Making and breaking events

Event Manager Sarah Kuswadi shares what goes into a successful ministry event, what the likely ‘speed humps’ will be, and how to ensure your next one doesn’t go off the rails.

What makes or breaks an event?

Praying – pray through all the aspects of the event and give it to God. Ask for his good help, kindness, for people to come  and to give you plenty of patience as if you are organising an event you are going to need lots!

Then, consider the people you want there – who from your ministry should be on board? Those delegates should know the relevant details of your event, and be available when it’s scheduled.

It’s crucial that you know the PURPOSE of your event. If the purpose is to meet new people, then you want to make sure that there are plenty of other people from church there that they can meet and who are friendly and welcoming so that the new people don’t all stand around looking at each other awkwardly.

If the purpose of your event it to build gingerbread houses with women from the community, then you need to have the supplies for everyone and know what you are doing with constructing the gingerbread house – or find someone who does to take people through it and have people in small groups so that they can chat while they are building.

If the purpose of the event is to introduce people to Jesus, then make sure that the speaker does this in way that’s clear and meaningful to those people attending.  You need to know your purpose really clearly as that helps shape almost everything about your event.

What makes a good event…what are we looking for when it runs?

A good event achieves the purpose or goals that you established at the beginning of the event. You want people to come, to invite their friends, to find the purpose of the event and then talk about it with others in their network so that next time they’ll be increasingly comfortable about inviting them along.

If you are selling tickets, use a platform that’s straight forward and doesn’t gouge fees from your delegates. At Geneva Push we use Eventbrite. I find it really easy to use as the person putting it together behind the scenes, but also for people registering it’s a straight forward process so you don’t lose people if it becomes too hard. The online results also look quite professional. You can customise questions and also get every attender’s email address, which is useful for building your database and also communicating with people regarding the event. We use Salesforce for our database. I am not an IT person and have found it fairly straight forward to use. Its added advantage is that after each event you can upload the data from your delegates directly from Eventbrite into Salesforce.

A good event also has the right vibe. I’m not talking about the Castle, although I did find that a rather funny movie. I’m talking about the feeling in the room for the people present. If you are going for a professional vibe with an event in the city at lunch time as the speaker don’t wear shorts and your mowing t-shirt. If it’s a super casual event to get people in the church to know each other better probably best not to put mints, notebooks and water jugs out. The vibe of a room is more significant that you realise. So pay attention to the room and make sure that its not messy or too hot or too crowded in there. The environment is important. You want your guests to see that it’s a good event that they want to invite their friends along to next time.

  • Here are some questions that you need to know the answers to –
  • Do delegates know where to go? Is the address really clear?
  • Have you thought about dietary requirements?
  • Do you have enough chairs for everyone?
  • Should you borrow a fan from some friends to cool people down?
  • Have you got plenty of Bibles?

Spend some time beforehand thinking through your event so that you can pre-empt some of these possible issues.

A real-life warts-and-all example

Let’s say, for example, that I’m running a BBQ on Australia Day to try and connect with my neighbours and introduce them to my Christian friends. My goal is to have five of my non-Christian friends attend, and I want them to enjoy it!  It’s a failure if no non-Christians come, or if they come and my non-Christian friends make them feel awkward. Exactly the same as with an evangelistic course.

I ask my good friends Pete and Ali to buy the meat and cook it on the BBQ at my place. My BFF Sally says that she will bring bread and I out source three salads from some of my friends from church who are coming with their kids. I will sort out the drinks, nibbles, cups, plates and desserts. So I lock in the day and I let everyone know that its at my place and the time to come. I’m feeling organised as I check that my BBQ has enough gas and look at the Bureau Of Meteorology for the weather on the day.

It’s the day of the BBQ – Pete rocks up with 3 kgs of sausages and 20 onions. He fires up the BBQ and gets cooking. I  relax as there will now be meat to eat. But I get 2 texts from people bringing salads – someone’s kid is sick so they can’t come and the other one had a double-booking so they can’t make it. Great! Now I have one salad and 3 kgs of sausages and a lot of hungry people about to arrive. I feel nervous and start to sweat….

I asked Rachel who is new to church. They arrive quite late as, unfortunately, when I text the invite I naively just said ‘my place’ and forgot to type the actual address, and when they text me on their way here I was too busy chatting to Ali so I didn’t see their text message. They are feeling a bit frazzled now that they have finally made it. I get chatting to Rachel and it turns out that she is vegetarian and can’t eat gluten.

I freak out!

What on earth will Rachel eat?? How is she going to feel welcome? Later on I discover that Rachel’s husband Luke had a knee operation a few weeks ago and can’t stand up for long periods and is still in a bit of discomfort. I casually glance over at Luke who is standing up somewhat awkwardly talking to Pete at the BBQ. There are NO spare chairs and Pete is probably telling Luke one of his long and involved stories about his sour dough starter.


This is where preparation is KEY.

At Geneva Push we try to think through carefully what we can do to make sure that people coming to our events feel comfortable and welcome. As they will remember how you made them feel more so than what you actually say….

If the purpose of my event was to connect my neighbours and friends with some of the Christian friends that I have from church, this event is a failure because my Christian friends did not even show up and I failed to make Rachel and Luke feel comfortable, and they got lost as I forgot to include my address.

This dreadful BBQ example is useful for learning with organising an evangelistic event. If I failed to provide food that everyone could enjoy then people attending would not feel welcome and it’s unlikely that they would come back.

People need to know the details of the event in a clear and concise way – so that they can turn up! If you have spent a long time praying for your event and organised a great speaker but people can’t eat the food, that’s what they are going to remember and tell their friends about. The people who attend will be your greatest marketers. When they tell their friends about your event they are doing the advertising for you.