Was this event a success?
Have you ever pondered this in the days after an event? Have you found yourself reflecting about what went well and what could have gone better, and then struggled to know what to make of it all?
I’ve sat in staff meetings and felt discouraged as we reflected on the event, while others felt elated. On other occasions I’ve entered the meeting pumped because I thought the event was a great success, only to discover that others were actually disappointed!
Churches run lots of events (perhaps more than they should) and yet “success” is rarely defined up front. Too often, we simply have a gut feel about how the event based (unwisely) on how many people turned up, or on the feedback we receive.
As stewards of limited resources, we can and should do better.
Here is a 2-step model that involves setting measurable goals (so you know what you’re trying to achieve), and then asking questions to review the event in light of these goals.
This could be applied to any event – a prayer meeting, vision night, Christmas play, leader training.
Set Goals for Your Church Event
These 3 questions can help you establish clear goals for your event:
- Who is this event for?
- Why should these people come to this event?
- What numerical goals should we set (e.g. number of people in attendance, value of donations received, number of first time guests, etc)?
This is also a good opportunity to consider whether an event (or this event) is the best way to achieve these goals.
Another way to approach this is to ask the question:
We will consider this event to be a success if…
Or you could flip it around and ask:
We will consider this event to be a failure if…
By answering these questions as a team, you build clarity and unity around a common purpose.
Ask Questions to Evaluate Your Church Event
Once the audience, aim and metrics have been established, you are in a better position to ask meaningful question after the event to determine how well it went.
Here are 10 questions to help you when you gather for a debrief. Each of these questions should be asked with reference to the ‘purpose’ statements you clarified in step 1.
Q1. What can we celebrate and thank God for?
This must be the first step. It is sobering that in Romans 1, God’s wrath is being revealed against those who don’t give thanks to Him. Giving thanks shouldn’t be an afterthought but a natural expression of knowing God. After the event, consider what went well, and share evidence of God’s grace and goodness.
Q2. What worked well?
This is a question that refers to both before the event (planning and promotion) and during the event (execution). It is a chance to reflect on what went well (and give thanks again!) and take note of what should be repeated next time. If you don’t write this down, you probably won’t remember!
Q3. What could have been better?
Likewise, this is an opportunity to constructively reflect on opportunities for improvement to again reference for future events. You could also ask “What prevented this event from being better – i.e. achieving the goals you set for the event.”
Q4. What unexpected challenges did we experience?
What was rushed? What was stressful? What cost more than anticipated? What took longer than expected? Use this as a chance to name the challenges and discuss how to prepare for them in future.
Q5. Were there any consistent themes in the participant feedback?”
I think we need to be very careful when and how we ask for feedback . If you are running an event for new Christians and mature Christians complain that it was too basic – are you going to listen to them? Feedback must be reviewed in light of the goals of the event and the target audience.
That said, feedback forms are still useful (and I love Typeform for these) for receiving encouragement, and picking up on any major themes for improvement.
Q6. Which team members developed new skills and experience?
Part of the success of the event can be the growth of the event team. Were people recruited and mentored to play in the band, operate the sound desk, welcome new people, etc.? If new people are being equipped for ministry, this is a good thing!
Q7. How well did we steward God’s money?
This is another way of saying “How did the budget track?”. But as Christians, we know that every dollar is the Lord’s and we are accountable to Him for how we use it. Where money was spent, its impact needs to be measured. Did you purchase Facebook ads? Check what the clickthrough rate was. Did print too many booklets or buy too much cordial? Make a note of this for next time.
Q8. Who needs to be followed up?
There are three categories here:
- People who need to be thanked for serving, praying, giving, etc.
- People who responded at the event (e.g. people who became a Christian, or wanted to find out more about the ministry, etc.)
- People who dropped the ball (e.g. people who didn’t turn up and didn’t tell you!).
Q9. How well did we express our dependance on God in prayer?
In his book (top 5 of 2016) “Old Paths, New Power”, Daniel Henderson tells of the time he met with the staff team of a large church and the pastor cried as he shared about how much of the growth of this seemingly “successful” church had been apart from God. Prayer hadn’t been a significant (i.e. primary) part of the ministry.
As you look back on this event, what role did prayer pray? I know we always think we should pray more, but honestly, did you “tune your instrument and then play” (as Hudson Taylor once said), or play first and then tune your instrument?
Q10. Would we do it again?
All things considered – would you do it again? Is it the best way to serve the target audience? Is it the best use of resources (time, volunteers, money)? Did the people come who you wanted to come? If we didn’t run it again, would anyone notice or suffer as a result?
What questions and processes have you found helpful for evaluating the events at your church?