You walk in the door, throw your keys on the table, fall down on the couch, breath a huge sigh of relief, and crash! You did it! You made it! It’s over!
Ever had those moments? Months and months of planning and preparation for that weekend retreat. It’s Sunday night, you’ve just finished unpacking the truck at the church, and finally you’re home. What a relief! The question is, how do we follow up the event to make sure we tie up those lose ends and ensure that we learn and grow so that next year’s retreat is even better? Here’s a little acronym I developed a few years ago that helps us to A.C.E. our event follow up.
Appreciate. It is crucial that you recognize the contributions of the team which allowed the event to take place. This is especially true if you have any interest in having people help you in the future. If you want bear the weight of future events by doing everything yourself, just go ahead and skip this step. (Note: I know that there are times when you feel like you were the only one involved in leading an event – I’ve been there! I had a small group of kids, and I was the only leader who went with them. However, after a bit more thought I realized that I did indeed have the help of others. I thought of the booking agent at the retreat center, the maintenance guy who brought us firewood and unclogged the toilets in the cabins, the people who printed our t-shirts, etc.)
- The Visual: Cards.
- The Reminder: Look Around.
- The Main Question: Who enabled us to pull this event off?
- Further Considerations: What did they do to contribute? How can we compliment their efforts and show our appreciation for their contributions? This might be as simple as a card, a small gift, or as elaborate as taking the team away on for a fun weekend together to recognize them and show our gratitude.
Celebrate. Another important aspect of follow-up is to discover what took place in the hearts and lives of our students. If we’re really about transformation and not just entertainment, we need to provide opportunity for reflection and sharing. We want to celebrate the activity of the living God in our midst.
- The Visual: Cake.
- The Reminder: Look Back.
- The Main Question: What did God do through this event?
- Further Considerations: How can we provide an opportunity for people to share what God did in their lives? Can we have a testimony night? A retreat reunion a few months down the road? How can we expose the church at large to what took place in our students’ lives? Will our pastor allow a couple of students to give their testimonies on a Sunday morning? Who can video record some students talking about the weekend and how they intend to continue growing in what they learned?
Evaluate. Finally, it’s important that we step back and objectively assess how things went. This is a time when we need to get our core leaders together for a communication session during which we need to ask open, honest, and sometimes hard questions.
- Visual: Communication.
- The Reminder: Look Ahead.
- The Main Question: What have we learned?
- Further Considerations: In what ways did we achieve the objectives of the event? Where and how did we fall short of the desired outcomes? How did the leaders do? Walk through the logistical questions pertaining to cost, transportation, facilities, etc. How can we improve? Where do we go from here?
I am sure that you will think of many more questions to ask, but hopefully these three items will get you moving in the right direction. Learn to A.C.E. your event follow-up! Appreciate Team. Celebrate God. Evaluate Objectively.
“Do it for the story.” That’s one phrase I will never forget from my college buddy Jason Clark’s book Surrendered and Untamed. I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea lately. As we journeyed across the country, moving from New York to California I kept mulling the phrase over in my mind. Last week at summer camp, I told some of the kids who were scared of going on the zip line, “Do it for the story.” There’s something about those words that captured my imagination, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Then, the other day while reading a devotional, author Henri J.M. Nouwen brought it all together for me. Why experiences? Why stories? Here’s why …
“The word is always a word for others. Words need to be heard. When we give words to what we are living, these words need to be received and responded to. A speaker needs a listener. A writer needs a reader.
“When the flesh – the lived human experience – becomes word, community can develop. When we say, ‘Let me tell you what we saw. Come and listen to what we did. Sit down and let me explain to you what happened to us. Wait until you hear whom we met,’ we call people together and make our lives into lives for others. The word brings us together and calls us into community. When the flesh becomes word, our bodies become part of a body of people. (Bread for the Journey, Henri J.M. Nouwen)