Why hugely successful annual events can be very, very bad for the long-term goal
Let’s say your church holds a big event for Easter. Maybe it’s a passion play, or maybe its a special sermon series, or maybe it’s some kind of special meal.
You encourage your church to invite their friends to the event, and a lot of them do. In your church of, say, a 1,000, there are 200 new guests on Easter.
At the altar call, people respond, and 100 or so come forward.
Success, right? Your church has grown by 10%, which is significantly higher than the annual growth rate.
We thank God for those 100 souls. But here’s the problem: the plan revolves around a once-a-year event, held at a specific place.
If those 100 came to Christ at an Easter event, they could be tempted to think that’s when you come to Christ. Next year, they might invite some of their friends to a similar event.
It is designed as a big, once a year production. It’s limited to the location, the date, the budget, and the size of the building.
The event cannot be multiplied. You can’t have this kind of event every week. You can’t have people holding similar events in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their businesses.
That means this kind of success, while good, cannot scale to reach “all” in the community. By definition, you are only able to reach those within your circle of relationships who are willing to come to a place, for an Easter service, at a specific time.
Now, if an Easter service is part of a broader, organized plan to multiply, well and good. Stores have seasonal sales that are part of their ongoing sales operations (Easter day, Labor day, Memorial Day, Christmas, Valentines, Halloween’s… the list goes on and on). But these seasonal sales are not the only times when “selling” is happening–if it were, Walmart and the like would rapidly go out of business. And if our events are not part of a broader multiplication effort, then the events will end up limiting us.
What might we do instead? One suggestion is to teach people to host Bible studies in their homes – which they can create at any time – and use these events as “Celebrations” of everything going on during the year. What suggestions do you have?