Plan It Well!

Our church does a few annual “Big Days” or special events.

We begin the fall season with an “Open House Sunday & Chili Cook-Off”. This is our “kickoff” to the new season. We invite our friends and family and announce the event 6510028_origeverywhere we can. People can take special invitations to give out with all the details on them. This is the Sunday we announce our Care Groups and begin our Children’s Ministry. People prepare their favorite chili’s and people get to try all of them and vote on the one they like the best. A silly prize is given out.

Christmas Eve is one of the common ones among many of us. We usually have a full house as we celebrate with the Christmas story and carols. We’ve had hot apple cider for after which has gone over very well.

We always try to make the Sunday before Family Day a big event. We again prepare invitations for people to hand out. The day begins with a pancake breakfast – actually this year it was waffles and sausages. And we always have some kind of fun activity to do together. We have played “Name that Tune”. This last time we moved chairs to the side and played some “Sunday School Picnic” type of games before we had an abbreviated service.

3943719_orig 2040929_origOur Easter Eggstravaganza takes place at the community hall. This has been a big hit for our community. We have had up to 250 people and we usually average 60 at our regular services! Again, we give out invitations, have a few fun activities, offer free family pictures by a local photographer, and have activities on the tables. We do a breakfast, an Easter service, and then the Easter Egg hunt for the kids.

While we do other things, these are a couple of our big ones. And we try our best to plan them well!! I’ve developed a checklist template that guides our planning.

How to plan a Big Day well:

  • Special Day Details: Event ____________/ Date _____________/ Time ______________
  • Purpose: Why are we doing this? We need to be clear of why we are doing the event and what we are hoping to accomplish.
  • Food: Food – usually there is food. What will it be? Who will prepare it? Who will buy it? Will it be served? etc.
  • Service: What will the church service look like? Will kids be part of it? Will the sermon address a related theme to the special day? Will there be testimonies? What about special music or scripture readings? Any video clips? How will the Gospel be presented? How will a “decision” be asked for? How will people be invited back to regular services or church activities?
  • Activity Details: What will the activity be with this Big Day? Who will plan it? Who will run it? Where can we do it? Is there any special planning needed?
  • Promotion/ Publicity: Are posters being printed? Where will they go? Who will put them up? Are invitations being printed? Will they be ready at least 3 Sundays before the event so they can be handed out to the congregation for them to use? Any advertising in the local paper? What about a sandwich board in front of the church? Can we send some papers home through the local school?
  • Set up/Take down: What tables and chairs need to be put up? Who will do that? Who will put them away? Are there decorations to put up? Who can do that?
  • Take Home: What will people take home? It’s always good to send people home with something. A Bible? A little gift? A Jesus DVD?
  • Contact Information: How will we gather information from new people who attend? One thing that we have used quite often has been a Connection Card where we ask them to fill out their information and leave it on the tables. Or you can have a “Guess how many Jelly Beans” Jar and ask them to fill out their information along with their guess as to how many candies in the jar. Remember to give the candies out to the closest guess.
  • Prayer Plan: How will the church be praying for this event? What prayer reminder can you give people? I’m thinking of giving everyone a Chili Bean in September to remind them to pray for our Open House and Chili Cook-off event.
  • Photography: Is anyone going to take pictures for later? Who? How will they be stored? Who will get them onto the church website and Facebook page?
  • Budget: It’s a good idea to build a little budget before the event so you can plan your spending. Remember that you can always bring some money back in through charging a little – if appropriate – or through asking for church or community sponsors. We’ve had different opportunities to partner with community groups who like certain events we are doing and they are willing to help support them
  • Celebrate: How will you thank your people afterward for all their prayer and invitations and hard work? How will you let people know what actually took place? How many new people? How many new conversions?

I hope you have many great events, events that are fun, that bring friends out, and invite those present into a relationship with Jesus!

Everybody Plays

The Church just celebrated the highlight of the church year, Easter!Easter 2013

For many churches it is a traditional service that evokes memories of similar services as a child. For others it becomes a special Sunday for creative expression of the gospel.

Our church falls in the second category. We move our Easter service off-site and take it to the Community Hall in our town. We call it an Easter Eggstravaganza. We do a pancake and ham breakfast at 9:30, an Easter Service at 10:30, and an Egg Hunt – with tons of chocolate – at 11:30.

But what really caught my attention this year was how many of our church people were involved in making this special annual event happen. I counted up all those who helped set up the night before, all those who helped prepare and serve breakfast, all those who donated candy or money for that, all those who helped clean up, all those who helped in the service, all those who invited people and helped make the whole weekend happen. And I came up with at least 40 youth and Adults who were involved in some way to make the event a success. 

