Whether transporting their guests to the canals of Venice or inviting them to explore the countryside, Hillsboro (Kan.) MB Church’s Men’s Ministry annually hosts an evening of good food and entertainment known as the Valentine’s Extravaganza.
Props have included a Venetian bridge, a rusted car with a tumbleweed in the grill and straw bales draped with a cow hide in front of a barn door.
But the Extravaganza is more than displays of creativity and a catered meal. What began as a way for Men’s Ministry members to show appreciation for their wives has turned into an area-wide outreach event each February.
Setting the stage
Planning begins at least six to eight months in advance for the Valentine’s Extravaganza team, a subcommittee of Men’s Ministry.
In February, the team brings that year’s theme to life, transforming the church fellowship hall with a decorated event stage, lights, roses, themed décor, party favors and a backdrop for photos in the lobby. It takes as many as 60 people to pull off the event, including greeters, childcare workers and servers.
The evening begins with a catered meal followed by that year’s entertainment—usually a musician or comedian—and ends with a short message.
Lead pastor Jeremy Matlock says he ensures the Gospel message is presented.
“I wait (and) listen to what the artist is doing and how much they explain it,” Matlock says. “Sometimes they share their story, but there’s not the clear invitation or Gospel message. Sometimes they do. So, I play off of whatever they do and then wrap it up with either the Gospel message or an affirmation.”
An annual outreach
Men’s Ministry held its inaugural Valentine’s Extravaganza—then called a banquet—in 2008.
Team member Ron Duerksen says the Extravaganza began as a way for men to show appreciation for their wives, but as the event has grown, the focus has shifted to outreach.
“We continue seeking entertainment that will touch hearts, change hearts,” Duerksen says, recalling how one woman came to know Jesus at a Valentine’s Extravaganza and passed away not long after. “The main goal is to reach people and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Entertainment has included well-known comedian Ken Davis, musician Mitch McVicker and Christian recording artist Mark Schultz who headlined the 10th annual event in 2017. Other entertainment has included musicians Citizen Way, I Am They, Tim Timmons and Rhett Walker and comedians Kenn Kington and Dennis Swanberg.
HMBC has hosted an event every year since 2008 despite a few hiccups. Before the 2019 “Just Breathe” event, the team had a chance to practice that technique when artist Jonny Diaz got stuck in the Dallas airport and local talent stepped in to provide classical piano music. Planners moved the 2021 event featuring comedian Nazareth to the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No longer a guest
The Extravaganza not only allows the HMBC congregation to join friends for an enjoyable evening but also creates space to invite those who might not attend church. That’s the case for one HMBC staff member who started attending HMBC after coming to a Valentine’s Extravaganza.
Daniel Moss and his wife, Candace, had been talking about finding a church home for their young family. When a golfing buddy invited the couple to the 2015 Extravaganza featuring Ken Davis, the Mosses accepted the invitation.
“We came and it felt very welcoming, so we started coming (to church) the following Sunday,” Moss says. “We’ve never stopped since.”
Now Moss serves on staff as HMBC ministry coordinator and facilities manager, as well as on the Valentine’s Extravaganza team.
“Our biggest goal is to make sure people in this community and the surrounding communities have that opportunity to hear (the Gospel) outside of a Sunday morning church service,” Moss says. “A goal for me personally with this event would be to make sure that I’m reaching out to somebody that doesn’t walk into these doors on a regular basis.”
Hope in the fire (and flood)
Organizers selected 2023’s entertainment, singer/songwriter and author Ginny Owens, long before a frozen water pipe on Christmas Eve flooded the HMBC building.
The flood necessitated a change in venue from HMBC to Tabor College for the Feb. 18 event, where the theme, “Hope in the Fire,” may have resonated with members of the congregation recalling another natural disaster: the 2004 fire that destroyed the church building.
The photo backdrop included a fire pit and flames spelling “hope.”
With Tabor’s auditorium holding more than twice the 360-seat capacity of HMBC’s fellowship hall, the team marketed the concert more widely, including in Tabor students’ mailboxes and on local radio stations. For the first time, the team offered the entertainment free to the public following a ticketed catered meal.
For Matlock, the Valentine’s Extravaganza helps accomplish HMBC’s mission.
“I see the church as family on mission, and so I think this event accomplishes both—the twofold purpose of us being family, but also reaching unchurched people,” Matlock says. “My hope is that people who wouldn’t normally come through the door of the church would come and hear the Gospel and meet our people and feel like they could come on Sunday.”
Janae Rempel is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Rempel is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Rempel graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She attends Hillsboro MB Church.