The first and sometimes greatest challenge any event has to overcome is the simple 'why' factor; why go? Your potential attendees will never flat out ask you, but internally they want to know the benefit of attending the event. You must convince them that attending this ministry event will be a valuable, worth-the-time experience.
If event planning was easy, we wouldn't take the time to share our expertise or past experiences. The truth is that it comes with some hurdles, but the investment is well worth it. Our best advice for any planner is to keep the end result in mind throughout the whole process; it will motivate you to work through challenges and help you make decisions while planning out all the little details.
Some challenges you'll encounter & solutions that work:
More important than people understanding the dates or location of the event, your first advertisement must convince people of the value in attending. For the members of the youth group it might be the fun experience or time away with just their friends. To their parents they need to know about the spiritual value in attending and that their student will be safe away from home.
Schedule the event when people can attend...
People have full schedules and can't just drop everything and head out of town with a month's notice. Advanced planning and promotions is an easy way around this issue. With advanced notice people can set the time aside, planning their family vacations and work schedules appropriately. All promotions need to clearly share the basics and the benefit. Telling the church "this is going to be so much fun, everyone should come..." probably wont get you very far. People can have fun at home. What is it about your event that guests won't be able to be recreate on their own?
Housing vs Affordability
Work with your host property to ensure there are guest rooms that are both the appropriate size and comfort level for your church. Insist on setting up discounts for multiple guests who share one room. Even in our deluxe housing at a CRN property we offer discounts based on the number of adults occupying the room.
How to fill the time...
Planning a balance of free time and coordinated group activities. Games that are Survivor or Amazing Race-esq can get the whole group working together and produce lasting memories by doing something that is out of the ordinary. Team building activities can also be a very purposeful addition as they provide an educational bonding experience that is also fun.
Power in Numbers
Let's consider a church that has separate middle school and high school ministries and is planning a fall retreat. Planning two separate retreats might sound like the easiest plan at first but with appropriate scheduling and programming you can save a significant amount of money and achieve your missional goals through combining. Scheduling separate services while only using one meeting space allows your group to secure volume discounts on rate packages but can also allow you to utilize the same band to lead worship and possibly the same event speaker for both groups. This same concept could apply to two churches or ministries - combining their resources to plan 1 event for all of their members and guests.
What advice do you have for planning a new event?