Creating A Fantastic Fall Welcome Basket

It’s so fun and encouraging to enter a room and see something there especially for you. A welcome basket could be a wonderful gift for your speakers, special guests, or every guest at a small retreat. With a new season coming up Tuesday, September 24th, here are some ideas for what to include in a fall themed welcome basket.

Bottle of cider
Caramel popcorn
Apple butter
Soft blanket
Water bottles
Candy (caramels)
Local jams or jellies
Coffee mug
Coffee beans
Tea bags
Small journal
Tiny wreaths
Pumpkins or gourds
Fall seeds
Guidebook of area hikes/attractions

I hope you can picture a beautiful basket holding some of these items sitting on a desk, conference table, or bedside table. Be sure to include a note of welcome and appreciation. “John, Thank you so much for agreeing to speak at this year’s Pastor’s Conference. Your humility and wisdom will be a gift for all the pastors who are attending. Know that our leadership team is thankful for you, and praying for you this weekend. Please, let us know if you need anything. Sincerely, Jim.”

Don’t feel pressured to choose ten items off the list above, especially if your budget is tight. Even two or three items grouped together and set in a small container with a handwritten note will be a special treat.

When I’m preparing baskets, I purchase everything non-perishable weeks or months ahead of time. Then I put the baskets together, and stick a note in each one listing what I need to buy and when I need to pick it up. For example “1 small pumpkin, buy Sept. 3-4.” I also make a note about the item in my calendar. That way- I’ll see the note, pick the items up, and then know which basket to place them in!

Happy planning!

Creative Ways to Divide into Groups

In our small group at church last Sunday, the leader wanted us to break up into small groups.  In an effort to mix us up, he had us number off.  There we were, ranging in age from 30 to 70, simply counting off by 1, 2, 3.  Needless to say, it proved quite difficult for some of the group.  I’ve experienced this countless times with children and youth, but this was a new one for me with middle aged adults struggling to count off by threes!

Meeting Of Support GroupThere was a very intentional purpose in not having us choose our own groups.  We flock to people we know.  We separate into groups where we are most comfortable.  That was not the goal of this exercise.  The goal was to meet new people, get out of our “familiar” and hear the ideas and opinions of others.

Breaking up into smaller groups is often an important element in retreat settings.  If you’re looking for ways to separate your group into smaller units, here are some ideas you can implement.  (Note:  these are intended for groups of approximately 25-50 people.)

  • Candy in a Bag – Put different types of wrapped candy in a bag (if you want to have four groups, use four types of candy).  Have each person choose a piece of candy.  Separate into groups based on the types they choose.
  • Birthdays – Ask participants to find group members who share the same birthday month as they do.
  • Animal Sounds – Before you begin, write the names of different animals on slips of paper (based on the number of groups you want to have).  These can include cows, pigs, dogs, horses, etc.  Have everyone draw a slip of paper out of a basket.  In order to find their group, each person must make the sound of the animal on their paper.  (As an alternative, you could also use vehicle sounds, motions pertaining to different sports, etc.)
  • Seat Colors – Prior to the group arriving, tape a strip of colored paper under each chair in the room.  When the participants take a seat, have them look under their chairs for the slips of paper.  Break them into groups based on the different colors.
  • Arm/Finger Cross – If you need two separate groups, here are two possible ideas:  Have everyone cross their arms across their chests.  Divide into groups based on which arm is crossed over the top.  One group will include those who crossed the right arm over the left, and the other group will have those who crossed the left arm over the right.  In addition, you can also use this same principle with thumbs.  Have guests close their eyes and interlock their hands.  Groups are formed by which thumb is on the top – right thumbs on top form one team, while left thumbs on top form the other.

Do you have other creative ways to separate into small groups?  Share in the comments section below!

Fundraising Twist

Don’t you love going to fundraising dinners? Ahem.

A friend of mine, who has been to countless such affairs, affectionately calls them “rubber chicken dinners.” He says the same four meals, all involving chicken, have been served at fundraising dinners in the south for the last twenty years. Joking aside, here are a few ideas to spice up your next fundraising event.

Choose a local, national or international event to coat-tail.

Do you have a local festival that everyone loves to celebrate? Grab on to that theme! Think Watermelon, Shakespeare or Apple Festival. Or a local marathon, Arts and Crafts Fair or Car Show. Set up your event so the time and place complements the large event instead of conflicting with it.

A major national sporting event? Project the game and divide the participants into teams for the evening. Have the team battle in a few fun games, and see which team can raise the most dollars, pledges or volunteer hours.

An international event or celebration? The Olympics, the World Cup, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize… Tailor your food and decorations accordingly. Add a note of celebration and uniqueness to your annual dinner.

Find something that people are interested in, but not already booked for. Unless you can offer some incredible draw, don’t host a Superbowl or Oscar party, people often have traditional parties that they attend every year. You don’t want to be in competition. You want to grab on to something that they are interested in, but don’t have any plans for–yet.

Make it fun! I already mentioned dividing the participants into teams- what else could you do to get people out of their seats and having fun? Adults don’t often have many opportunities for pure fun. You might be surprised how engaged a group of professionals can get when you invite them to play kickball, or compete in a scavenger hunt.

