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.