A Smokin’ Ministry Fair

“It was the Holy Smokers. They were the draw.”

Marlene Anderson, Deaconess at Grace Lutheran Church, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, was planning her third Ministry Fair for the church. The first one, held about 10 years ago, was very successful. The second one, in 2006, was “so-so.” She wanted to add something new, a “hook” that would entice people to stick around after worship for the Ministry Fair.

Food is always a good draw, and that made Marlene think of the Holy Smokers, a men’s group that used their huge meat smoker to prepare meat for various events, at church and also in the community. Their smoker is an intentional ministry tool. It takes a long time to smoke meat. While the meat is smoking, the men are intentionally engaging people in conversation.

It worked. Some 300-400 people attended the ministry fair. “Our purpose,” Marlene explained, “was to let people know about all our ministries. We asked each ministry to let people know the purpose of their ministry and why people might want to be involved.” Each of the approximately 70 ministries had their own sign-up sheets and there were about 100 sign-ups that day.

As she scanned the room, Marlene heard and saw the goal realized. She overheard comments: “Wow. I didn’t know we had all this.” “I didn’t know we did all this.” She saw people talking one on one with other lay people about ministry opportunities. Three people signed up for their Stephen Ministry.

Like most church ministry fairs, tables were set up around the perimeter of the gym. The ministries were very creative in their displays. Stitching by Grace, a group of quilters, displayed quilts on rungs of a 10-foot ladder. Manna Ministry, a group that collects and distributes food and other items, filled their table with the household items they were seeking. The Women’s Ministry had a plateful of chocolate chip cookies to share with those who stopped by to chat.

“I knew that I wanted to become involved in some way at Grace,” one new member mentioned, “but I didn’t know where. The Ministry Fair gave me an opportunity to see all the ministries and what they do, and one in particular appealed to me. I knew that was the one I should be a part of.”

Success at a ministry fair involves more than just the food. Marlene’s preparation also included:

  • A big sign with helium balloons in the church lobby to remind people to come down to the gym.
  • Contact with the ministries: an initial letter with a response form for them to return and a second letter after the fair encouraging follow-up.
  • A booklet at the fair had a short description of each ministry, with contact info.

The ministry fair was part of Consecrated, Lord, to Thee, from the Consecrated Stewards program.

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