ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Joe and Debbie decided at the last minute to attend the fall festival at their neighbor’s church. They were hesitant because they didn’t know many people there, but the neighborhood kids were talking about how much fun they had the year before. In reality, Joe and Debbie needed a fun and free night out with the kids.
After filling out an information card, volunteers led the family to a prayer tent. A senior adult lady welcomed them, collected their card and asked how she could pray for their family. Debbie doesn’t remember what caused her eyes suddenly to fill with tears or why she shared the details of her prayer request with a total stranger, but it seemed the words rushed out of her. The couple was struggling financially and their marriage was on shaky ground. Debbie said, “I just want my kids to have a normal home.”
The senior adult’s prayer seemed like a warm blanket over Joe and Debbie. They started attending the church and several weeks later surrendered their lives to Jesus. The church ministered to them, helped them receive counseling — and their marriage eventually healed.
There are many people like Joe and Debbie at fall festivals. However, the difference between a good event and an event where you introduce people to Jesus is in the planning.
Churches who want to seize the opportunity to share the Gospel at their festivals sometimes struggle with how to do so effectively. Here are a couple of tips to make the process easier.
First, have a plan for registration. This process can be difficult, especially if you can’t control the entrances and exits to your event. However, it is not impossible. Through identification devices or “free passes” such as wristbands, stickers or tickets, your workers can make sure your guests start at your registration area. If guests approach an activity without their pass, politely ask them to go to the registration area to fill out an information card (name, address, phone numbers, e-mail and church) and to receive their free pass to all the activities and food.
Second, have a plan for sharing the Gospel. One way to provide spiritual help is to offer a prayer tent. The key is moving people from the registration area to the prayer tent. This is easier than it may appear. Your registration volunteers provide guests with information cards, pencils and a well-lit area of tables for writing. Next, the volunteers direct guests to the prayer tent to turn in their completed card and receive their free pass and prayer.
Under the prayer tent, well-trained volunteers collect the registration cards, ask spiritual questions and ascertain prayer needs. Instruct prayer tent volunteers to say something like, “We are so glad you’re here this evening. Before I give you your free pass, how may I pray for you?” Another way volunteers may share with your guests is by saying, “We’re so glad you’re here this evening. We want our guests to get to know our church family. Before I give you your free pass, may I share my faith story and pray with you?”
There are other ways of sharing the Gospel at large gatherings such as giving a marked New Testament to participants. An easy way to approach someone is to say, “We have a gift for you this evening. Before I give it to you, do you mind if I take a moment to show you how to use it?” Then share the Gospel presentation in the marked New Testament.
Don’t forget to plan just as hard for following up with professions of faith, ministry opportunities and people looking for a church home as you did for the event itself. During the week after your event, you may choose to deliver to everyone who made a decision a booklet such as “Beginning Steps: A Growth Guide for New Believers” available at your local LifeWay Christian Store. It would be helpful to provide an information packet about your church, too.
As the weather turns crisp and the leaves start to fall, don’t miss an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone like Joe or Debbie in your community. It’s not difficult, but it does take some planning.
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism & church growth team.