Planning Outreach Events for Greater Impact

This article was written by Mercedes Hayes, a member of the INCM Blog Team.

A leader only has a few opportunities to put on events that impact their external community. 

You may only get 2-3 chances a year to do an outward-facing family-friendly event, inviting people from your town or region. 

Hopefully, these considerations will help improve the impact of your events. 

Questions to Consider

When deciding to host an outreach event it is important to ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this event match the mission of our ministry? 
  • What is the goal of this event?
  • What budget is available for this event? Is it cost-beneficial? 
  • How will we create relationships with people to build the necessary trust to spread the Gospel? 
  • Can this event be seen as value added to people attending or a chore to attend?
  • Has there been enough time from the last event for my volunteers to feel rested?
  • Does this date conflict with other local school district or community events?
  • How will you communicate the Gospel?
  • How will you share information to follow up with people?

Once you have answered these questions it is fun to brainstorm ideas for outreach events.

Determine the Goal

Before my team begins brainstorming for an outreach event, we remind ourselves attendance cannot be the primary goal. 

It is so easy to use a quantifiable number of people to evaluate success; however, I have found our larger events, like Trunk-or-Treat, that have 1,000 people attend, as many or fewer attend church service following the event compared to smaller events like our Gingerbread Gospel Night where 125 people attend. 

Relationship building makes a huge impact on whether a visitor will begin attending a church service. 

I still host larger events like Trunk-or-Treat. 

But when our primary goal is not attendance, our events focus on the right objectives and create an environment to welcome new people into relationships and our church community.

What are some goals you have set for outreach events?

We focus on building relationships. So one possible goal is to encourage volunteers to have 3 meaningful conversations with new or new-to-you people who attended the event. 

Consider Your Calendar

As a busy working mother myself, honoring family time is at the forefront of my mind. 

I think of the many different families that will come to our events and if they will have the margin to add it to their family calendar.

This is so important for every leader to consider. Having an event just to have it is not a great strategy. 

I consider how many events in a year will be the right number. 

I will not host more than one event every other month, which results in 6 events a year.

So if we do something for Christmas, Easter, and a summer event, that leaves three more events that will make an impact.

If you have 6 outreach events in a year, what will they be? What will make the most impact?

Consider your church calendar and what you can possibly include. Maybe your church does a Big Game event around the Super Bowl. Maybe you do a Fall Festival every year. You might possibly do an end-of-the-school-year event to celebrate the kids and their achievements. 

Regardless of your church calendar, you can make a determination around the number of outreach events that will be engaging to your community, while not overwhelming your volunteers. 

What Fits Your Region?

If you’re still deciding on what events you need to plan between holidays, consider things that are regional traditions.

Locally, here in Kansas, a big food tradition is homemade cinnamon rolls served with chili. 

We have a Wednesday in November, where we have an all-ages fellowship, talk about the Good Samaritan, make blessing bags for homeless people, have games, and enjoy a local cultural favorite. 

This isn’t a huge flashy event you would think of with children’s ministry outreach, but our kids are always so excited to bring friends to this calm laid-back event. 

Just writing this is making me excited for cinnamon rolls. 

Would this work everywhere? Probably not, but I am sure there are local cultural norms that you can easily use to create a desirable outreach event for your ministry. 

May Day and play? Fish fry and pickleball? Clam chowder and cards? 

What local food or cultural traditions would your community connect with and how can you invite people outside of your church to participate?

Spreading the Word About Your Event

After you and your team have come up with a perfect for your ministry outreach idea, spreading the word is your next task. 

Decades ago we were told it takes 7 points of advertisement for an individual to notice. 

Today, it is 12!

Only putting it in the church bulletin and newsletter isn’t enough. 

There are always people who say they never saw it in the bulletin even though you’ve been running it every week for two months.

While many of us have our standards, we revert to every time advertising such as:

  • boosted social media posts
  • street signs
  • emails
  • newsletters
  • website promotions

We have also found a few more added avenues that seem to work well for our church. 

Recently our most successful form of inviting people to events outside of our typical marketing is giving children individual invitations to hand out. 

During our non-event months, we mail each family who has attended an event or attends services a fun kids newsletter. 

The newsletter includes a game, a fun activity to do with the family, a list of upcoming events, and a final page divided into quarters with an invite that kids can cut out and share with their friends. 

There’s even a line for them to fill in the blank, “Your friend, ___________, invites you to this event.”

We design the whole thing for free or inexpensively on Canva.

The kids just cut out the invitations, fill in their names, and share them with their friends. 

We also make these invites available on our family resource board, as we have multiple families that choose to pass out to their entire class.  

We have found putting the invitation in kids’ hands makes families who haven’t been to our church before more willing to step out of their comfort zone to join the fun.

We also have a prize box where each time someone brings a visitor, each of them gets to pick out a 10-cent prize. 

Empowering children to be involved in outreach is such a powerful tool!

What other ways can you partner with your community to get the word out?

  • Maybe your local school district offers an events board or email that you can pay to include your event in.
  • Does your local library do a summer reading program where they could hand out a bookmark with upcoming events from your church and a temporary tattoo or strip of stickers?
  • Are there any area get-togethers, such as a farmer’s market, town festival or parade where you can hand out information about your events with candy or a treat? 

Follow Up!

It’s easy to finish an event and just move on to the next project. 

However, follow-up is crucial to successful community outreach. 

Don’t forget to follow up. 

There are several ways to do it, but the only way to follow up is to get contact information from the event participants. 

  1. If you get an email, be sure to send them a personalized message to thank them for attending and let them know about your next event. 
  2. If you get cell numbers, create a text message to send out after the event. 
  3. If you get phone numbers, make sure you’ve created a calling plan, carving out time each day to make some calls.
  4. If you gather addresses, make sure you determine which communication these people will be added to.

Personally, our church includes anyone who has attended a recent event in our bi-monthly mailer, inviting them to our social media pages, and texting service. 

Some churches are exceptional at calling attendees following an event. 

As a millennial, I struggle with cold-calling. I have tried and I couldn’t maintain it.  

So I lean on text and mailers. For me, that works.

Remember: God gave you and your team strengths for a reason, so when following up lean into strengths you already have. 

It will make it so much more successful than trying to mirror what another congregation does if it’s not your strength.

In what ways do you follow up with visitors and event participants? Are there any new ways you would like to try?

Final Thoughts

If you take the time to define your goal, consider your calendar, find what fits your region, make an effort to spread the word in unique ways and have a solid plan for following up, I guarantee you will see the impact of your outreach events grow. 

Ultimately, we want everyone to know the love of God through Jesus, and fun, family-friendly events can make this a reality when we put in the effort and pray for God to use us in our communities. 

Want more about outreach? Check out these articles.

About Mercedes

Mercedes Hayes is a fun, adventurous, and determined force in the children’s ministry world. As a well-seasoned children’s minister, she loves opportunities to help other leaders grow into their strengths to improve their ministry and ability to share The Good News. Equipping others to use their gifts is one of her absolute favorite things! She loves coffee, dill pickle chips, planning vacations, her five kids, and her ever-so-patient husband who is always willing to follow her on random adventures.

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