Church Event Planning: A 10-Point Guide to Keep you Focused on Growing Deep and Reaching Out
What does your yearly church event planning look like?
Is it a few pastors and ministry leaders gathered in a room comparing calendars? Maybe you just take last year’s calendar and change the dates. Or maybe you skip the planning meeting altogether and just figure things out as you go.
The planning process can be daunting. And it’s very easy to get bogged down in the details.
As Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer highlight in their book, Simple Church, many churches get so overloaded with ministries and activities that they’ve lost sight of the real goal - making disciples.
What follows here is not a quick-fix solution. It’s not even a list of absolutely essential church events. Every church is different. And in the end, your church calendar will take on the unique character of your church.
A church is a vibrant, living body. It’s not a machine or a formula. You can’t just plug in the right church events and get spiritual health.
So as you work through these points, don’t imagine what they look like for some generic church or for the church across town. Think about the specific people in your church and in your community. Think about where God has placed you to love and lead.
Then ask: Is this something that would help us grow as a church? Is this something that would keep us focused on reaching more people and serving our community?
It won’t work as a formula. But it might work as a guide to be more intentional about your church calendar.
A few years ago, Lifeway Research asked 1,000 pastors to list the three Sundays with the highest church attendance. Not surprisingly, Easter (93%) and Christmas (84%) topped the list. Another survey by Lifeway research reported that “nearly two-thirds of Americans agree Christmas should include a trip to church.”
Everyone on your church mailing list should get a personal invitation to your Easter and Christmasservices. If you have social media accounts, there should be a clear message that everyone is welcome to attend.
Because church attendance on these days is not just a cultural tradition. It’s tied to the powerful message of the gospel - a message that has been proclaimed for thousands of years.
God comes to dwell with His people, and then, He gives His life as a sacrifice to save them.
During the Easter and Christmas seasons, we celebrate truths that are exploding with eternal significance. That’s why people feel compelled to hear them, and that’s why we should be eager to proclaim them to as many people as we can.
Many churches plan a Friend Day (or something like it) at some point during the year. The goal with church events like these is to get people to see that they have been divinely placed in their neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and communities.
Christians are never randomly located. We do not live in our house, work at our job, or attend classes by accident. God has placed us in those contexts to be His witnesses.
And from time to time, the people in your church need to be reminded about that. They need someone to remind them that their neighbors, co-workers, and friends need Jesus. They need good news, loving relationships, and eternal truth.
Your members and regular attenders have probably already thought about inviting someone out to your church. So give them that opportunity. Make it easy for them to share what they love with people they know.
Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are two key church events that you will want to keep in mind as you plan your church calendar. For many churches, these special days are also very well attended.
But it’s also true that celebrating these days can be challenging for churches to navigate. For some, these days are painful reminders of parents who hurt or abandoned them. Others will remember with sadness parents who are no longer with them.
As a church, you want to be sensitive to all of these groups. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the truth that fathers and mothers matter. Even those who have been hurt by their parents know this. In fact, they probably know this more than most.
And on any day where earthly parents are honored, you also have a beautiful opportunity to point people to a Heavenly Father who will never fail them and who will never leave them.
For many years, it was very common for churches to choose a theme at the beginning of each new year. Some churches still do this. But it is probably more common for churches to lay out their church calendar around their sermon series.
And this makes sense. Hours go into planning and preparing and praying for each series. Pastors prepare sermons, media teams create graphics, ministry leaders plan next steps for those hearing the sermons. It makes sense that you would try to leverage that investment to reach as many people as possible.
Some churches even print mini church invitation cards or church mailers at the beginning of each new sermon series. They just use the sermon series graphic for the front design, add the basic event details for the back design, and include a short, crisp sentence describing what the series is about.
Then, they mail those cards out to their church family or send one home with each person to share with a friend. It’s a simple way to transform any sermon series into an instant outreach tool.
A few years ago, Barna reported that 2 out of 3 churches in America put on some type of summer kids program each year.
For many churches, Vacation Bible School is one of the most effective ways to serve the children and parents in their community. And it’s loads of fun too!
And don’t get bogged down with one specific model for this event. Your church may not have the finances or volunteers to run a week-long event. Maybe a weekend (Saturday-Sunday) event would be easier. Maybe you could just plan events on every Saturday in a specific month.
It doesn’t need to elaborate or expensive. You’re just creating a fun and safe space for kids to connect with others and learn about Jesus.
Your primary ministry through this event will be to the kids in your church. But this is also a great opportunity for you to reach out in your community. Consider printing up some VBS event flyers to pass out in your area. Put up an outdoor sign with the dates and times of your event.
Let people know that you have something planned for them. You might be surprised how God will use these small steps to connect new people with your church.
