Selecting a venue is one of the most important decisions you can make when planning a church event. It’s also one of the harder things to decide upon, and possibly one of your bigger expenses. This article will help you choose a venue for your upcoming church event.

Who should select the venue?

Before we get started, it’s important to decide who is a part of the selection process, and who has authority to make the final decision.

If you have an event committee, you may want to determine requirements as a team, have one person do initial site-visits, and then bring the whole committee in again at the end to make the decision.

For other events, it may just be an event coordinator or pastor who completes the entire process.

It’s important that no one on your team feels left out. They either need to be able to trust those making the decision, or be a part of it themselves. Make sure you don’t leave out teams such as technical, catering, staging, logistics, etc. Ideally, everyone will own the final decision. Otherwise, when things go wrong they won’t own the blame.

Identifying Requirements

The first step, before you even start looking at venues, is to identify your requirements. Make a list of what you hope to achieve while using this venue. These will be your core considerations in selecting a venue. Some may be negotiable, and others will not.

Consider these points:

  • Location
  • Capacity
  • Cost
  • Technical and logistics
  • Accommodation

Requirements can vary per-event. For example, a one-day youth event may require:

  • Auditorium capacity for 500 kids seated
  • Outdoor areas for games
  • Three-phase power and rigging points
  • Close to public transport and major roads
  • Under $2000 for the day

While the requirements for an all-weekend women’s retreat may be:

  • Auditorium capacity and accommodation for 300 people
  • Kitchen facilities
  • 10 Breakout rooms for smaller sessions
  • Quiet, outdoor spaces
  • In-house sound system
  • Under $200 per-person

When creating a list of requirements, you may end up with a very lengthy list. That’s okay, but ensure you prioritise them. You may find that no venue meets all your requirements and you need to make compromises.

Finding Venues in the Area

With the church event venue requirements identified, it’s time to put together a big, long list of venues. This isn’t a shortlist – that comes next. We want to start by casting a very wide net and narrowing it down.

If you’re new to event planning, or just new to the area, you mightn’t be familiar with what is available. Here’s a few ways to create a list of venues:

  • Where have other similar events been held?
  • What venues are preferred by others in my denomination?
  • Is there a “Christian events association” and do they have a directory?
    (In Australia, we have the Christian Venues Association)
  • Is there a general “event planner association” and do they have a directory?
  • What churches and schools in the area have suitable facilities?
  • Do the local councils have venues?

Church Event Venue Shortlist

Once you’ve created a big, long list of venues, it’s time to start evaluating those against your requirements. This can be a lengthy process.

You can probably rule out quite a few based on photos and specifications on the website. Others will take a phone call or email. Whenever you rule one out, make a note of why – this will help you go back and reevaluate your decisions if needed.

Once you’ve got it down to a handful of candidates, you can start visiting the venues and talking with the venue management in more detail.

When you start doing site visits, you need:

  • Intimate familiarity with your requirements
  • A more detailed checklist

To help you with this second point, I’ve created a checklist of sorts. This Church Event Venue Selection Checklist will help you get into the nitty gritty of the venue’s advantages and drawbacks.

With many of these items, you’ll have shades of grey. It’s important to ask lots of questions and take notes. This will help you and your team make a more informed decision. It’s impossible to remember everything that was said – so write it down.

Church Event Venue Selection Checklist

The amount of considerations for selecting a venue is seemingly endless. Here are things you should consider when selecting a venue:

  • Location
    • It it a well known venue?
    • How easy is it to get there?
    • Is there on-site parking?
    • Is the parking free, or affordable for our target audience?
    • Are there public transport options?
    • Will it be easy to direct people to the venue?
  • Facilities
    • What rooms do we have available?
    • Are there breakout spaces for smaller sessions?
    • Is there a kitchen?
    • How many bathrooms are there?
    • Is there disabled access?
    • Is the accommodation suitable?
    • Who is responsible for cleaning?
    • How much can we modify the venue’s configuration?
    • Does the venue match the “vibe” we’re trying to portray?
    • Are the facilities to a satisfactory presentation standard?
    • Are we permitted to attach tape or other adhesives to surfaces?
  •  Capacity
    • How many people fit in the auditorium?
    • How many people fit in the outdoor spaces?
    • How many people can fit in the accommodation?
    • How many cars will fit in the carpark?
  • Outdoor areas
    • Is there suitable outdoor space?
    • What happens if it rains?
    • Are there undercover areas?
  • Technical
    • What technical facilities are there in-house?
    • What technical facilities can we use?
    • Can we supply our own technical staff?
    • Will the in-house facilities be adequate, or will we need to bring in our own?
    • Does someone from the venue need to supervise?
    • Is there enough power?
    • Is the power in the correct locations?
    • Are there noise restrictions?
    • What are the acoustics like?
    • Can all the windows be blacked out?
    • Can smoke detectors be isolated?
    • How big a projector screen will we need?
    • How big a sound system will we need?
    • How many lights will we need?
    • Is the house lighting dimmable?
  • Rigging
    • What rigging is available?
    • Can we use this rigging?
    • What is the maximum load of each rigging point?
    • Can the venue supply suitable ladders, scaffold or lifts?
    • Do we need a licensed rigger?
  • Access
    • Is there a loading dock, ramps or truck access?
    • When are we allowed in to the venue to setup?
    • When do we need to be out of the venue?
    • Is there suitable flexibility in times?
    • How do attendees enter and exit the venue?
  • Cost
    • How much does the venue cost?
    • What variables are there to consider in the cost?
    • Are there additional fees we may be subject to?
    • Can you see the contract?
  • Cleaning
    • What standard will the venue be in when we start?
    • What standard do we need to leave the venue in when we leave?
    • Who is responsible for cleaning?
  • Insurance
    • What are the insurance requirements?
    • Do we need to sign any waivers?
    • Whose insurance covers different aspects of the venue?
  • Safety
    • Does the venue meet our safety standards?
    • Do any modifications need to be made to make it safe?
    • Do certain areas need to be restricted?
    • Do we have appropriate people to operate potentially unsafe equipment?
    • What is the evacuation plan?
    • Are there smoke detectors?
    • Are there fire extinguishers?
    • Are the fire extinguishers suitable for the type of event we are running?
      (e.g. no water-based extinguishers if there’s a lot of electrical equipment)
    • Is there an emergency intercom system?
    • If kids are attending, can they be suitably contained in the area to meet supervision requirements?
    • Are there nearby neighbours or others sharing the venue that could cause unsafe situations?
  • Catering
    • Is there in-house catering available?
    • Can we supply our own catering?
    • Are there kitchen facilities?
    • Who can use the kitchen facilities?
    • How can the kitchen facilities be accessed?
  • Documentation
    • What documentation about the venue is there?
    • Are there floor plans?
    • Are there rigging diagrams?
    • Are there CAD files available?
  • Security
    • Is security available?
    • Who unlocks and locks-up?
    • Will our equipment be safe if we leave it overnight?

Site Visits

I like to have at least two site visits, even for smaller events. The first is to get a feel for the venue and evaluate it against your requirements. The second is to get into the nitty gritty, and often involves more people from the technical and logistics teams.

Make sure the venue is happy to take you on more than one site visit. It may feel awkward if you cover the same things more than once, but trust me – it’s important to get this right.

By the time you do the second site visit, hopefully you’re pretty much right to lock it in.

Making the final decision

Hopefully by this point you’re comfortable making a decision. Make sure you have done your due diligence, and your managers and team are on the same page as you.

When all is ready, you can sign the contracts and proceed with organising the rest of your event.