Yesterday, we had our Fall Festival here at First Baptist Church. It is a great time in the life of our congregation. We invite the entire community to come participate with us. Yesterday, close to 400 people came to our Fall Festival. This is very exciting to me. However, more and more churches are choosing to do away with big outreach events like this. It makes sense to me why they would. Events are a lot of work, take up significant resources, and you rarely see immediate return on your investment. In fact, at my previous church, we held our Fall Festival on Saturdays. The first time we held one, the crowd exceeded our expectations. We were so excited about the next morning’s worship service. However, contrary to our expectations, worship attendance was dismally low that morning!
Despite these things, I still believe large events can be effective ways to do ministry. This blog post is not to try to encourage folks who have abandoned Fall Festivals and similar events to add them back to their calendar, but instead to show a few reasons why we still do them.
1. They Are a Great Time of Fellowship For Our People
We don’t have to be so holy that we cannot just have a good time. The people of First Baptist Church have a great time at the Fall Festival. They run games, supervise inflatables, cook hot dogs, register guests, and show people around. They bring their children, their grandchildren, as well as friends and neighbors. I overheard conversations ranging from inviting people to our church all the way to the weekend’s football games. It is a blessing to come together and have a good time as a church family. It is also a blessing to fellowship with people from our community.
2. Hospitality is a Fruit of the Spirit
As we prepare for the Fall Festival, we are thinking about hospitality. What will people enjoy? How many hot dogs will we need? What is the best type of candy? What games will be fun? How can we keep preschoolers safe and secure? We prepare our campus for several hundred people to come and have fun. We think about hospitality. I love having an opportunity to display the work of the Spirit in our lives as we provide a fun event for our community.
3. Events Don’t Take the Place of Evangelism
We love events because they are an on-ramp into our church’s sphere of influence. It gives us an opportunity to meet people, love people, and let them know we are here for them. We follow up with every guest in multiple ways: often with a quick visit, and always with a note of some type. We also invite them to future events and special services.
However, we are not naive enough to think that this approach is all it takes for us to fulfill the Great Commission. Our goal is to do as much outreach as we can: traditional visitation, evening events/talks on specific topics, canvassing, web outreach, events, and, most importantly, one on one personal evangelism. Events are just one part of a wider quilt of outreach and evangelism in our church. We want to continue to grow our reach and diversify our methods to make Christ known in Gadsden and beyond.
4. They Are a Unique Outreach Opportunity
We recorded no professions of faith yesterday, but you can bet that we are using our events to try to reach people with the Gospel of Christ. While events are not all of our outreach, they are nonetheless a unique outreach opportunity. We had many families with us yesterday who would not have come onto our campus otherwise. Now, hopefully, they will have a sense of comfort when they come on their first visit. Furthermore, perhaps if they find themselves in a moment of spiritual need, they will be reminded of the downtown church who invited them to hang out and have fun one afternoon.
Who’s your best friend? Was your first encounter with your best friend an in-depth, serious moment? I doubt it. However, it was probably during a time of crisis that you realized they were truly your best friend. My wife and I, on our first date, just had a good time together. However, our relationship deepened over the years as we experienced serious things together. The beginning of a relationship does not have to be momentous or serious for the relationship to deepen eventually. We hope and pray that, after having a good time with us, we will see many return to deepen their relationship with FBC and, most importantly, with our Christ who moves us to love our community.