Are big events a healthy way to grow your church?

Do you rely on big events to grow your church? In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, hosts Mike Mage, and Justin Price, founder of Vers Creative, discuss how to determine if an event had a healthy impact on your church.

On Instagram: @Mikemage, @techjustinrp, @vers_creative


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.

Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We are so glad that you have joined us here for this incredible conversation that I, one of your hosts, Mike here am having with our other co-host, Justin Price. Justin, how are you doing this fine, what’s today, Wednesday today as of recording this. We’re on a Wednesday.

Justin Price
As we’re recording this, it is a Wednesday. It is four o’clock in the afternoon. And it’s been. It’s been a fantastic day. Thanks for asking Mike. How are you doing?

Mike Mage
You know what I am doing great. And for those of you that are listening to this, you have no idea, but Justin and I have been going through a battle of technology, battle with technology. As I’m sure most of you who are listening go with every Sunday when it’s the most inopportune times. Justin have you ever noticed that? When you’re doing something, you got something big going on and all of a sudden, something that has never broken before is now broken. Doesn’t that always happen?

Justin Price
It only happens when you need it. Pro Presenter only breaks 30 minutes before service.

Mike Mage
Well like 30 minutes, you know what, you know what actually happened to me once was during the Christmas Eve we were going into our first Christmas even now you know for everyone listening if you’re you work at a church, all that kind of stuff. Christmas Eve is huge. It’s a big event for you. And I I remember our Ableton our tracks, you know, we use tracks and all that kind of stuff, click queues, all kind of stuff. Just completely, all of the files that we use from the cloud just completely got deleted off the computer. I still to this day do not know how it happened. And so we’re scrambling I mean, there’s a countdown going, all that kind of stuff, I’m scrambling, you know, 12 minutes before the service starts to somehow figure it out. So yeah, and you know, Christmas, we’re actually around Christmas time as we’re recording this right now. I mean, you know, people could be listening to this months from now. But right now, we are recording this around Christmas. And there’s a ton of events going on, you know, around Christmas is always seems to just, you know, amp itself up, Justin, have you gone to any anything, any Christmas stuff lately, any Christmas events, all that kind of stuff, anything.

Justin Price
I’ve been doing a couple of Christmas events online, I’ve experienced a few things there. As far as in person, there was a church down the street, this is a really small Methodist Church down the street. And they do a living drive thru Nativity. And it was really cool. You put your windows down, and you drive through their parking lot. And they do it for three nights. And they have volunteers who kind of dress up in the different scenes and kind of act out the nativity scene. And it’s a, it was fun. I’ve got a six year old. So she really loved it. And she got to engage with it. And we got to talk about biblical truths. And it was a great way for us to kind of, you know, not be talking about Elf on the Shelf, and the fact that she’s gonna tell Santa that you know, you’ve been bad today or good. So yeah, it was a really nice change of conversation for our family. And it was really cool, because we didn’t have to get out of the car, you know, it was safe. And it was an event. And you know, it’s interesting, we sometimes talk about church work. And we talk about results, you know, so in marketing, we’re always talking about like-so how many, how many people did it result? Was the event good or bad? What’s the first question that you always ask Mike?

Mike Mage
How many people were there?

Justin Price
I mean, I feel like that’s a I feel like that’s a valid answer. Like, doesn’t that say something that’s a trackable number.

Mike Mage
Exactly. Well in and I think we’ve been using that number for a really, really long time. Yeah. I mean, wouldn’t you say?

Justin Price
It would. But so one thing about this event to that topic, you know, they can count like, well, we had a lot of cars this year. But the thing that they’re not counting for is like, well, how does that compare to anything else that they do throughout the year? And what is really healthy? You know, I think the point of this podcast is for us to talk about what is healthy growth look like for a church. And what is the purpose of events are they just feel good? I mean, they could just be nostalgic. They could be for our own people, we’re going to do a choir special Christmas, because that’s what I had when I grew up. And it makes me feel good inside, just like warm soup on a cold day, you know?

