Game Plan 2021: Secrets To Great Events
By Dave Felts • First Baptist Church • Hesperia, California
We’ve all said, “Wow! That was a great event!” (whether virtual or in-person) only to find ourselves jolted back to reality when we look a little more closely. Lots of students were there, and everyone had fun, but that was about it. How do you know whether an event was a success or not? What we often do is similar to the guy who shot an arrow at the side of the barn, then walked over and drew a target around it with the arrow in the bull’s eye. It’s really hard to miss when you do it that way, but you also never really accomplish anything significant.
Another approach is to do a LOT of events and hope that we will accidentally hit a target at some point. That could be called the “machine-gun” method; while you might occasionally see some great results, this method can be very wasteful of our two most precious kinds of youth ministry “ammo” – money, and volunteer hours. And, there is always the risk that for all the shooting, no target will be even grazed.
The solution is found in the weeks (and months) of planning prior to the event. You will never know whether you reached a goal if you didn’t set one before you start, and you are unlikely to hit a target unless you aim at one. As you plan, have a specific goal in mind. Intend to accomplish something specific; plan on purpose. I find that Doug Fields’ Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry® model works well in this process for me, but anything that helps you focus on specific goals will enable you to impact students’ lives more consistently than the “draw a target” or the “machine-gun” methods.
Another common error to avoid in this process is making numbers (attendance) a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, numbers are people – but our focus needs to be on who those people are, what their primary spiritual needs are, and how we can create an event in which God can meet those needs.
In the early planning stages I try to help my leadership team to consider the “why” of each event. What is the primary Biblical purpose for doing this event? This is where I would use the five purposes of the Purpose-Driven® model, but you can use any Biblical model that works in your ministry setting. This is the foundation for the rest of the event’s plan so it has to be specific, but remember that just because you are focusing on one Biblical purpose does not exclude all the others. It would be dumb to tell a student that they cannot receive Christ at this event because the purpose of the event is fellowship! God will work in ways that surprise us, and He will do more in an intentional setting than in a random one. The readiness of students to hear from and to respond to God’s voice is heightened when we are intentional about what we do.
COVID-19 has given us all the opportunity to revise our 2021 GAME PLAN! This “Strategic Ministry/Discipleship” Feature Article and 5 others from the latest edition of Youth Leaders Only gives you a great foundation for your plan. Click here to join now and get all of the articles plus tons of music/media-based resources for your youth ministry!
One of the most common battles is the “because it’s fun” answer to the “why” question. “Fun” is a tool, but not a purpose. Fun and play can be very effective in breaking down barriers and helping students connect to each other and even to God. The trick is learning how to plan and use fun and play in different settings to open the door for God to meet specific needs. For example, a game like “trust fall” would probably not be best to use at an outreach event with many unchurched students, but would work very well for a relationship-strengthening fellowship retreat.
Consider what audience would respond to what kind of event. A video-game tournament would likely draw a different crowd than a makeover party or an art festival. Different segments of your group as well as the student population at large would consider each of those either a great opportunity to enjoy or something to be avoided at any cost.
As we build the overall event plan, we set goals that reflect a Biblical purpose and a target audience. From there we discover Bible passages that will contribute to the overall plan. Then, particularly with more complex events like retreats, a theme is developed which relates to the whole plan. Finally, we get into the logistics of facilities, food, transportation, budget, fees, fundraising, publicity and volunteers.
All that will guarantee an event that is successful and meets our expectations, right? WRONG! With all our prayer, planning, and hard work, there are still times when we fail to accomplish our intended purpose. That bring us to the final step in the process: evaluation. A good evaluation will always contribute to better events in the future and ultimately a better overall youth ministry. Here are a few important tips for evaluation:
- Keep a record of your evaluations in writing (a form can help). I file this with the other papers and lists from the event.
- Evaluate according to your Biblical purpose, target audience, and intended outcomes (goals).
- Identify what you would do differently if you do this event again.
- Be brutally honest when you ask whether this event should ever be repeated or not.
- Evaluate yourself and your leadership team on the fulfillment of responsibilities on time and with upholding a standard of excellence.