Fall Festivals are hosted by churches and schools all over the map in North Georgia. Setting the WHY offers a true channel through the logistical challenges to pull off such an endeavor well.

The Fall Gathering is an all-staff-hands-on-deck event at my local church. It is 2-hour event of food trucks led by the Nursery and Missions Team, Big Games led by the Recreation Ministry Team, Cake Walk led by our Senior Adult Ministry, Music led by the Worship Team, and Trunk-or-Treat led by the Kidmin and Youth Team (which is billed as a jacked-up ministry fair for all the ministries of the church to shine.) We invite local businesses and families to trunk, too. #teamwork 

We schedule the Fall Gathering to follow the 20-minute soccer season awards ceremony where 300 kids have just finished a fabulous season. 300 kids and their families don’t show up for the soccer awards, but we can plan for 150. When the soccer families are dismissed from the awards ceremony, I hand out a green bag for them to collect candy and loot from the trunks since most forget to bring one. As our trunk folks see the green bags, they know these families come from the Recreation Ministry and respond accordingly. #hospitality

The goal for us is to ‘bump elbows with our neighbors where littles-with-bigs take priority.’ We want to be a good neighbor with no bait and switch. We want to model Christian community with creativity, generosity, great joy, and connection. #family 

With reports two days ahead that the weather might not permit us from doing everything outside as planned, we already had a rain plan and set it into motion. Food tables in the gym and food trucks parked outside near an overhang entrance. Trunks in the 3rd floor classrooms two to a classroom (I labeled each door with giant post-it notes) placing community trunks with ministry trunks for even more Christian community. I emailed all the trunks the day before to offer a heads-up and anyone needing something special (like cornhole needed an entire classroom) to let me know. #communication

Wins for having it inside:
* Texting the Sunday school teachers early Sunday morning to move their classroom furniture after class to make room for trunks #participation
* A typical outdoor obstacle course became a huge The Floor Is Lava course #creativity
* I was the Graham Cracker of a 3-person-S’more. A little girl came running up to me shouting, “I found your chocolate! I found your chocolate! Now I’m gonna look for your marshmallow!” #joy
* Critical mass in the hallways made for great photos to use for marketing next year. #marketing
* A greeter at the main entrance added that personal touch and began the experience in the lobby. #hospitality
* We ran out of cakes 1.5 hours in after I walked through the hallways showing off a pumpkin roll I won and hyping the crowds. #hypeambassador
* Three new families attended our children’s programming the following Sunday. Even though we had half of our Sunday am leadership out sick, we still prioritized hospitality anticipating some new faces. God blessed that.  We made arrangements for a greeter to answer questions, offer a tour, and we loved on their kids well. They’ll get postcards from us this week!
* Batteries in my pocket rescued several motorized costumes. deflated from all the festivities.

Canceling the event was not an option since editing and adapting was already considered. For me it’s an integrity issue. If we say we’re going to do something, by golly short of the rapture, it’s happening. It may not be what we planned, but with a clear WHY we can pivot with good communication, happy servant leaders, happy families, and happy kids who were able to experience the creativity, generosity, great joy, and connection that comes with gathering together in Christian community.

Next up? Live Nativity of ‘Manger Things’ on Sunday before Christmas and Campfire Christmas the Friday before.

This is what I have learned especially over the last three years: Nothing needs to be a Broadway production, and can turn out better if we can back off the expectation that it needs to be. Simplicity is king for family ministry. Before you think we are a big church with lots of volunteers, no one is a big church with lots of volunteers anymore. We are all new church starts.  With a clear WHY, we can use what’s in our hands to make anything happen with even a few people and clear, early communication.

How did your Fall Festival go and where were the wins?

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16