For years, Harvest Church hosted a community-wide dodgeball event for teenagers. We advertised it well, and hundreds of kids participated. The winners got cool prizes and everyone had a good time. It seemed like a huge success, but we began to notice that very few of the new kids had gotten involved in our student groups or come back for worship.
Your worship experience is your front door. By combining special events and the worship service, they can see the pastor, get a feel for your style, and have a chance to evaluate whether they could see themselves fitting in.
So, we tried something new. We had the tournament on a Saturday afternoon, and before the finals were played, we invited everyone to the worship center for our weekly Saturday service. It was smelly and loud, and it was fun. Best of all, about twenty of those kids joined a community group the next week. By attending the service and meeting some of our leaders, they became connected.
Inviting your community to special events is one way to grow your church. There are three elements to this:
Invite the community to an event that piques their interest. Get to know the community. What are their interests? For instance, we have found that almost every young family, whether or not they celebrate Easter, want their children to have an egg hunt experience. Therefore, we offer one that is open to everyone in the community. And we make sure it is huge!
Make sure the quality is outstanding. When we do community events, they have to be billboard worthy. In other words, if we are going to do something, we want to do it well enough and big enough that it warrants renting billboards to spread the word. If it’s not worth this, it probably is not worth doing. With this kind of big thinking, you generate a sense of energy and excellence.
Offer the event in conjunction with a regular worship service. Your worship experience is your front door. By combining special events and the worship service, they can see the pastor, get a feel for your style, and have a chance to evaluate whether they could see themselves fitting in. This is critical for a return visit.
For years, we held our community-wide egg hunt the Saturday morning before Easter. Hundreds of people attended, but almost none of them came back for Easter service. Then we decided to have the Easter egg hunt following our services. Attendance doubled! Our worship attendance also doubled, which led to double-digit first-time professions of faith.
This article is an excerpt from Jim and Jennifer’s recently published book, Start This, Stop That: Do the Things that Grow Your Church (Abingdon, 2012). Used by permission. Purchase their book at Amazon or Cokesbury.