In the fall of 2017, our Student Ministry will host the third annual dodgeball tournament called Dodge on the Schley. While the event has been a success on many levels, the ultimate goal of is to reach new students with the Gospel. Here’s a look at how we pull off this event in case you want to try something similar in your own ministry context:
Six Months Out: Check Schedules, Buy Supplies and Create Divisions
Our planning starts six months in advance. I know that may seem early, but you have to look six months out for both school and church calendars. It keeps us from picking a date when schools may have other major athletic events, or when a ministry in the church has started back with small group or events of their own.
I also personally send out an Instagram post and I reach out to our local athletic coaches inviting them to attend. Remember the purpose of the tournament is to reach people outside of the church.
I recommend beginning to buy supplies needed for the event. Though it may appear too early to purchase supplies, I have always started to plan supplies six months before the event. It allows me to think creatively without waiting till later when I’m stressed and rushing to meet all the supply needs.
We create two divisions: Middle School and High School. Our ministry wants to be strategic in having these divisions because we have a large turnout of athletes with varying capabilities. We want both divisions to be competitive, but also, we want students to invite friends. Having the Middle School and High School divisions allows students to feel safe about inviting a variety of their friends while also being strategic about who they put on their team.
Three Months Out: Promotions, Supply Lists and a Speaker
Start creating and printing resources for people to see and have in front of them. Every year, we make flyers to hand out at local schools and coffee shops. The goal for our student ministry is to have the students handout all the promotional items locally. A great reminder, no matter how hip of a youth pastor you may be, your students can make a deeper impact if they are the ones inviting peers to come. You also want to begin to post every other week on a social media platform about your upcoming event.
Also, because of back orders that have occurred when planning events, I recommend you write down everything you will need to pull off the event. Once you have written down the supplies, decorations, etc. place the order for your supplies.
Lastly, three months out you need to make sure you have a speaker booked for your event. When it comes to Dodge on the Schley, we find a speaker to share the Gospel at our event. I honestly believe your event rides on the speaker and the prep work you have put into your event.
One Month Out: Social Media, School Visits, and Volunteers
One month out, I post 3-5 times a week on social media and I start giving out promotional items to build up the hype around the event.
I also do a lot of promotion in person at local schools. This helps build excitement but also puts a face on the event. It’s another important opportunity for you to be on the school campus building relationships with students.
Also, I begin gathering volunteers for jobs needed to pull off the event.
1 Week Out: Social Media, 3 Conversations a Day, and Set-up for Event
Social media should be your best friend in the last week. I may take it a step too far, but every day and sometimes twice a day I share about our event on social media. I think it is imperative that we keep the events in front of our students and parents daily.
I try to talk to three people a day strategically about coming to our event. Why? Because I want to have people come who may not regularly come to our church or student ministry.
The day of the event, plan to give yourself two hours for setting up on the front end and an hour of tear down on the backside of the event.
I set up a formal registration table right out front where everyone has to provide their information and formally register their teams. This is really helpful for follow-up after the event.
Post Event: Follow-Up
I try to make sure we follow-up with every person who attends. Those who are a part of a different church receive a thank you and an email sharing I am praying for them. Those who do not go to a church get a thank you and a personal invitation to visit us one night from one of our student leaders or me. I also make sure all decisions or faith-based conversations are followed up with a time to meet for coffee or ice cream to finish those talks. Every person will do or follow up differently, but over the last 14 years, this has really proven effective for me.
All of these details help me make sure I pull off a successful event and show the love of God to students from all across our community at the same time.
SCOTT TALLEY has been doing youth ministry for 13 years. He serves at Ebenezer Baptist in Hillsborough, NC as the Pastor of Students. Talley has studied and written on youth ministry and received his Doctorate in Global Mobilization at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Talley seeks to help fellow youth pastors reach teenagers with the Gospel, while also engaging students to make disciples locally and internationally.