How to Prepare an Additional Venue for Easter
At the time this post goes live, we are just under three weeks away from Easter 2023. But whenever you read it, the chances are decent that you have an additional venue in your future.
Additional venues come into play when your main worship space hits capacity. It’s an extra classroom, meeting space, hallway, or tent that you utilize in order to accommodate the people who have come to worship. While you might not need it every weekend, there are a few “high water” times in the year – Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve – where you might need to employ it. (For us, we also see select weekends in January and August as typical peak attendance seasons, as those correspond with the local school calendars.)
Now my friends, let’s talk terminology for a moment: when the time comes, you should do an additional venue. You should not call it overflow. You know what overflows? Toilets. And if you don’t think through your additional venue space well, the results will stink just as bad.
Here are 8 tips for setting up an additional venue:
1. Decide on your strategy before you start.
Is the goal to push people to the venue after the primary venue fills up, or as an alternative “space-creating” venue so that the primary venue doesn’t fill? This will have repercussions on how you stage the space.
As a “space-creating” venue:
- Do you have the ability to stream your primary venue to your secondary venue in a high quality way (both audio and video)?
- Have you talked to your production and worship teams to get their guidance and help?
- Have you considered a live worship leader and pastoral leadership for the venue? If you’re maintaining oversight of the main venue, who’s overseeing the secondary one?
- Have you spoken to your kids and students teams about their own space? In other words, can you add room for a 50% larger crowd without considering impact to family ministry classrooms?
As an additional venue once primary fills up:
- Is the area ready for livestreaming the sermon?
- Do you have someone who can host the service, do announcements, and generally be the point person for the space?
2. Make sure the venue is ready.
We’ve all experienced weekends and/or events when it was tough to predict when a secondary venue would be needed. But if you’re relatively sure you’ll need one for Easter, go all in. Have lights on, chairs up, and bathroom supplies stocked. Test the equipment, make sure things function beforehand so your production team isn’t testing on the morning of. Get trained in how the room functions, whether it’s a full set up or just knowing how to turn on the feeds. And above all, keep in mind that secondary spaces create a secondary experience, so do whatever you can to overcome that.
3. Create new volunteer roles.
Your additional venue needs people at the outer entry, people helping with seating, and people handling offering, communion, etc. Don’t let your guests fend for themselves in a new place.
4. Front-load with key leaders.
If it’s a planned venue and not reactionary, ask your staff, elders, small group leaders, etc. to attend the additional venue so it’s not “empty” at the beginning. Their sacrifice to go first will free up seating in your main venue for your first-time guests.
5. Prepare your volunteers.
Let your parking, sidewalk, outer entry, and family ministry vols know that an additional venue is in the works. They don’t need to be caught off guard the morning of. Depending on when you start filling will depend on when they start re-routing traffic. Have a clear signal that communicates to everyone that you’re moving to the new plan.
6. Maintain a skeleton crew.
You should always do this, but an additional venue day it’s a non-negotiable. When your primary space fills, have volunteers out front to redirect traffic to the new space.
7. Consider a “value add.”
A planned venue gives you a chance to make it a better venue. Offer something that the main venue doesn’t have – like donuts or coffee – as a thank you for making the move. Utilize your stage personnel to give a personal thanks to those who are moving, and to celebrate the people that God has brought to your church that day.
8. Don’t miss the chance to launch an alternative service time.
While it may be too late for this conversation this year, if you often find yourself in additional venues on Easter Sunday, think ahead to next year. Can you do a volunteer-only service on Good Friday night, and then encourage them to serve in more than one service on Sunday? Can you add a second (or third!) service time on Easter? If you already have multiple services, can you encourage people who attend your peak service time to switch to a less-attended one?
The above content is adapted from a document I share with our Guest Services Directors prior to larger events like Easter, fall attendance surge, etc.