Churches across the country are hosting fall festivals this time of year. (Pixabay/paulbr75)

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Churches across the country are hosting fall festivals this time of year. In most churches, one of the goals of the event is to reach unchurched families in the community.

Fall festival is definitely a great time to connect with unchurched families. With the right advertising (which includes print, social media, invite cards for your regular attendees, community papers, etc.) you can see lots of families walk on your church property for the first time.

But the big question is always "How do we see guests return for a church service and eventually become a part of our church family?"

Let's look atfive effective ways to follow up with fall festival guests.

1. Get their contact information.  It's hard to follow up with guests if you don't have their information. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Have people register for a free gift they receive right on the spot. It might be something as simple as a full-size candy bar for their kids. With all the mini-candy bars being passed out, you'd be surprised how many people will give you their contact info. just to get a large candy bar for their child.
  • Have a drawing for one or more nice gifts that evening. Things like a TV,  family movie tickets, gift certificate for a restaurant, tickets to a local family entertainment place like mini-golf, an amusement park, etc. Set it up so families can enter their information online with their smartphone or a standard paper form or both.

2. Start an engaging weekend series in close proximity to your Fall Festival. Use a relevant topic like marriage, parenting, how to survive the stresses of life, big questions people ask about God and so on.

You can also start a fun, relevant engaging series for kids. Here are some series ideas.  If you get the kids excited about coming back, you'll be able to get their parents to come as well. Kids don't drive themselves to church.

Get information into guest families' hands about the upcoming series. You can do this by email, text, a letter, postcard mailing and so forth. You can also include a coupon the guests can bring back for a free gift they can receive at the weekend service.

3. Have your fall festival as part of your weekend services. Many churches engage guests in their weekend services right up front by having the event as part of their weekend services. This can be very effective. I know several churches that do this and their fall festival weekend services end up being their most attended of the entire year.

One way to do this is by having the event right after your weekend service. I know one church that makes one of the doors coming out of their auditorium the entrance door into their fall festival. Families first attend a short, relevant, engaging service and then enter the fall festival through that auditorium exit door.

4. Add them to your mailing list for big events. While the goal is to see families come back immediately and attend a weekend service, the reality is that will not be the case for some families. But don't give up on them. Add them to your mailing list for future big events. The more times you can get them to return, even if it's just for another big event, the more opportunities you have to see them come to a weekend service.

5. Take a family photo for them. There are several ways you can approach this. It starts with having family photo spots set up at clearly marked, key locations.

You can have a backdrop at the photo spot that has your church's name, website or a hashtag on it.

You can also provide props that families can hold for their picture such as an empty picture frame, pumpkins and funny hats. These props are another great place to put your church's name, web address or a hashtag.

One approach is to have someone there to take the family's photo with their own phone. The good part about this is the family will then put the picture on social media and people will see the information about your church on the backdrop or props they are holding. This has the potential to go to hundreds or even thousands of people as families tweet, Facebook, Instagram, etc. their pictures out.

Another approach is to have a professional photographer there to take their picture. Offer to print out and frame a 8" x 10" picture of the family that they can pick up at a weekend service.

If you really want to leverage this, you could do both—let them take their own photo and offer them a professional printed and framed photo.

Be intentional about following up with families and a year from now you'll have stories to tell about people who were reached and are now part of your church family.

Your turn. The floor is yours. What are some other ideas for fall festival follow-up? Share your insight and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool MinistryChildren's Ministry in the 21st CenturySunday School That Worksthe churchleaders.com Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

This article originally appeared at relevantchildrensministry.com.

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