Church events are a big deal – especially those large-scale, big-attendance events. I recently spoke with one of our clients who’s very experienced with church event planning, to see what kind of advice she had for others looking to throw big events to celebrate and connect with their community.
Gail Smith, Administrative Director at Lutheran Church of Hope in Des Moines, Iowa, works with a league of volunteers to pull off big events. For example, take Taste of Hope, an annual celebration at the end of the church’s Vacation Bible School that sees more than 8,000 attendees every year. Here are a few of the keys that Gail said help assure that events like Taste of Hope are a success, year after year.
1. Pull your team together early
For events like Taste of Hope, Gail starts meeting with the event team – 10-12 key volunteers and staff members – about 6 months in advance of the event.
“I have one person who’s the point person for the golf outing the day before, one person who is in charge of the 5K run, one person who’s in charge of AV for worship, one person is in charge of the 3 on 3 basketball tournament that day,” she said. The areas of responsibility for each person and an overall timeline are clearly outlined from the outset.
2. Let your point people own their areas
Gail said she knows that micromanagement would kill the planning of an event like this. That’s why she lets her trusted volunteers take charge of their areas.
“Truly, they plan it—they tell me what’s going on, they get all the details. I’m their point person when it comes to ‘Gail I need a check for this and this is how much it’s going to cost.’ Really, they take it and run with it. I’ve got great volunteers.”
“If I took complete charge of each one and told them how to do it, it would not have been the same. I let each one of them tailor-make their spot. You have to have that; you have to let them be creative. Yes, you may have to reel them in a little bit on diff parts of it, but you’ll need their support right behind you.”
3. Utilize different methods for gathering volunteers
In addition to the main organizers of large events, you’ll need many more volunteers for the day of the event. In addition to your standard channels online and with tools like your newsletter and bulletin, encourage people to share calls for volunteers with their own social groups and networks.
“Most of us have different groups on Facebook or different places, so we send out different announcements that say, ‘hey, sign up to do this.’ Then we also have this in our bulletin and our newsletter that we send out to different groups and people that we know.”
4. Keep God at the center
“We’re always saying, the only way we get through is through God. He is our number one focus, we do it all for the glory of Him. Every time we meet, we pray, ‘God, point us to the right direction on how we’re supposed to do this.’ … God totally blesses what we do, and so we have to constantly turn to God and make sure that He is center-focused on everything we do.
“I would never have thought that I would be able to throw a party for 8,000 people, but now I know that it’s possible if you’ve got a good structure and you’ve got God at the center. It’s possible.”
What are some other keys to organizing large events? What are some of the unique challenges?