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City First Church

The Art Of Virtual Event Engagement With Brushfire

About the Organization

We sat down with Kristen VanDynHoven from City First Church to talk through their organization, events, and use of Brushfire. City First’s Pastors Jeremy and Jen DeWeerdt accepted the Senior Pastor position in 2007 after serving the church as the Student Ministry Pastor for sixteen years. The church currently has five locations located in Rockford, Illinois and recently launched their “sixth” campus … the online campus.

City First uses Brushfire for multiple events every year. Among those events are Thrive Youth + Young Adult Conference, Original Women’s Conference, Men’s Conference, and Marriage Conference.


When there was a rise in cases of COVID-19 in the United States, the church had just started to finalize items for their heavily attended, two-weekend women’s conference, Original. With 3,000 women already registered and expecting 5-6,000 more, City First knew they needed to make a change. The conference needed to happen to allow the women to feel connected, loved, and provided with a place to have a release, but they needed to pivot to an online conference and Brushfire was ready to make the change. They already used Brushfire’s Ticketing and Registration for multiple events in the past and were currently using it for the conference at hand.


"People have been blown away by the Brushfire portion of the conference. It’s phenomenal! Every staff member loved the experience. You’re stuck with us!"
Kristen VanDynHoven
Events Coordinator

City First needed a seamless connection to their registered attendees and a way to have them watch the event. The Authentication and Paywall control feature made all the difference. Using the attendee numbers assigned when each ticket is sold to allow attendees to gain access to the event was a great success. Not to mention that some attendees fell into an “older” demographic and using Brushfire was no problem.

Furthermore, setting up the event was not stressful at all. The relationship with the Brushfire Support team has always provided great success for City First and this time was no different. The new online platform was very simple to use to get the event live. Plus, if help was needed, Brushfire was right there to help get the job done.

City First decided to do a pre-recorded simulated live event. Instead of trying to get everyone together during COVID, they compiled a seven-hour conference across multiple recordings. To make the event feel “more” live, they provided scripts to staff and volunteers who served as chat hosts and had real-time chat happening the whole time. The Host Panel was so simple to use that the night before, City First got everyone together to do a quick one-time training on the backend to get everyone up to speed and to provide a script for the whole conference so there weren’t any questions. They used Interactions for all of the altar calls, connected using one-on-one chats, and even provided extra content to those who needed it.

All the analytics provided by Brushfire Online were really helpful. Being able to know the total views, the average duration of views, bounce rate, and which content was more popular was amazing. While numbers aren’t the whole story, they are definitely part of it.

Also, being able to keep the conversation going while solving major issues in the Host Chat was a major win. It helped maintain a personal touch throughout the virtual experience.

Even since going back to live services, City First just can’t go back to only that. Online events allow them to engage with a whole different audience. Currently, online is the most attended service in the church.