to eat? Make sure to include an option for food. These are just a few examples of things that will provide a positive impression for your guests.
Equip Your Volunteers
One way to turn the event from attractional to missional is to make sure your volunteers know the purpose of the event is to create connections and a lasting impression. Danny is not just manning the bounce house, he is also there to engage people in conversation, which will help him (and you) get to know your community better. When your volunteers and greeters are chatting with guests, make sure they have a script or a guide of talking points that include offering a way for guests to connect with the church.
Have a plan for follow up
Attractional events tend to bring large crowds. Beyond just counting numbers, how do you know if the event was successful? Did you make any connections? This can be difficult to assess. It is too simplistic to merely count how many people came to your event (though that may be a metric for the marketing team). To truly assess the missional value, you need to dig a little deeper. Make sure there is a way for people to find out more about your church. Do an informal survey with your volunteers asking them to share their experience with meeting new people. Following the event is also a great opportunity for you to follow up via email or social media and provide next step connection opportunities.
The Next Sunday
The next Sunday, and maybe even the next several Sundays, be sure to welcome guests with an emphasis on welcoming those who attended the recent event. Make sure your event volunteers keep their eyes out for new visitors and say hello to any they see. This will go a long way to making a lasting impression on your guests and hopefully bring them back again.
Having an intentional focus on serving, connecting with, and welcoming your community can transform an attractional event into a mission-focused one.