If the women who attend our events are given an opportunity to linger, they are going to connect. And, sometimes, reconnect. At an event a few weeks ago, I happened to check my Facebook account and saw a familiar name had checked in at the event. It was one of my closest friends from early elementary school. Changing schools and time had disconnected us. Now, 30 years later we were in the same place at the same time. Had there not been some time to linger after the event, I wouldn’t have know… possibly ever. Since the event, we have reconnected to find out that God moved our families into our current city in the same year… we have kids attending the same schools. How crazy? God crazy.
The thing is, you can’t embrace the linger until you send out the invites and follow up on them. Your invite needs to include all of the pertinent information:
In addition, you can include things the guests should bring (Bible, notebook, etc.) or even if there is a dress code for the event (funny hats, comfy clothes, art smocks, etc.). I also recommend informing your guests ahead of time if there will be opportunities to purchase items from the speaker, event themes, etc. that they may want to budget for. Also, let your attendees know if there is going to be time to linger. “Join us for the after party” or “lunch on the lawn after the event” are quick ways to let anyone registering for the event know to add a little extra time in their day to linger and mingle with others in attendance.
20 years of ministry leadership has taught a very important thing about inviting guests: an invitation without follow up will dramatically impact your attendance and registration.
If you mail an invite, it can get lost in the mail. If you just simply mention it over Sunday announcements, people may forget to write it down or late comers will miss the news. Not everyone is on social media, and emails can fall into the abyss of junk mail with ease. To reach the most people, it is wise to use multiple avenues to share your invitation.
Any combination of these is a sure fire way to extend your invitations reach, the more the better.
Yet, there is one SURE FIRE way to up your attendance…
A personal invitation is just that, personal. When you call, email, or text a person (not as a group) and express your interest in whether or not they will be attending the event ensures that your guests feel wanted and valued. It shows that the ministry really cares about who is coming to the event.
You may be thinking that calling every woman in the church and personally inviting her is going to be quite a task. It is, but here is how to handle it:
As you begin to invite more people, the chatter will begin. Women will begin talking about the event on their own and this will help your reach anyone who fell between the cracks. This is especially important for new members in the church or for reaching out into the community where official contact information may not be available. Word of mouth is a great way to gain traction and spread information about your event.
Get your guests to the event.
Provide excellent content.
Let them linger.
It’s that time again, for a quick survey of just 10 questions to get to know our readers better.
As we get a better grasp of how your ministry functions, we can create content that fits within that function.
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Earlier this week, in the piece “An Amazing Event”, we explored how a local church hosted an event for women by pointing out areas of excellence. The sixth point was that this church welcomed the linger. This point resulted in a few questions that will be unpacked in this follow up piece.
At the end of the women’s event “Amazing”, the women in attendance were directed outside to the after party. This consisted of lunch, places to sit and have conversations, a small market to shop, activities, etc. I have no idea if there was an official cut off time, as I left after about an hour. However it didn’t appear they were in a rush to send their guests on their merry way. Speaking with one of their leaders, I learned that this is a very intentional decision, because they find that when they allow people to gather after their events better and deeper connections are made.
In theory, this sounds wonderful. But, you may be asking about how it is logistically possible for smaller churches. I believe it is fair to say that most of us are hosting events at our church, whether it be a simple brunch or a more expansive women’s conference. I believe it is also fair to say that most churches don’t have a separate conference center or banquet hall on the property, but instead use a shared space. With services on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, our events are most commonly held on a Friday evening or Saturday morning. Once the event concludes those shared spaces must be reset for services.
How do we let our guests linger when we have to prepare our space for the church services that same day or the next morning?
Extra Volunteers – many hands make light work. If you have more volunteers on hand, specifically after the event, it will take less time to reset the church.
Move the Party – consider other spaces. If you held an event in the sanctuary, once the event is over move to a new location. This frees up the sanctuary to be reset by volunteers, while your guests can linger and talk in the lobby, parking lot, etc. You can use the overflow room, lobby, or even outside spaces. Keep in mind that if you choose to move the party off the church property, you may lose guests. More people are apt to stay and linger, but once they get in their car it can be more tempting to just head home.
Designate the Space – if moving your guests into a new space to linger, define that space. Clear signage indicating where the conversation space is located and volunteers to direct your guests from one space to the other is helpful. Your church parking lot can be a great space, so long as you consider the weather, set up seating/tents, etc.
Provide Food – if you feed them, they will stay. This does not mean that you need to over extend your budget by providing free food. Some churches can afford this, some will include it in ticket prices, others simply invite vendors and let their guests pay. Just make sure if you are going to expect guests to pay for their own lunch that this is included in the promotional materials. Food can be a meal or even just light snacks.
Create Conversation – give them something to talk about and engage with. Set a space or few that are great photo ops. You can create these spaces with things you can find around your home. While waiting in line to take a photo, women will start talking. As they walk the space, the décor itself is a conversation starter. Food will ignite conversation, as your guests discuss their options or the quality of the food. People love to talk about good food.
