Any well-planned church event is just an event unless there is intentional discipleship before and after. Effective event planning at church must serve a discipleship purpose or it’s no different than the great events planned at your kid’s local school or the local YMCA.

What if you could extend the event into something more with just a little forethought and preparation by asking more questions?

Someone asked in the staff meeting last week if the event I’d planned the following Sunday afternoon was a one-and-done. Someone else piped in and shared, “DeDe never does a one-and-done event.” I smiled. They’re right!

I’m a disciple-maker, not an event planner. Yes, I plan events, but there is intentional discipleship before and after which makes a world of difference in what is planned and how resources (what’s at hand) are stewarded.

Discipleship BEFORE might look like….

  • Setting the WHY and up to THREE MEASURABLE GOALS to help the event stay within the navigational beacons and purposeful when add-ons come alongside disappointments. Story: As the Children’s Ministry Lead AND the Women’s Ministry Lead of my church, it’s important to me to bridge the high school girls into the women’s ministry and set the table to begin and deepen relationships between women of all ages and generations. When it was discovered that several of the older women decided not to go on the Women’s Retreat because, “we only want to go if there are grown women there”, the design team was disappointed. Yet, one of the goals of the retreat was to set the table for intergenerational relationships and we had to let it go. An event can’t be all things to all people all the time. Other measurable goals could include the percentage of first time participants, percentage of second step folks in attendance, setting a critical mass number for the space, number of generations in attendance, percentage of grandparents in attendance, lingering space before and after, base line for ages in attendance, anticipating trouble spots and addressing before, when to address trouble spots going forward, answering three main questions for next time, etc.
  • Determine the WHERE – this helps those who are new or still finding their way around your campus. Logistics and how we communicate those logistics matters as we try to remove as many awkward-moment possibilities as possible. Logistics and spaces can make for distractions, confusion, and an awkward start. Intentional hospitality through communication, registration, personal invites, and room reservations can set a good table for discipleship. 
  • Story: Last Easter there were so many families attending the Sunday morning children’s ministry Egg Scramble there were kids with families (new parents want to do everything, especially church, together as a family) opening eggs on stairs, hallways, and more rooms than I had planned. The spaces were also nearer their cars in the parking lot than the sanctuary (up one floor) to leave afterwards where we’d hoped they’d attend the second service. This year, we are moving it to a larger space, nearest the sanctuary, still adjacent to the kid’s Sunday morning check-in entrance, but critical mass will be seen and enjoyed. If there are less in attendance, it won’t look like it. If there are more in attendance the space can now accommodate them. I’ve invited the men’s ministry to offer a biscuit bar to follow the Egg Scramble to make sure the entire floor smells like bread and folks will linger hopefully to support and attend the second service.
  • Story: Wonderfully Made requires the hanging of vocabulary words I would not want included or remembered for being said or hung up on the walls in our kid’s worship space. It just needs to be different, but in a location that our community knows well. Mission accomplished by moving two buildings over where the community votes, enjoys scouts, and near an outdoor playground for big kids to remember they are still little kids in lots of ways when the information gets to be too much, and it does. 
  • Story: Due to a database upgrade that dropped an event, another event was approved two months prior overlapping my original event time. That’s how I discovered several of my events had been dropped in the upgrade. I pivoted my time to get the original space on the day originally promoted. Another space was offered a few days before my event due to the ‘chili smell’. Nope. Too late for all that. The space mattered for a whole host of reasons thought out last summer when the room was originally booked. Trying to navigate people to a different space in that short amount of time was not up to our standards for hospitality. It worked out just fine. 
  • Story: A site visit by the Women’s Retreat design team helped us get to know one another when transportation was the church bus. Yes, we needed information about the location in order to plan the event well, but what seemed like a last-minute stop (intentionally planned) at the local coffee shop gave me a ton of information about the design team members. AND asking a member’s spouse to drive us made for lots of easy conversations of “What brought you to the church?” setting the table for learning the stories of the women leading the team. Offering next steps in discipleship for each one in the year to come is so much easier when we hear the priorities as shared by their stories. Ex: One isn’t part of a Sunday school because she “doesn’t like to bring food.” I see this design team as one of the small groups I lead for this season, so I will maximize the discipleship time as they see to the tasks BEFORE the event.

The event itself should be prepared before, during, and after as a best next step in one’s discipleship journey with what’s in your hand and who is the Lord setting before you. Want to dig a bit deeper? Check out this post.

Next week I’ll offer a few ideas for turning a one-and-done event into something more AFTER the event, thereby extending the discipleship pathway into intentional next steps.

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:40