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, that’s, I think that’s a really interesting thing, because I was thinking about, you know, as we were, we were, you know, starting to talk about what we’re going to talk about on today’s podcast and all that kind of stuff. I was thinking about this event, and I know that there’s a ton of people out there who have this type of event and I’m not saying it’s good or bad. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just gonna, I’m gonna talk about it from my experience only. When I was at a church, it was a smaller church, we did a thing around Halloween called a Trunk or Treat, which, you know, I know, it’s not like a mind blowing thing as a ton of people that do that. And it was very, you know,

Justin Price
What is a Trunk or Treat, Mike?

Mike Mage
It’s where you, you get a bunch of people in a parking lot, that, you know, so I’ll do this, you, you sign up people in your church to come to dress up, you know, have you go to your church parking lot, you open up your trunks. And, you know, you hand out candy as people come by, you know, and it’s basically a way for you to get people on your church campus. But at the church that I was at, we celebrated the fact that we had, you know, we had like, 250 families come through. And yeah, you know, no one was actually tracking that number number one, number two, there was literally there was we thought that just because people came onto our campus that they were going to think, Oh, I’m gonna go to this church later, you know, like we we actually had no intentional reach out reaching out afterwards or no, no healthy gauge for how this event was going for something that was like we held is like an event centric time of the year. Does that make sense?

Justin Price
Yep. First of all, Mike, you’re telling me that your church participated in the satanic Halloween holiday.

Mike Mage
We redeemed that stuff one day before and yeah, it was a fun night. We all dressed up as characters in the Bible.

Justin Price
That explains a lot about you Mike.

Mike Mage
We, you know what, there’s the okay. Yeah, I’m not gonna get into it.

Justin Price
Ok, good. I couldn’t get past the idea that you guys would lift up your trunk and show people the junk in your trunk. Especially little kids.

Mike Mage
Well, you know, that’s, uh, yeah, that’s probably another podcast for another day. And, you know, maybe we can really dive into, you know, the cultural implications of what it means to really just to open up your car and hand out candy from your car. So as if that wasn’t creepy enough, you know. But yeah, I mean, I think, you know, we’re, I feel like in the church world, and like, you know, this from a marketing perspective, right? I mean, the way that you all do everything with Vers in your creative ad agency, all that kind of stuff, is to be able to like funnel people to a point, right? Isn’t that kind of how you create everything that you guys do?

