Term 4 2016 session 1: Conversational Evangelism and Events ministry.
So here we go, I believe at the very least God tells us to get prepared and engage our minds before we just rush into holding an event. He gives us a role, he does not and is not going to turn water into wine if we are not prepared to lift some ‘heavy jars’ and fill them up as best we can.
I have tried to divide a standard event into 3 basic parts. Planning, Execution and Follow-up/Debrief.
It’s totally a cliché but probably for a reason; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is true both individually and for a community. You cannot expect to be effective in evangelism if you move into an event or a conversation without taking the time to equip yourself and know the audience to whom you’re talking. This is partly because we won’t know what we’re doing, but also because even if we do, unfocused, we’ll be distracted by every ‘rabbit there is to chase’ in every situation or conversation.
- Expectations and goals. These are so important and I’m not talking about the theme of the event. This is rather, what measurable goals are we/am I hoping to achieve at this event. Individually it might be, “To share my contact details with 3 families I don’t know.” Communally it may be “To establish a relationship with other churches/community groups in the running community events.” In either case, do not make more than 3. Any more than three and you’ve lost focus.
- Dream box vs Can box. Sorting goals into what is immediately possible and more long term dreams helps you to come up with 3 goals that are gettable. A powerful question is: based on my experience of last year, what is within my reach? (eg: seeking to talk to at least 3 people while waiting for food.)
- Specific=Bold Prayer The final and most important part of both individual and community planning; Prayer. But God invites us to pray boldly and specifically. Unspecific prayer is nervous prayer. In my life, the more unsure I am of seeing God answer prayer the more ‘fuzzy’ I make my prayers in fear of being disappointed. Show of hands anyone? What if we prayed for at least 50 new individual contacts for us to follow up in January? Specific is bold is worshipful prayer because it tells God that we are willing to do whatever it takes to whatever he tells us.
- Creative questions It’s easy to tell how interested people are in us when we meet them for the first time by the creativity of the questions they ask us. For example; my favourite question for kids is: ‘what do you’ve doing when you’re not at school?’ Because they are so used to adults asking them about school. I find many people are nervous in having conversations with people because they feel like they’ve run out of questions after, “how are you?” And “what do you do for a living?” But take time out to construct creative questions and learn them off by heart. I have a list available elsewhere to get you started.
You can have all meetings you like but if we shrink back in the time it matters, how can we expect others to be brave enough to come on to our turf? Thus, the golden rule of event ministry: Level of engagement determines level of response. We cannot be satisfied with people engaging with stuff (activities) when they are not engaging with US individually on a majority level. This is how the leavers ‘green team’ reduced arrests in Dunsborough during leavers week by 96, yes 96%. Lots of little conversations.
The success of a public evangelism event utterly depends on thousands of little conversations with prepared people willing to do whatever God tells them.
- Dropping the assumptions. We make more assumptions than you’d realize. Less and less people speak ‘christianese’ that is most people don’t know what eg: ‘sin’ is…but it’s in our songs. Here’s what I have learned in youth ministry; dropping our assumptions usually means having to learn a whole new language. I realized recently when I was in the Philippines, it was exactly like being at school, except in the Philippines I was expecting to be a fish out of water. Are we willing to?
- Specific goals. This is simply executing our plan. As a community, staying on track with the vision and goals and not letting the event ‘drift’. As individuals, laying aside personal preferences in order to achieve a reachable goal specific to our role(s) Some examples
- Seeking to limit musical errors to no more than 5 during the night.
- Getting to know at least 3 strangers.
- Setting aside 90 minutes where I will not stand/sit next to any Waratah person, but only community members.
- Before taking up time asking someone for help/direction in a situation, asking ‘how can I use my knowledge of this event/common sense to solve this problem’
- What am I going to do to ensure my nerves do not adversely affect my performance?
- If I’m not confident talking to people by myself, who am I going to challenge from Waratah to move among the crowd chatting to folks with me?
