Major events… every youth ministry, every children’s ministry, every church has them. Some ministries have one or two, and some ministries are built on almost nothing but them. And these ministries pour their resources into these major events – money, staff hours, volunteer hours, creative juices, facility usage, you name it.
And from time to time, ministries come to recognize that one of these major events has become the way that they are known. One of these events has become the way that they are defined. And in the best case scenario, this type of event expresses precisely what the ministry is all about.
That’s what we call a signature event.
But it starts at the beginning…
Every Great Ministry Has a Great Purpose
It’s hard to have a signature event if you don’t know what you’re about in the first place. Every really good ministry has a statement of its mission, an idea of what it is trying to accomplish. And it has an idea of how it wants to operate – how people will treat each other, what values are held dear, and what characterizes the spirit of the ministry. Really good ministries have destinations in mind, places they feel God is leading them and pathways to get them there.
Really good ministries realize that a mission statement is not something that sits on a shelf in a three-ring binder. They realize that these kinds of foundational documents are the expressions of words and spirit that guide the work… Click To Tweet
Expressed in modern parlance, we might say, “Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t have a worthy ‘why.’”
Every Great Purpose Deserves a Great Plan
Ministries that are built upon great foundations, great ideas, great “whys,” tend to find great “hows,” great plans, great strategies, great ways to accomplish their purpose. Take a look at these examples of ministries that have done great things:
- A small group discipleship ministry in Colombia with an emphasis on experiential student leadership in which a 16-year-old girl supervises 400 student-led discipleship groups.
- A downtown youth ministry committed to community service which sponsors an annual mission event, which has spun off twelve similar events to other communities.
- A suburban church with an emphasis on family ministry where its annual Vacation Bible School has become a major entry point for newcomers into the community.
- A camp ministry with an emphasis on ministry calling which has nurtured 100 ministry candidates over the last two decades.
- A local church with an emphasis on worship which sponsors an annual worship conference drawing thousands.
In the examples above you can see that some of the great visionary ideas become expressed in strategies and plans that are more long-term. That young woman in Colombia didn’t do her ministry at a weekend retreat. It developed over years. And 100 ministry candidates over twenty years obviously didn’t happen overnight.But sometimes the plan becomes a signature event – often by choice, but sometimes even by accident – and we discover that what we are doing is not just what we do but it is an expression of who we are. Click To Tweet
During my young adult years, I came across a story about a father teaching his son to take pride in his work. “Whatever you do, son, do it in such a way that you would be proud to put your signature on it. Do it so that someone could come along and say, ‘Wow! This guy does great work.’ No matter whether you are fixing a car, writing a sermon, building a house, or painting a portrait, do it in such a way that others will admire your work.”Like a piece of art signed by the artist, the signature event is something we should be proud to “sign” as a best expression of our work in ministry and something that would be pleasing to God. Click To Tweet
A True Signature Event Calls for the Commitment of the Whole Church
A signature event is a defining event in the life of a church, and the whole church will be called upon to come, give, and lead. Even if the signature event is a children’s event or a youth event, a young adult event or an older adult event, the whole church will have a role to play. Every department makes a commitment and a contribution.
Because of the high level of commitment that is called for, a church may only be able to handle one or two or three signature events in a calendar year, depending upon the perceived available bandwidth in a congregation. Signature events are not to be entered into lightly but with the realization that they are demanding in nature and can leave a congregation physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. But at the same time they can generate a propelling spiritual energy that drives a church forward into next steps and levels of ministry effectiveness.
A Few Tips for Your Signature Event
- Put a Major Event Coordinator (MEC) in charge. While a staff person may resource the MEC’s work, a signature event is too big for one person. Recruit your MEC more than six months in advance, and give them the tools they will need.
- Develop a timeline for all aspects of the event. The timeline should include target dates for everything from publicity and promotion to volunteer recruitment to the procurement of supplies.
- Use a Major Event Notebook. Ask your MEC to document everything! Their notes will not only help to keep him or her organized, but will also be of great help to the next year’s coordinator. Collect the notebook from your MEC a month after the event and ready it for next year.
- Make sure that you support the major events of other areas in your church. That’s only fair, and it encourages the work and support of others.
Every great ministry does not necessarily have to have a signature event, but many of them do. And many of them are making an impact in their communities, an impact that flows from the heart of their mission and purpose.
If you want to explore more about the whys and hows of major events, email me at [email protected]. I’d love to spend some time talking with you about putting together a major event worthy of your signature.