by Lynn Strother Hinkle
Friends and laughter are two of God’s special gifts—but sometimes people get too busy to enjoy them. This is especially true of adults. When your youth group plans a special event, you offer people an opportunity to have fun and savor time with friends. It’s almost “sacred space”! Keep that in mind as you prepare.
Here are a few guidelines:
• Clear your event with the church office or other planning body to be sure that there are no conflicts. Then put the event on the youth calendar.
• Use freebies whenever possible. Some stores and fast-food places donate food and supplies for a good cause. Many doughnut places will give you day-old goodies. Sometimes bands will volunteer to perform free if you pay their expenses—especially if they are members of your denomination or group, need the exposure, or believe in the cause.
• Expand you fundraising possibilities at special events by selling refreshments or simple meals.
• Send personal thank-you notes to people who volunteered their time and energy to make your event possible. Send public thank-you notes, by way of posters or newsletters, to people who supported the event. Let them know how much you raised toward you goal and again mention your cause.
When different generations or different groups will be attending a special event, plan ways to get people mixing and laughing together.
Family Fun Nights
Get together with a team of adults to plan and supervise a tournament of board games. Set up one room for playing various popular board and card games. Set up a recreation area for those who are not competing. Offer Ping-Pong and other games.
Recruit adult Sunday school classes for the tournament of board games. Charge teams $5.00 for entering. Most classes will consider that almost no charge at all and will be happy to help the youth group raise money by having a good time. If you have enough youth for adequate supervision, you might also have a children’s tournament.
Assign one or tow people as ticket takers. Charge $1.00 admission for those not on a tournament team. Sell soft drinks, cookies, nachos, and popcorn. (Arrange for delivery to teams in the tournament.)
Offer prizes of giant candy kisses, ribbons, donated merchandise, or white elephants. Some members of the congregation may be willing to help by donating prizes.
Be sure to word your advertisements so that all of the people will know that they are welcome at “family” events and that no one feels excluded. Remember that people who live by themselves are family too!
Lip Sync Contest
Challenge youth and adult Sunday school classes to a lip sync contest. Contestants are to mouth the words of their favorite songs while recorded music is playing.
Set up the stage, create a backdrop, arrange for sound equipment, and play the records or tapes for the contest. Consider videotaping the contest. If the youth group is large, you might decide to serve a meal.
Begin advertising the event several weeks in advance. Recruit some well-known adults such as choir members, lay leaders, and the pastor to be the stars of the show. Ask permission to advertise, using the names of both the church members and the singers they choose to imitate. Remember that adults will be customers and their tastes in music may be hopelessly out of date. Consider recruiting an adult group to do some of the songs from their youth. Another adult class might accept a challenge to try more modern music.
If you plan to serve a meal, decide on a simple menu that will be appealing to all ages, and then ask for donations of food. (Many older persons will contribute to the youth program by fixing a dish of food.) If you sell tickets or take reservations, you will have a better idea of how much food will be needed. Divide your group into work crew to set up tables, pour beverages, clear tables, and clean up after the event.
Host a Hoedown
Country and bluegrass music have become very popular in the past few years. Host an opportunity for the members of you church, other youth groups, and friends to come and have a country good time!
The evening can include live music or recorded music. Be sure to include some songs that everyone can participate in, such as “Cotton-Eye Joe.” If there is a square dance club in your area, invite the members to come and join in the fun.
Plan a menu of barbeque and cold drinks. You might ask the men and women of your church to host this part of the event. Or you might find a wholesale store that sells ready-made bulk quantities of barbeque and slaw.
Have events for young children, such as a cow-coloring contest or a hog-calling contest. A cake walk is also a fun contest for elementary and preschool age children. You might also have organized games for the children.
Tie this event to the kick-off of your church’s fall programs or vacation church school or as an end-of-summer event. You can charge money for the food, a cover charge to enter the event, or take up a love offering at some point during the day. Invite the people to wear their western gear to add to the mood.
Celebrity Look-Alike Contest
For lots of laughs, sponsor a celebrity look-alike contest. In large youth gatherings, this kind of contest is very popular. In your local church, it is an opportunity to see church members let their hair down and have fun.
Advertise in youth newsletters, announcements church newsletters, and through posters, bulletin boards, and flyers. Sell tickets in advance and also at the door.
Target certain persons and invite them personally to take part in the contest: youth workers, staff, and prominent church leaders, both lay and clergy. Be sure people realize that the contest is open to all who would like to participate. If the event is in your church, open the invitation to children, youth, and adults.
Contestants imitate well-known persons, such as TV characters, politicians, a youth worker or other minister, or prominent sports figures. If there is time, it is great fun if the contestants sing, lip-sync, or prepare a word or two to say to the audience in character—maybe giving the announcer a leading question to ask.
Contestants will try to look like the person they are imitating, including dressing like them. The only restriction is that all impersonations should be presented with Christian sensitivity.
Select a panel of impartial judges to choose the winners. Award ribbons or certificates in various categories, such as most authentic, most original, most creative, and best of show. Sell refreshments or have a simple meal at the event to increase opportunities for fellowship and profit.
The evening is a fun time for an adult Sunday school class party. A treasure hunt provides a chance for teams to follow clues around the local area, while trying to beat the other teams back to the starting point and win the prize. The hardest part of this fundraiser is finding people to donate prizes. Decide on a date to hold your treasure hunt and start seeking treasures at least three months before the event.
Prepare ten treasure-hunt clues in advance. The clues should lead the team members to the next location, where they will find another clue, and eventually lead them back to the starting point.
