3rd Annual Grace Church Dodgeball Tournament
Planning and execution; start to finish
I have been at Grace Church for two years now and am not arrogant enough to think I have everything in youth ministry figured out. At the request of others though I am going to share from start to finish an event that has come to work very nicely for us; our annual dodgeball tournament. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration to try it or something similar for your ministry. This dodgeball tournament has occurred every spring since 2005. I was not there the first year but the second year was something I was able to spend time on and the third wreaked of my fingerprints. As I write this I want to tell you about our church so you know my perspective. We are a body of 900+ people and along with myself working full-time with high school students, we also have Dustin Godshall working with Middle School and also doing video for us. I don’t think this is an event that only a big church could pull off. Not every church may do this exactly like us but the principles of organization and outreach are the same. I grew up in a smaller church without the option of video editing or 30 adults on youth staff, but still saw the same foundational pieces in place.
When having any event we always ask ourselves why we are having it. Although I am not against fun, we did not have this tournament so our students could play dodgeball. We had this tournament so they could invite their friends to play dodgeball knowing those friends would hear the gospel. This event from its birth is always an outreach and promoted as such. From the marketing, to the rules (I’ll tell about this later) this night was for students to share Christ with their friends and peers.
Timeline from 1 year to 1 day
1 year out
1. Pick date (consult school calendars and be conscious of weather)
2. Reserve room(s)In a timeline of events leading up to the tournament the first thing we did was pick the date. Since this is our biggest event of the spring we must plan accordingly. We avoid January and February for a couple reasons. The first is that we are competing with gymnastics, basketball, and wrestling. The second is that those months can have some crazy weather and we want to try to avoid being snowed out and dealing with rescheduling. We also don’t want to go to far into the spring because than you can compete with spring break, Easter, or even the spring blah’s that many ministry including ours can have. As far as days, we have found Saturday night to be the best fit for us so that we have all day to set up if needed. This means that church is the next day in our multipurpose sanctuary/gym, but who said ministry was easy.Other factors for us were getting this event on our yearly Student ministry calendar as well as our church wide calendar that is planned at least a year out at times. This also meant planning what rooms we would be using for the actual event as well as setup time and adjusting cleaning and other schedules accordingly.
5 months out
1. Begin to release date on calendars (may be done farther out based on church)
2. Photoshoot/Video footage for promotion collected In the fall I got together some students to start our marketing plan. We decided to do all promotion from the angle of a “good” team and a “bad” team who would play each other. For this we had some students dress in red, white, and blue to represent the good team. We took pictures and show footage of them posing, throwing, dodging, catching, and anything else related to dodgeball. We also did this for the “bad team” who wore all black and tried their best to play villains.
These pictures would later go into powerpoint slides, website banners, and promo card design, while the footage was made into 4 promo videos.3. Decide all the information on your Mailing.
Here is the pic of our mailer which shows our information http://darkcollar.com/clients/markartrip/Dodgeball_Postcard/
4. Commission card/logo designOur biggest marketing scheme was to use two sided, full color, glossy post cards that we could pass out to make a peer-to-peer invite a little more appealing. You have probably seen this cards used by churches to promote a new series. The best price you will find is at clubflyers.com where they sell 5,000 cards for under $200. Obviously you could make these on a copy machine, but because we had an earmarked gift for high school outreach, we decided this was instrumental to making our outreach happen. Another piece to these cards being a success was the design.
I called in a personal favor from Brandon at Darkcollar.com who did a fantastic job to include a logo and some of the pictures we had taken. It wasn’t that I couldn’t design a mediocre card, but we believed in this and pushed to make it excellent. The cards were ordered about 4 months before event so that when we got them two weeks later we would still have plenty of time. In hindsight through debriefing we realize that we may have released them too early (10 weeks before the event) but that is debatable.
5. Promotional videos editedI gave the raw video footage to a senior of ours (Chris Guyot) who has a great talent for editing video. Because of the way we shot the footage we gave him some clear, easy objectives to edit. All the videos have all the info displayed on our promotional cards (time, date, etc.). Here the breakdown of the videos we made. We made one promo of the “good” team entering the gym, warming up, and playing in a match. We did the same thing for the “bad” team. Next we made a video of what looked like the two teams playing against each other. Finally we did a video that took pieces of all of those videos and brought them together.
3-4 months out
6. Order postcards
7. Order shirts Because we had the outreach money donated and wanted to make this a large event with plenty of momentum, we also ordered shirts with the dodgeball logo on them. We sold these shirts as promotion leading up to the event and also gave them to our adult volunteers that night and used them as door prizes. The shirts made this event have an image bigger than us and helped make adults visible. Two side notes about the shirts real quick. First we ordered the shirts from custimink.com. You might be able to beat their price by a little bit, but in my opinion there service is second to none. Secondly I have a real problem with ugly “youth ministry T-shirts” that a student wouldn’t wear again if you paid them. I am not saying that I have teen fashion figured out, but the shirts were based on what people are wearing these days. Band shirts that are black are a fashion staple, so we mimicked their design and had the shirts printed on American Apparel shirts that don’t get so stiff they look like the still on a clothesline after one wash. The shirts were ordered and delivered the same time as the postcards.
