Written by Aaron Helman

Signing up for your events should be easy. But Is it?

If you really wanted more people to come to your fall retreat, you wouldn’t make it so complicated for them to get signed up.

Harsh, I know.

But from the perspective of a parent, I’ve got to tell you that it’s totally true.

If it’s difficult or confusing to do something that should be really simple, I’m probably not going to do it.

So, if you want a bigger turnout for your next event, your first step is easier than you thought.

Make it a lot less difficult to sign up.

I’m a weirdo who lurks around other youth ministry’s websites for ideas. It’s just that sometimes, I wind up finding ideas that are firmly in the DO NOT DO category.

Like last week, when I was looking at information about an unnamed youth ministry’s back to school prayer retreat.

It sounded great. Great plan, great schedule, great vision, great leaders.

But then I clicked to register, just to see what would happen. There was a five step checklist.

1. Fill out the online student information form.

2. Mail or deliver a check to the church for $100.

3. Print and sign; then mail, fax, or deliver a permission slip, specific to this event.

4. Print and sign; then mail, fax or deliver a student media release form.

5. Print and sign; then mail, fax or deliver a liability release form.

Listen, I know this stuff is important, and I know that it needs to be done…

…but we live in an unfortunate world where too many parents are taking less interest in their students’ faith lives; and if we take something that they barely care about and make it too complicated, then they’re not going to do it.

And if it makes you better to think about it this way, then let’s phrase it differently.

There are students who are not involved with your ministry because their parents are turds and because your processes are complicated; and since you are only responsible and able to fix ONE of those, let’s start with your processes.

So, unnamed youth ministry with an upcoming prayer retreat; here’s the quick and dirty consultation you never asked for.

This also applies to all of us youth ministry leaders out there who want to get more students to sign up for events:

1. Don’t force people to go home to visit a website. Let them register as they pick up their students from youth group. Let them use your laptop, set up a kiosk, or provide paper copies.

It’s a vital understanding of human psychology that people act on what they want to do right now more often than what they intend to do later.

I don’t know if this ministry had kiosk registration available or not, but I do know this-

If your registration process relies on seventh graders or their overwhelmed parents to remember specific instructions about what they have to do later…

…your process is broken.

2. If you’re going to let someone register online, let them complete their registration online. Literally, the benefit of online registration is convenience.

Completing an online registration only to be left with a list of things to print and mail is literally the opposite of convenience.

(Check with your church’s legal counsel on this first. You might learn that liability releases aren’t valid in your state unless they are absolutely signed.)

3. Identify the smallest barrier to entry, and call that “registration.” This system is the best; just make sure you’re not manipulative with it.

Here’s how it works.

Students (and parents) can register their students for an event simply by placing their child’s name on a list. Once you’ve done that, you’re considered registered.

Then you can send the email to parents- “Congratulations! Your student is registered for the prayer retreat. Please be sure to fill out this online form in the next two weeks.”

That form will be filled out a lot more than the exact same form framed differently- “There’s a retreat coming up and if you want your student there, fill out this form.”

(The manipulative, skeevy, and totally inappropriate way to do this is to send the first email to parents who never indicated any interest in hopes to trick them into filling out a form and subsequently sending their student. Don’t do this.)

So, unnamed youth ministry, your prayer retreat seriously sounded great. In fact, if it was a little easier to sign up, I just might have driven the 1200 miles to be there. God bless and good luck!

Liked this blog post? You’ll love this one from Aaron – Why I Forgot to Take My Son to Youth Group

Aaron HelmanAaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”


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