People are busy. Their schedules are crammed full of work events, family activities, personal interests, and other responsibilities.
Despite continued improvements in efficiency and technology, Americans employed full time work an average of 47 hours per week. That’s up almost two hours from just a decade ago. And to make matters worse, the average American gets 40% less than the recommended amount of sleep.
For these reasons (and others), many people struggle to stay connected to a local church. In particular, this tends to happen during two really busy seasons of the year - the summer and Christmas seasons. During these times, people tend to travel more. They tend to change up their normal routine, and they often spend extra time with family activities or projects.
That’s why it’s important to help people refocus as they come out of theses busy seasons. Planning an appropriate church event in September and January can help people get back into the rhythms of spiritual growth and community.
Of course, they’re coming off an exhausting and possibly stressful season, so you don’t want to plan anything really elaborate. Just do something simple to remind them that spiritual growth and Christian community are essential rhythms in a healthy schedule.
Maybe you could put on an “I Love My Church” Sunday or transform the church parking lot for a Trunk of Treat activity. Or maybe you should consider re-launching your small groups around these times to help get people connected again.
Most of these points are about bringing people into your weekly gathering or services. But let’s talk about how to get your church out on mission.
Nothing will breathe new life in your church family like getting them out in your community and serving others. Do you have opportunities like this for your people?
Every city has events that are unique to their yearly calendar. What are those events in your city? And how can your church be present to serve? It may something as simple as handing out waters at little league games or cleaning up trash after an event at the fairgrounds.
Try searching for non-profit organizations in your area and consider sending volunteers to serve. Is there a rescue mission in your city? What about a women’s shelter or addiction treatment center?
Of all the suggestions on this list, this one is the most likely to vary widely from church to church. You’ll need to carefully consider the people God has brought to your church and the community that He has placed you in. But no matter your strengths or limitations, you should be able to find some way to show the love of Christ to those around you.
Every pastor and ministry leader understands how valuable volunteers are to the church. They are the dream team. They’re the people who minister, counsel, teach, and serve every week in churches all over our country.
Whether it’s heading up a small group, watching kids in the nursery, or cleaning up around the property, these humble, grace-filled servants are absolutely vital to the health of the church.
This is exactly what Paul lays out in Ephesians 4, when he says that pastors are given to equip the church family for ministry. Why? So that the entire body might grow in spiritual health and maturity.
But in order to serve well, even the most spiritual volunteers need help and encouragement. They need intentional training and regular expressions of gratitude. To put it simply, they need to know what is expected of them, and they need to know that they are appreciated.
Creating specific church events for volunteers or groups of volunteers will help you equip and encourage them. Most of the time, these events are heavy on the encouragement and light on the training. But whatever you do, don’t send the message that you don’t see and value your volunteers.
To reach your community, your going to need a host of people involved in greeting, serving, and connecting with first-time guests and non-believers. Use these training and encouraging events to cast that vision.
Every Christian is called to be a witness for Christ. But for most Christians, sharing the gospel is just not a priority.
And the research shows that there is actually a clear connection between church members that share their faith and church leaders that provide specific training on evangelism.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has conducted extensive research on the practices of the top evangelistic churches in America. Here’s what they found:
87% of the top evangelistic churches intentionally provided personal evangelism training for their members in the past year.
85% of the fastest growing churches provided personal evangelism training.
84% of the top baptizing churches train their members how to share their faith at east once per year. 50% of those churches train their congregation 2-4 times per year.
As you can see, training is a key part of equipping your church for evangelism. And in that training, you should make sure there are opportunities for people to practice sharing their faith with someone. Give them gospel tracts and have them actually go through the process of sharing the gospel.
Much of what they need to know will come through experience. But some solid training up front can allow them to focus on really communicating clearly and passionately.
Every person is created in the image of the triune God, which means that we all crave community. Non-Christians will often be attracted to a Christian community even before they’re attracted to the Christian message.
This means that even your fellowship events and activities have the incredible potential to attract the unchurched and non-believers to Christ. What did Jesus say? That the outside world would be drawn to us because of how we love one another.
Your small groups are wonderful snapshots of your church body. For many people who are not used to going to church, small groups can be a very natural introduction to your people. Take advantage of the power of community. Plan a couple of small group fellowships or service projects each year, and specifically encourage your church to invite other people to come.
Some churches even move these fellowships to the neighborhoods of church members, so that they can make it even easier for the people who live there to connect with Christ-followers.
What about your church? Are there church events on your yearly calendar that really help your people? Is there something on this list that you think might be a good fit for your church and community?
There are going to be busy seasons in the life of the church. You probably won’t be able to avoid them. But with some prayerful planning beforehand, you can keep your church focused on growing deep and reaching out. You can keep them focused on Jesus and His mission for your church.