I love community-wide events. Love ‘em!
But I didn’t always. When I was a Comms Director, I thought that they were an interruption, required too much promotional effort, and if we were doing them correctly – required even more effort after it was all over to follow up with everyone from the community who attended.
Ever feel that way? I get it.
Now that I’m a church consultant, I LOVE community-wide events. They are valuable to church growth, they change the perception of a church to the community, and they have the potential to build a spirit of unity and volunteerism amongst the church attenders.
There’s no better community event for churches than a Fall Festival (or trunk-or-treat or whatever you want to call it).
Here are a few reasons why…
1. People are already out and about
2. People are looking for a safe alternative
3. It gives you an opportunity to give away free stuff without it being awkward
4. It gives you an excuse to collect data
5. It gives you an excuse to follow up with families
6. It’s a chance to show you care about your community
Let’s break it down…
People Are Already Out and About
It’s difficult to ask people to come to your church for the first time, especially on a Sunday morning. For someone outside of your church, you’re asking them to take one of their precious work days off, get out of bed early, “sacrifice” family time, load up the car, and drive to an unfamiliar place where people are doing strange things that they don’t understand. That’s a pretty big barrier to overcome.
During Halloween, however, people are already out and about. It’s much easier to ask them to come to you when they have an idea of what they’ll be experiencing.
Anytime we can make church feel like what folks experience in their own neighborhood, that’s a good thing.
People Are Looking for a Safer Alternative
Halloween can be a bit of a scary proposition. Cars driving way too fast with children running in the street from house to house. Strangers distributing candy from strange homes in strange neighborhoods. That’s a whole lotta strange to handle.
When done correctly, the church can be a safer alternative for families. More and more families are flocking to community based trick-or-treating in parking lots rather than walking door to door in an unknown neighborhood. You have the opportunity to provide what people are already looking for.
A closed off parking lot, gym, or multi-purpose room (so no traffic). Controlled crowds with safety measures in place for candy quality. Everything out in the open, in a brightly lit space. What a phenomenal contrast.
Light instead of darkness. It’s almost biblical!
It Gives You an Opportunity to Give Away Free Stuff Without it Being Awkward
Let’s be honest, churches can be awkward about a lot of things, and giving away a free gift is no exception.
Even the typical Sunday morning “thanks for visiting” welcome gift can be an awkward give-away. “Hey…stop by the back table, talk to that completely random person about your spiritual life, give us all your personal information, and we’ll give you a crappy coffee mug that you’ll never use.”
But, a fall festival event flips awkward freebies on its head.
Instead of it being awkward, it’s straightforward and convenient.
It Gives You an Opportunity to Collect Data
Asking someone to fill out a communication card in the church service, while effective (and every church should be doing it) can feel a bit forced or uncomfortable for guests.
But, if you’re asking someone to give you their info for a chance to win a great prize at an event, it feels much more natural. Or if you’re asking for a name and email in exchange for a free hotdog and soda, it makes sense to the attendee.
Any chance to remove barriers for connection is one worth taking.
It Gives You an Opportunity to Follow Up with Families
Thanking someone for attending your event and giving them future resources is a great way to leverage a fall festival event. And, since you’re just coming across as grateful and helpful, the follow-up has a naturally pleasant feel to it.
Use our fall festival follow-up email sequence to provide value and lead toward an invite back to a Christmas service. Click here to access it (it’s FREE for SundayU members).
It’s a Chance to Show You Care About Your Community
Even if your church wasn’t able to benefit in any of the ways mentioned above, having a fall festival event is still worth doing because it’s a great chance to show your church cares about your community.
By hosting this kind of event, you show that you’re for your community. You show that it’s a privilege to be able to serve. You show that you want to provide a safe place for families. You get to show that you care about being generous.
Ultimately, you get to show the love of Christ.
So needless to say, I’m now a fan of community events and especially a fan of fall festivals. Be sure to check out all the resources we have available at SundayU to help you plan and pull off a successful fall festival event.
Fall Festival Quick Pro Tips:
- Give away really great gifts. Go as generous as possible.
- Give away TONS of candy. You want people to remark to their neighbors how much candy their kids got at your event. You do NOT want them to regret coming because their kids are frustrated that they would’ve received more candy by going house to house.
- Resist the urge to go cheap with candy, concessions, and beverages.
- Do NOT give away anything home-made.
- Be sure to have some excuse to collect people’s information.
- Send an automated email sequence to everyone who visits.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an extremely viable fall festival alternative. If you don’t have the church facility, or even if you don’t have a philosophy of trying to get as many people to visit your church building as possible, consider this approach to a community event at Halloween:
Equip your people to have “block parties”
What better time for people in your church to reach out to their neighbors and serve them than when the neighbors are already out and about in the neighborhood.
Give your people the resources (check lists, conversation starters, set-up guides, timelines, invitation cards, etc.) that they need to set up a little mini-party at the end of their driveway.
Encourage them to have food & beverages, perhaps a fire pit, chairs for people to sit in, candy (LOTS OF CANDY), etc. Ambitious participants could even look at renting a bouncy house for kids to play in their yard.
Other ideas include having glow sticks printed with the church logo for your people to give away at their block parties. Or, having water bottles with the church logo on the label.
The possibilities are endless, but block parties are a great way to accomplish the same objectives as a fall festival, without having to host it at the church building.
Tried this before? Let us know how it went in the comments!
MORE FALL FESTIVAL RESOURCES
Chuck walks through setting up a follow-up email sequence for your fall event in an episode of the Sunday to Sunday podcast.