Are You Insane?

Before answering, or shooting fiery arrows in my direction, let me explain why I’m asking this question. I recently read an article on LifeWay’s Women Reaching Women blog that got me thinking. (Those of you who know me, know how dangerous this can be!)

The article was entitled “The Spin for the Women’s Ministry Leader“, and it was aimed at getting women’s ministry leaders to stop and think about how they are doing ministry. To make her point, the author told of an experience she had in a Spin class where the handlebars on her bike became wobbly. As she tried to fix them, she found herself turning the adjustment knob in all directions, to no avail. As the handlebars were coming off in her hands she heard a voice say, “Turning the knob is not going to help anything. It is obviously broken”.

“Wow!” In the business world, I was taught that doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results, was a classic definition of insanity. Her point was that this is true in ministry as well. Because we’re out front as leaders, we’re often not willing to change direction, stop what’s not working, ask for help or utilize the talents and ideas of others.

So, when it comes to your events, are you insane? Do you have an event that is declining? Too often the tendency is to think if we just work harder and promote better, attendance will be up this year. That may be true, but several years of declining attendance could also mean the event is dying.

Events are a product and like all products, have a life cycle. Launch, ramp up, plateau, decline, end. The key is to know where you are in the life cycle of the event. If attendance for your event has been declining, here are several questions you need to be asking yourself and your planning team:

  • Is there still a need for this event?
  • Why are people not attending?
  • Has the program grown stale?
  • Am I still excited about this event, or just going through the motions?

Just because your event is in decline doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to go away. Business journals are full of case studies where companies have been successful in extending the life cycle of their key products.  However I’d be willing to wager that very few were successful just doing the same old, same old and expecting different results.


Don't Let Your Events Get Stuck In A Rut

Chris Adams recently posted an article entitled “RETHINK Women’s Special Events” (read here) on her WomenReachingWomen blog. Chris works in the women’s ministry area here at LifeWay and you may remember her from a podcast we posted last year on how to create a standout women’s event (listen here).

In her most recent post, Chris challenged women ministry leaders to RETHINK their annual events and decide if they needed to continue doing them, or try something else. After reading the post, I contacted Chris and asked her if she’d be willing to take that process a little deeper for our MinistryServingMinistry readers.

Below are her responses to our follow up questions. While her answers are specific to women’s ministry (her area of expertise), I believe the principles can apply to any meeting, event or retreat.

MSM:  Almost every event has its own traditions and people who say, “We’ve always done it this way”. While tradition can have tremendous value/equity, what advice would you have for planners who are striving to break free of repetition and reinvent new traditions?

Chris: Evaluate the last event. Look at what worked, what was effective, what wasn’t. Also listen to what attendees say, if there is a pattern to their comments, it will help direct future events. Did you see changed lives? If so, what elements led to that? Take a look at dates that you have ALWAYS done an event, are women still able and willing to attend those dates/times of days.

Having “dreamers” serve on your women’s team and especially on event teams will help keep from becoming stagnant and doing the same ole, same ole just because it’s always been done that way. Evaluate who you are not reaching and analyze what it might take to tap into those pockets of women not involved.

Include women of different generations, and especially young women, to begin to develop new traditions while still using those former ones that are still effective. Sometimes you may need to move slowly, changing a little at a time, to be sensitive to women who have been a part of the planning of events a long time.  Add only a few new things and then re-evaluate again to keep it fresh and relevant.

MSM: Just because something is working ok doesn’t mean it might not benefit from a closer look and evaluation. Sometimes you may even need to break something that’s not broken in order to make it better. What do you see as the downside risks for a planner who operates by the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” motto?

Chris: The down side is that you might not even ask the questions to discover the real results of an event. Perhaps you still have women attending in good numbers and no one really complains about the program elements. Everyone is happy doing the same things over and over, and not move out of their spiritual and relational box to experience deeper spiritual truths. It may take an innovative leader with a vision for “more” to move women out of their comfort zones and into those deeper walks with Christ. The purpose of any ministry event should include, in addition to fellowship and building relationships (and of course great food!), reaching the lost and helping believers grow in their spiritual walks. Is that happening in any way through your event? If not, the motto will truly be a hamper to helping women move one step closer to Christ in their journey.

MSM: Sometimes planners will add a new element to an event and the response the first year might be less than overwhelming. If that were to happen with one of your LifeWay Women’s events, how would decide whether or not to give it a “second chance”?

Chris: New things sometimes take a while to catch on. But if even a few women are changed because of that element, and they go back and tell someone else, the fire is lit! I remember the first time my former church offered the very first Beth Moore video Bible study. Many didn’t know her and not ever done an in-depth study. But when those women finished the study (and even as they were in the midst of it), they talked about it with others. The next time the study was offered, numbers grew and more women studied God’s Word together.

It may be that you just need to tweak that new element to make it even more effective next time. If you offer a ministry or missions project as a part of an event, the first time maybe only a few are involved. But for those few, and for the ones who received the ministry, it was so worth it. If it becomes a part of each event, it will be seen as “normal” and more may become involved.

Again, ask the women as you evaluate each event.  See what they say, keeping in mind, you will always have some who never like anything you do!  But watch for those “patterns” in the responses so you can get a picture of the effectiveness and lives that have been changed.

Think your event might be getting stuck in a rut? What can you do to get it back on track?