2-3 months out
8. recruit staff
9. Launch Media blitz on studentsI already said that from the beginning we approached this as an outreach. So the first night we officially unveiled our postcards to the students we talked about outreach. We had the middle school and high school together on one night and talked about the importance of sharing our faith with friends that we care about. As a challenge we made bundles of 10 cards in a rubber band and told our students we wanted everyone to take at least one stack of 10 to pass out at school. Since we had 5,000 we told them there was no limit on the number they could take and give away. Other steps we also took were doing a mailing to our database and stuffing bulletins (both with the cards) and continuing to push the cards and personal invites for the next 9 weeks along. We actually had a couple students who took them to their schools and put one in every locker or handed them to hundreds of students at lunch. The cards provided the over saturation of marketing we wanted. I was actually in our local high school on two separate occasions and heard conversations about our tournament and cards.
1 month out
1. Video clips shown-We opened up our Wednesday night and Sunday morning gatherings leading up the night with these videos. We also posted them on youtube so that students could put them on their blog’s and myspace’s etc.
2. Decide the who and how gospel presentedWhenever we do a large event outreach there is always one main question; how do we present the gospel. We have at times asked for decisions and at others decided against it. This time, we decided to sit everyone down and quickly introduce a husband and wife from our youth staff. We than cut to a pre-taped testimony of the husband that we thought would keep attention spans better than any speaker. As the video ended we had his wife tell her testimony to give a female perspective also. We had already given everyone in the room a card and pen and as we presented the gospel we asked to indicate the decision they made (salvation, rededication, want to talk more,) As the cards were collected we quickly collected and sorted them so that we could talk to some students that night and follow up quickly on others.
3. Recruit Volunteers-We began recruiting volunteers for our tournament 6 weeks in advance. The first people we asked were our middle school and high school staff, but and than we extended it to parents or athletes in the church.
Based on our anticipated attendance we recruited volunteers to help with the following areas. Mostly our in house staff handled setup in advance, while teardown was the effort of many people working hard. Registration was done with people focused on welcoming/ushering student teams to one of four division registration tables. There are a few jobs that get interesting when you don’t know how many people will show up. We bought what turned out to be a good amount of food conscious of the fact we may have to get more. The tournament bracketing was made easier courtesy of some internet tools we found through Google, but still kept 3 men busy running 4 divisions. We had a crew of tech people with video camera’s not only capturing footage to show in the lobby and big screens, but also putting up what game was going on and coming up next. We had two men serving as full time photographers who captured the group picture you see as well as many other shots that will be used for recap pieces and promotion next year. The referees were trained about an hour before as mentioned and taken through some possible scenarios from other years.
4. Decide what food/how much to buy In years past our tournament was only $1 per person (to cover a few costs and equipment) and than we would charge for food separately. In my opinion students don’t’ embrace an event if it has some charge to it. Our students respect an event that has some cost to it. This year we decided to make the tournament $5 per person. Because we charged we handed everyone a card when they came in the door that entitled them to two drinks, a hotdog, two snacks, and a candy bar. The food cards were punched by the kitchen workers as students redeemed them. You could charge anything you want based on buy in and how you choose to do food.One caution on pricing is that there is more start up cost than you would think. We use large playground type balls so that people can’t throw them very fast. If Wal-Mart has them they can be as cheap as $4, but we have also paid $10 at Meijer in an emergency. You can also buy the nice alligator skin ones from $20 a piece. We have also had to invest in whistles and stopwatches fro referees.
5. Decide on point people for each area of adult staffWe had a main person in charge of each category listed who was the go to person in their area. For instance, one ref trained all the others. Before training we prayed as a staff and provided our briefing and rundown of the flow of the night and than the point person for each area did the actual training for their section.6. Schedule of the actual event
Where the rubber meets the roads is actually pulling off the tournament. One such item is how do we officiate the tournament. You can find lots of rules online.
As far as the setup for our event we have tailored it to the room we have as I would encourage anyone else to do too. We have a sanctuary/gym multipurpose type room with removable chairs. We use the chairs to form the walls for our courts when we stack them 5 high. We have two courts on the outside thirds of our gym and utilize the inner third for sign-ups, fans, and seating during our gospel presentation. Other setup included bringing games (ping pong, foosball, air hockey), tables, chairs, and a big screen tv playing march madness in the lobby to create atmosphere. We distributed food out the kitchen and than asked it was eaten in the lobby. We blocked off hallways so that students could only be in The main gym, the lobby, or the restrooms.
After reviewing our evening I think there are some things we did very well meeting our goals and some areas that we hope to do better next year.
Largest number ever at youth event Large church involvement People heard gospel 4 first time decisions Encouraged outreach in our ministryFailures? Decision follow up
I HOPE THIS HELPS SOME PEOPLE. I STARTED TYPING THIS A WHILE AGO AND BURNT OUT SO IT IS POSTED IN A NOT FINISHED FORM. HERE ARE SOME PICTURES/RESOURCES THAT MAY HELP YOU http://www.flickr.com/photos/markartrip/sets/72157603385782089/