Justin Price
Yeah, and but I never want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. I do want to give credit where credit is due. So with a Trunk or Treat Mike, don’t don’t throw away the fact that there’s brand affinity. Brand affinity is that thing that makes you go I like those people, I don’t even know why. But three years from now, I walked by that church, and I’m like, you know what, that was cool. They did that thing for my kids with all the junk in the trunk. And that was, that was cool that they did that for my kids, you know, and my kids got some candy out of it. And I knew it was like, it was safe. There’s a lot of other things that they could have been doing. And like that worked out really well for us. And that idea or that feeling of emotion of I like them for whatever reason it is that level of brand affinity, multiple times over somebody’s life will sometimes be the thing that opens them up to being receptive to the message of the gospel. And so I actually do believe in it, I do think it’s a good thing. And if you’re doing Trunk or Treats, I don’t necessarily want to say stop doing it. So that that’s not my message. I think when we talk about healthy church growth, if you’re funneling people in, like, the idea of pushing them through is very, it’s very, like transactional. And to say that it’s only valuable if we actually see people come to know Christ, or if we actually have salvation, if we actually whatever your your thing is. And I don’t know that I don’t know that, that church community building, if we say like healthy church growth means like people like really connecting on a on a relational level. And then and then actually having building some trust, right, so that you can walk people through whatever it is that they’re kind of dealing with and going through and, and help them kind of find hope and grace. So, I do think it’s, I think it’s valuable to say, Hey, we can do brand affinity things if we’re doing them for that sake. But I do like the the fact that you were kind of alluding to then how do we give them a call to action, everything we do, you were saying as a funnel, that everything should have some sort of opportunity if I had a great experience, and I was looking for a church, right, the obvious thing that you think sometimes is like, well, they went on our campus so of course they’re going to know. But the reality what we know with marketing and science and the research has really clearly shown is that people only do what you tell them to do. And if you don’t give them an action point after they had a great experience, you could potentially, you know, lose them. So a healthy growth scenario for something like even like Trunk or Treat, or this living nativity scene thing that we drove through, at this church, they put out an offering bucket. As I walked as I drove by, yeah, which is great. Like, I put some money in the bucket, because I appreciated what they were doing. And I wanted to support them. And that was the way that they asked me, that was the call to action for me. If they had asked me to come to church, though, this weekend, instead of asking for 20 bucks, I may have, I may have had an opportunity to build a relationship with them. And I might still be open to go into church there. But there was never that ask. And so I think, you know, when we start to talk about this conversation all the time, the the first thought is like, hey, a lot of people, you know, I want to translate this over to like big events, a lot of people focus all their energy on the push and getting some getting people in there. And we count the heads that are in there, and we go, we did a good job, or we did a bad job based on that. Maybe the maybe the name sucked, maybe the theme sucked. We didn’t tell enough people. And that’s where the buck stops right there. Is that fair for you?

Mike Mage
Well, I yeah, absolutely. And I think that, you know, our evaluation of the of the event afterwards only goes so far. And I’ve totally I’ve been in those situations all the time. And it’s almost like the because we put so much effort into it and because we actually did see a good amount of people, then yeah, that’s where we stopped like, yeah, we can make maybe we can make the branding better. Maybe we can make the name better. But like, that’s it, we’re not gonna go any further than that. And I’ve I’ve run into that a bunch. But Justin something I want to go back to real quick that you said, right as we were beginning to talk about this was about making, you know, making something transactional or not, or, and I feel like maybe you were you were saying like, not all things should be like that. Is that what you were trying to say?

Justin Price
It’s not that clean when it comes to church work?

Mike Mage
Right. Well, so that’s what that’s what I want to like, expound upon, like, how do we, and maybe maybe you can speak into this a little bit better, because I know you think about this stuff a lot. How do we as a church, if and when we decide to spend time, money, resources on an event, how do we create a call to action, without it sounding like just a giant bait and switch? Because I do feel like our culture is very sensitive to that. And I feel like I’m very sensitive to that, you know, like, I don’t want someone to feel like they’re only there for me to basically shove them, you know, into a certain direction. Does that make sense?

Justin Price
So like a good example would be that on on in the Christmas season, you guys put together a musical of sorts. And once you sang songs, and Mike, you actually I think this year, did you do a hip hop Christmas song? Or you rapped in it?

Mike Mage
You know, it was so weird, like, we were doing something and then you just hear this, this music come up, and I put on like a sequined vest in a sideways hat in my hammer pants, and I came out and it was nuts. Dude, it was nuts. Brought down the house. Yeah, that was me.

Justin Price
Everybody loved it, you know. And in fact, I think it was trending on Twitter. It was like MC Hammer pant, Mike was was trending on Twitter. It was really, it was really, it was really great. And you know, and I think you guys did a good job of inviting guests to come to it. And say, you know, this is a great way for you to bring your friend and it’s not church, you know, like, it’s not Sunday morning. I feel like this is like a common event for a lot of churches. It’s a historic thing. And maybe you do it more traditional. Maybe you do it more modern. My point, I guess is that it’s totally different than Sunday morning. And and if you are doing it on Sunday morning, it’s totally different than your normal Sunday morning. And you’re inviting people and saying, Hey, this is like a really soft, welcoming thing. It’s not gonna be as hard hitting, maybe there’s a salvation message at the end, maybe not depending on what church you’re in. But that’s not really the point of what we’re talking about. The point we’re talking about is like, we put a lot of work into the program. We put a lot of work into the event into the thing and and you’re kind of saying the bait and switch thing would be like you’ve never sang any hip hop songs on a Sunday morning. But yet, you did an awesome job with it on this. I’m sorry. Audience Mike did not sing a hip hop and he did not wear hammer pants. This analogy going too far.

