If you’ve ever tried to organize an outreach event, you know the challenges:

Low attendance
Unengaged guests
No follow-up

Whether you’ve tried to organize an Easter egg hunt, church open house, or Christmas nativity, you might have encountered some of those challenges above. You had a lot of new people attend, but none of them actually came to church. You only had a few people attend, but they didn’t give you any way to follow up with them.

Many churches struggle to figure out the secret trick to hosting an event that effectively engages a community while spreading the Gospel.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways you can organize a successful outreach event for your church without breaking the bank or changing your entire planning structure!

Set Tangible Goals (that aren’t about attendance)

Many “outreach” events for churches have only one goal: attendance.

Striving to have a certain number of people attend your event isn’t a bad goal to have, but it becomes a problem when it’s your only metric of success. Instead, churches should be focusing on spiritual impact—did any of the attendees at this event come to church? Become a Christian? Get baptized? Join your church?

Back up and consider the larger goals you want your event to accomplish—before you even decide what your event should be! If you want to build relationships with your neighbors, host a free community picnic at a local park. If you want to serve your community for Christ, organize a neighborhood cleanup day.

Neither of these examples focus on having 10 or 100 people attend. Instead, the larger goal is to engage a community or build relationships.

Don’t Make It about You

One of the biggest mistakes churches make is making the event all about themselves. If your only focus is to have a set number of people stop by your booth or attend your event, you might be forgetting the most important reason for your event—to change lives with the Gospel!

Don’t focus on how much you are serving the community, how involved you are in your neighborhood, and how much money you donated.

Give Value to the Community

Along those same lines, the event should give some value to the people attending. Whether you’re cleaning up a neighborhood park, offering a free meal, or hosting a food drive, the purpose of your event should be focused on your community (in addition to sharing the Gospel, of course).

Remember: don’t make it about you. It’s about providing a tangible service or good to those around you because that’s what Jesus calls us to do. But if you overcompensate and make sure everyone knows exactly what church you’re from, it can come across as disingenuous. Simply serve those around you.

Host it Off-Site

Hosting events at places other than your church campus opens up the doors for people to be more comfortable. Even though some guests might be completely at home in your place of worship, others would rather slowly be introduced to the church. So hosting an outreach event at a local park, community center, or county fair gives more people an opportunity to engage with your church.

You can also just be present at events already happening in your city, whether that’s a farmer’s market, movie in the park, or holiday parade. If you pass out goodies or gifts, punch a hole in a business-card-size card that features your church’s name and contact information and add it to the item.

Be sure to have invitation and connect cards ready for people who want to learn more about your church!

Intentionally Invite Non-Members

One mistake that a lot of “outreach” events make is that they’re advertised heavily in weekly announcements at church, so tons of members come to greet guests—but there’s no newcomers at the event!

The easy remedy is to invite non-members, but how do you go about doing that? If you’re hosting a large-scale event, consider doing a Direct Mail Marketing campaign, where you send out postcard invites to an entire neighborhood or city.

If your church is active on social media, you can promote your event on Facebook or Instagram with a paid advertisement.

The most effective way is to encourage members to invite their own friends who are non-Christians. If each member brings just one friend or neighbor, your attendance will double!

Foster Relationships and Connection

At your event, have a group of volunteers ready as a guest ministry team—really, they’re there to welcome new people and get to know them. They won’t put any pressure on people, but will rather intentionally build a relationship with a new friend. (And, of course, if they’re interested in learning more they can fill out a connect card!)

Even though this is a church event, you want to make sure your members don’t come across too “churchy” by using religious jargon or aggressively pushing people to visit the church. This event is all about building connections between people!

Do you have any tips on hosting successful outreach events at your church? Share in the comments!