We all want to know the secrets to getting more students to sign up for our youth events, right? You know the feeling. You’ve spent hours and hours planning an event. You’ve invested time, energy and money into it. All of this and then no one really shows up. Or at least not as many as you’d hoped and planned for.
So how can you avoid this scenario?
Here are some insightful tips for increasing participation in your next YouthWorks mission trip.
1. HAVE ATTENDANCE GOALS
Things that get measured seem to grow and improve. This is in part I believe because measuring things keeps our attention on them and causes us to be more intentional about them.
Having goals keeps us moving forward. Having attendance goals for youth events gives us something to work toward.
When communicated to all of your leaders and volunteers it gives everyone something to work toward. Consider setting goals for both the overall attendance and perhaps for your small groups. Maybe you challenge them to a percentage of the group. Set goals for your leaders as well.
The key is to have the goal be reasonable, but a stretch. It must be something worth celebrating when you hit it, but not devastating if you fall just a bit short.
2. MAKE IT EASY FOR YOUR YOUTH LEADERS TO KNOW WHO HAS SIGNED UP
Having a goal is important. Communicating this to your team is also extremely important.
The team needs to know the goal and they need to be able to see who has already signed up so they can help you encourage those in the small groups, etc., to sign up.
This could be as simple as highlighting the names of students on the roll sheets who have already signed up. If you have multiple event sign ups going on at once like we often do, use different colors for each event.
3. NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER PUT OUT A BLANK SIGN UP SHEET
This may perhaps be the easiest on the list, but it also may be the most effective. No one wants to go to something that no one else is going to. And few want to go first.
When I ask a student if they’re going, I often hear, “who else is going?”
When you put out a sign-up sheet, make sure you already have names on it. Now, don’t make up names or randomly nominate students to go.
This is as simple as approaching students beforehand that you know will likely attend and asking them to write their name down before you post it for the group. Once you have several names, then post the sign-up sheet for everyone else.
This one thing will help you SO much, I can’t even begin to tell you.
4. GIVE INCENTIVES FOR EARLY SIGN UPS
Getting students signing up early helps get students talking about youth events. Find ways to reward those who sign up early.
It doesn’t have to be much, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Maybe it is an early bird price. Maybe it is a free t-shirt.
For camp, we generally give the first 10 to sign up a discount. We know this is coming so we build this into the budget for camp.
Again, it doesn’t have to cost much. It could be as little as $10. Every parent wants to save money (trust me I do with my kids). This may motivate parents more than the students, but you generally need both to agree on attending a youth event.
5. PROMOTE EARLY AND OFTEN
Make sure you’re promoting the event early. Communicate deadlines and what is needed to sign up clearly from the start.
Make sure you’re communicating to parents as well. Do not just assume the students will let their parents know…it won’t happen.
Keep promoting. Promote it through email, postcards, Facebook, Instagram, wherever your students and parents are, promote it there–a lot.
6. MAKE IT EASY FOR STUDENTS TO SHARE AND INVITE THEIR FRIENDS
Telling students to invite their friends will work for a few, but most just simply won’t go out of their way to do so. As silly as it may seem, some students will feel like they don’t know what to say or how to invite a friend.
Make it easy for them. This will likely look different depending on your context, but it could be something as simple as fliers or invite cards you print that they can give out or a social media post they can share or tag friends in.
How you do it doesn’t matter as much as that you do it. Try a few things and see what works best.
7. LIMIT GUARANTEED SPOTS
“But wait, I thought you said we wanted more students to sign up. Why are we limiting spots?”
First of all, this one may not always be possible. Second, I’m only suggesting at limiting guaranteed spots.
Limiting spots helps create a sense of urgency to sign up. The more students start signing up, the more students you’ll have sign up.
Don’t be dishonest here and say there are only X spots if there really aren’t. But if when you can, limit guaranteed spots and utilize a wait list.
What are some of your secrets to getting more students to sign up for your youth events?
JODY LIVINGSTON is a Youth Ministry veteran of sixteen years and currently serves as the Youth Pastor of Kennesaw First Baptist Church, where he has served for the last six years. He helps equip and encourage Youth Pastors through his blog and podcast THELONGERHAUL.COM. His passion is helping Youth Pastors create a ministry of longevity that they truly love. He is the grateful husband of Sarah and the dad of Emma, Anna, Lizzy, and Jack. He is a pastor, speaker, lover of vintage VW’s, and the owner of one “mostly white” VW Beetle. You can find him on twitter @JODYLIVINGSTON.