The Welcoming Team

Some ministries have a real sense of welcome but often ministries miss the mark on this one. Often times the leaders are busy getting the service or meeting ready instead of being available to welcome people as they arrive for your event. Whether it is a church service, a ministry meeting or an event in your church you need to have a welcoming team. Perhaps in your ministry you have a dedicated group of people who are part of your welcome team or maybe you don’t. Either way every church and ministry could improve their sense of welcome.

There are two important principles that should drive welcoming in your ministry:

  1. Everyone is responsible for creating a welcoming ministry
  2. You need a specific group to enhance the welcoming procedures

Before we get into the role of an effective welcome team, I want to shift your thinking a little. Instead of thinking of the usual welcomers who just hand out bulletins before the service, could you think of your welcome team as customer service staff? Rather than recruiting people who can smile and shake hands, could you recruit people who will go the extra mile and help people feel a part of your community. A member of the welcome team should never say “I just hand out the bulletins ask a staff member”. Perhaps you might need to privately call them the customer service team so that they know they are not just welcoming people but serving the people who attend your church or ministry events.

So what should this customer service team or welcome team do? Is it just about a friendly smile on the way into church or into your ministry event? The welcome team should do much more than smile and hand out bulletins. They should make people feel welcome, look out for visitors, locate toilets for people, explain the children’s ministry to parents, connect young people with the youth ministry and even help people find a seat if needed.

Here are some important things for the welcoming team to focus on:

  • Be available 20 minutes before the event – whether people arrive late or on time at your church, your welcome team need to be there before anyone could turn up. Someone is always running early and these are the people the welcome team have the most time to talk to.
  • Look out for visitors before and after the event – the welcome team should be looking out for visitors who are not familiar with how your church or ministry does things. They can look lost, unsure of where to sit. Visitors will check out your notice board more than the regulars do. Many visitors to churches and ministries make a first impression based on how they are welcomed and whether the first people they meet are open or closed to new people.
  • Be available 20 minutes after the event – if the welcome team do their job of connecting with people before the service then they are the best people to follow them up after the event. If your welcoming team think their role is about handing out bulletins then they tend to check out once that task is done. The welcome team needs to see their role as beginning before everyone arrives and finishes after everyone has left.
  • Focus on parents – having kids and working in youth ministry I really believe that our churches need to engage children and youth. Yet the reality is that parents drive children and youth to and from church events so make them feel welcome. At your youth events have someone on your welcome team that welcome visitors and some who talk to parents. The more you can engage the parents the more they will support your ministry. For sunday services the parents are often the most confused as to where there kids need to be or how the service engages kids so be available to answer their questions.
  • Help with logistics during the event – great welcome teams will also assist with moving and seating people during the event. Perhaps you need to arrange more chairs or simple ask people to shuffle in to free up seats. Perhaps you need to help move children in and out of the children’s ministry. The welcome team should be looking out for how they can help during the event not just before the service.
  • Know about future events – the welcome team will often be asked about the events in the bulletin or on the notice board so find out about other events in your church. The welcome team should never say “I don’t know about that ask a staff member”. When someone is part of the welcome team it is like they are a staff member.

There are many unique things that churches do for their welcome teams. Some have fancy tshirts, special name badges or set up special visitor desks. Often the welcome team at children or youth events also need to collect forms, sign people in or collect money. All of these elements are unique to your ministry and church setting so be intentional about tailoring the welcome team to your setting. Irrespective of your local context it still doesn’t change the fact that your welcome team are there to serve the people attending your church not just hand out bulletins.

Please leave a comment with tips from your welcome team.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

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Is your church ready for Visitors?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

In the New Year people will visit new churches, try out new ministries and attend prayer meetings.  So it is likely that there will be visitors hanging around your church buildings this month and next month.  So what do you think the church buildings look like?  Now try to think how new people will see them.  We need to tidy up the church buildings in the same way that we would clean up our home if we thought visitors were dropping in.

Recently we invited neighbours to come to our place for lunch and we thought we better clean the place up.  Looking at our house from the perspective of a visitor I noticed a whole lot of mess piled up on our front porch.  For weeks I had walked past it without noticing it but with visitors coming over I paid more attention to the details.  Most of the items just needed to be put away so the place looked tidy.

