During my years of ministry I helped facilitate men’s conferences, youth conferences, and even helped to start a network of youth groups with ten other churches having quarterly conferences. Running a variety of conferences was part of how our ministry operated, but that doesn’t mean anyone ever taught me how to organize a church conference. I learned by making mistakes.
The goal of this article is to make sure you don’t have to go in blind when it comes to learning how to organize a church conference and make the same mistakes I did. Church events, in general, are a benefit to your local church.
However, before we can go any further let’s make sure we are on the same page by defining a church conference and then clearly stating the purpose behind them.
- What Is A Church Conference?
- What Is The Purpose of a Church Conference?
- What Are The Benefits Of Hosting A Church Conference?
- How To Organize A Church Conference In 6 Steps
- 10 Tips For Running A Church Conference
What Is A Church Conference?
Doing a quick Google search for the definition of a church conference can get confusing quickly. For the purposes of this article, I am going to define a church conference as a community outreach event for the purpose of fundraising, outreach, or education of members of both the local community and the local church.
This definition gives us a place to start from as we discuss how to organize a church conference while maintaining some wiggle room in the various types of church conferences that might pop up. Your conference might be focused on fundraising while another is purely focused on outreach. Both fit within our definition as well as with the mission of your local church.
This article will largely be a step-by-step guide on how to organize a church conference, but spending time on understanding the purpose of your conference is going to be critical in order to host any successful church event—especially a church conference.
What Is The Purpose of a Church Conference?
As stated in our definition above, a church conference can fall into three categories:
All of these can be broken down again into whether or not they are meant for the local church, the local community, or even a larger community (such as a national or even global conference). Most churches aren’t equipped to host a church conference beyond the local community level, but it is worth mentioning as a possibility given the digital capabilities churches now possess.
Knowing the purpose of your conference is going to affect how to organize a church conference at your local church, so knowing the purpose is going to be important.
If you are focusing on a church conference for fundraising for your local church congregation and building, then you are going to focus on the church management, the church staff, or maybe even church planting. This means your event planning process will largely be spent showcasing the ways in which funds are currently being used or will be used by the end of your conference.
If fundraising is something you are interested in hosting for your church conference, then you will want to check out some of the best nonprofit fundraising conferences to learn from and see what you can implement yourself.
However, if you are focusing on an outreach event for your church conference, then you are going to be more concerned about event registration, planning future events, how to help people at the event, and maybe the number of people who attend the event. The focus is going to be on how to constantly improve for the next event to reach and help more people.
Knowing the purpose will affect how you tackle the steps in this guide, but what are the benefits of spending the time and energy to host a big event like a church conference?
What Are The Benefits Of Hosting A Church Conference?
Beyond just creating an event for your local congregation, a church conference can bring about a ton of benefits that you likely aren’t even considering. Here are just a few, along with some brief explanations of how they can benefit your church.
Whether you are planning a church conference for your local community or just your local congregation or trying to reach a wider audience, you are going to create some brand awareness, as we call it in the marketing world, for your local church.
Sometimes, churches can become so disconnected from their community that they aren’t even on people’s radar. A successful event like a church conference can change that local perception.
Similarly to creating more exposure in the community, a church conference, no matter the size, shape, or purpose increases the reputation of your local church as offering some amount of authority.
If you are hosting a church conference about compliance laws for children’s ministry and invite local churches along to it, then your church will be seen as some type of authority on that topic. This increased reputation can be a benefit to how the community sees your local church as well as the authority of the church leaders.
Become a Community Asset
If you are willing to learn how to organize a church conference that is seen as beneficial to your community, then your church leaders as well as the local church will be seen as an asset to your community.
Unfortunately, many people don’t see their local churches as a benefit to them aside from services on Sunday. Hosting a successful church conference can alter the perception of your local church as being a valuable asset to your community.
While it may be something you cannot plan for, there is always the possibility that your conference leads to people coming to and joining your local congregation. No matter how you slice it, this is a good thing for the church.
A church conference is a lot of work. It may be tempting to see it as an opportunity to grow the number of people in your congregation, this isn’t as likely as it may seem at first. While this can definitely be a great side effect of hosting a church conference, hosting one for the sake of growth isn’t the best idea.
