The Beast Feast in Conway, Arkansas, reaches 2,500 men each year and has sold out for sixteen years in a row. I am often asked what the secret is to its success. I had the privilege of being the senior pastor of the church behind that event until I left to serve pastors at Lifeway almost three years ago.
As you seek to mobilize your men—as well as reach unchurched men and boys in your community—here are seven ideas that I hope will help you.
1. Recruit a strong lay leader.
Marty Sikes was our original Men’s Ministry lay-leader when I became his pastor in 2001, and he simply asked me how he could inspire the men in our church beyond a Bible study. We discussed several ideas, including a wild game dinner. Little did I know I had unleashed the beast of Beast Feast who would lead a lay-team of 50 men for 7 years, until he was called to be a pastor. Another layman, Chris Green, successfully succeeded Marty and has led very well for almost 10 years. Chris works on this one event all year long and says this about it, “It is very rewarding work and so much fun.”
2. Host it off campus if you can.
Our very first Beast Feast was at our church facility. We shoved 500 guys into our fellowship hall and surrounding rooms. The next year, we moved BF to a former Walmart building and also rented several other facilities before our county built a new fairground facility which became BF’s ultimate home.
If your primary objective is to reach lost men and boys, host your event in a neutral place that makes them less apprehensive. If your objective is having a men’s fellowship, then there is nothing wrong with hosting it at your church.
3. Market like you mean it.
I am embarrassed by some of the cheesy promotional graphics I have seen for men’s events. Some look more like advertisements for Mary Kay cosmetics. Some churches spend countless hours and thousands of dollars on an event that nobody hears about because they skimped on the promotion. Often this happens because the Men’s Ministry Team has not recruited young people (or professionals) to help them with graphics, social media, etc.
4. Feed them like men.
Your best advertising will be the satisfied attendees from the year before. One of the things that brings men back with their sons, fathers, and neighbors in tow is the food. The Second Baptist Beast Feast Team borrowed, then eventually bought commercial grade smokers and heaters so we could throw down two big slabs of hot, tender pork loin on each guy’s plate.
(Even more amazing, they feed 2,500 guys in 25 minutes.)
5. Get generous Sponsors and Prizes
We eventually figured out a way to connect small prizes with ticket numbers with a computer program that picked winners randomly. We then post the winners’ numbers in the prize area for immediate pick up. There are enough prizes for half of the ticket-holders to win. The church staff and BF Team are ticketless, and thus ineligible to win any prizes.
I strongly suggest that you wait to award the grand prizes until after the message. Make sure they are really good prizes, even if you can only afford to have a few. Corporate sponsors kept ticket prices down (half the cost of the event), but also kept the grand-prizes grand.
It is important to (briefly) thank sponsors in proportion to their investment. Future sponsors are sitting out there and taking notes for next year. It is equally important to weed out sponsors whose products don’t fit your audience or ethics.
6. Find compelling speakers.
Two common mistakes I have noticed in other wild game dinners is asking the wrong person to speak, or waiting too long before asking the right person.
Not all preachers can connect with an all-male audience, especially one that is targeting unchurched men and boys. I have spoken at several of these dinners because I am an outdoorsman who doesn’t use preacher-esque language or cadences. However, I never spoke at one of the Beast Feasts so guests to feel like they walked into a church ambush.
If you want good speakers make your requests at least a year in advance. Pay your speaker well and cover his travel, lodging, and other expenses. I have helped the BF Team find and acquire a few speakers, so I know that this is one of the most difficult tasks on the team’s list.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes
Always do a post-event evaluation. Almost without exception a few things don’t work as planned. Make adjustments as needed to make the next year even better. You don’t want next-year’s crowd thinking, “Why didn’t they fix that slow line/cold food/bad sound so obvious last year?”
Your event can effectively reach men and boys who are unchurched, unsaved, and uninterested in attending on Sunday mornings. The lost are not the only ones who benefit. Watching the men of Second Baptist go into missionary mode each year has been one of the greatest blessings of my ministry.