SAM Startup Series: 13 Steps to Organizing a Singles Conference
Singles conferences have proven to be powerful and encouraging opportunities for both fellowship and spiritual growth. Singles from every situation – divorced, never married or widowed – have been richly blessed during these conferences. Many have made life-changing decisions which have enriched their lives. If you have never been to a singles conference, I encourage you to locate one near you to attend.
Organizing a conference is not as difficult as some may think. It does take commitment and fortitude. In September 2017, we will have our 10th Annual Singles Conference. God has blessed us richly and the attendance grows each year. The following are some tips on how to organize and have an awesome conference.
1. Make a preliminary plan and talk to your pastor.
Prior to speaking with your pastor, you should have a preliminary plan to present. Meet with your singles committee to discuss the details: the number of days, the date, how the conference will be funded, the amount for registration, etc. After receiving the approval from your pastor, it is time to go to work. Have a detailed meeting with your committee. You will need to discuss several things.
2. Decide on a name and a theme for your conference.
This will often grow into a permanent name for the conference (so that people will know to look for your event at the same time every year). The theme will probably change each year. Pray for God’s direction as a group and discuss ideas.
3. Decide who your speakers will be.
Will you have one speaker for the entire event? Do you plan to have multiple speakers? Pray about who would be best for your conference. Take into account how far they have to travel, the theme of your event, etc. If you plan to have multiple speakers but do not have a huge budget, consider inviting in one keynote speaker and then using others from your church. It would be helpful to decide on at least two or three speakers to suggest to your pastor so that he can have some choices. The pastor should be the final judge on your conference’s speaker.
4. Decide on a budget.
Consider how much it will cost to host the entire event. If you are bringing in speakers, keep in mind that you will want to give them an offering and lodging (often a hotel). Discuss with your pastor how much the offering should be (but keep in mind that it should cover the cost of their transportation in addition to whatever you give them for speaking). If you need to rent a building, this should factor into the costs. If you plan to provide any materials at registration (handouts, folders, name badges, etc.), be sure to include this.
5. Decide on a registration fee.
Consider how many people you are hoping will attend and how much you will need to charge in order to at least break even (this is why you need a conference budget). Research other conferences and fees to get an idea of how yours will compare. Decide how the fee will be paid (at the door, mailed in, or online). It would be a good idea to quote one price by a certain date and increase after the deadline, such as $25 by April 25 and $30 thereafter. Choose a registration team that will streamline the process both before and during the conference.
6. Decide on a conference schedule.
I suggest that you try one day for your first conference. You can always offer a longer event and expand the conference as your ministry grows. If you plan to do a two day conference, consider a format that begins Friday evening and runs through Saturday morning or afternoon (so people have time to get off work and make the drive).
7. Make meal plans.
Do you plan to serve dinner at the conference or suggest a designated restaurant where people can fellowship? If you plan to serve the dinner, decide if this will be included in the registration fee or if it will be paid separately. If you plan to meet at a restaurant, be sure to make plans with the restaurant in advance so that they will be able to accommodate your group.
8. Decide on conference hotels.
Try to secure a block of rooms at two hotels. They will probably give you a discounted rate for a block of rooms.
9. Plan for fundraisers.
Unless you have unlimited financial resources, a conference will always require some fundraising. Decide with your committee what will work best and give yourself plenty of time to raise funds. We have always plan for some fundraisers every year. The first year we sold chocolate-covered strawberries. We have also worked with peanut brittle (I have been told that churches have been built on simply on selling peanut brittle.) Peanut brittle has actually been our largest fundraiser.
Although registration will help support the conference after the fact, keep in mind that you will need funds on hand prior to the conference for both planned and unforeseen expenses. Your church may be able to support the conference without fundraisers; however, if your department could become self-sufficient it would be a great blessing to your church – and that is something that we all strive for.
At the very least, create a flyer that you can display and send to other churches. The flyer should have the name of your conference, the theme, the speaker(s), the location, hotel information, the registration fee, and any information you think necessary. Create (or recruit someone to create) digital copies of your event graphics and use them to advertise on social media – it’s free! Create an event on Facebook (and make sure it’s listed as public). You can add more information at any time. Mail and email flyers to singles directors and pastors.
11. Decide on any materials to give out at registration.
Discuss with your committee whether or not you are going to disperse handouts at the conference (folder with itinerary, bio of speakers, directions to the restaurant, etc.). If so, try to get these printed at least a couple of days before the conference. If you print them too early, you might not be able to make necessary changes; if you print too late, you run the risk of not having them ready.
12. Make hospitality, lodging, and transportation arrangements for speakers.
Secure hotel rooms for the speaker(s). Purchase airline tickets, if necessary, and arrange for transportation to the church (rental car or choose a person to chauffeur). We normally leave a welcome basket in the hotel room (bottles of water, candy, fruit, crackers, sodas, handkerchief, etc.)
13. Decide on your structure.
Will your conference consist of a single service or multiple services? As your conference grows, you might want to consider break-out sessions. Last year we started break-out sessions.
14. (Bonus) Enjoy the process and let God move!
I am so thankful to God for honoring us with his presence at each conference. Never be disappointed at the number of attendees. God will meet the need of those that are there. Pray and fast for your conference. God richly bless you and have an amazing conference!!