This past March we held our largest retreat of the year. It’s one that brings in students from all over our community. Students who are members of our youth ministry, students who haven’t been back in months and students who have never stepped foot in a church.
One of the keys to this though, is the way that we work tirelessly to make sure that everyone and their aunt Debra in Seattle, Washington knows that Discovery Weekend at Trinity UMC in Birmingham, Alabama is coming up.
Here are the steps and tools that we use to promote the weekend.
One of the most important elements to promoting an event or retreat is consistency in your frequency of posts. A lack of consistency tells parents (and even students) that this retreat is either a) not on your youth ministry’s priority so it shouldn’t be on their either or b) the youth ministry has planned everything out yet.
Both of these we know are not true, so let’s show them just how prepared you are and just how important this retreat is to you, your church and (should be) to your students!
First, grab a calendar–a blank calendar! I simply print off blank calendars of the five months leading up to the retreat. Use this calendar as your guide to consistency!
5 Months (exactly) Before The Retreat – Posting Every 7-10 Days
Post some type of teaser like the logo of your retreat and some caption like “5 Months.” Send out the same type image on a postcard to all of your students. Keep it wonderfully vague!
If your ministry is into online registration, this is the perfect moment to launch the site too!! Include a “register now” and have the link attached via all media outlets your ministry uses. Throughout these next three months, post roughly once every seven to ten days amongst any other weekly ministries going on in your youth group. Post small teasers of the retreat and other elements of the weekend that will get your students talking to one another! Finally, in every time of announcements mention the retreat is coming up and that registration is open. Don’t spend too much time on it. You don’t want your students to get tired of hearing about the retreat, but you want to make sure that every student that walks in your building at any point during this time hears what the retreat is, who is it for, when the retreat is happening and how much it costs.
2 Months (exactly) Before The Retreat – Posting Every Other Day
Here’s where we bring it home! Send out paper registration forms to all your students. This is a great conversation starter with families and their student about the retreat that may not have happened otherwise. If your budget allows, include a pre-stamped return envelope so your students can turn right back around their registration form.
Now, as for social media practices beginning at two months. To put it plainly, we start going crazy! This is where consistency matters the most.
Think about it this way. You are the engineer of the train which means you get to pick the speed of the train and if I were you, I’d be going full steam ahead. The way we like to think about it in our ministry is that by the time the retreat comes, we don’t want there to be the possibility that a student in our community has not heard about the retreat.
We use tools such as “Buffer” to pre-set tweets beginning two months out with scriptures, quotes from the students and staff and pictures all having to do with retreat; all of which include the hashtag for the retreat. Again, consistency is key, but that does not mean the timing has to be. Post some in the mornings as students head to school, some when they are at home with their families.
Another tool we’ve started using is yard signs. Yes, yard signs and they are a hit!! Again, we don’t want there to ever be the possibility that a student in our community has not heard about the retreat.
Events are awesome! They are awesome because of the fellowship, the games, the worship, the message(s) and Jesus. Share all of this with your students!! However, don’t confuse your students on what the retreat is ultimately all about. Allow whatever your “message” is regarding the retreat, to be at the backbone of your messages, postings, emails and so on. Be clear on what you’re posting,
Remember that creativity sparks opportunity to connect with different types of students. If you’re posting just about worship, the students who will come to your retreat will be majority “worship” students. Be creative in how you promote. In other words, be clever, be witty, be direct, be honest, be bold.
Lastly, follow/friend other organizations for guidance and inspiration. Charity: Water’s Instagram Account is a great one to follow in that they hit all three of the C’s of promotion. Follow other youth ministries and churches. Always look for partners in ministry, even if it means just following them on Instagram.