- Situational awareness. Two things kill an event, under awareness and over awareness. The under aware person has to be given an instruction to every single thing, no matter how obvious the solution or opportunity is they cannot move without some command. The over aware person tries to be across the entire event. They may be on to set up parking signs but suddenly cannot resist the urge to find out if the keyboard has been placed in the correct spot. Both these ‘lovely people’ make event coordinators want to throw themselves into the ocean! Situational awareness is awareness about the situation. It’s taking the initiative and being proactive within the boundaries of the area or role To be aware of where they are, what they are doing, the team around them, and act accordingly.
- Ease of involvement/ease of response. Nothing is more useless than talking about seeing more ‘bums on seats’ because of an event (eg; carols) and yet fail to have a conversation about clear avenues of response? We may indeed have avenues of response but how easy are they to access? How well are we communicating them? There’s room for improvement here. One example is Phones, people have them on them, they don’t have to get up to use them. Thus at Carols this year we will have a final slide that reads; “Would you like to know more about the Christmas story? Text ‘Yes’ to 0415 941 430 now.” Moreover, We can also set up a #hashtag on face book; #bouvardcarols16 then everyone who post a photo or post on facebook with that hashtag has automatically shared their details. Now that the web page is pretty, why not have the Waratah web address at the bottom left had corner of every third slide? Increased Creativity = increased engagement = increased response.
- Follow-up is The debriefing process is essentially following up your event crew. The follow-up process is essentially debriefing those who came along and responded. A good ‘follower-uperer’ person creates clarity and an obvious ‘next step’ of involvement in the mind of the participant. A good debriefer creates clear priorities and goals in the mind of the team member to implemented next time. In short, both make the ‘next step’ obvious to the person. They do not ‘preach’ to the attendee. They do not ‘make excuses’ to the crew member. They rather invite both to take the next logical step on the journey. If you know how to debrief well, you’ll not only be able to run a ministry more effectively, you’ll also be able to follow-up your respondents more effectively.
- Include God!?! I remember my very first church event (a church fete) when I was 8 years old. In the 23 years since, I have recently realized I have not yet seen God’s people involve God in the debriefing process once. I’ve seen prayer meetings called before the event, but I have never seen one called afterwards in regards to the event. Ever. I’ve never heard, and I admit I have never myself prayed prayers like: Lord, reveal to us through feedback what YOU think we are doing right. What YOU think we need to improve. We pray for you clear
- and coherent voice to be heard as we talk to our event team, and as our visitation team follow-up with those who came. Let’s start a new habit.
- Specific debrief Specificity is perhaps a key takeaway for this whole afternoon. Jesus told them to fill individual jars, not spray a hose all over the place. Debrief that is unstructured and unspecific is….un-useful. Expectations during planning, create the specific structure for your debrief. Take your key expectations, determine no more than 3 priority areas and talk about those. Everyone’s got options on everything, so without boundaries to feedback you’re already halfway into ‘conversational quicksand.’ If something doesn’t fit into your 3 specific areas eg: (Responses, Catering and Team Morale) stick it into the ‘maybe later’ basket. Because trust me, that’s what’s going to happen anyway. We NEVER fix all the issues after each event so why not address what we know to be priority?
- Own the truth not opinions. Every person’s got opinions post event, not everyone has an objective statement. Opinions bog debriefing down.
- Here’s an opinion: “I heard people complaining about ‘x’.” Here’s a fact: “I had 20 -25 different people tell me about ‘x’.”
- Here’s an opinion: “There should be quite a few people turn up to the Christmas service.” Here’s a fact: “I am following up two families that I have given my contact details to regarding the Sunday service.”
The difference? You guessed it, Specificity.
The quality of the event is up to God, all we need to think about is what we CAN do, not what we can’t. Nothing Jesus asks is ever unreasonable if we approach it with the eyes of faith.
To receive a list of good conversational questions email email@example.com.
Time to apply it.