In Ministry with E.C. Cunningham: Fishing to Connect Through Special Events

by Amanda Brady

Children’s Pastor, Amanda Brady is a guest writer for INCM.

Special events are definitely not a one size fits all kind of thing.  There are lots of factors that can affect the success of your event.  One thing that children’s ministers need to be aware of is the culture and the people that they are trying to reach.  If you are trying to do in intercity outreach event, then the same kind of event that you normally do in the suburb where your church is located may or may not work.  What are some steps you can take to help ensure the success of your event? Epluribus Cunningham is the children’s pastor and online community specialist at Salem Baptist Church in Chicago.  He has had many years of experience ministering and planning events in an urban environment.  He shared some things to consider in making sure that your event is effective.

One of the primary things a children’s minister must do when planning an event is take the time to learn the culture of those you are trying to reach.  Make sure you know the do’s and don’ts of the area where you are going to hold the event.  For example, if a specific park is known to be an area where gang activity occurs or where sexual predators hang out, then it is not a good place to have your event there and encourage kids to go to those places.

Develop events with a holistic approach, that meet needs other than just the spiritual need.  Just teaching the Bible may not draw people to your event, as they do not view that as their primary need at this time.  Often people do not know what they need.  They are worried about family, finances, safety, etc.  He points out that many times you may have to minister to their stomach before their spirit.  Find out what the community views as their greatest needs and how can you meet or alleviate that need?  Incorporating those things into your event will encourage people to come. The biggest impact will happen when you make a physical, emotional and spiritual connection with the people.

He also points out that there are commonalities, things that speak a universal language to people.  Use these as your hook to get peoples’ attention and draw them to your event.  Some of these commonalities are music and food.  He also states that in most instances you will want to do some kind of gospel presentation.  Often it may just be a short message to bring awareness of God and Christ.  Sometimes you may need to depend on a tract or giving away Bibles.

Most importantly, the key to making a lasting impact and difference in the lives of people is to find a way to connect.  Special events are only a starting point for this to happen.  People can be very territorial and if you come and put on an event and they never see you again, then you are not going to gain their trust.  Find ways to start a conversation with them and then continue that.  For your reach to be effective, you must have a plan for what is going to happen after the event.  How are you going to follow up and continue to build on the relationships that were started during the event?

Epluribus said that one way to connect on an ongoing basis is to partner with the schools or other entities in that area.  Kids are already there and often those organizations are hurting for people to come and help.  By doing this, you are developing relationships with not only the kids but also the teachers and those who work there.   He also points out that often there are already churches present in the area that are doing the work.  This is a very difficult job to do day after day.  It can be emotionally, physically and financially draining.  How can you partner with these groups and include them as they will often be the ones doing the long-term work?

In conclusion, Mr. Cunningham shared this story with me.  A guy came to the house and told his friend that they were going to go fishing in the morning.  So, the next morning, the friend comes in to find the man fishing in a fish bowl.  The friend points out that these fish have already been caught.  So, they leave and get in a boat.  They float to the middle of the lake where they sit and wait.  But nothing happens.  The friend then points out that the fish are not just going to just jump into the boat on their own.  The man is eating a sandwich, so he takes a fishing pole and hooks his sandwich onto it and throws it into the water.  The friend points out that this is ridiculous!  Fish do not eat sandwiches!  Fish have to be caught where they are and with what they eat.  The same is true when we are trying to be fishers of men as Jesus called us to be.  We have to go to where the people are.  We can’t expect them to come to us.  We have to feed them what they need.  And at the end of the day, they will come to us.

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