And it was a success! Over 160 people attended and heard the gospel of the Easter Story.  We even had one person let us know on our Connection Cards that she wanted to have questions about Jesus answered, so my wife, Lynnette, and I were able to meet with her and tell her more about Jesus.

What I really wanted to celebrate is that we had 40 people,out of an average Sunday attendance of 60, serve in some way! In discussions about who we are and want to be as a church, our Elders Board recently stated that one of our core values should be: Everybody Plays. This was an example of that. Our congregation has bought into this event. They are all willing to make it happen.

That is one more of my joys in being in a small rural church. More often than not, we have a large percentage of our people serving in one way or another. In the past we did some Volunteer Appreciation Sundays where we began listing all those who had served in specific ways in the church. By the end of that ceremony we usually had only about 3 people left sitting in the pews. People didn’t like that so we quit showing our appreciation in that way, but the point is that we have most of the church involved in some means of serving – and that is exciting.

Everybody Plays!!

I had to cancel our Christmas Memorial Service

For a couple of years now I have led our church to put on a special Christmas memorial service for our community. The idea has been to offer some encouragement and comfort to those who are having a difficult time during a season when everyone else is supposedly full of joy and happiness. We even have a candle-lighting ceremony specifically for those who have lost a loved one in the last year.

But this year I had to cancel. Only one family talked to me about wanting a candle to remember a loved one. I realized that even if a few other people showed up, it would be too small of an event. It would feel uncomfortable for the one family involved in the candle-lighting service.

This is some of the reality of small town and small church ministry, isn’t it? Even though we don’t expect large crowds for most events, there still do have to be enough people to make it work.

The people who have attended in the past have expressed gratitude for an event that allowed them to pause in the busy festive season to mourn those whom they had lost in the past year. I’ll have to do some figuring whether to do it again, or to do it with some changes.

Oh well, the reality of small town!

Celebrate the Small Wins!

I like to dream big.

I’m always looking ahead. When we put an event on as a church I’m always hoping for a big turn out.

We just had a Family Day Celebration last Sunday at our church. We had a Pancake Breakfast and a craft for the kids. Then during the service we sang a few songs and then played Family Feud – at least our version of it. When we sent the children out for their Children’s Church time I preached on “Why God Made Families”.

My wife and I invited alot of people. Others in the congregation did as well. Lynnette invited her whole Moms and Tots crew. I had kind of planned for 120, Lynnette was hoping for 140. We ended up with 95 people in the service and 8 that came for breakfast and then left. We had just over 100 people!!! That’s great for our church as we have been averaging around 65 people!

The tendency is to look at where we were dreaming and think we came up short. I think we need to look at where we have been and where we were. We had an increase of 50% -isn’t that exciting??

And of those there were at least 8 or 9 who had never been there before. We had about 10 or so that were there for the second time. We had another bunch that have shown up only occasionally, but they were there.

And we had the opportunity of connecting with all of these people. They got to meet some of us. They got to see what our church is like. They had a great breakfast and a fun service …AND they heard about Jesus. They heard about why God made families.

We need to celebrate our people inviting friends and family to come. We need to celebrate that they came. We need to celebrate that they got to meet the church and even see how the church worked together to put the celebration on. We need to celebrate that those who came heard about Jesus!

That’s worth celebrating. Celebrate the small wins. They’re probably bigger than you think.

Numbers go Up and Down Like the Stock Market!

I was looking at attendance numbers this morning, it wasn’t pretty.

I was reading a book about how to measure growth and was encouraged to pick October as the month to look at for the last couple of years. Here’s what I found. The average attendance for October 2008 was 52. The average attendance for the same month in 2009 was 72. That’s a HUGE increase! Especially if you think in percentages! And then I looked at the average attendance for October 2010. It was 53! So technically in one year we increased by 20 people or almost half of the previous year, but over a two year period it was an increase of only 1 person!

I think when you are in a small town and small church, you notice these swings from time to time and you can’t even point to any one specific thing as to why. Sure, some people moved, some switched to a church in the next bigger town, and some just quit on church. But that seems like quite a swing doesn’t it?

Here’s where one has to figure out what we can learn from the numbers but not get too caught up in them. If we haven’t done things right as a church and lost people as a result, then we need to fix that. If we can’t find anything we did wrong or need to improve, then maybe we just need to trust that God will continue to bring the people who need Jesus. We need to keep on keeping on and not let numbers discourage us too  much or even excite us too much. If we got too involved in the numbers I sure would have been on an emotional rollercoaster.

Maybe we need to be a little more concerned about the number of people in our church who are getting to know their unchurched friends and neighbors and co-workers. Maybe we should celebrate the number of people who are inviting friends to church.

Numbers go up and numbers go down – and they are important because each one represents a person, a soul. But we need to learn which numbers to focus on, live and minister faithfully, and trust God for the results He will bring!