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.

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.

 

13 Signs People Are Excited to Attend Your Women’s Ministry

I was inspired to make this list based of the article 13 Signs People Are Excited to Attend Your Church.

brunchpix

1. Women Bring Their Friends—The ultimate measurement of whether your people are excited to attend your Women’s Ministry events or not is whether or not they bring their friends.

2. The Driving Team—Are the women carpooling to the event?  This is evidence of connection and fellowship beyond the walls of the church.

3. The Line Formed to Enter the Building—If women arrive early, you know they are excited about the Women’s Ministry event.  Women arrive early to make sure they get a good seat.

4. The Greeters—Women who are not even on the team energetic and thrilled to be there, introducing themselves to new faces and helping get stuff done.

5. The Pre-Event Vibe—If you want to know if God is moving at any ministry, just describe for me the atmosphere in your building the 15 minutes before an event begins.  Is there energy in the room? What are the discussions about? Are people smiling and laughing? Is community being built?  And, even more so… was there anticipation leading up to the day of the event?

6. The Speakers Begin — Do the women immediate begin to quiet down and settle when the see the familiar faces of the women doing the introductions, speaking, or music?

7. The Response to the Music—If you are having worship music, are the women engaged or on their phones killing time?  Women who are excited to be there are only looking at their phones if they are looking for lyric prompts.

8. The Response to Scripture—Jesus is celebrated through the reading of His Word. There is spontaneous clapping or other affirmations while reading scripture.

9. The Response to the Message—Do you hear the women talking about the topic, presentation, or speaker after the event… even for days after the event?  Does it come up on Sunday?  And does the Pastor tell you that he’s heard good things?

10. Life Change—Are you seeing more women sign up for small groups, new faces on Sunday morning, and a deeper interest in building stronger relationship with Christ?  Are new habits being made that show an increased spiritual walk… like prayer, scripture study, etc.

 11. Women Walking to the Car—Women who had a great experience at your event…. will be slow in leaving the building, may even be found chatting in the parking lot after you lock the doors.  A great sign of community, fellowship, and communication!

12. Women Wanting More — Not every church has women’s events every week, or even every month.  If you have women who are asking for more, who want to know when the next event is… you are doing something right!  Keep doing it, and consider doing it more often.

13. And Most Important, It’s All About Jesus—Nothing creates excitement and expectation like continually focusing everything on the One who is worthy of all this excitement, Jesus.