Last night I laughed out loud! From about 9:30 until 11:30, I watched over 30 online registrations come in for an upcoming Lock-In. The deadline was Wednesday and my intention was to pull down the registration at midnight. For about 30 minutes, a registration was hitting my email every two minutes. On Thursday morning I had 2 or 3 emails from forlorn parents begging for mercy as they had missed the deadline. Why do they always wait until the last minute?

 One thing I have learned in over ten years of children’s ministry is that many parents will wait until the last minute. For some it may be procrastination and others it may be the whirlwind of life that comes with having multiple kids. Either way, I know I’ve griped about the eleventh hour rush. The knowledge my experience has given me is this: I can’t change this from happening.

So, rather than gripe, I’ve come up with a few techniques that have been such a time saver.

 **** Let me preface something first. All that I’m saying here is said in the spirit of serving. The only reason I do these events is to serve kids and families. These techniques are not methods to frustrate parents because I’m mad that they wait until the last minute, but tools to help my staff and me to save time so that we can better serve kids and families. ****

Scoot up the registration deadline: In this technique, I simple move the deadline up a few days, maybe even a week. For this year’s lock-in, I closed registration on Wednesday, April 11. The lock-in isn’t until Friday, April 20. Because I had nearly half the attendees sign up in the last 36 hours, I now have 9 more days to recruit extra help and buy supplies. It’s a no-brainer for me. When I was running lock-ins for 40-60 kids, I didn’t even preregister, but with 200+ kids I wouldn’t dare not do it.

Limit event capacity: Sometimes you have to use this technique. The facility I’m using for my lock-in has a 300 person capacity, but what if I had a facility that only held 150? What if I felt I could only recruit volunteers for 150 kids? What if I felt that the ideal number for the activities we were doing was for 150 kids? Easy. In my marketing materials, I will include taglines like, “LIMITED SPACE – REGISTER TODAY!” or “DON’T MISS OUT – WE WILL FILL UP!” The first time you use this tactic, sometimes parents still don’t really respond. However, when you do fill up and parents get upset becasue they didn’t get their kids in, they will be first in line the next time you have a “limited space” event. I never use this techniqe on purpose, but I do feel that it adds value to the event. (Caution: If you have a realistic potential of 100 kids and you continually hold events for 50 kids, you stand a great chance of irritating many of your parents fairly often. Use sparingly)

Early and Late Registration: I always use this one for summer and winter camps. I try to have an early registration that runs for 4-6 weeks and then I up the tuition for the last 2-3 weeks by $25-$35. I find that I get my mad rush on the eve of the price increase. I also get a steady stream of registrations during the late registration as well. Some people just don’t mind. When it comes to things like camp, there are some supplies that take a week or two to get, like shirts. Realistically, I like to place my shirt order about 3 weeks before camp. Trust me, nothing is as bad as leaving for camp and your shirts still haven’t arrived! So, I place my order for kids who are registered and make a projected order for kid who will still sign up. There will usually be shirts left over, but the extra $25-$35 per kid helps cover those costs.

Hopefully you’ll find these techniques helpful. I know I have. You can even use a combination of techniques. Utilizing them allows parents to wait until the last minute and it doesn’t bother me one bit!