Ed. note: I have shared this story before, but it is such an important reminder of how we need to create communications that will help people connect with the church AFTER the big event.
This is a true story. Though the specific event discussed is Easter, the lessons learned from it can apply to any event. In addition to applying to any event, we can all identify with the situation here. The challenges of ministry are so huge, it is very easy to get overwhelmed in one area and totally forget another one. May the Lord have mercy and help us all.
In one of my seminars, at the break, a woman literally came running up the aisle to talk to me.
“Oh, thank you, thank you,” she said, “Now I understand what went wrong.”
I had just been discussing the same ideas I’ve presented here about the importance of an overall communication plan for maximum results from your holiday outreach. I knew it was useful, but her response was more excited than most so I asked her to tell me more about her experience.
She then told me about a special Easter service her church put on that was a huge amount of work and an equally huge disappointment in results. They were a new church plant and wanted to reach out to their community at Easter.
They were meeting in the grade school, but they wanted to grow and to do that committed to reach their community for Jesus this Easter. On faith, they rented the high school gym so they would have room for a huge crowd. They prayed hard and worked hard to get lots of community involvement. They got it—merchants put up posters; they got lots of media exposure. The day came and the church of 300 had over 1500 at the Easter service held at the local high school gym.
They were so excited. The next week back at the grade school, they set up hundreds more chairs, printed lots of extra bulletins. They were excited to see what would happen.
They didn’t need to go to the extra trouble.
Almost none of the 1500 showed up. The woman who shared this was now between laughing and crying as she continued, “Now I understand what happened!” she said. She was the pastor’s wife and they had beaten themselves up emotionally for whatever had happened to give them so little lasting response. They didn't know if people really didn't like them or maybe it was a huge Satanic attack....they didn't know what to think.
“We didn’t give them any follow-up material! We didn't give them ANYTHING that told them where we met regularly!” she continued. She realized that a simple flyer or a business card that said something like “We are so glad you joined us today! Come back next week to our usual location…” and the card could go on with the church address, phone, map, times of service, some of the services offered would have made all the difference.
“Can you imagine how many people were probably wandering around the parking lot of the high school the next Sunday wondering what happened to the church? And we were miles away wondering where all the people were.”
Though her story was more dramatic than most, I almost never see the necessary follow-up communications or links to social media given out at seeker events. Because of that lack of follow-up, few seasonal or special event celebrations accomplish lasting results
The reason this happens is often that the church staff is usually so time-stressed and exhausted just getting the event put on that they don’t have time to plan and reproduce the essential follow-up documents that are essential to make the event have a lasting impact. It seems like these don’t have to be done so they aren’t done.
A way to solve this problem and make your event one of lasting success
Realize you need to create communications for BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER every seasonal or special event.
It also help if you prepare your follow-up publications and the materials that you will give out to people at the event BEFORE you start to advertise the event. That seems counter-intuitive and you'll always have an excuse not to do it, but the purpose of outreach events is not to get people to the event only. It is to get them involved in the church and introduced to Jesus.
The communications that will do that are of vital importance and easy to not do once the staff is involved in the last-minute preparations for the actual event.
To help you do that is why we have many articles and training materials on this site that will help. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to be notified of them.