This is a topic that really scares me to bring up. Short term events tend to go very well or very bad, there is rarely middle ground. It is a great solution to cover an urgent need or to follow up on the recent stir that God has created within your church. But should be followed up with a long-term vision for the future of the event, be it an annual, semi-annual, or bi-annual offering. There are some ways to minimize the risks associated with short term planning. Here are a few thoughts regarding when to plan on the short term, some benefits, and essential strategies.
Plan a short term event when there is a clear need that an event can answer. Just because we think it would be fun doesn't answer a need that an event can answer. In fact you could hold that event, your guests may end up board and never want to attend another event in the future. A better solution is to answer a need, like our small group (say its ten couples plus their children) want to continue meeting over summer break, they want / need a spiritual alternative to a family vacation that is affordable. Here there is an established group that are all aiming towards the same goal of deepening their families' faith over the summer. This event has a better likelihood of success if they were to decide today they were going to hold an event in late July or early August.
Another example where a short term event is needed and is likely to be successful is a church leadership and staff meeting. Gather the leaders of major committees, the church board, and staff together for a few day away for prayer, visioning, and calendar planning. These events are great for a few days in the fall... Especially weekdays at a retreat facility. Not only will your group receive the benefit of a quiet reflective atmosphere but also you are highly likely to enjoy the benefits of off-peak rates and extra discounts.
When properties have empty space, they tend to loose more money by leaving them empty than they do giving a discount. I think most people with a business mind can understand that principal, better to offset some losses than none at all. In the grand scheme of sustaining ministry properties we must host ministry events. When a short term need arises we are eager to make it happen and often can make it affordable.
In just the past month though, Christian Retreats Network properties have had to turn away nearly 25 groups, at least from their first choice in date because the space simply was not available. Short term event planning runs a significant risk that space will not be available.
If your concerned about over committing yourself financially in a retreat contract don't wait to book your event. Simply be upfront and honest with your host property. We work with groups all the time that aspire to numbers greater than the number of guests that read out on their contract. A much better solution is to book conservatively. Promote diligently. And keep your hot informed to your registration progress. As your numbers exceed your contracted goals be in touch to see if reserving additional space is a possibility. Your host property should be your partner in ministry. Your advocate, resource, and hospitality expert.
The best strategy for a short term event is to work with a small group that is long established. Focus on a fulfilling a key need within that group. Communicate quickly and often with your worst property and gain commitments from your guests. Just as your host will ask you for a deposit to secure your reservation, ask your attendees for a deposit to secure their spot. Looking forward, if your feel this event can become a regular activity, look to rebook and establish a long term planning time line.
Have you been successful with short term planning? What was your strategy?