Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Difference Does it Make?

'Tis the season of church Christmas events. There are pageants, children's musicals, live nativities, candlelight services, living Christmas trees, cantatas, Bethlehem recreations, full Broadway-style musicals and even Radio City Music Hall clones, all designed to attract people to church during December. And churches are right to be outreach minded at this time of the year when people who normally don't attend church might actually want to come.

Don't fall into the trap, however, of measuring whether or not your event is successful by counting numbers. Too often I hear pastors and worship team leaders talking about how many people attend an event (or church services, for that matter) and assuming that large numbers imply their "work for the Lord" has been accomplished. Several have reported Christmas outreach events that attract thousands, yet, it's almost impossible to measure whether attending the event made any difference in bringing the attendees closer to a relationship with God. Few outreach events include any type of follow up. The people come, we record the numbers and hope we see increased attendance in subsequent Sunday services.

Where some follow up has been reported, the results are thought provoking. At one church with about 2,000 in attendance each Sunday, a yearly Christmas outreach event which attracts thousands results in weekly attendance increase of no more than five persons. Another church bringing in more than 4,000 for an annual Christmas event has an average of 25 people attending adult Sunday school classes on a weekly basis. Another had about 1,000 at an outreach event-- but most of them were regular attenders.

The reality is that many Christmas events become social traditions. In some communities a particular event may be the "cool" and popular place to be seen. Some feel that attending an event at Christmas time makes up for not attending church during the year and somehow earns them points toward heaven. People have tons of reasons for attending, but the real question is what difference does it make?

My challenge to church leaders and worship teams evaluating this year's efforts is to look beyond the numbers. Don't be lulled into a sense of accomplishment if your numbers are large. Find out what impact it had for Christ in the lives of those attending and in the lives of those involved in presenting it. Also, if your event drew just a few, or smaller numbers than for which you were hoping, don't be lulled into a sense of failure. Evaluate the impact. If only one person attended, but that heart was changed, your event was a success. If 5,000 attended your event and then went out to finish their Christmas shopping, look for ways to make a more personal impact next year.

The personal invite, the event, the difference:
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
(John 4:39-40 NIV)

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The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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