The same is true for your church buildings.  Recently I visited a church foyer that was spotless and had clear signage telling me (a visitor) where to go.  However I also attended a church where the foyer was a mess, it still had Christmas items laying around in February.  Sometimes we need to imagine our church through the eyes of a visitor and here are a few things they will notice:

  1. Can I find the correct room?  It is so important to a first time visitor that they can find the room they are supposed to be in.  Try to think like a first time visitor, is it really obvious which door they should enter?  If not then you need to have a person or sign directing people where to go.  Can parents find the kids ministry room?  Can young people find the youth group in the various rooms on your site?
  2. Where are the toilets?  Often people will ask where the toilets are so it isn’t a big deal but if they are really hard to find then put up a sign.  Often visitors will go to the toilet before your service because they are nervous about how long the service will take.
  3. Is the space tidy?  A visitor should not have to see decoration failing down or mess from a previous event.  Have the musicians kept their area tidy or is it a mess?  Is the hospitality area clean?  Are the toilets clean?  Are there tidy facilities for parents to change a nappy?
  4. Stay up to date – replace any old posters or out of date event material.  Make sure that the bulletins from each week are put in the recycling bin.  One church I visited had flyers for a theological college that were five year out of date.
  5. Less is better – don’t try to fill your foyer or notice board.  If a space is too cluttered then the mix of things confuses people and everything blends in.  Instead of trying to advertise every ministry event in your district, give clear message to visitors about what you would like them to attend.  One church I visited just put up new notice boards and they filled it with at least 50 ministry events across the city to the point that their own ministry events got lost in the noise.
  6. Where is the coffee?  If you go to the effort of putting on tea and coffee make sure that visitors know where to find it.  Don’t expect them to follow the crowd; they will most likely avoid the crowd and go to their car.

Every time we have visitors to our house we hope that they love our home as much as we do.  The same is true with our church buildings except we want them to love our church not the buildings.  Richard Riesling in his book on Church Marketing says that visitors have made many decisions about your church before the service even begins, make sure that they are the right decisions.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

3 reasons we love the Olympics

As the London 2012 Closing Ceremony is finishing off I am reminded that I don’t get up early for any other sporting event.  In fact most of the people I mix with either don’t talk about any sport or they only talk about football, except during the Olympic.  Over the weekend I had conversations with people about almost every Olympic sport, yes even rhythmic gymnastics and nobody talks about that ever.  So why is it that every four years we become sports fans and then crawl back into normal life for another four years?  Nobody will be getting up early to watch Sally Pearson in three weeks time to run at her next athletics meet.

Here are three reasons that people love the Olympics:

  1. We celebrate success – lets face it, we love people who are successful.  In Australia we like to cut the tall poppies down to size but deep down we celebrate that they were successful to begin with.  Perhaps it is our own desire for success that leads us to celebrate the success of others.  We love to cheer on someone who has trained so hard as they put in that last effort to try for Gold.  It seems that we love that someone who we don’t know, but is from our country, has been successful.
  2. We see the Olympics as pure – we love that the Olympians take an oath, we love that the athletes are encouraged to try their best, we know that sponsorship is removed from clothing and the officials do their best to eliminate drugs in the sport.  Whilst the games are not pure, we like to think they are.  The athletes take the same oath if they are million dollar professional or sacrificing everything just to compete.  This year several athletes got huge applause for giving it a go as they were from countries with only a few athletes and very little chance of making the finals.  Deep down we love the idea that the Olympics is seen to be sport stripped downed to its essence.
  3. We like the bigger story – we love that the Olympics is part of a bigger story that has happened over the decades.  The athletes in London 2012 took the same oath that athletes took after each World War.  The Olympics has been in boom times and in times of depression, the Games must go on.  Yet it is not just about the events because sport goes on every year.  It might be that there are people from 208 countries represented even if the government don’t see eye to eye on every issue.  It is the fact that we learn about the Olympics at school then past it onto our children and maybe inspire them to do something great with their life.  The Olympics becomes more than sport, it reminds us of the bigger global picture.

In some way the Olympics is more than just a sporting event.  The Stadium that was packed with spectators to watch the 10 heats of some athletics event this week will be empty next week.  It seems we can focus our attention at this time but we can’t live like that for ever.  We celebrate the high points because we don’t have to always live at that level.

