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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

How I Completely Blew a Big Outreach Event

Four years ago, my children’s leader came to me with an idea for an outreach event: A trunk-or-treat with a Gospel emphasis.  (Honestly, I had never been a fan of Trunk-or-Treat!) She called it “Candy Thru the Bible.”  Each trunk/station was a Bible story with a candy that went along with the story.  She shared her plans, and I was impressed.  We decided to go for it.

We got started planning.  We didn’t really think it seemed like very many kids walked our street trick-or-treating, so we planned for 120 kids.  Our volunteers were amazing & creative with their trunks… people donated candy… we bought candy… 

And it was a BLOWOUT success.  

Trunk or Treat 1 Blog
  1. I talked and led tours around the parking lot until my voice was almost gone.

  2. We extended our original time by an hour.

  3. Instead of 120 kids, we had over 200!

  4. We hauled out some extra candy we had in storage for another project, and made it work.

  5. Parents were laughing, the kids were loving it.


It was great!  We wrapped up the night completely exhausted, packed it all in… and sat down to survey the wreckage review the evening.

(I plan to share a webinar to help you create this outreach event in the next few months… sign up for my email if you want to be notified when that’s coming.)

Suddenly, it hit me: The one thing I had forgotten to plan for.



I knew a number of people who had come thru.  I recognized them from Walmart, or down the street.  But I didn’t have numbers.  Or many names.  Or addresses.  I couldn’t send anyone a note.  I couldn’t call or text anyone to say “Thanks for coming.”

I know — it wasn’t totally a waste.  The Gospel was preached.  But I knew I had made a horrific error.

And I made 3 simple decisions, ones that you need to make if you want to follow up on guests:

1. I will never let this happen to me again.

It’s not enough to recognize when something goes badly — you have to say “never again.”

It’s an emotional response, and it really is necessary for things to change.  There really are no words for how strongly I felt about this.  This will never happen again.  

When something goes wrong in your organization, you can respond with:

  1. “No big deal.” (Minimize failure)

  2. “Well, we couldn’t really help that.” (Rationalize failure)

  3. “So-and-so should have…” (Reassign failure)

  4. “OK. How can we fix it?” (Learn from failure.)

I definitely wanted to learn from this!

What if guests show up this Sunday?  Do you think you’re “ready for company?”  Here’s a quick 31 Question Checklist to help you evaluate if you’re ready!  Share to get it:

[sociallocker id=”481″] [/sociallocker]

2. I will have a strategy for collecting information.

This is strategic response, and without it, you’re just being emotionally moved, without actually being changed.

It’s not enough to say ‘never again’ — you make a plan for ‘never again!’
  1. Tweet Quote

So I put together a tool, a Guest Connection Card.  (I’ll talk more about this in a couple days.)

Connection Card front 2013 FINAL

If you want your own Guest Connection Card, you can get them in my webinar below!

3. I will equip someone to be in charge of it.

It’s not enough to define how “never again” looks — you have to:

  1. tell someone.  This provides accountability.

  2. recruit someone.  This provides reproducibility.

  3. equip someone.  This provides teamwork.

The next year, I asked someone to be in charge of making sure the Guest Connection Card happened… and learned some more, which I’ll share in the next post.

Want your own Guest Connection Card?

Watch my free webinar “7 Steps to Build a Killer Guest Follow-up System!” 

One of the things most frustrating to pastors is how to find time to follow-up on guests without people falling through the cracks. In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  1. how my failure in a key outreach event changed our guest followup forever.

  2. how to effectively collect info from first time guests

  3. how to consistently stay in touch with people

  4. tips for convincing your congregation to start a guest followup system

  5. how to help people see your church as friendly

  6. how to do all this without increasing your work load

7 Steps to A Killer Guest Follow-Up System from Darrell Stetler II on Vimeo.

#guestfollowup #outreach #systems #Trunkortreat

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