Fun Activities – so long as there is something to do, your guests will linger and connect. Whether it’s a mini-market place they can stroll around and shop, photo ops, or games and activities, having something to do will encourage women to stay and engage.
Something else to consider…
As a woman who has attended many local events over the last 20 years, let me share what usually happens when I return home. I’m walking in the door, feeling encouraged, inspired, motivated… I don’t want that feeling to pass. Then I hear these words…
“Mom? What’s for lunch?”
Within minutes of returning home, mom is back on duty.
If you are scheduling an after party similar to the event I attended this past weekend, that will include food… activities… etc.
Why not invite the family to meet them women afterwards? Turn the after party into a family event. A few food trucks or food vendors, activities for the kids to engage in, conversation areas for the women… but also opportunities for the men to connect too. It adds to the community.
There is just something about sharing a good meal with another person. I think, in part, it is because in this moment we are using all of our symptoms. We are listening to good conversation, smelling savory aromas, tasting a scrumptious bite, looking at beautiful plated foods and into the eyes of a friend or loved one. Even our sense of touch is engaged regularly… as we embrace as we meet up, feel the texture of the napkin we set in our lap, engage with the various food items, etc. I believe that when we are in moments where all of our senses are engaged simultaneously, and for a long period of time, it helps embed the moment into our memory.
In the Scriptures we see so many moments where people were breaking bread together as a community. Two specific moments to consider is the feeding of the multitudes (Matthew 14) and when Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13).
When We Feed the Many
In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus had just found out about the death of John the Baptist and had withdrawn to a quiet place. But, the crowds followed. Even though he was mourning, he had compassion on the crowd. When evening was approaching the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds away to the towns so that they may eat. Jesus instead insisted they stay and that they would feed the crowd. The disciples indicated they didn’t have nearly enough for the thousands of people who had gathered. Jesus taking the humble amount of fish and loaves, raised them toward Heaven, giving thanks for the food, and instructed the disciples to distribute it among the people. There was so much that even after everyone ate and was satisfied, twelve baskets of left over pieces were collected.
As a Ministry we often will host small brunches and large events. Most often brunches are potluck where everyone brings a dish with them to share. But, with large events… we often do not consider the meal (unless it’s a weekend long retreat). I’ve been to conferences where meals were included, and to ones where we were dismissed to local restaurants. While I can understand the logistics of sending people off premises, I think we forget a few key things that make offering an onsite meal a blessing that outweighs any inconvenience.
The example Christ sets for us in how we engage “the many” is exactly what we should be employing. Jesus said “don’t send them away”. If our event is at our church or under the banner of our church, do we really want people to feel unwanted or unwelcomed? If we have the space to host events in our own buildings, do we really want to close those doors and send our guests elsewhere? What if instead we invited them to sit down, rest, and break bread with us?
When We Feed the Few
In John 13:1-17, Jesus has gathered with the disciples for dinner. He knew that the hour of his return to the Father was approaching. It says that the evening meal was already in progress, when Jesus began washing the feet of the disciples. It was here, that Jesus would instruct the disciples to do for others what Christ had done for them… in his absence.
This meal, unlike a large event, is far more intimate. There are times, the Lord calls us to serve many at one time… and then there are times He calls us to gather our closest to us and to serve them directly and humbly. Who are our few? What if we have multiple groups that are close in different ways?
Breaking bread with others is about creating a moment that stands in memory, fosters community, and serves others well.
By Gena McCown, Co-Founder of WMC
When I have an opportunity to attend a conference or women’s event in the community, only a prior commitment will keep me from registering. As a leader, these events are often those moments when I am the one being served versus serving. They are a space for me to just be one of the girls instead of the person in charge, and I find that I am often refueled and inspired from my time at the event. Leaders are always pouring out and I have said it before, we must also ensure that we are being poured into.
I also pay a LOT of attention to the details of the event. I am learning from what works, what doesn’t, and trying to take away things I can share with other leaders. This weekend, I was able to attend an event at Christ Fellowship called “Amazing”. The theme for the event was “Flourish”, and it was executed flawlessly (at least to the perspective of the attendee). I’d like to recap some of the things that I feel Christ Fellowship did with excellence. And, the good news is, everything they did was something any church of any size could accomplish.
Personally, I’d love a chance to sit down with some of the key planners of the event and walk through their process… I’m always up for learning more.
Do you remember the popular kids in school? They were popular because they were known by everyone (known doesn’t necessarily mean friends with everyone). Some of the kids were just naturally likeable, they didn’t do anything in particular to be loved by everyone. They were just good people, that seemed to get along well with anyone. Then there were those who made strategic moves (good or bad) to work their way into notoriety. When you think back to these people you were in school with, or if you were one of them…
What where you know for? What made people gravitate to you? What made people like you or want to be your friend?
Now let’s spin this to ministry.
There are churches and ministries that are incredibly popular, everyone knows who they are. They may never have even walked through their doors or looked at their website… but you drop their name and everyone recognizes it immediately. Some of these churches and ministries have gotten to that position naturally. They just do what God called them to do, followed that vision, and the people came to them. Others made strategic choices (good or bad) to elevate themselves into the world of being known.