How To Organize A Church Conference In 6 Steps
Now, every church conference is going to be different, but there are some general steps everyone should take during the event planning process in order to host a successful event, including a church conference. These don’t necessarily need to be done in this order, but it will be helpful to tackle them in this general order.
1. Define the Purpose and Goals of the Church Conference
The first time you are running a church conference, you need to make sure you have a clearly defined purpose and create some goals for your conference. Otherwise, you may be aimlessly planning things that don’t ultimately make sense.
Choose whether your event will be about:
And then determine how wide your target audience will be (we will touch on this more in the tips section below):
- Local congregation
- Local community
2. Create a Planning Checklist
Whatever the purpose of your conference, you are going to need to create a planning checklist to make sure you are on track with everything from the space you’ll need and the items you’ll need to creating an event budget. Assign someone the role of event planner, if necessary.
3. Organize the Details For the Day of the Event
The day of the event, or days if you are planning a multi-day conference, should be meticulously planned and organized. Plan everything down to the minute with buffers in between transition times in order for there to be plenty of wiggle room for when things take longer or go a little haywire.
4. Use Marketing Strategies to Spread Word About the Conference
Churches don’t often think about marketing strategies, but a church conference is a great opportunity to use those business and marketing-minded folks in your congregation and let them take the reins. Make a plan for the copywriting in the church bulletin, adjusting the signage on the church property, or even advertising on social media.
Finding the gifts people have for marketing and advertising in your congregation is a great way to organize them into team members for your church conference planning team and help them know how they can serve their local church.
5. Prepare for Last-Minute Issues
Unfortunately, things happen. So make sure your planning team is fully aware of how to handle any last-minute issues that might pop up. Ideally, the majority of your event is planned and organized at this point and even a few things going wrong won’t knock the whole conference off course too much.
6. Follow Up After the Conference
Take time to evaluate how the event went and do a SWOT analysis to improve for the next event.
- Strengths: what went well?
- Weaknesses: what didn’t work how we hoped?
- Opportunities: where can we improve or what was a surprise hit that we can double down on next time?
- Threats: where are some areas that might endanger future events?
Taking the time to assess will go a long way to making continual improvements so your conference only gets better every single time.
10 Tips For Running A Church Conference
With a clearly defined step-by-step guide on how to organize a church conference, we can now discuss some general tips for making sure your conference has as much positive impact as possible. Here are ten quick tips you can apply to pretty much any church conference:
- Consider going digital. Technology these days makes it incredibly easy to host a hybrid event so you can expand your audience and have a far-reaching impact.
- Template everything. Save all of your documents and planning process and turn them into templates for future conferences, similarly to these templates from Life Church.
- See about creating a sponsorship opportunity. Depending on the topic of your church conference, it might make sense to partner with a local organization to help sponsor the event to offset cost and raise awareness for a particular need or nonprofit in your community.
- Take extra care in preparing for an on-site conference. If you don’t typically have plans for emergency situations, it may be worth making sure you have a crisis management plan in place for your conference.
- Prepare your church website. If you don’t think your church website gets much traffic, hosting a conference is a good excuse to double down and make sure your website is updated and prepared to handle the extra traffic during the event registration process.
- Remember that church event planning is a team sport. Create teams and sub-teams for everything so nothing is all on one person’s shoulders.
- Be prepared to discuss church needs. Inevitably, people are going to ask how they can help the church in certain areas, especially when it comes to a fundraising conference, so be prepared to answer any and all questions about what the church needs.
- Small groups are your friend. Breaking down into small groups during a church conference is a powerful tool to help people process and implement topics discussed throughout the conference.
- Don’t be shy of hard work. There is a lot that goes into organizing a church conference, so don’t be afraid of the hard work because the payoff will be well worth it, as long as you do it right the first time.
- Finalize details at your own risk. This one is a personal one because it never fails that as soon as I utter the phrase that something is “finalized” or “locked in” that it falls apart and is no longer finalized. Don’t be concerned if plans need to change and remember to stay flexible and adaptable.
Now You Know How to Organize a Church Conference!
It sounds daunting at first, but once you know the basic steps on how to organize a church conference, it isn’t as bad as it seems. With the right team and the right planning process, you can create a church conference that can bring a ton of value to participants and pack a lot of benefits for your local church!
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