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Programming Large Events
Keeping the Attention of the Big Crowd

Question: What do you do with an audience of over 1,000?

Good question. It's not like you can roll up a newspaper and start playing "Newspaper Name Smack!" (one of my top 20 favorite games) Many people go straight to UP FRONT GAMES, which can be entertaining. But are there activities that involve the whole audience? What do you do that entertains, yet doesn't take away from the speaker?

Programming for huge audiences is a whole different ballgame than standing in front of 30 kids. If our purpose is to share the Gospel with kids, how can we get the attention of a crowd and transition smoothly to the speaker, without setting him or her up for failure?

To answer this question, I’ll walk you through an experience I had doing exactly that.

THE CHALLENGE:
1. The audience should be happy to be there right away! In the first 30 seconds that junior high students sit down for a program they are asking themselves, "Is this going to stink or what?" Answer that question "NO" right away!

2. Get the audience involved in something right away. Don't let them sit there on their bum and get bored!

3. Get the audience used to looking and listening up front (as opposed to talking with their friends next to them like in a coffee bar with stage entertainment as background music).

4. Create a smooth segue from your activities to your speaker! Don't give them a reason to tune out because "the fun's over and the speaker has begun!"

HOW WE PULLED IT OFF:

BY GOD'S GRACE!!!

Psalm 127:1 says
   "Unless the Lord builds the house,
        its builders labor in vain."

Don't leave God out of the process. I've messed up plenty of events that God blessed regardless!

Here is what we did, with God behind the wheel!

PRE-SHOW:
As kids sat down we had a PRE-SHOW M.C. This M.C. entertained them as they waited for the show to start. We had our M.C. bring up two kids on each side of the stage. Each one had four of his friends duct tape him to the wall. Each half of of the crowd cheered for their kid. In the mean time the M.C. got everyone seated and let them know when the program would be starting.

COUNTDOWN:
Our M.C. then counted down from 10 to the awaited start time and an off-stage mike introduce our two M.C.'s for the evening.

SURAN-WRAP BODY PASS
We immediately got 4 staff members from the crowd for the SURAN-WRAP BODY PASS. (Have them pre-arranged for a quick transition- use JONATHAN'S GAME LEADING TIPS. We had each staff member stand in front of a given section of crowd that cheered for their staff member. Have each staff member grab about 3 or 4 kids to "wrap them."(again, pre-arranged) Hand each group 3 or 4 rolls of Saran Wrap, tell them to mummy them and yell "Go!" (I tell the staff to put their hands in the air so they have them free for later!)

When they are wrapped up- ask the crowd what the best way to judge who is wrapped the best- then announce that you have an idea. "Pick them up and pass them to the back of the crowd and back up front again. First section to do that wins!" (helmets aren't a bad idea!)

LET'S MAKE A DEAL
We drew 5 names from the audience and brought them on stage, each one to win a prize. My assistant walked on stage with a big box labeled "BOX 1." I told the young man on stage that he could have the box or . . . $10. He wanted the box. I dug in my pocket and offered him another $10, a total of $20. This went on until he finally took $40 cash. We revealed box #1 contained a $5 container of liquorice.

Contestant #2 learned that previously the money was the better option. However, when I offered him box #2 he wanted it. I offered him $40, then $60. Some of the crowd is yelling "take the money!" The other half of the crowd is yelling "The Box! The Box!" He still demanded the box. Finally I offered him $80 cash . . . he took it. We opened box 2 to find a TV/VCR combo worth almost $200. The crowd went crazy!

Contestant #3 was convinced that the box was pretty good! We went through the same thing and after he still demanded the box after offering him $40 cash, I told him he could have the box! We opened the box . . . and he won a TROUT!!! Yes, a cold dead fish! The crowd went crazy! You should have seen the poor kid's face.

Prize 4 was a singing stuffed reindeer and prize 5 was a certificate to our next XtremZ event.

THE TRANSITION
My co-M.C., who has a good command of the audience, used the certificate to talk about the speaker at that XtremZ and how much he meant to him. I interjected a word or two about tonight's speaker and how much kids have enjoyed him and requested him back! We then prayed before we brought up the speaker. This got the audience quiet and focused.

THE SPEAKER
I always use a funny speaker at this event. Humor breaks down walls, crosses racial barriers, and keeps kids attention. The speaker shared the Gospel and a couple hundred kids came forward to receive Christ (67 made first time decisions that night- praise God).

FINAL 15
What then? We had about 200 kids leave the room with over 100 adult counselors. Now we have 15 minutes to kill before the end of the program.

First, I use this opportunity for the speaker to talk to the remaining crowd and share some final words. Each speaker handles this differently.

ICE-CHEST
Then we have some fun! We played a game that Ian Longtin just submitted to my web page. Get some guys (3-4) that think they're pretty tough. Tell them that you're going to have a contest to see who is the "coolest!" Have them change into some x-large shirts that you have for them and have them tuck the shirts in. Then have a team mate (or team mates) run with cups of ice to fill up the shirts. You'll need a lot of Ice, shirts, cups, and buckets or actuall ice chests to hold the ice in. Also have towels for them when the game is over. You can judge the winners by how much ice they got in the shirt in a given amount of time or by how long the guys could stand having the ice in their shirts. It was a big hit!

If you enjoyed this article from Jonathan McKee, learn even more about programming and budgeting in Jonathan's award winning book, Getting Students to Show Up!
(Get the book at a discounted price here)


Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.



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