 Without wanting to sound too much like I have the rose-coloured glasses on, I do realise that there are three reasons why people don’t watch the Olympics:

  1. They don’t like sport – not everyone likes sport, some people can’t even fake that they are an expert sports commentator for 16 days.
  2. They have other things to do – sometimes life is busy and we are just too busy to notice, good on those people who are working hard.
  3. They are reminded of their own lost dreams – it is sad to hear when people avoid the Olympics because it reminds them they haven’t achieved their dreams.  It isn’t always about sport either, some people just realise their life hasn’t turned out how they hoped.  It is saddest because they can’t celebrate the success of others.

That is my thoughts as the Olympics wraps up.  Whilst I may have appeared to be an expert on swimming, sailing, cycling or athletics for the past 16 days, I will return to being the novice I really am.  I won’t watch Sally in three weeks and I won’t care about diving, gymnastics, sailing or badminton any longer.  But I will take an interest in the success of others because if the Olympics has taught me anything it is that we must celebrate the success of others and not always focus on ourselves.

If you are wondering why this topic might appear on the Mark of Faith blog about faith, ministry and leaders look at the three reasons mentioned above.  We like our church to be successful, we like to see our theology as pure and we are part of God’s bigger story.

markoffaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, MarkofFaith

Overall presentation at Events matters

Have you ever been to an event that has exceeded your expectations?  Have you been to an event where everything looked perfectly in place, well laid out and everything flowed smoothly?  Sometimes in the rush to get our events ready we overlook the presentation of the event to focus on the content.  Whilst content is important, bad presentation spoils content every time.  For example, imagine a poorly designed website which may have great content but you can’t find it.

Last night I went to a youth ministry event by Mustard that exceeded my expectations.  Mustard is a ministry that runs events in schools here in Melbourne and were hosting a Roundtable event for Parents and Youth Leaders.  After almost 20 years in youth ministry I have seen all types of events from well-done presentations to complete train wrecks.  This event was above the average events I attend, even many of the good events that I have been to.  There were just a few things that caught my eye that were better than standard events that I go to.

Here are a few little things that made the overall presentation at the event better than other youth ministry events I have attended:

  1. Welcome signs – as the event was on a large church campus with many rooms there were signs directing me from the car park to location of the event.  Often event coordinators assume that people will follow the crowd or look for where the lights are on to know where the event is being held.  As an event coordinator help participants find the right room with a few welcome signs.
  2. Greeter – at the main foyer there was a person who greeted me and directed me along the hallway to the sign up desk.  At the sign up desk there was a person greeting people in front of the desk and several people behind the desk taking registrations.
  3. Name tags – I am used to writing my name on a name badge with a marker but these name tags had my name printed on the tag as well as the event logo. 
  4. Event logo – The team hosting the event had designed a logo for the event and printed the logo on the registration form, name tags, PowerPoint slides and handouts.
  5. Button Badge – each team member had a button badge with the ministry name on it.  It was that extra step that impressed me.  Each of the team members were smartly dressed rather than dressing like young people because it was a youth ministry event.
  6. Stage set up – there were a few props on stage that got the crowd talking as they entered the room.  These props were then used at a point within the event to explain a key message.
  7. Skype call to Guest – there aren’t many events that attempt a live feed of a guest from another country.  Mustard had a live feed of special guest Cheryl Crawford from Azuza Pacific University and Fuller Youth Institute in the USA.  This isn’t a multi million dollar ministry either; they were just using skype but had done their homework on how to get working well.  Cheryl had been prepared ahead of time and they had a plan for drop outs, which did happen, to keep things moving.
  8. Hospitality – the coffee and tea were laid out really well and there were nice cupcakes to go with the drinks.  Whilst we drank our tea and coffee there were team members connecting with the crowd.  There was a musician creating atmosphere with some live music.  There were also large posters of other ministry events on art easel’s to create atmosphere.

Whilst the ministry team had gone to all this effort to get the overall presentation correct, the content delivered as well.  As we connected over coffee and tea the participants were talking about the content of the talks. If you are interested in the content of the night you hear an audio copy of the event on a special website, click here, which again is above average for many events I go to.

Presentation should enhance the content of an event rather than dominate it.  Yet sometimes we rush our preparation, setup and layout to focus on the content and we overlook how important presentation is.  Take the examples about as a guide of how you might exceed people expectations at your next youth ministry event.

Please add a comment about events that you have attended where the presentation exceeded your expectations.