Participants will pay $5.00 each. Establish teams of five or six, and be sure that all drivers are over 18 years of age. Give the following instructions: No speeding, the time to return, ten minute penalties if a team calls for help with a clue. Station someone by the phone to help teams who call in. Provide refreshments for teams who are waiting for the remaining teams to arrive. Award first, second, third, and fourth place prizes, depending on the number of participants and prizes available.
Sponsor a Dance
Have a dance for the youth of the community, an intergenerational group at church, or large youth gathering. Use tapes or CDs, or find a band that will donate their time to this worthy cause. Select a special theme, such as “The Fifties” or the “Twenties”—and play the music and learn the dances of the era. Or if you can find a caller, have an old-fashioned bard dance, with square dancing or line dancing. You might even have the event in an old barn, and feature hot apple cider and bobbing for apples. Charge $1.00 or $2.00 to get in and charge extra for refreshments.
Good publicity should bring a crowd and a good source of income. Organize well so that patrons have a good experience and will come back for repeat performances. Create a themed environment, with decorations and lots of energy. If the dance is open to youth in the community, a good time for the dance is after a home game. If you are announcing the dance in church or at a large gathering, dress in a costume appropriate to the theme.
Festival of Gifts and Talents
Whether singing a song, playing an instrument, giving a humorous reading, reciting poetry, dancing, juggling, lip syncing, presenting skits, or whatever, people love to get up and perform. A festival of gifts and talents provides that opportunity, gives friends a chance to laugh and affirm one another, and make money for your project or trip.
Begin advertising and lining up acts about six to eight weeks in advance. The publicity should tell people to bring money, since people will vote with money after each act. Be clear in your advertising about what cause the event is supporting. If you are having the festival in your local church, ask Sunday school classes to do group acts. If you are planning the festival for a large youth event, ask each youth group to present an act.
Decide how long the festival should last. When people sign up, ask how long their act will take. Then keep a running tally, because you will have to stop accepting acts when you reach your time limit (remember to allow a couple of minutes between acts). Set a deadline for signing up. Build in enough time in your sign-up deadline for stage managers to develop their plans and program designers to type and print programs (optional).
In addition to food, setup, and ticket collecting, you will need to cover several of the following key jobs:
|• One or more lively emcees will announce acts and fill time in between acts. They can write a script that includes introduction of all the acts—and jokes to fill lulls when they run out of things to say.|
• An adult and several youth will act as stage managers, making sure that all of the acts are ready to go and everything is on stage at the right time. They need to develop a list of what to do when.
You might want to award some funny prizes to the top winners:stuffed animals;, certificates; or blue (first), red (second), and white (third) balloons. Wind up with a grand announcement—with great fanfare—of the amount raised for your cause.
Variation: Ask someone to prepare a silly act. If enough money has not been raised, this act will perform and not stop until the goal is met.
A Day in a Theme Park
This event works best with very large groups of churches or organizations over a broad geographical area, such as a conference or synod. If you have a large amusement park in your area, contact the person in charge of group sales to see if the park would sponsor a Family Day for your group and donate $1.00 of the entrance fee to your missional cause. Generally, they significantly lower the entrance fee for you as well, and sometimes offer other incentives.
This requires the involvement of high-level personnel in your denomination so that there can be coordinated promotion to all the churches in the area. The theme park will probably handle its own publicity, but you may want to supplement it.
The amusement park will have a minimum quota of tickets you will have to sell in advance. Remember to put your cause on the tickets. It is possible to make thousands of dollars for your missional cause every year if you handle this well.
Ask park personnel whether they would allow choirs to sing at intervals in the park during the day. If it is OK, you will need to develop an application procedure. The park may even grant free admission to the choirs.
A good way to get several generations of church members together in a fun activity and fundraiser is to host a tournament. Tournaments are also fun between different youth groups and large youth events. Choose the type of game(s) after carefully considering the time of year, the available facilities, the people involved, and the weather conditions. You could play volleyball, basketball, tough football, softball, tennis, Ping-Pong, bowling, or other team games. You might even have a checkers, chess, or Trivial Pursuit ®tournament.
After deciding on the type of game, find a location. Then contact the necessary people to issue the challenge and agree on a suitable date.
Invite members of your community and church or organization to participate in the tournament. Set up different levels of competition by age or ability. Charge each participant an entry fee. Buy trophies for each level of competition. Advertise the tournament through church bulletins, newsletters, posters, and announcements. Decide on an admission fee and sell tickets ahead of time. Sell refreshments at the game to raise additional funds. Encourage members of the participating groups who are not actual team members to serve as cheerleaders during the game.
Present trophies after the tournament. They could be gag-type trophies or regular ones. Some groups like to present them at a big dinner after the tournament. If you decide to go the dinner route, sell tickets or request reservations in advance. (Always be prepared for a few drop-ins.) Include the cost of the dinner in the entrance fee for the participants in the tournament.
Many church members can participate in an activity like this if it is well planned, organized, and advertised early so that people can reserve the date on their calendars. In a local church, you could hold these these benefit ball games as an ongoing project. The youth group could compete against the women’s group one month, the choir the next month, the men’s group the next month, and so forth. You will find many possibilities if you continue to change the game and the group you challenge.
|Here are a few more ideas for fundraisers:|
• Have a Video Game (Computer Game)/Pizza All-Nighter for community youth.
• Sponsor a Community Lock-In with a Christian music group.
Dinner Theatre, provide a dinner and put on a play as professionally as possible. If you provide a good meal, nice decorations, and an entertaining play, you can charge accordingly.
• At a Carnival/Circus, set up booths for games of skill and chance. Give no prizes, or only free or inexpensive ones. Provide face painting, clowns, acrobats, and refreshments. If space permits, have pets as “trained animals.” For adults, you might provide opportunities to buy and sell crafts.
B>Brought to you by your youth ministry colleagues at Cokesbury.