Using local, national and international events as a spring board for your next fundraising dinner can bring a refreshing twist. Wishing you lots of fun and funding for your cause!

How To Create an Event Summary Sheet For Your Guests

Going to a conference or other event often sends guests into information overload. I’ve heard it said that conference attendees are receiving information through a fire-hose, information gushing out at them at a rate they can’t retain or even process. What if you gave guests a way to centralize the information they were collecting, on a single sheet of paper?

Not only would the act of filling out the sheet help them identify and better retain the information they were receiving, it will also be a great reference later. (Studies have shown that summarizing information helps us remember it better.) So, what might you include? I’ve created a list here of things you could include, you would need to tweak this to make it perfect for your particular event.

  • Name of Event:
  • Topic:
  • Main Speaker:
  • Takeaway principles and lessons from main sessions:
  • Breakout session ideas/tips I want to remember:
  • Names of new contacts/their information:
  • Books/magazines/articles to find:
  • Follow up Actions After Conference:

Feel free to use this summary sheet information, distribute it, etc. It is for your use and enjoyment. What other ways might you help your attendees deal with the glut of information they receive? You could: provide them with a nice place to keep collected business cards, always have lots of pens and paper handy, or give structured time for reflection and processing. How do you help your guests with this task of processing and remembering information at a conference?

Focus on Missions, Part Two

In our last blog post, we discussed ways to incorporate fundraising for mission emphases, ministry causes or charities.  Many organizations have non-profit groups they support regularly.  Others may not have something they regularly donate to but may want to do a special charity emphasis during an event.missionsHere are a few ideas if your group is looking for a missions cause to support:

•    Compassion International – The main goal of Compassion International is to provide for children living in poverty through child sponsorships.
•    World Vision International – World Vision offers child sponsorships, as well as opportunities to provide for specific humanitarian needs such as medical care, education and animals for impoverished communities.
•    Samaritan’s Purse – Samaritan’s Purse provides medical help, disaster response, orphan care and aid to wounded warriors, to name a few.  Operation Christmas Child is also a large part of this ministry.
•    International Mission Board – An entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board exists to spread the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world.  Support of the IMB includes funding missionaries, providing through the World Hunger Fund and donating for specific strategic projects listed on their website.
•    North American Mission Board – Also an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board exists to share God’s love throughout North America through planting churches, disaster relief and more.
•    Nothing But Nets and Nets for Life are organizations created to help fight malaria in African countries by providing mosquito nets for children and families.
•    The Water Project and Blood Water are non-profits with one major goal – to provide clean drinking water to people in impoverished countries.
•    Local Charities – There are most likely organizations in your own community you might want to support in a financial way.  These could include crisis pregnancy centers, homeless ministries, food banks and free medical clinics.
•    Some aspect of your organization – If you are a current non-profit, there may be certain causes within your organization you can highlight and raise money for during your event.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, this will hopefully get your brainstorming process in motion.  With any non-profit organization, it is important to do your own research on their mission statement, processes for providing support and financial information.  GuideStar is an online service providing financial information on non-profit organizations.  (Note:  When researching through GuideStar you may need to look up the parent organization rather than the specific cause.  For example, Nothing But Nets is a division of the United Nations Foundation.)

What about your group/organization?  Are there any specific ministries you support financially?  If so, tell us about it in the comments section!

Three Outdoor Prayer Activities

“The word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong.” E. M. Bounds

Giving people the opportunity for prayer is a wonderful and refreshing gift. Here are a few outdoor activities that you might use to incorporate prayer into your next event.

  1. Prayer station(s). Choose a topic, or a verse or verses, and create stations that complement them. For example, if you are talking about sin, you might have someone consider, and confess their sin, and then pour water from a pitcher into a bowl filled with stones. Pouring water might help someone reflect on how God is the only Being in the universe who can cleanse us from our sin, and how pure we are in His sight because of Jesus, and what a gift that is. Even simple, physical acts can help us more deeply understand or consider God’s Word.  There are books and articles and blog posts about prayer stations, you can look to them for ideas, or create your own.
  2. Prayer walk. Physical activity, like walking or running can help us still our minds and focus.  Choose a topic that you would like people to focus on in prayer, and then choose a route. It could be around a campus or small town, or at different places in a large field or building. Create a handout for participants that shows each station and include instructions on what to pray about at each spot.
  3. Prayer garden. Find a beautiful location, and use it as a prayer garden. It could be a secluded area with a fountain, a formal flower garden, or a large vegetable plot that you deem a prayer garden for a short time. Set up places to sit, like benches, chairs, or even large blankets.  You can hand out prayer instructions, or place them in the garden in a noticeable location.

A few tips. As the quote above suggests, using God’s Word is an excellent way to guide and stimulate prayer. Provide scripture on signs, or handouts for all your participants. Suggest that people bring along something to write with. Writing can help people focus their thoughts, especially if they aren’t used to praying for more than a few minutes at a time. Once you have the prayer activity set up, allow a small group of people to give it a test run. This will help you work out kinks, and decide if you need to have volunteers “manning” particular locations.

How have you used prayer activities in an event? We’d love to know!