Have you ever wondered how to plan a youth ministry calendar that makes ministry easier, rather than harder? Planning your calendar can be a daunting task. There are many things to consider and many people to keep in mind as you decide which events are most important, what teaching content to teach, and when to do what. Setting your calendar is one of the most important things you do in your ministry. It is what takes your vision, goals, and strategy from being mere words on paper to becoming a reality.
Here are seven steps to planning your ministry calendar:
Step 1: Prioritize.
What are your values in planning? For myself, I like to plan in advance so that staff, volunteers, and parents are in tune with what’s ahead and aren’t surprised when things come up. I also value planning as far out as possible, typically at least six months out for basic dates, so that I can begin promoting events 90 days out. For your ministry, you will need to determine what matters most and, specifically, determine the following:
Purposes: What purposes will your events serve? I like to plan in three broad categories:
- UP: This focuses on helping students get plugged into the ministry and experience the wonder of who God is. These are typically evangelistic for our ministry and are where we see conversions most often. An example of this would be our camps. These are our greatest opportunity for students to have spiritual collisions.
- IN: This focuses on helping students find their identity in Christ and experience community. These are typically discipleship-focused and are most useful for equipping. An example of this would be when we focus on a certain area of spiritual growth and throw an event on a ministry night with a special guest who has special experience in that area.
- OUT: This focuses on giving our students opportunities to live out their faith. These are typically missions or serving focused. As example would be annual Micro-missions in which our small groups do service projects around the city and come together for a big rally at the end.
Goals: How many events do you plan to have of each purpose? How many for different age groups, if you oversee more than one ministry area? Don’t get too ambitious. To put things in perspective, you might only do quarterly events for each of the three areas, but even that amounts to monthly events throughout the year.
Boundaries: Are there any limits you need to set? For example, you may have found that putting an event within a few weeks of another event can undermine the amount of students who participate. Instead of going to both events, many students will choose to only attend one and you end up with half the number of kids attending. For this reason, it might be smart to never do a ministry-wide event within 4-weeks of another ministry-wide event. This way, when one event is over, you still have time to promote the next event and get kids there.
Step 2: Enter “black out” dates.
Black out dates are dates that are out of your control. The most important are (a) holidays, (b) school dates, and (c) church-wide events. Start by entering all holidays onto the calendar and make note of any that will impact our events and planning. Then, enter the school start/end dates for the local school districts, as well as off-days and breaks. After that, check your church calendar for any dates already entered and touch base with other ministry leaders and church staff to see if there’s anything else you need to be aware of as you plan.
Step 3: Plan for teaching.
Remember that, as a ministry leader, your content is the driving force behind your ministry, not your events. Events can act as accelerants to growth but will never be the basis for it. So plan your teaching first, then your events can coincide. Plan your topics, themes, and book studies with your culture in mind. For example, February or March is a great time for a sex/dating series in high school because Valentine’s Day is happening and prom is typically right around the corner. If you do a teaching on spiritual warfare or fear, October is a great time with Halloween. A series on spiritual disciplines the month after summer camp can also help your students catapult into the school year refreshed and growing spiritually.
Step 4: Enter events.
Begin planning your events according to a balanced approach of UP, IN, and OUT (or whatever purposes your ministry uses). Drop in dates for summer camps, retreats, conferences, and other events as needed. It’s especially effective if you can do events that coincide with your series content. One simple way to do this is to make the first week of any series an event in itself, basically a series kickoff event that helps “tee up” the series.
Step 5: Enter milestones.
Milestones are those “other” dates that have to be done in order to accomplish your initiatives successfully. You will want to plan registration deadlines and deadlines for your team to meet goals along the way, as well as dates for marketing your events. Also, don’t forget to plan in advance for some follow-up after each event to evaluate. Add any other milestones as you think of them.
Step 6: Evaluate.
Ask some of these questions and see if your calendar measures up:
- Is our calendar balanced between our purposes, strategy, and values?
- Is our calendar in partnership with the church, community, parents, etc?
- Does our calendar adequately reflect our vision and values?
- Is our calendar simple enough?
- Do we have any ‘sacred cows’ that need to be reconsidered?
Step 7: Eliminate Excess.
You need to go through the entire calendar, based on the questions above, and eliminate some things. If your calendar is too overloaded with outreach events, for example, you may need to eliminate a couple in order to help some of the other events succeed. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to cut some fat. It’s always best to think with a “less is more” mindset.
So there you have it. In seven simple steps you took what seemed overwhelming and made it achievable! Whatever you do, make this an opportunity to ensure that your calendar will serve your ministry’s purpose and not the other way around.
Now, let’s discuss.
What part of building your ministry calendar is most difficult? What do you see as the biggest barrier to creating an effective ministry calendar?