Do BIG Events really work? Tips for reaching teenagers and making disciples.

Around the youth ministry landscape there is some debate on if “Big Events” really work?  In conversations with youth pastors from around the country, the most common reason I’ve heard to why student ministries have decided to stop doing big events is, ”We worked real hard, spent a lot of money, our numbers went up for one week, then within three weeks we were right back to were we were before. So I stopped doing them.”

The truth of the matter is, if you don’t do outreach events properly, you can spend a boatload of money and not see any real momentum or growth in your ministry. However, if done properly, I have found that “the big event” can be a catalyst for true, life change in the lives of both the believing and non-believing teenager.

We once did an event “The Biggies”.  At this event we had over 1500 students in attendance. We had 200 first time visitors and 28 teenagers accepted Christ as their personal Savior. In the six weeks that followed the event, we averaged over1300 teenagers per week in attendance, had over 400 first time visitors, and 85 teenagers became Christians. We also graduated 75 young people from our Student Ministries Discipleship Program. Looking back, this “Biggies Event” catapulted us into experiencing what God had for our ministry.

Thru the years we have seen that, yes, big events do work.  

Over the next few paragraphs, I’m going to dive into the nuances of the big event, in hopes that you and your student ministry will join me in using this incredible tool to grow the Kingdom of God in your area.

Five reasons you need to do a Big Event. 

1) It gives students that have never been to your student ministry a reason to show up.

Unsaved teenagers don’t wake in the morning and think “Boy, I’d like to go to church tonight, have some guy I don’t know preach to me, and then give my life to Jesus.” Teenagers that don’t know Christ will never think about going to church, unless you give them a reason to think about it. That is what the big event does best. It puts “church” into the mind of someone that typically never thinks about it.

2) It gives students that have not attended your service in a while, a reason to come back.

Why have some of your teenagers stopped coming to your youth service? Maybe they’ve forgotten about it, maybe they’ve been busy, or maybe they haven’t had a real good reason to come back in a while. Doing a big event, gives unplugged teenagers a reason to get off the couch and plug back into your student ministry.

3) It gives your hard-core Christian students a reason to bring a friend with them to church.

Lets face it. It is extremely tough to get Christian teenagers to bring unsaved friends with them to church. Maybe its because they don’t have that many unsaved friends. It could be, they know they should invite someone, but just can’t seem to get up enough courage to ask them, or maybe they’ve never actually thought about it. Hosting a big event in your student ministry, will give your Christian teenager a reason to find someone that doesn’t know Jesus, break thru their fear, and actually bring them to church.  

4) It gives your volunteers something to rally around, pray for and be excited about.

People want to make a difference and they want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves, that is why your volunteers are giving you their time and energy each week.  Allow them to make a difference. Show them God is up to something big in your community and host a big event that impacts tons of teenagers.

How to use big events to build big momentum. 


1 - Put the BIG event at the end of a teaching series.

2 - Take three weeks to preach on reaching out to the lost before the event.

3 - Use the BIG event as the first service in your new “hot topic” teaching series.

4 - Follow up effectively with your first time visitors.

5 - Get your first time salvation students plugged into a discipleship program right after the event.

Six questions to ask yourself before doing your event.

1 - Why are you doing the event?

2 - What is the event?

3 - What is your goal?

4 - What is your follow up plan?

5 - What is coming up after the event, that will keep students coming back?

6 - Is what we're doing really a BIG event or just a special service?

Three Steps in Creating a Big Event that Works.

Plan the Event. 

What is the service going to be? Who is going to speak? What is the music going to be like? Are you going to have special give-a-ways? What is your budget? What is your goal?  (Having a goal is important because, if you aim for nothing you'll hit it every time.)

Build Anticipation. 

Take 3 to 6 weeks to advertise and get people excited about what is coming up. Start off slow. Then as the days and weeks go by build more and more into your advertising campaign. Do flyers, T-shirts, Videos, Drama's, etc to build anticipation toward the day of the event. None of these things have to be expensive. Get your students involved making t-shirts, artwork and flyers. They would love to be a part and they don’t cost much money!

Equip your people.

The best advertisement is your students getting out there and spreading the word. Give them flyers, ask them to canvas the areas they live in, wear T-shirts on certain days of the week to school, and have them do some Social Media pushes for you.

About two weeks before you outreach event, have your students fill out cards with the list of friends they are going to bring to the event, then you as a staff take copies of those cards and pray over those names every single day, until the event arrives.

However you do it, equip your people to bring in the lost for your outreach event.

If done right hosting a big outreach event can work! If you would like more help on reaching teenagers and making disciples, check out the RESOURCE page and YOUTH MINISTRY UNIVERSITY.