Mike Mage
Fifth grade Mike did though so keep going.

Justin Price
I have this fantasy version of Mike doing hip hop things all the time. He’s really street Y’all. He’s really street.

Mike Mage
Absolutely, that’s what people know me by for sure.

Justin Price
Yeah. But my point is, so we have to, we have a lot of issues inside of events, if we were going to dissect them from a healthy church growth standpoint. And we would say one of them is not representing what, what is us, or a flavor of us that’s not going to ever be seen again for another year, or until another big event, which may be two, three, four times a year. Um, so I think that’s an interesting topic, what I mean, what are your thoughts, how do you combat that? And what are you guys doing to help make that- you know, people want to see the show, they want to hear you bust it out, you know.

Mike Mage
They want to see Mike Mage rap a little bit. No.

Justin Price
The Mike Mage.

Mike Mage
Yeah, I think that that’s good. Like, and I think it’s probably a bigger conversation than, you know, this, this podcast can lend itself to. I know, for, you know, when we get to Christmas Eve when we get to Easter, and I don’t know, again, you know, I think this podcast is a great is a conversation and a journey for all of us to be on what does it look like in your contextualized environment to have healthy church growth. And especially from like, the creative realm, because, you know, that’s what we do. And so like, I think, for us, in our context, we try honestly, obviously, you know, for those big those big weekends, or whatever we try to make, make it be yes, a little special. I do think people are, even if people are coming in, who’ve never been to church before, they are expecting Christmas Eve to be a little different, they’re expecting Easter to be a little different. They just they have some, some sort of cultural context for that. And so, you know, we try to maybe, to maybe not go like super crazy on the end, so that we so that if we get new person that is going to come back, what they’re expecting is maybe a little bit of what they got for Christmas Eve for Easter, whatever big event is. So that’s not like this, this is us on only on this time. And then when you get you know, the next Sunday, you get people who are tired, uninvested, and just like a rote experience, you know, like, that’s not. So we’ll try to like, you know, it is I think it’s a fine line. You know, and it’s, it’s something that you kind of have to work through. I don’t know if there’s like a set template for that. And I might be wrong on that. I don’t know what your thoughts are. But, you know, we and we do try, you know, we have tried to save big concert type events. You know, that just that’s not who we are. And so, you know, that might be who well whoever’s listening church is, but we try to, you know, save those for worship nights. But again, like that’s, that’s our contextualized version of that. So,