You might also be interested in Creating a Big Impression at Church

markoffaith MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith

Creating a big impression at Church

Creating a Big impression at Church

Creating a big impression at ChurchThere are occasions in every Church calendar when the leadership team want to create a big impression.  Perhaps it is an outreach event, a new members night, Back to Church Sunday or the first night of an Alpha Course.  Whilst we can’t create a big impression all the time, there should be one or two events every year that really create the big impression to visitors.  Whilst we all look for shortcuts to creating a big impression, the reality is that a big effort creates a big impression.  In a world where everyone is bombarded with excellence, people are still impressed when an organisation makes an effort to impress.

For example this week I have been taking my boys along to our local church holiday program.  As we walked to the church on day one, I was expecting the boys to have a good day with other kids from the area.  When I arrived at the church the entire foyer was decorated with a jungle theme including hand made vines hanging off the rafters.  There was a welcome team that opened the front door for us and showed us how to register.  By the time I had dropped my boys off, they were so impressed by the foyer that they were expecting a great day.  The foyer experience had created a big impression on me and my boys.

Michael Hyatt suggests that the “Wow Factor” is created when an organisation goes beyond our expectations.  In other words to create a big impression an organisation has to go beyond the effort that people are expecting.  But there are some guideline to remember when creating a big impression so that you don’t burn out your team:

  1. Cut back  – it might seem odd to suggest that you cut back on events in order to create a big impression at Church but you can’t do everything.  Your team will have to decide on what they will stop doing in order to create the time and space needed to put in the big effort required to create the big impression.  Perhaps instead of doing 10 events that require a lot of effort you could scale back to three or four big impression events.  Some churches have cut back from holiday programs every term so they can put the effort into one big annual holiday program.
  2. Beg and Borrow – no ministry has the budget to do everything they want to do, so think about low cost ways to create the big impression.  One ministry drove a car into the church foyer to create the wow factor for a father’s day event, another church put a king size bed on stage for an event on Marriage (both items were owned by church members).  Think about items that you can get or borrow for free and then use them in interesting ways.
  3. Centre piece – if you do have the budget for decoration, then spend it on the focal point in the room.  When people are sitting or standing for the longest part of your event where will they be looking?  This focal point is where you can spend your money and biggest effort.  You don’t want to spend money on the foyer if the participants will spend 3 or 4 hours looking at a blank wall behind the guest speaker.  However if you are after positive first impressions then what will a guest see first?
  4. Recruit Volunteers – having lots of volunteers will make it much easier to set up and pack down.  We often forget how much effort it takes to pack up the event at the end, so organise the pack up team before you start.  The more volunteers you have to make things before the event the less you will have to spend on items made by someone else.  For example Conference bags are a standard item that create a big impression if it is full of useful items rather than just a pen and blank paper yet it can take hours for volunteers to stuff 100 conference bags carefully.
  5. Invite people to the event – if you are going to spend time and money on creating a big impression then you want people not just to see it but experience it.  You need to spend as much effort on inviting people to the event as setting up for the event.

It is often said that “Excellence honours God and inspires others” and yet this takes a lot of effort.  If you want to create a big impression it is going to take a big effort.  After reading this post perhaps you need to lead your team to think through the rest of  annual calendar to choose one or two events that are going to get the big effort and which events won’t require as much effort.

You might also like to read about creating excellence at Church

Also please leave a comment about how you have created a big impression at your Church.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith

The Excellence debate

“Excellence honours God and inspires others”

Have you ever gone into a church for the first time and seen something that made you think “that is a little out of place”?  Have you ever been to a church or attended a ministry event and thought things looked a little sloppy and could have been done better?  Or on the flip side have you ever been to a ministry event that ran like clockwork and you were impressed?  It seems that we all have our own interior benchmark of what we think is “done well” and what we think is “done poorly”.

Yet I often hear from people that the Church needs to pick up its game in terms of the standard of events, presentation and hospitality.  I have also heard from others who say the Church should never be too slick or fancy.  Whilst some churches are pursuing excellence others are deliberately keeping things low budget so as not to look perfect.  So my two questions for today are:

  1. What level of excellence is appropriate in the Church?
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?

Let me start by giving you a few examples that I have witnessed from the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry:

Worst

  • I attended a young adult camp where the worship band left plates on stage from breakfast.
  • One church had posters for a youth group that looked like they were designed by a kindergarten class.
  • One church foyer had three different style of notice boards, posters about Christmas at Easter time and a pile of lost property that just looked messy.
  • A guest speaker had to rearrange the stage before he could start speaking because the musicians just walked off without clearing the stage.

