Every so often I’m asked “what can I do to get local churches to allow me to hold a concert in their facility?” I answer that question WITH a question: what are you giving back? In other words, of what benefit will it be to that local expression of the Body of Christ if you come in and sing your little heart out and sell your CDs and T-shirts?
As a former church business administrator and minister of music I was the guy on the “other side of the desk” reviewing press kits, listening to pitches by artists and traveling music groups wanting to play in our facility, and generally vetting all the requests before they reached the senior pastor. (You’d be shocked at how many press kits were never opened simply because they just looked bad. My trash can runneth over many days with really bad school folders masquerading as press kits. TMA clients don’t have that problem, I’m happy to report!) The artists/groups that DID make it through my vetting process and on to the next step in approval were those whose purpose was to build the local church and evangelize the lost.
Now that I’m on the side of the desk where I’m doing the pitching (or my artists are), I make sure the local church understands that my artist or band desires to strengthen and build their local assembly, not come in and financially rape the congregation, leaving nothing behind but a dirty building and a drained “special events” bank account.
The issue many churches have with booking on nights when their facility isn’t being used is, in most cases, purely economical. Heating/cooling/lighting a building is expensive and they’re afraid they can’t cover those costs. I always encourage my clients to let the host pastor know they will cover operational costs through an offering back to the church (unless they charge a fee, which they should readily agree to cover).
Churches are always leery of “outsiders” coming in, especially unknown indie artists, using their resources for personal or professional gain, doing nothing for the local assembly. If you structure your music ministry so that it gives back and helps build the local church then you’ll find more pastors willing to host your concerts on off-nights when their facility isn’t in use. They may even help cover some of the promotions and marketing costs if they perceive the added value it will bring to their existing ministry outreach efforts.
An evangelistic outreach or an event billed and promoted to help build the young adult group, for example, proves that you’re more interested in helping edify the local church than in selling CDs and t-shirts. It’s all about how you structure your concert ministry and communicate that to prospective hosts, especially churches. If the local pastor knows that you’re going to reach out to a specific demographic with the express purpose of helping his church increase its effectiveness in evangelizing and ministering to that group, then he’ll be more amenable to hosting your event.
At the end of the day, when you lay your head down on your pillow and thank God for blessing you with a music ministry, can you also thank God for allowing you to help build His local church in some small way? After all, that’s what it’s all about.