I know it’s the summer, but now is a great time to be brainstorming and thinking strategically about what events you will be doing when the Fall gets here. In the past I have used a lot of unnecessary energy and faced disappointment from events that didn’t turn out like I hoped. Today, as we look ahead to the Fall, let me give you a few tips from my vault of successes and mistakes.
1) Know the Purpose and Target Audience: This is probably the most important step in planning the event. Who is it for? Is it for students who are not there yet? Is it a connections event to build community? Is it for students to grow deeper? My experience has been that the answer cannot be, “all of them”. The more specific we are, the greater the impact on the target audience you are reaching. A great question that always helps me to better understand the purpose is this: “When the event is over, what would we hoped to have seen happen”?
2) Communicate the Purpose and Target Audience: Once you have established the purpose and the target audience, make sure that everyone (and I mean absolutely everone – students, leaders, parents and the pastor), know the purpose. I have been frustrated in the past when planning events and the leaders and students are coming up with great creative ideas, but for a different kind of event. The more we communicate the purpose the greater we can channel creative ideas.
3) Build Ownership into Planning: When students are part of the process at the outset and are part of planning and implementation, the greater the impact of the event. Although this can be messy and often students drop the ball, it is key to help them to be involved in as many ways as possible. In the past I have designed and implemented the slickest events with a group of youth leaders with low impact. In contrast, I have worked with students (and leaders) to design and implement events with high impact. Bottom line: Students want to see the event succeed if they have ownership of the ideas, creativity and implementation.
4) Keep the Event on the Same Night as Usual: There are two very good reasons I can think of for why this is key: First, it means you are not asking leaders to come out on a different night and therefore it is easier to staff the event. Second, when doing outreach events, it is crucial to allow for a ‘next step’ to the regular program the following week. It’s easier to invite a new student out the following week if it is on the same night.
5) Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: Yeah, yeah. We have heard this a million times. However, how much does this happen? Your ability to be ‘all there’ with students and be connecting with new students. Failure to delegate well will mean that you and I are programming the event more than we are pursuing students.
6) Create a ‘Next Step’: Having a next step as Andy Stanley would say, is creating an “easy, obvious and strategic” step for students to take at the event and / or following the event. A next step might be simply inviting a new student to come back the next week for your regular large group meeting, (this is why having the event on the same night is so important – it is easy, obvious and strategic).
Another next step might be have students sign up to get plugged into a small group at a connections event. If students are connecting and getting to know each other better, a great next step is to be promoting small groups where they can continue to experience connection.
7) Pray! Finally, but most importantly, make sure that you pray for wisdom, direction and for God to do great things with this event. At the end of day, we are just event planners without God being at the center of what we are doing. Praying prepares our hearts to minister to students with the heart of God as well as preparing the hearts of the students who are coming. In my experience, this step is often the one that gets missed in the clutter of planning. Don’t miss this step!
Hope this helps. I am sure there are more tips you could include. Why don’t you share them with me? I would love to hear from you!