We hold our Women’s Ministry Council Events at Panera!
When our church was in the midst of transitioning from our old building to our newly renovated building, we didn’t want to press pause on our Women’s Ministry events. However, centerpieces were packed away, tables were being loaded and moved, and the new building wasn’t quite ready to host any events. This meant we had to put on our creative thinking caps.
This was a temporary problem for us, but small churches face this obstacle every month. These churches want to have events but they lack the space or resources to do so. Perhaps you are meeting in a shopping plaza, or your church doesn’t have a fellowship hall. You may be one of the many churches that are meeting in public schools or movie theatres across the country. What do you do when you want to have special fellowship events, yet you don’t have the building or space to hold one?
It’s time to think outside of the box.
During our transition period, we hosted two “brunches” that were not on our church the property. The first we held at a local botanical garden, and suggested the women bring a packed lunch. The garden let us use one of their pavilions for free, and gave our women a special entry discount for the day. The second was held at a local Panera Bread, in their meeting space. We were limited on the number of people who could attend, so it was a first come first serve basis. However, for a small church, it would make a perfect venue. For $75 in catering, the space was free to use for several hours. We placed out simple $1 store vases with a few flowers for decorations. Panera included cups, utensils, plates and napkins in the $75 order. There was more than enough coffee and juice. Many of the pastry and baked goods were cut in half, and they even included butter and cream cheese. The cost was so low, we didn’t even charge the women for attending.
These events were so successful, that just a few months later, we held another event at a local park. Even though our building was ready, we recognized that these outside the church events were not only great options for us… but also to be present in our community. Some of the women from our church have begun meeting for their bible studies in local cafes instead of our church adult ed rooms. You can always have coffee and baked goods and have the women sit in the sanctuary instead of fancy table set ups.
There are many places in our communities that would make great alternative locations for your women’s events, whether you need the space or just want to be more visible in your community. Not all of the events need to be brunches with speakers either.
We have a beautiful tea room near our church, where for $16-$20 a person you can get up to a five course meal. Those prices are ordering off the menu during normal hours, and I’ve been there when local women’s groups have reserved a grouping of tables. Just to break bread with each other and fellowship. Or, you can reserve the whole place after normal hours and come up with a set menu for all guests to make the price more affordable.
Many local cafes will make boxed lunches for small groups, we have one locally that we’ve arranged special pricing with. Even your local subway, panera, jimmy johns, and other sandwich shops will have boxed lunch specials. Serve them at the church or take them to a local park or beach meet up.
Our Women’s Ministry has gone on a guided kayak tour, that stops for a bonfire, music, and testimony for just $20 a woman. There are also local “painting” and “ceramic” studios you can reserve for private parties and average about $20 per woman. Botanical Gardens, private residences (if you have someone with a large house or lives on acreage) can provide great picnic spaces. The beach, local parks, and even local farms may be a perfect location for holding luncheons.
Also consider partnering up with a local church that has a vibrant Women’s Minsitry already in place, where you can bring your women to their events. You would be surprised how many churches would be happy to include your church, even making sure to reserve enough table space that your women can all sit together. Or, if they are using the space that day… they may let you use their building. One thing I have learned over the years is that it never hurts to ask.
Finally, look for an independent women’s group you can become a part of. In our county, we have Ladies of Legacy, and the women who attend come from many of the churches in the area. The women are going to be excited about being able to fellowship in community with one another; location and decor are really a small blip to the bigger picture.