Although I am a firm believer that there is a sovereign aspect regarding historical revivals, I am also sure that God calls upon his Church to cooperate unto the salvation of souls and that for the glory of the son. It is for the this reason that I believe that scheduling a revivalist has the most probability in seeing a long term revival ignite. My heart is to see the church swell with both new believers and reinvigorated hearts for the mission of each specific body of believers. When I preach, I am ultimately looking for the event to turn into a move of God with eternal implications. My prayer is that each event turns into an awakening.
And events are very important in the life of a church. In ancient times God instructed Israel to have three major events each year. These events in ancient Israel met important needs in the lives of the people. Today, we have the same needs. The church has always had times when people come together for renewal, outreach, and spiritual growth. We may use different names, but times of refreshing are essential for continued spiritual vitality. So, whatever you call these events: Revivals, Times of Refreshing, Fresh Fire Conference, A Night Ablaze, or some other term, they need to be well planned. Resources will be invested in the event. The greater the preparation, the greater the results! Here are a few things to consider. Hopefully these will spark other creative ideas to make your event even more successful.
Here are three helpful items to consider for your annual planning cycle:
1. Calendar scheduling. Although God does call churches to hold last minute revivalistic services at times, a last minute decision to have a revival probably won’t yield the fullest results. Therefore, do your calendar scheduling for the coming year in the summer or fall of the preceding year. Get the event on the calendar! Somehow, get the name of the event on the calendar and make the calendar available to the church! Again, be creative in what you call the event. Use an “event” name that will build excitement. Also, remember that many revivalists will appreciate the opportunity to share at a single night of a conference.
2. Booking the revivalist. A pastor should pray and seek God about when to schedule the revival or special service. Pray and allow God to lead you. He will give you a sense of what He’s wanting to do in your church. Not all meetings will have the same focus, so always pray about the themes! I will often speak about my testimony the first night, then on other themes that resonate with church leadership as the revival progresses. It can also be very beneficial to have the same revivalist back each year for a meeting. If he connects well with the people, the event will grow from year to year, and the people will have a “ready-made” trust in that particular revivalist. If there are several speakers for the conference, and it was successful the first year, try to build the conference with same speakers adding new ones and the conference gains momentum through the years.
3. Budgeting for the revival conference. Since this could be major event, make sure the appropriate budget is allocated. Money for advertising and other revival expenses should be set aside in advance. Less advertising needs to be done for the special service but utilize every available avenue to make sure your congregation is in attendance. Set a minimum amount for the revivalist’s honorarium, but don’t limit it! God may want to use your church to make up for some lean times in the revivalist’s ministry. Let the offerings all go to the revivalist.
Before the Meeting
1. Rule of four. I’ve found that attendance at an event will often be about four times the number of people involved in the event. The more people that are a part of the event, the better the attendance!
2. Prayer teams or prayer task force. This is vital! Appoint a team to prepare the church for revival through prayer. The team can promote special prayer emphasis, a certain day for prayer and fasting, a prayer clock (each person signing up to pray for a 30-minute period so that prayer is going up to God for 24 hours), prayer services, prayer partners, bulletin inserts on prayer, and maybe an occasional video clip promoting prayer. Never underestimate the power of social media. Use Facebook events to invite others that may be from surrounding regions to the event and for special prayer. (Pastors may want to find someone in the church to be responsible for Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Blab, and Instagram promotions as this can take quite a bit of effort and time to maximize those platforms.) Ways to promote prayer are unlimited!
3. Train workers for the revival conference. Think of all the little things than can make a meeting special! Some ministries are invaluable! Organize and train people to work in the altars, to serve as greeters, ushers, parking lot attendants, nursery workers, and other meaningful services. It would be great to have some of this in place for the special single night service too.
4. Plan for child care. Provide a quality nursery operated in a professional manner! A children’s revival could also be conducted along with the adult revival. Something for the kids would make it more conducive for younger adults to attend. Perhaps your youth ministry wants to hold a separate revival at a different time of the year. I love these events and have seen God do amazing things with teenagers!
5. Consider special music during the meeting. Make sure that the singers know how long they have for their ministry, usually not more than ten or fifteen minutes. Remember that the singers are not the star performance. If you want to feature a group as the main event, have them back for a special service other than the revival! Try to keep the church’s part of the service limited to 20-25 minutes. The revivalist will need about an hour and a half for his ministry – from introduction to altar time.
6. Start outreach before the meeting begins. Organize ministries like Operation Andrew (Andrew is always presented in scripture as bringing people to Jesus). Promote building relationships and inviting friends to the revival. Maybe have a “Friends Night” encouraging everyone to bring a friend to the revival. Plant the seed thought of everyone bringing someone to the revival. Be sure the revivalist is aware of what you are doing so he can be prepared and work with you. Again, social media can be a tremendous tool for increasing then number of participants.
7. Train follow-up teams. Recruit those with the best “people skills” to do the follow-up. Excellent discipleship material is available from Gospel Publishing House. We must move people from the altars into discipleship groups. When a baby is born, mom’s work is just beginning!