Justin Price
I have a lot of thoughts about this. But one of the rubrics that I feel like or maybe like, the tests or gut checks on this for like, how far are you going, is like, I got a I’ve quoted him before, but I worked with a pastor, Pastor Kurt, who said, you know, he’s like, man, he’s like, you guys, you just killing it, like you get, you just go in. I mean, I would leave, I would leave everything on, on the big event floor. You know, I mean, it was like, I didn’t hold anything back. It was every big idea I had, it was everything I could possibly do to get people talking. And that wasn’t the healthiest thing. It wasn’t healthy for our team. And what we found is like, we were really burned out for the next two Sundays, three Sundays, four Sundays. And we weren’t really willing or ready to give our best and, and he he used to challenge us to say like, hey, maybe like scale back that event a little bit. And maybe try to make the next Sunday a little better. So yeah, right. And so, it you brought up a point that Christmas Eve is still one of the most successful opportunities we have as the church to attract people who are far from God. You know, like, it’s one of the cultural things that is culturally seasonal, accepted to say, Hey, I’ll go and experience something at church, even if I don’t, I’m not really active in my faith. I’m not really believing right now. But it was something I did as a kid and it feels good and Christmas just brings back all these nostalgic feelings. So with that in mind, like I do think Mike like I don’t think we get a free pass to not still try to be our best. The question is just like how many chips do you cash in to be your best and how much above and beyond, so that if if Christmas Eve or your big event or your big opportunities, which Christmas Eve is one of the natural big ones if you’re don’t ignore it, we’re not saying like, Hey, don’t talk to your don’t do Christmas programming, right or any any holiday program for that matter, and a lot of people listening to this are probably trying to figure out how to do Easter, just a little bit different beast. But the point is, is maybe to think about, if you were if you had 100 chips to cash in, right, and you’ve been putting them all in on on Easter on Christmas, and, and really even maybe borrowing some from the following couple days, like overspending on Christmas and borrowing, like you’ve used up everything you’ve got. And the next couple Sundays you’re putting on the C squad. You know, you bring him in that the pitch pastor, right, the the pastor for hire who’s been like just touring his one message around the country. You know, whatever, whatever your solution is to getting through that that weekend is and getting a couple weeks under your belt to recover. My point is, is that maybe take your 100 or 120% of your chips that you had, and cut that down to 40% for the event, and then spread that out and 30% and 30% on the following two Sundays. So a good measure, you know, for me, Mike. A takeaway for this would be a good measure for healthy church growth events, is how much does your church grow the second Sunday after your event. If the answer is zero, if we’ve got nobody interested in getting connected, you know, we’ve got we don’t have a lot of people to follow up with, if you’re connecting is not like just slammed and swamped after the next couple of weeks of events, that’s a problem. You know, it was just hype. It was just, and again, you could have brand affinity, like if you come into it with a hype, event purpose, and as long as you give people a call to action to say, Hey, if you’re interested, if you liked the hype, and you knew this was hype, and you knew this was just to have a good time, if you want our normal thing, come over here, and here’s a call to action for it. Make sure you sign up, I still think you know, for the health of the church, it’s really the second Sunday that’s going to tell you what stuck, you know, what kind of growth was really good. And the thing that makes me a little bit sad is that sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of churches who they have like their standard status quo for Sunday for 50 weeks out of the year. And then two weeks out of the year, they have like a 10x budget on them. And it might be smart, I challenge you to maybe look at your schedule and go is there an opportunity for you to take the effort and like scale back Christmas, and put it into back to school season and put it back into your back to school series. And treat that with the same level of intensity that you’re putting into Christmas and see what four seasons of pushes like that. Put a summer melt series in, that’s gonna stop some of that attrition in summer, and give people a reason to keep coming during the summer. Put some extra effort into something exciting there.

Mike Mage
Well, and I think that’s a, that’s a good place for us to, I think we can keep talking about this forever. Because I do think, you know, it’s such a good topic, because churches are going to continue are event driven organizations. Or that, you know, it has been for a long time. And, and while you know, I think the mindset behind it is changing or has changed or will change all that kind of stuff, just the way that everything is, churches are not going to stop doing events. And that’s okay. But we would love to hear from you, the audience. You know, hit us up on our Instagram, our Facebook, you know, and let us know how have you been making your events better. We would love to be resources for for everybody for for healthy church growth, to be able to check in and see how can we make this next Sunday really reap the benefit of this big event that we spent all of our a lot of our time, energy, and resources behind. So Justin, this is this has been a super great conversation. Thank you so much for joining us here on the Healthy Church Growth podcast. Continue to share, like, subscribe, all that kind of stuff. It’s been incredible to get to see you, to get to know you, to get to hear from you, and continue to have these conversations together.

Justin Price
So good. Thanks, Mike.

Mike Mage
Thanks so much for joining us here on the Healthy Church Growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.