Before they will linger, you must invite.

THE BFF

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:

  • The name/purpose of the event.
  • Date and time.
  • Location.
  • Cost and registration deadlines.
  • Childcare availability or suggestions.

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.

  • Service Announcement + Printed in Bulletin + Email + Website/Church Calendar
  • Printed in Bulletin + Email + Facebook + Posters in Women’s Bathroom
  • Announcements + Hand out Flyers in Church Lobby + Social Media Posts

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…

PERSONAL INVITATIONS

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:

  1. First publish the event and allow your more motivated, committed guests register.  Now you only need reach out to the women who didn’t.  You have reduced the number of calls/texts to make.
  2. Every church has “connectors” people who just naturally seem to attract others.  Make sure your “connectors” are sharing on their social media and with friends that they are attending the event, and encourage their friends to do so.  Having connectors on your planning committee is another way to up your attendance.
  3. Divide up the remaining women that you want to extend a personal invitation to between your Women’s Ministry Team and volunteers.  It may be a lot for 1 person to call/text 100 women from the church.  But, it is a far smaller task to have 10 team members reach out to 10 women from the church.

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.

10 Quick Questions

Survey SaysWMC Friends,

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.

It is anonymous.  Please share with other ministry leaders in your circle.

 

CLICK HERE TO TAKE SURVEY!

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Welcome the Linger

THE ART OF LINGERING

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.

 

The Fellowship of Breaking Bread

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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.

  1.  Single Guests – when a bunch of gal pals head off to an event together, they often don’t mind slipping away to a local café and having some girl time.  However, this can be an uncomfortable and lonely time for someone who is flying solo.  When there are tables set up and lunch provided on site, it is much easier for the single guests to mingle with others over a good meal.  This is a very compassionate stance to take as we care for the guests that God has brought to our events.
  2. Budget Friendly – larger events will generally have a cost associated, regardless of the size or wealth of the congregation.  If this is an event that is requiring travel, lodging, etc. then the budget for your attendee is affected.  First, purchasing in bulk is generally less per serving.  I’ve hosted events where lunch was just $5 per person due to the catering discount of a bulk purchase.  Had those guests gone off site, their meal with tip would have been at least $10 and up to $15 per person.  
  3. Warm & Welcoming – nothing says to people that they are welcomed into a space than allowing them to linger and connect with people.  The cliché saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” shouldn’t be part of our ministry playbook.  Just because an event ends before meal time, doesn’t mean you can’t provide a meal option.  A recent event I attended ended just before lunch.  Instead of ushering everyone home, they had an “after party” that included a free lunch and beverages and a fun market place we could walk through made up of local businesses.  There were plenty of places to sit and mingle.  

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?

  1. The Leadership Team – the people whom you are serving with on a team are connected by how/who we serve.  Getting together occasionally outside of serving others, to draw closer as a group will bless your ministry as a whole.
  2. Your Study Group – whether you make the meal part of your small group, or choose to spend an evening breaking away from the normal study and instead fellowshipping as a group, you are creating new connections.  This could also be a great option for a small group that is for couples.  What if the wife of the leader met with the women in the group for a meal, just the ladies?  What if the men did the same?  What deeper connections can be made as you break bread with one another.
  3. Your Mentors – there are those who are pouring into you, consider making a point to not only thank and honor them for investing in you but also connecting them to each other.  
  4. Those You Send – perhaps you have had the opportunity to be a Paul to a few Timothys that you are preparing to release out into the world, gather and serve them one last time to set the tone for the leadership you hope they will share with those the Lord puts under their charge.
  5. The New Girls – what a great way to welcome women into the church by making a point as a Women’s Ministry leader to get together with new members of the church.  Talk with your Pastors or Finance Committee about creating budget and space for a smaller monthly luncheon for new ladies.  Take them on a tour of the church, answer their questions, get to know them better, and most of all make them feel welcomed and valued.

Breaking bread with others is about creating a moment that stands in memory, fosters community, and serves others well.

An Amazing Event

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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.

  1.  Clear Communication – From the earliest advertisements of the event to the moment you left the event, there was never a moment where I struggled for information.   I knew exactly when and where the event was, what time it started, and what to expect.  When I arrived there were signs for parking, volunteers to help navigate the parking, volunteers to help you get to the front doors, and the entrance was clearly marked.  Once inside, in addition to an information desk, there was absolutely not issue finding the restrooms or getting assistance.  As you moved through the event, you knew what to expect and when to expect it.  Clear communication is KEY to a successful event.  If a person struggles to find information about an event, they are less likely to register.  Struggling once there can ensure they may not return.
  2. Visible Volunteers and Staff – As you moved from parking to the event itself, and then the post event activities… volunteers and staff members were easy to spot.  You never know when you are going to need assistance, and knowing exactly who to speak to is comforting.  However, it also says volumes about the church community & commitment when they see many volunteers on premises and the staff in attendance.
  3. Event Ran on Schedule – I think anyone appreciates events that start on time and finish on time.  There are times when you just can’t avoid it, such as when technical difficulties arise.  What people want to know is that those moments are exceptions to the norm.  In the 5 years we have be running the WMC, I can count on 1 hand the number of times we have gone over our scheduled end time.
  4. A Well Executed Theme – I have been to some events that have a “theme” but what I walked into wasn’t cohesive.  Why does this matter?  In this point I’m not focused on how much money was spent, but rather that there was clear direction.  The team responsible for the event were thoughtful to ensure that all the details supported versus took away from the theme.  They approached these details with an editing eye.  Could they have done more?  Sure.  Less?  Definitely.  From my opinion, what was there was a perfect balance and avoided overkill.
  5. Community Involvement and Cooperation – When the event was over, we were released for lunch and invited to stay and mingle.  By the way, that was the fastest and most efficient food line I have ever walked through and I’ve been to MANY conferences that cost far more.  Outside, there was a cute little market set up where we could shop from local vendors.  It was sweet to see the church supporting the community in such a way.
  6. They Welcome the Linger – Something that really stood out to me was that they didn’t rush us off the campus when the event was over.  We were invited to stay and linger.  There were no lights dimmed to signify they were shutting down the house, or doors being locked.  No one was ushering us out the door, but instead inviting us to sit down and connect to one another.  I can’t express how much I loved this, but also how it stood out against every other event I have ever attended anywhere (from local church to national conferences).  The main event itself ran on schedule, which is a blessing for those who were running on a schedule for the day (especially considering it was Mother’s Day weekend).  However, they created a space where staying back to talk and connect was not just welcomed but encouraged.

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.

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