Relative to assurances of your receiving enough financial support from the couples who will attend your Couple Prayer Series to more than offset any expenses
incurred on your part, we hope the following considerations
of our own experiences in this regard will be helpful to you.
We have never asked a host church community for financial compensation when we facilitate a live Couple Prayer Series for them. We understand that most faith communities struggle enough with financial needs without our adding to that burden.
We do receive financial support, though, from the couples who attend the live Series we offer at their church. And we've approached this whole question of asking for financial support from attending couples in two different ways over the past five years, both of which we hope will be encouraging to you now, as you consider the pro's and con's of conducting a Series of your own.
One way we've approached asking for financial support has been to simply encourage couples to come and experience the Series with no obligations or strings attached, but on a free-will offering basis. Using this model, during the last three sessions of the Series we’ve suggested that if the attending couples have, in fact, experienced God blessing them and their family in some significant way through their Couple Prayer, they consider supporting the ministry with whatever free-will donation they feel it's appropriate to offer.
At that time, we've also found it helpful to provide small envelopes for those who are interested, just in consideration of any privacy issues on their part, as well as a basket or box into which they could drop their sealed donation at whatever time they chose.
The second model we've used is to ask for a specific "Registration Donation" from each attending couple right up front, to be sent in with their Registration Form before the Series begins. We've been suggesting $55 (quite a bit less than they’d spend going out to a movie and getting a sandwich just twice over the same six weeks), but always with the clear stipulation -- in writing on their Registration Form -- that if that suggested amount is difficult for them at that particular time, they are more than welcomed to attend anyway. There usually are one or two couples who don't feel they can easily give anything, or who offer something less than suggested, but things work out fine, always, for everyone involved.
Of these two models, we've found that suggesting a Registration Donation before the Series begins offers some clear and very worthwhile advantages.
What we’ve experienced is that filling out and sending in Registration Forms leading up to the Series is often by-passed by attending couples if nothing is asked of them in connection with their Registration. But having accurate Registration Forms is a great help to us because the information asked for on those forms allows us to count on the following:
It allows us to compile names, phone numbers, email addresses and an accurate number of the couples that will be attending a Series. It allows us to more accurately arrange the proper space and seating; to decide if things like a mic and speaker will be necessary; to have a sign-in sheet ready with attendee names already in place and nametags already made out and waiting for them. It allows us to contact the attending couples prior to the first session with a confirmation email (or phone call) that includes pertinent information or suggestions before the upcoming Series begins. It also allows us to send encouragement emails several days before each subsequent session, something that we’ve found to be very helpful all the way around. It allows us to better arrange for refreshments; to run off more accurate numbers of each Session's handout sheets; and to prepare accurate numbers of the seven Daily Take-Home Prayer Experiences (each in its own envelope) that we hand out to each couple at the conclusion of each of the six sessions. This, so that couples can then open and experience one new Prayer Experience for each day of the coming week.
All in all, these are no small advantages. And with all these things considered, we now go with the Registration Donation ($55) model instead of the wholly free-will offering model for each live series we present; again, with the clear understanding in writing on the Registration Form itself that any married or engaged couple will gladly be welcomed, regardless of whether they can offer a donation or not.
Two other important things that we've learned along the way which may help you choose your own best way to offer your Series.
1. Our average attendance has been a full sixty-percent higher when we've used the suggested Registration Donation amount model than when we've simply invited couples to come and experience the Series for a Free-Will Donation. That was a shock to us, but it was consistent over a full year's time frame.
For the more than forty-five Series we've now presented live, our average attendance with a $55 Registration Donation asked for up front has been 34 couples per Series. For the full year that we offered the Free-Will Donation model, our average attendance dropped a full sixty-percent, to just 14 couples per Series.) Possible reasons for this difference are the subject of some interesting discussions and points-of-view that we won’t speculate about here, but we did view it as a fact worth passing along to you at this time.
2. Also significant, and absolutely consistent, series by series: while our average attendance has been significantly higher when we've asked for a $55 suggested Registration Donation, our average donation-per-couple has been significantly higher when we've offered the Series for a Free-Will Donation. Just a few cents under $55 per couple is averaged with our suggested Registration Donation of that amount, but $67 per couple was averaged when we simply asked for a Free Will Donation of support from each couple.
We find that very encouraging, and hope you will, too, because it points to the fact that the Series does offer a clearly-recognized value to couples as they begin to experience what God does for their relationship and marriage in their commitment to Couple Prayer.
It also suggests that what couples are willing to give by way of support in return for your offering the Series -- in either of the two models discussed above -- will more than make up for the amount you’ll invest in acquiring and conducting the Series for them.
What it means for you at the end of the day is that however you find it best to approach offering the Series in your own Church, our experience clearly suggests that God will continue to do wonderful, often breath-taking things, for and through the couples who make sharing a few minutes of Couple Prayer together as important a part of their daily lives as brushing their teeth, or having a cup of coffee, or watching TV, or any of the other dozens of things they do every single day because they really and truly prioritize them.
As one young wife who had been through some troubled year with her husband told us, “Praying together is profound. It is the keys to the kingdom. It's foundational. It’s the solution.”
May God continue always to bless you in your ministry to marriages and families.
Bob and Kathy Ovies
Couple Prayer Series