By Shane Bennett
In the next five minutes you’re going to get an amazing crash course in how to promote a global awareness event at your church. For free. What a deal. I think this is going to help you because I know it works. I know it works because I saw it. I was a bit player in a Global Outreach Weekend in Ohio a few weeks ago. The event was held on Friday night and Saturday morning. And get this: 100 of the 400 people at the host church participated! Yeah … 25% buy-in for a two-day outreach training. I mean, we hope for 100%, but 25% is amazing.
Two people were key to that rate of participation. I’ll call them Mike and Mary because, well, because those are their names. Mike is the senior pastor and a really cool guy. His job was essential, but simple: flip the green light switch and do what Mary asked him to. (He and his wife also attended the entire seminar, which made me forever proud and grateful.)
Mary’s role was more extensive, but she was apparently more than up to the challenge. She agreed to let me share with you the basics of what she did that resulted in so many of her folks participating in this key weekend. Here you go:
Now I know you’re saying, “Dang, I never would have thought of that.” I hear you, but get this: Mary says, “First, I prayed over the packet The Mission Society sent me [and asked] ‘Is this what God really wants me to do?’ With all doors opening, I moved forward.” I contrast this with my tendency to see a cool idea and go after God like a kid in Wal-Mart: “Please, oh, please, can I have it?!”
So the first promotional idea is asking God if the event should even happen. Mary added to that wisdom the recruitment of a prayer team, early on.
2. Start early.
Again, self-evident to you, but so hard for me. I want to do stuff now, because what if I got hit by a truck and was killed?
Mary set the date for the weekend eight months out. Go, Mary.
3. Develop a marketing plan.
Seriously? Yes, in December, ahead of an April event, Mary put together a plan both to get the word out and to get people signed up.
4. Talk a lot.
Unless you get Gabriel or the guy who did that cool Darth Vader VW commercial on your team, expect that you will need multiple opportunities to get your message across. Here’s the sad reality: most people don’t care about your event as much as you do. So when your brain says, “If people just know this is happening, they’ll totally do it,” it’s lying to you. It is, in its own crazy way, reassuring you that you’re into cool stuff. You are, but others are going to take some convincing.
Here’s what Mary did: In January and February she met with every small group and class in the church! Using a flier and a promo video, she talked about why they were planning this weekend, who it was for, and what would happen. Then she passed a clipboard and asked for commitments.
Her first meeting was with the men’s ministry; she called on them to lead their families into learning about the Great Commission. Bam!
At the end of February Mary sent out an all-church email, explaining the who, what, when, where, and why, and asking, “Have you signed up yet?” She also began to push the weekend on the church website. When I saw it, it was one of four rotating images on the main page.
In March the effort grew to include a Facebook page and promotion from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Additionally, nice framed posters were hanging in the restrooms (prompting the question, “Is no place sacred?”) A 16-foot banner hung in the foyer.
5. Form teams.
Moses had Joshua and the craftsmen (a good name for a folk band, by the way). David had his mighty men. Mary here, she had her teams. In January Mary began putting together work groups to promote and keep things alive. There were teams for registration and for lunch and snacks, setup and tear-down crews, and office help. One special group was called the “talking it up” team and included the church’s staff and key leaders, equipped with all the information they needed in early January. They were asked to commit both to being at the event and to talking with people in their circles of influence.
6. Clear the calendar.
Finally, the church cleared the calendar ahead of the event. All else was “no.” They made the Global Outreach Weekend a top priority. The fact that the church did this indicates serious commitment. Without senior leadership buy-in, this would not have happened. (If you don’t have senior leadership buy-in, maybe slow down, grimace, and go back to number one.)
Bonus: watch your words.
Arguments from silence are risky, but consider this: as far as I can tell Mary promoted her event without using one of our favorite words (hint: It rhymes with fishin’). I have done the same in this article. Many of our pew-sitting pals have well-earned queasiness about the word or they hear it and simply, logically assume the information is addressed to someone else. If it is for them (and is going to be excellent), call it something, and promote it with words they can respond to.