Best

  • My church has a well-designed event template for all their posters so they look professional even though the ministry leader drops their event details into the template.
  • A ministry team that turned the cheap hall they hired for a youth camp into an inspiring place for worship.
  • A café night at church that had tasty food with enough for everyone to have extra.
  • A celebration night at church that had proper wine glasses and plates for the food (no plastic forks!)

These are just a few things that I have noticed.  But what have you noticed?  I invite you to leave a comment at the end about what you judge to be the best and the worst of excellence in church and ministry.

  1. What is the right level of excellence in the Church?  The right level of excellence is doing the best you can with the best you’ve got.  Excellence doesn’t mean spending more money; you have to have excellent budgeting skills too.  Excellence is about enabling people to encounter and experience God without any barriers in the way.  If the goal is excellence then we have failed.  Excellence is a tool to help you bring people into an encounter with God.
  2. Should the Church worry about excellence?  The Church should do the best it can to make it easier for people to encounter God, make disciples and join in the Mission.  The Church should be a place that inspires people to see the grandness and greatness of God.  People in ministry should offer the same level of service, or higher, that a person would get if they visited a hotel, restaurant, shopping centre or cultural museum.  I think the problem is that we either don’t inspire people or we go back to “traditional” methods that Christians used last century to inspire people but they don’t inspire 21st century people.

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Louie and Shelley Giglio about the level of excellence at their Church, Passion City Church.  They shared their thoughts about the right level of excellence in two ways:

  • When they get ready for Church or events their team doesn’t pray for excellence, they pray that the Holy Spirit might touch people.  For Passion City Church, it is not about achieving excellence but removing barriers.
  • When the Church is excellent in presenting its craft, services/ministry, then it encourages people to go into their jobs and be excellent at their craft.  Louie said “the best evangelism happens when your lifestyle is so inspiring that people ask you what makes you tick.”

So don’t kill yourself or stress your team or break the budget to achieve excellence in your ministry.  But please don’t be sloppy, unprepared or messy as it doesn’t do anyone any favours.  Could you please leave a comment about what you have seen as the best and worst of excellence in church and ministry?

5 things I learnt from Taize

There is a small village a few hours’ drive from the city of Leon in France that has become known around the world for it meditative chants.  This village, known as Taize, has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of young people every month.  These young people join the Religious Community in the chapel for christian prayer services seven times a day.  Its prayer style involves singing chants that repeat one line of scripture. There are also long periods of silent prayer which is not typical of what many people believe “attracts” young people.  Perhaps Taize is so counter cultural that is grabs the hearts and minds of the young people who visit.

Taize started after the Second World War as a prayer community for people from a range of cultures.  It was symbolic for a German man, Brother Rodger, to move to France after the Second World War to begin the healing process.  The prayer community soon took over the village and the centre prayer space or chapel has been expanded over the years through a serious of rooms that can be opened or close depending on the size of the gathering.

Today the meditative chants of Taize are used around the world in churches and chapels.  People will gather for Christian meditation and use Taize chants to remind them that God is always communicating.  Many communities will use Taize prayer regularly, however some people only use the chants once a year on retreat.

In the year 2000 I had the privilege of spending a few days at Taize.  After years of singing their chants in English, it was amazing to visit this place.  There are so many parts of my experience at Taize that stayed with me over the years, the biggest one being that God can use a variety of forms to reach young people.  Here are five things that Taize reminds me to consider in ministry:

