LifeChurch Eccles organised a carol service that massively eclipsed their normal Sunday service turnout. The majority of this increase came from people who don’t normally go to church! This was a staggering result – and team leader Derek Hughes illustrates how they did it and how other church leaders can do the same, by asking themselves a few straightforward questions.

Despite the fact that the group had never organised a carol service for the community before, had a tiny annual budget, were relatively unknown in their community and had a very modest congregation, they were able to apply some key strategies to reach their local community and invite them to be a part of their festivities. I am going to outline some key questions to consider, that will make all the difference for you when organising a church event and help bring in the masses.

We’ve a lot to cover so let’s dive straight in with the first one!

1. Organising the event from the perspective of guests

The planning of your event starts well before publicity or social media strategies; it starts by asking (and then repeatedly asking) this crucial question: what would connect most with non-church people?

2. Make it a community-focused event

This is a subtle but significant tweak. By organising a community event or service, which positions your church as an enabler – a facilitator of a community event. This can be a very powerful way to engage local people and make the event much more accessible.

Ask yourself how can we create an event that is community-centred?

For us, this approach affected who took part in the service, what we raised money for and the language that we used in publicity. In all our online publicity, we referred to the event as Eccles Carol Service’ rather than LifeChurch Eccles Service’. (Eccles is our local community). Language matters.

3. Pick a venue that gives the right message

For us, we wanted to say: this event is for you, this event will be safe and accessible, this event will have lots of people like you from the community attending.

Therefore, consider, is the venue a place that will be inviting to the community?

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4. Invite others to contribute to the service 

If this is really a community event, then don’t do everything yourself during the service. It will make local people feel like outsiders. Include others and you will widen your appeal. 

Consider, could you invite a local community choir to come and sing (this saved us time and energy in organising the music ourselves, which was a nice bonus given our limited resources), or maybe you could ask a local MP or chairperson from a local charity to do a speech perhaps. 

5. Social media is probably your best friend 

Social media offers massive potential to promote your event
but it’s a tough battle for attention. Don’t announce your event and expect everyone to come. It won’t work. You need to be smart and think of some creative and engaging ways to get your message out there. The good news is that it’s not that difficult to develop a social media strategy that works, if you’ve already got others involved with the event. 

Here are the main things to consider: 

Speak in a way that will attract your audience – non-church people are not desperate to attend an event that gives the reason for the season’ or celebrates the birth of Christ’. I realise that is why you are running the event, but your publicity needs to start where people are at. 

Non-church people are more likely to be interested in getting Christmassy’, feeling festive’ or doing something good for others. Describe the bits of your service that will appeal most. For us that was: raising funds for a local charity, the community choir, festive refreshments and singing carols. 

6. Inspire people to invite their friends and neighbours to the event 

It is great if people you don’t know attend your event. However, you are more likely to see fruit from those your church already knows. This will make your follow up conversations and relationships much easier and more effective. 

Ultimately, it is God’s responsibility to grow the church and draw people to Him. We can’t manufacture anything or make anything happen on our own. However, God does ask us to think missionally about how we can relate to our changing culture. This is our story about how we tried to do that with our carol service. I hope it was helpful and thought provoking. For more information visit: Lifechurch​.uk​.net/​e​ccles

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