Do you struggle to get your women to RSVP to women’s ministry events?
You’re not alone.
It’s not just your church.
Women are notoriously lax about signing up for women’s ministry events in advance.
So what’s a women’s ministry leader to do?
There’s got to be a better way to get our women to RSVP than cornering them in the church bathroom or accosting them in the hallway between church services.
A leader recently asked for RSVP ideas in our free Women’s Ministry Toolbox Community Facebook Group. Other leaders quickly chimed in with so many great ideas and suggestions that I just had to share them with you too!
Before we talk about how we can better collect RSVP’s we need to look at why women aren’t signing up.
Why women don’t RSVP
1. Exploring other options
Some of your women are holding out to see what other options become available. They don’t want to commit because they might miss out on something better that comes along.
Rather than lamenting this issue, take it as a challenge to offer events and activities of excellence. Boring events, apathetic leaders, and rude team members will quickly move your event to the bottom of the list.
2. It’s unexpected
Your church culture may not encourage commitment and RSVPs. The church we currently attend has an insert in the worship bulletin that is utilized for attendance, prayer requests, and has a place to RSVP for upcoming church events and activities. All ministries use it, and it’s become part of the church culture. It’s expected, and the expectation is communicated through many different people and means. Talk with your church staff if this is an issue.
3. Unsure of the RSVP process
As a society, we’ve lost the art of the RSVP. Many are unsure how and when to respond. Do I contact them if I am coming or if I’m not coming? How soon do I need to respond? Make your deadlines and process crystal clear.
4. It’s difficult
Perhaps your RSVP method requires too much work. We’ve got to make it as easy as we possibly can, and that usually means employing several different methods of collecting RSVPs (I’ll list some ideas below).
We also need to ensure the RSVP method doesn’t overburden anyone. Your church secretary may not want everyone to call her. Many of your women would rather text or email than risk calling and having to make small talk.
5. Don’t think it matters
If your event has no fee, women usually don’t think it matters if they RSVP or not. While we understand that copies must be made and an appropriate amount of food purchased, women aren’t viewing their RSVP as a part of good stewardship. Sometimes we need to emphasize that we must have a headcount and need to explain why.
6. There’s limited access
You may require women to use an RSVP method they may not have access to, are unfamiliar with, or are uncomfortable using. Not everyone is on Facebook, not everyone texts, and not everyone may have internet access (though this is becoming less of a problem).
We’ve identified some issues, so let’s talk about HOW you might collect RSVPs for a women’s ministry event.
There are many, many ways to do this and you don’t need to employ every method, but you will need to use more than one. Consider asking on a survey about how your women prefer to RSVP or informally survey your women to find out what method(s) they prefer.
Utilizing the same methods of sign-up for every women’s ministry event will help increase your RSVPs.
Once you figure out what works well in your church, stick with it.
1. Registration Tables
Stand at the welcome desk, set up a rolling cart, or park a folding table at the entrance(s) to your worship center. It’s best to staff the registration table for at least three consecutive weeks as most women don’t attend church every week. Clear signage, written directions, and trained staff are critical. Make a great first impression so women will want to come.
2. Email Replies
Email your women with all the event details and simply ask them to reply to the email if they can attend. Just be certain the settings on the list allow the response to go directly to the person who is tracking the RSVPs. No sense in having the church secretary forward every email. Include a different email address for replies if needed.
3. Online Forms and Websites
Your church may have a software program that allows you to collect RSVPs. Use it if your church members do. You can also use Google Forms and event sign-up websites such as Evite and Sign-Up Genius. Be sure to check the pricing; some are free for events that have no cost, others can be pricey.
Your church may have the capability for you to text reminders and sign-up links to your women. Talk with the church staff if you don’t have this option to determine if that might be something they would pursue. You could also add a budget line for the expense. Check out Flocknote as one option.
5. Publicity Blitz
Most of your women will need multiple reminders. Most are just busy and honestly forget to make their RSVP a priority. Utilize every method possible – email list, announcements from the pulpit, church website, Facebook page/group, bathroom stalls, newsletters, Sunday bulletins, social media, etc. Check out 13 Ways to Publicize Events Inside Your Church and 13 More Ways to Publicize Events Inside Your Church.
6. Phone Trees
Phone trees work best in smaller churches and do require a time commitment. Be sure to prepare a script for those making the phone calls to ensure the details are being communicated correctly and arm them with a couple of things they can say if they encounter someone who loves to talk or needs a follow-up phone call.
7. Involve Your Women in the Event
I heard recently that for every volunteer four people will attend. While those stats might not be as high in your church, it is true that women who are serving at the event will invite their friends to come.
Enlist women outside of your women’s ministry team to serve as greeters, table hostesses, set-up, clean-up, kitchen help, etc. Most women are willing to help; they just need to be asked! As they get excited about the event, they will share their excitement and the event details with others.
Another thing to consider…
RSVP’s and Guests
We must also take care that our sign up process allows for guests to attend. If the event is being publicized in the community, your RSVP process must be easy for non-church members/attendees to complete. Remove any barriers such as requiring creating an account with a username and password.
Consider, too, a place for regular church attendees to check a spot for a guest (without requiring a name). Women may need time to issue an invitation or may need to make multiple invites before finding a friend that is available to attend.
Tips to Encourage RSVPs
1. Have an early-bird discount. Usually, a $5-$10 discount is enough incentive for most events, $25 for retreats. Consider offering early-bird pricing for the first two weeks (4 weeks for retreat sign-ups that are taken months in advance).
2. Increase pricing as the event draws closer.
3. Create VIP seating for an event for the first 5 (or so) women to sign-up. One women’s ministry team set up a couch and love seat area for their VIPs with blankets, slippers, and goodies to munch on (chocolate, popcorn, etc.).
4. Have a hard cut-off date for registrations. I struggle with this one as I never want to turn anyone away, but if they miss out, they aren’t likely to forget to RSVP. You could hold 1-2 extra spots for last-minute or at the door arrivals and then make it clear that they were fortunate that the team planned for 1-2 women that might forget to RSVP.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to go through all this trouble to get women to sign up for women’s ministry events.
And even if we do “all the things” we still might have an event with poor attendance.
If that’s the case, your team needs to uncover the reason behind poor attendance. Completing a Post Event Evaluation Form after the event is a good place to start.
You’ll also find attendance-related information in these posts:
Why Women Aren’t Coming to Your Women’s Ministry Events
How to Get Women to Show Up
Tips to Increase Your Women’s Bible Study Attendance
How to Know if It’s Time to Let Go of a Women’s Ministry Tradition
Should You Charge for a Women’s Ministry Event?
Should you cancel?
10 Dangers of a Summer Women’s Ministry Sabbatical
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Numbers
Leaving the Door Open
How to Create a More Welcoming Women’s Ministry
One year ago: Episode 4 – Gather and Glean: Agendas
Two years ago: Are you craving connection?
Three years ago: Vision Casting for Your Women’s Ministry – Part 2
Four years ago: Hosting Fellowships with a Purpose
Five years ago: Valentine Icebreaker Questions (Free Printable)