  1. Simple decoration – The decoration of the front part of the original chapel in Taize is quite beautiful but it is simple.  The rest of the chapel is very basic (there are no seats) yet in this environment people encounter God.  When ever I hear people in ministry talk about needing lights, dynamic PowerPoint’s and elaborate sound systems to reach young people, I remember that Taize didn’t need any of these to help people encounter God.  Perhaps the move to make youth ministry events into mini rock concerts has not been as necessary as many would think.
  2. Simple Liturgy – One of things that struck me about prayer at Taize was that everyone transitioned between chants with ease.  How can two thousand people finish a chant together without any leader?  Some of our ministry events have become too “wordy” with an MC or service leader announcing every little detail.   When planning your next ministry event remember some of the basic liturgical principles and reduce the announcements.
  3. Volunteers – everywhere I went in Taize there were young people who would volunteer to serve the rest of the people gathered.  People would serve in the kitchen then others would volunteer to hand out the simple meals.  There were musicians who volunteered to play during the prayer sessions even if they were there for a few days.  There were a large number of volunteers who cleaned dorm rooms, showers, toilets and the chapel space.  Sometime our events have a very small team doing everything because we don’t break down the tasks.  Taize was very good at breaking down tasks to a manageable size and had people to show you how to help out.
  4. Party – After a really moving night time prayer session I remember leaving the chapel in silence, you could hear a pin drop.  As the two thousand people left the chapel many moved down to the cafe and food area.  Within in an hour there was singing and dancing many different languages.  It is important to remember that even though Taize encouraged meditation and silence, these young people had the freedom to have an unstructured party.  Remember that young people can’t be serious all the time, they need time to break out of the program into self-directed party time.
  5. Once off – whilst some people return to Taize several times, many people go to Taize only once in their lifetime.  Sometimes in ministry we are looking for a program that we can run every week for years without changing.  Taize has taught me that some great events should be used in moderation.  Perhaps in your ministry you need to consider a variety of styles and use some style once or twice a year.  Instead of the usual youth ministry event consider a counter cultural experience like Taize.

There were some forms of simplicity that I struggled with at Taize, especially the basic accommodation and even more basic food.  But there are many things which were so out of my comfort zone that they drew me deeper into reflecting on my relationship with God.  In a time where churches are moving away from doing liturgy with young people, Taize reminds me that some experiences need to be counter cultural.

So the next time you are planning to run an event for people in your church how about keeping the music and decoration simple, develop a good liturgy that doesn’t need an MC, empower people to offer their little bit as a volunteer and finish with a big party.

Please comment about how you may have used Taize in your ministry.

markoffaith.net

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

What I learnt at Family Camp

Recently I returned from my first ever family camp with my wife and two sons. It was a great opportunity to get to know some wonderful people, both parents and kids. It was interesting to see how a family camp runs and the group dynamics that develops from having every age represented. There were babies, toddlers, little kids, big kids, teenagers, young adults, young parents and older parents on the camp.

So after 20 years of attending youth and young adult camps what did I learn from my first family camp? Here are four things that I learnt about ministry at family camp:

1. The “Surname’s” – the big difference on family camp is that everyone is referred to as part of their family by their surnames. After years of learning first names at youth camps, now I had to learn surnames as well. So it was Lisa, Mark, Jesse and Aidan; we were the “McDonald’s”. This helped in two ways:

  • The kids are as important as the adults – I never heard anyone referred to as “Mum and Dad’s kids”. It wasn’t Lisa and Mark plus kids, my boys were just as much McDonalds as Lisa and I were.
  • It builds the bonds within a family – rather than separating parents and kids it brings the family together as the core unit of the camp, and therefore our church.

2. Kids play up and down age groups – it is interesting that our schools and youth ministries separate kids into age groups. Yet at family camp kids play down age groups and up age groups as it suited them. So my 10 year old played with a group of kids one morning that were 5-9 years olds then spent the afternoon playing with 10-15 year olds. My 8 year old son played with a 4 year old then played bowls against a 17 year old. The camp gave kids the freedom to play with who ever they wanted rather than playing in their age category.

3. Everyone can have fun – it was great having fun on family camp through the games, the singing and the dancing. It seems that once adults get together for ministry it goes al serious, but with kids present everyone has fun. So in the games section parents had as much fun as the kids; when singing parents were just as into the actions as the kids.

4. We talked about everything – I will be honest and admit that the reason I have avoided family camps before is because I don’t want to talk about parenting all the time. So I am glad to report that the adults talked about everything. We did talk about parenting but we also talked about faith, ministry, property prices, renovations, cars, boats, holidays, burn out, work, career change, study and many many more things. It was great to be able to engage with others in conversations; our children could witness real conversation.

So that is what I learnt about ministry on a family camp. As someone involved in youth and young adult ministry I felt challenged to see teenagers as part of their family unit rather than separating them into narrow age groups. Perhaps you could build some family time into your youth and young adult ministry. I remember hearing Doug Fields say that he was a much better Youth Pastor when he actually had teenagers in his house. Perhaps if you have never been to family camp or you don’t have kids yet, then spend 2012 building a relationship with someone in your church who has teenagers or young adult children, you will learn so much about the people in your ministry.

