Key to everything is the prayer and planning that precedes it. Before all the practicalities, it is important to gather a team to pray and work out the purpose of the event.
The team will vary according to the event being proposed. If it is between churches then the leaders of the churches need to agree on the purpose and type of event. I once led a group of five evangelical churches in a big event that had 1,100 people in the park in the centre of the town. We had to agree that the purpose was evangelistic.
On the other hand, if a church is doing an event alone, its leaders need to work out the event’s purpose and where it fits in the overall strategy of the church or mission. If it is a group within the church, then the team should consult with the pastor and leaders of the church. All teams should soak their plans and preparations in prayer.
On one occasion, the church I pastored organised an event for 400 people in a local theatre on the subject of science and Christianity. We invited a leading scientist as the guest speaker. Again we needed to work out how this event fitted into a whole programme of evangelistic courses and events. In that case, it had a dual purpose of evangelism and educating Christians in the science/Christian debate. The questions to ask are: What is the purpose? Where does it fit? Who am I trying to reach?
With a purpose and team in place, the next task is to decide on the speaker, the subject and the venue. This is best worked out as a whole team, so everyone is behind the event and buys into its purpose. The venue is important to setting an atmosphere. More often than not, more informal settings will prove more inviting and popular.
Once there is clarity on both the purpose of the event and how it fits the overall strategy of evangelism, then it is time to delegate an area of responsibility to each member of the team. These will include:
- Liaising with the speaker about topic, length of talk and expected audience. Will there be an interview? Will there be open Q&A? How will this be organised?
- Arranging publicity and notifying people, and thinking through how the event will be publicised.
- Organising tickets (or considering if they are needed), and what the cost, if any, will be.
- Liaising with the venue and also with any public bodies.
- Will there be books to sell – what will they be?
- What PA equipment will you need? Will you need a projector and a screen? Who will run these on the day?
- Follow-up and feedback: Will there be feedback forms? If so, what information do you want to gather? Is the follow-up already in place – courses, etc.?
- Order of the day: Who will host the meeting? Does everyone taking part know what is expected and how long each item will be?
In my experience, it is important to make clear that the aim is to have at least 50% non-believers in the audience. Encourage Christians to only come if they bring one or two non-believing friends. Encourage your organising team to work hard on their contacts so they too may bring along unbelieving friends.
On the day
Meet as a team to pray on the day of the event. Make sure everyone knows what they are doing and that all the technical equipment is working. Finally ensure that guests are well looked after with a friendly welcome team and make sure the toilets are well signposted.
After the event, plan a debrief with the team to evaluate how things went and to organise follow-up activities. There are always things we can improve or change. Never assume that people will automatically come along to future events; there always needs to be a personal invitation plus a flyer or email to pass on as a reminder at the event. The team should see that interested individuals are followed up and offers of courses made available for them.