8. Develop a good follow-up record system. Systems need to work smoothly. They need to be in the background, not predominate. The ones collecting information must be very relational and un-offensive. Record guests’ names, addresses, phone numbers, emails if possible. Follow-up teams should submit reports on responses to the pastor. The object is to assimilate the individual into the church.
Note on Three Conversions: Each individual must experience (1) Conversion from sin to Christ, (2) Conversion from the world into the church (this is often the most difficult), and (3) Conversion from the church back into the world as witnesses for Christ.
9. Prepare to welcome guests. Have a nice gift packet for visitors as budget allows. You can include information about the church, a gift like a pen, key chain, or other items as a memento of the visit to the church or revival. Allow the revivalist to send you inserts so that individuals that want to stay connected to the ministry have that available. Think of ways to make guests feel comfortable and welcomed without being put on the spot. The greeters and ushers are key people in making guest want to return. Have greeters and ushers stand back from the doors so that those entering can feel free to slip in if desired.
10. Promote, Promote, Promote! Appoint an individual or teams to promote both the revival conference or single night service. Give them a budget and turn them loose! Often radio stations, cable channels, newspapers, local advertising papers, and other media will announce the event free. Make a list of free advertising available. Paid ads can also help. Get the word out! Promote the event at least six ways, more if possible: tv, radio, newspaper, posters/flyers, newsletters, bulletins, announcements or promotions, phone a friend campaign, etc. The youth group may be enlisted to distribute promotional material to homes. Ask other pastors to help and announce the meeting. After a while, some people will start to get interested, or at least curious! And if there is not a huge budget, you can still use social media and other free/inexpensive sources to promote.
11. Communicate with the revivalist. The pastor and revivalist must both have clear expectations of what each expects from the other. Some items to consider are expenses and honorariums (let the revivalist know that you will take good care of him), how offerings are to be received (although I understand why some pastors may be a bit uncomfortable with allowing the revivalist to take their own offering, this is often the best time for the revivalist to cast vision for grand picture of what God is doing), and policies concerning a ministry resource table for sales of CDs, books, and various items. A good rule of thumb is to try to pay a revivalist twice what a pastor is paid. The revivalist has a lot of extra expenses that he must cover himself, like insurance, maintaining an office, travel expenses, conferences, dates he can’t fill, (like Christmas, graduation time, etc.), and maintaining a home while he travels. It takes a lot to stay on the field. Some revivalist may want to promote special projects or mission work, take their own offerings, collect names for a mailing list or other promotions. Ask about accountability of how any special offering is used. Make sure that the pastor and the revivalist are in agreement on these things! Arrangements for lodging and meals should also be communicated. Find out the revivalist’s preferences for music during the altar time and how altar workers can help. Let these workers know that they will be working for the revivalist during the revival and must follow his lead!
12. Make arrangements for lodging and meals. A nice fruit basket with snacks is a wonderful welcome!
During the Meeting
1. When the meeting begins, the pastor must give his people to the revivalist. At the close of the meeting, the revivalist must give the people back to the pastor. Try to build confidence in the revivalist so the people will be open to his ministry. Toward the end, the revivalist must put the pastor back in the spotlight so that the people, especially the new converts, are connected with the church and pastor, not just the revivalist.
2. Provide an opportunity for the revivalist to instruct and interact with the altar workers and music teams. He may or may not want their involvement in the service. For the altar time, I prefer playing a CD instead of having live music, which sometimes is distracting. I prefer praying for people at ministry time, but welcome the prayer team to be in the background praying for people also. Remember that these teams are in a support role. They should provide undergirding prayer support while the revivalist ministers. If needed, they can do follow-up prayer after the revivalist has prayed for the individual. They must be very sensitive not to undo what God has ministered through the revivalist. They should encourage and reinforce what God is doing. Just keep in mind that you are there in a support role, not to be the star.
3. Don’t preach before and after the revivalist. The purpose of the first part of the service is to prepare the people for the ministry of the revivalist. You’re the warm-up!
4. Don’t bring the service to a crescendo and then let it crest. Keep it lively and upbeat, but hand it off to the revivalist before it peaks! Otherwise, the revivalist will have to do a lot of rebuilding to bring the people back to where he can minister. Give the service to him with the people anxious for his ministry, not ready to go home. Build the service to the right point, then step aside.
5. Give the revivalist plenty of time. Revivalist do much more than preach. He will share revival reports and stories of what God is doing in other churches, maybe share testimonies, and possibly some humor. He must interact and connect with the congregation. A revivalist usually needs an hour and a half or more to do his best work. Work with him so that his gift can be used effectively.
After the meeting
1. Do the follow-up ministry for the converts, those who have received the Holy Spirit baptism, those who have rededicated their lives to Christ, and those who have had special experiences. The enemy comes to steal what God has given. A little encouragement can go a long way in preserving the fruit of the meeting.
2. Remember your revivalist at Christmas with a special monetary love gift! It’s good to build a relationship with your revivalist outside the revival. Pray for your revivalist and know he is praying for you! He is God’s gift to the church!
Feel free to ask any questions and here is my contact information and:
* Adapted from Marvin R. Dennis’ article Preparing for Revival