How NOT to promote events at Church

Have you ever sat through a talk at church where someone was promoting an event and you thought “they are butchering this chance”? Even worst have you heard someone do such a bad job at promoting an event that you thought “I won’t be attending that event”?  There are some basic mistakes that people make when promoting events, perhaps because people are new to a position or maybe nobody has ever workshopped their presentations.

One time that really sticks out in my mind was a ministry leader who was promoting a youth camp at our church.  This person kept referring to the ministry as “my ministry” which straight away made me feel distant as though I wasn’t part of this.  Then they complained to the church that they didn’t get enough helpers last time and then said “I can’t do this all alone, if I don’t get more helpers I might have to cancel”.  At this point I wanted to encourage them to stop talking before they did anymore damage.  Whilst the dates of the camp were clear this ministry leader didn’t give any clue as to how we could help out or how the youth could register for the camp.

Recently we looked at three styles of promoting events, so now lets look at four things to avoid when promoting events:

  1. Don’t be vague – sometimes you only get one or two shots at promoting your events so be very clear about the information other people need to know, which is:
  • When is the event
  • How do people register
  • How can people assist with the event
  • Where they can find out more information (website, Facebook, foyer etc)

2. Don’t doubt the event – it is so important to sell the event with confidence.  Never say that the event won’t go ahead if we don’t get numbers because people won’t register until they know you have the numbers.  Don’t promote this as the best event in the world but you should promote the highlights of the event in a way that is attractive.

3. Don’t be disorganised – if you haven’t got a flyer, Facebook group or webpage set up then never get in front of your church or ministry to promote an event.  You should present a well prepared talk or video clip to your church or ministry when promoting events, don’t make it up on the spot.  The minute you say “more details to come later” people switch off and think “then I will pay attention later”.

4. Don’t make it about you – you are trying to get other people to attend an event so make your presentation about how others can attend rather than how much help you need.  You have to convince the audience that they should either attend the event or ask someone in the target age group to attend.  Don’t make people feel sorry for you having to do all this work to host the event.

Perhaps you can extend this list by leaving a comment on the mistakes you have made in promoting events.  Whilst we learn from our own mistakes, perhaps your mistakes can help someone else get it right the next time they have to promote an event.

How to promote ministry events when speaking

Let’s face it, if you are involved in ministry then at some stage you will have to promote an event.  It may be an event that you are running or it may be an event hosted by another group.  Either way there are three different ways to promote events:

1. You should go – some people promote events where all the work is on the other person.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases like:

  • There is a great weekend coming up, you can check out all the details on the website
  • If you want to attend the event then registration forms are in the foyer
  • The talk is going to be awesome you will really love it

This style of promotion places all the emphasis on the other person to get involved.  Whilst you might be keen for people to attend, this style can come across as impersonal.  However you can use this style effectively to pass on all the invitations you get via Facebook and email.

2. I am going – some people use this style to promote events in a way that is more personal, I am going do you want to join me.  This style encourages others to attend because they know at least one other person is going.  Many young people don’t want to go to an event alone so it is wise in youth ministry to say that at least you will be attending.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases like:

  • I am attending this event and I can tell you more about it in the foyer
  • On the weekend I am attending the camp, if you need a lift come and see me

This style of promotion is great for building a team.  As the ministry leader it establishes you are the peer leader; you are on board with the event and you want others to join you.

3. We are going – when your ministry gets bigger (bigger than your core group of leaders) then you should move to this style of promotion.  This style states up front that this community/ministry is attending the upcoming event, if you belong here then you will be going too.  It might seem a little bold but people want to be part of something popular and this style implies “everyone” is going.  This style of promotion usually involves phrases such as:

  • We are attending the camp next month please think of someone new that can join us.
  • We are hosting a guest speaker, please sign up to help set up or pack down the event.
  • On the weekend we are having an event for all those we haven’t seen for a while so pick up some flyers off our team in the foyer.

Whilst this might be the best system to use when promoting events, you need to have some track record of “everyone” attending events.  If this is the fifth time you use this style and nobody has turned up to any of the events before, then perhaps people may doubt that “we” are really going.

Pick your promotion style wisely so you know when to use each of the three styles.

  • Use the “you” style to pass on community events that you get in the mail.
  • Use the “I” style when you are attending an event and you want some others to join you.
  • Use the “I” style to build a core leadership team as it builds your place as the leader
  • Use the “we” style when your group is bigger and you want everyone to attend.

In the next post we will look at some things not to do when promoting events.

Leave a comment of how you have had success in promoting events.