But, what are they known for? What made the people gravitate through their doors or into their cause?
What is Your Vision or Mission Statement?
If your church has a vision or mission statement, that is the most obvious answer. THAT is what your church or ministry should be known for. If your mission is to serve the homeless, then that should be the answer. “Community Church is known for it’s outreach and service to the homeless in our community”. If your mission is to support the orphans in your community, then that should be answer. “Women’s Ministry of First Church is to share the gospel with our foster and adoptive families, by walking along life with them.” If the church has a mission, then the Women’s Ministry should have a similar mission pin pointed toward women.
When asking the community about your church or ministry, you would hope that their answer would be representative of your vision/mission statement. If it’s not, that needs to be addressed.
A few years ago, I attended an event with my sister. At the end of the event I asked her opinion of what she experienced. She replied: “These are precious, godly women.” That is great feedback. Part of the mission of that church foremost connecting people to Christ, and based on what we witnessed their women’s ministry was doing just that.
I recently had a discussion with a local woman about her church, and I posed a similar question to her. I wanted to know what her church was known for, and she replied “Well, people call it the popular church.” I asked her what she meant by that, I wanted to understand more. Why is it popular? Do they love on people well? Are they super active in the community? As I pressed in further, she explained… “Everyone knows the church by name or at least someone who goes there.” When I asked what the mission statement of the church was, she didn’t know it. This is not so great feedback. It’s not terrible, but I’m not certain our ministries simply want to be known for existing.
Get a Vision or Mission Statement
If your church or ministry doesn’t have a vision or mission statement, it’s time to get into prayer and ask God to put a calling on your heart for your church/ministry. If you do have a vision/mission statement, ask people randomly if they know what it is. If they can’t answer you, or can’t articulate it well, then revisit your vision/mission statement. Perhaps it needs to be revised so that it is simpler and more clearly defined. Or, you may just need to remind those who are in your church/ministry every so often what your mission/vision statement is.
Have Accountability to that Vision/Mission
Once your church/ministry has a clearly defined and easily explained vision/mission statement, ensure that you have people on staff or in your planning team that are going to hold you accountable to that vision/mission. Weigh your plans, budget, events, outreach, trips, programs, and ministries against it. If it doesn’t hold up to the vision/mission, let it go. If you can’t let it go, if you really feel like God is calling you to something new… it may be a case of the Lord giving you a new vision/mission. Those who serve for this accountability can join you in prayer seeking God’s direction and guidance to continue as you have been called or that it is time to carve a new pathway.
Keep a Finger on the Pulse of the Community
If you believe that your church/ministry has a significant calling and presence in your community, the best way to find out if that is being executed is by checking the heartbeat of the community. Ask not just your church members or the women your ministry serve, but also the community. When meeting people and striking up conversation, ask them if they’ve heard of your church or ministry. What do they say, how do they respond? This is an easy way to find out if you are living our your vision or if there needs to be course correction.
Being a popular church or ministry is NOT a bad thing. What matters is WHAT you are popular for, what you are known for in the community. The simplest answer come from Scripture in John 13:35, we will be known for our love for one another.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What will distinguish us from each other, as churches and ministries, and define our vision/mission is in the way that we love. How we serve, care, tend, lead, teach, and guide the flock we have been put in charge of and the communities we have been called to.
by Gena McCown, Founder WMC
For five years, we have been serving women in the Treasure Coast. Pouring into leaders, connecting ministries from various churches, and introducing these ministry leaders to ministries that are serving our communities. It has been an incredible blessing to us, sharing our 20+ years of ministry leadership experience. It has been a blessing to leaders in our community, and we are beginning to see the longer reach as things set in motion come to fruition.
Recently, I was invited to a Church United Gathering in my city. It was only the second meeting here, but a movement that has been in other cities a bit longer. This gathering brings together Pastors and ministry leaders in our community… regardless of denomination… for the purpose of support and encouragement. I participating in the pre-meeting prayer gathering, sat through the morning worship and message, then went to a break out group session for others who share a similar position in ministry as I do. After the event concluded, my heart just felt so full. To see the same call to unity and support on the church level that we’ve been working on a specific ministry level… I can’t even begin to explain how that makes me feel.
Years ago, the Lord put the call of unity on my heart. Clearly, He has put it on the hearts of others. Not only should we not forsake meeting with one another in church on Sunday mornings, but also we as leaders should not forsake meeting with one another. We have not been called to serve in ministry alone. Leaders pour into others, but leaders also need to be poured into. I don’t know how many cities Church United has reached, but I am thankful for those who have begun this ministry… and thankful for the groups that will be meeting in the days, months, and years to come.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken. What if 2 of the strands are not individual people, but churches… ministries… organizations? What if a brother who is born for adversity, is the church down the street who answers the call of another in crisis? What if our churches who are blessed financially provided an offering to our churches who are in need? What if we shared our spaces? What if we broke bread together?
What if we fulfilled the great commission as one CHURCH?
How do we start? By opening our doors.