Want to get something rolling? Sending out an email or posting an upcoming event in a newsletter will not get you the results you want. Necessary? Yes. Enough? Absolutely not!
First, roll it out 60-90 days in advance. Why? Families need the time to budget margin, head space, and money to make something happen. Love them well enough to give them a heads-up in lots of ways that something important is coming up and they won’t want their kids nor themselves to miss it. They may wait until the last minute to register, but partnering well means giving them lots of notice.
Second, promote the ‘something special’ as an invitation. Why? Families don’t want their children to miss out. FOMO is real for everybody. Snail mail the invitation, then use emails, bulletin announcements, posters, pre-service slides, and parent text messages as reminders. Prepare postcards for invitations because (1) the postage is cheaper, and (2) it will hang on the family bulletin board or refrigerator as a reminder alongside the team schedule (recreation; sport; scout) and school schedule. That postcard/flier will set as a visual reminder that something important is coming up.
Third, if you charge for an event, reward the early registrations with a cost that appears as a discount. Be a good steward and know your costs, but have a soft registration deadline at one rate and a hard registration deadline at a higher rate. Charging an additional $25 for a retreat fee will soften your edge for that late registration. Incentivize good registration habits.
Fourth, use every means possible to promote your event. I have a jumbo post-it note in my office to remind me of all the ways I can promote ‘something special.’ I don’t have to think about it or wake up at 3am wondering if I forgot to send in the pre-service slide. If you plan a year in advance, and we all should, we know what’s coming up. Prepare your marketing and promotion materials 60-90 days out and roll it out appropriately. Think creatively: Invite a youth to come to kid’s large group to be interviewed about when they participated in that ‘something special’ to give testimony to the other kids, let kids wear a sandwich board in the Narthex or on the front lawn, place fliers on the sanctuary clipboards, mail a hand-written personal invitation, mail a full-page flier, always say ‘bring a friend’, send a personal invite to someone a kid loves (grandparent, parent, teacher, neighbor, etc.) Put it in the bulletin. Everyone knows that if a new person comes on campus on Sunday they WILL read the bulletin, every single word. Think 7 hits to knock it out of the park. Once registration begins, send out an email to the early registrants to invite their teammates, schoolmates, and neighborhood friends. It is not intuitive to invite a friend for real until AFTER the parent has already registered their own child. A gentle reminder to ‘bring a friend’ is much more personal after the initial registration.
Fifth, tell the stories of why this upcoming ‘something special’ is special at every table and in every hallway. Use every table space to further the conversation with personal invites. Your social media space is another table where you sit with friends and family. Push it on your personal social media feeds. If you are on social media, sharing what you’re doing at your local church should be all over your feed. Your involvement at your local church is a major part of your life as a disciple. It’s not just your job, it’s part of your personal discipleship.
Our jobs, our discipleship, our message of hope in Jesus depends on His disciples using every tool at their disposal to get the word out. Go tell. Let’s do this!
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15