I love a good event. I mean, really. Like many churches, my church does a fall event every year. Two years ago, I led an event after church on Sunday and I would initially consider it a win. People gathered in community outside the normal Sunday experience. However, there was something missing. Most of the people who attended were familiar faces. Apparently, not many people invited anyone. Not a win.

Events are best when people invite people to come. When events have that vibe, “I’ve got to bring someone to this,” that’s when you know it’s going to be good. When planning events, I try to think about the people who haven’t ever been to church. I want them to come. Maybe if they attend this crazy event, it will be easier for them to come to my church. However, it all works best when someone is invited. So how do I create an event where everyone thinks, “I gotta tell my neighbor/co-worker/friend/______ about this thing we’re doing at my church. This is no easy task!

So this year, I decided we were going to do something completely different. This was going to be an event like no other event. It was going to be big.  I wanted parents, teens and kids to post pictures on all their social streams about how amazing this thing was, how amazing it was to see so many unfamiliar faces. My goal was to pack the place out with as many unchurched people as possible.

In our brainstorming, we started thinking outside of the box.

How about a full-sized ferris wheel?

No good. It would have to be shipped from Maryland and would cost more than my annual ministry budget. Yeah, no good.

How about a rodeo?

Probably not. There’s too much liability with our location.

What about if we rent an animal?

An animal? What kind of animal?

I don’t know, an animal you don’t see every day.

What animals are you thinking?

Something that you never see outside of a zoo.

Outside a zoo?

I’ve got it.


I know what animal we’re going to rent!

You’re starting to scare me now.

A giraffe!

A giraffe?

Yes, we’re going to rent a giraffe!


This is basically how it happened. And rent a giraffe it was. Everyone loved the idea and on October 25th, we rented a full-size giraffe so that everyone could take pictures with it, feed it, pet it – just no riding it.

I was amazed at how many kids and parents invited their friends. Seriously, who is going to turn down the opportunity to pet and feed a giraffe down at the local church, right?

This event wasn’t a one trick pony… er giraffe. We had many activities that kept people happy and engaged, but the giraffe was the ticket. They came to see the giraffe and experienced so much more.

Here are a few things you should think about when planning your next event:

  • Can I define the win? Can I clarify what success looks like? Do this before you get to invested in the planning.
  • What’s going bring new people to our Church? What is going to make me want to invite all my neighbors and friends?
  • How are we going to capture visitor information? Will we do a raffle? Think of creative ways to capture contact information so that you can follow up.
  • What are we going to invite them to next? We need to have an event, activity or program to invite them to once they show up at this event. Think steps, this event is not the end.
  • Am I thinking BIG enough? Everyone is doing an egg hunt, carnival and bounce house extravaganza. What can we do that will raise a few eyebrows?
  • Organize, organize, organize. Half the trick is getting people there. If the event is poorly organized, they likely won’t come back. Make sure the event runs well because you planed for everything.