A campus-wide harvest event can be a great way to encourage decisions for Christ. A successful harvest event requires detailed planning, good execution, and a thorough follow-up strategy. Below, you'll find out how to plan the various stages of a harvest event on your campus.
Early in the Semester
1. Gather Leaders
Strong leadership buy-in is key to the success of the event. Pitch the vision for the harvest event early in the semester. Will leaders run with it on their own or is the vision entirely staff-driven? Will students be involved at every level of planning? Will they invite their friends?
2. Choose a Theme
Brainstorm with leaders about topics that seem relevant to the majority of students, their non-Christian friends, or the target group you are hoping to reach. Consider your campus culture, the strengths/interests/networks of your fellowship, and the viability of the topic to lead naturally into a call to faith.
3. Invite a Speaker
Your speaker should be familiar with InterVarsity and with the specific goals of your event. He or she should be comfortable making a call to faith, and be someone your fellowship members can trust enough to bring their friends to hear speak. “Expertise” on the topic is not as important as evangelistic ease and comfort.
4. Explore Campus Partnerships
What other student groups, academic departments, or professors on campus might be interested in the event and willing to promote it for you? Contact these people early on to explore the possibilities.
5. Come up with a Follow-up Plan
Have a clear plan for what to do with people who make decisions. Plan on more decisions than you expect. Train key student leaders in follow-up in case there are more decisions than staff are able to handle in a timely fashion. Train GIG leaders and have at least two GIGs ready to go; more GIG options will mean fewer scheduling conflicts for those interested.
6. Enlist Prayer Support
Gather an intercession team early on. Ask students, donors, churches, and the like to start praying regularly for the event—and for non-Christians who will be invited by name—well before the day of the event.
1-2 Weeks Ahead
1. Hold Evangelism Training
Use your leadership meeting to train leaders on inviting friends and on having good follow-up conversations. Consider using small groups or large group as a platform to teach generally on a culture of invitation, hospitality, transformation, etc.
Good advertising will have a huge impact on who turns up, so aim for quality and breadth. Take thorough advantage of Facebook or other social media networks. Invest in large, eye-catching posters. Inquire about getting the event listed in school publications and websites. Consider an advertising timeline that continually ramps up to the day of the event.
3. Invite Students You Know
Never underestimate the power of a personal invitation from YOU. If you know non-Christian students, get in touch with them and invite them to the event.
Week of the Harvest Event
1. Run Proxe Stations
The week of the event, consider setting up a Proxe Station prominently on campus. Choose a display that fits your theme and your person-power. Add some event posters to the display or hand out paper invitations.
2. Hold Niche Events
Is there a smaller “soul-awakening” event you could hold earlier in the week that would promote the harvest event and target a specific audience?
At the Event
1. Be Hospitable
Enlist leaders and as many fellowship members as possible to come early to help with setup and greeting. This will make the room feel alive by the time the first people arrive. Consider food and other hospitality elements.
2. Use an Emcee
A good emcee is key to a successful event. The emcee should be comfortable with the audience, able to transition smoothly between various elements, and able to interpret any “Christian-y” elements for non-Christians.
3. Encourage Interaction
Consider doing something interactive or engaging to introduce the topic before introducing the speaker. Again, be mindful of the campus culture and your expected audience. Some examples: A “person-on-the-street” video clip on the topic, a discussion question to answer in groups, an interactive game or exercise on the topic, or some type of performance or other artistic element.
4. Give Calls to Faith
Ask the speaker to consider making different invitations aimed at the five different thresholds of conversion. Keep the invitations simple, and provide clear instructions about how to respond and how they'll be followed up. If you are the speaker, rehearse your invitations ahead of time and practice what you will do when people respond.
5. Hand Out Response Cards
On one side of the card, invite people to leave their contact info and indicate any decisions they made. Check with the speaker ahead of time to know how to word the decision section. Include opportunities for continued involvement and explain these from up front. If the other side of the card is left blank, you can also give people time to process what they heard and invite them to provide any feedback or reactions they wish to share.
After the Event
1. Regather Leaders
Meet with leaders soon after the event—the next day, if possible—to discuss specific follow-up plans (read 11 Steps for Great Follow Up). It may be helpful to read through the response cards together to figure out who knows who and how to proceed.
2. Start Evaluating
While the event is fresh, begin the feedback and evaluation process. What went well? What could be done differently next time? Keep notes and refer to them when planning the next event.
3. Meet with Decision Makers
Within the first week, attempt to meet personally with people who made decisions at the event. Receive their questions and listen well. Help them process the decision they made and any next steps they will take. If they are not part of the fellowship community, let them know how to get plugged in. Think about giving Bibles to new believers. Pray with each person and bless them.
4. Meet with Their Friends
Take time to meet with fellowship members whose friends made significant decisions. Pray with them too. How might you better equip them to walk with their friend through this exciting process?