3 Tips to Crush Your Ministry Calendar
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Have you ever had those months in student ministry where it feels like you simply can’t catch your breath? You know, those months where you arrive at the end and say to yourself, “Why didn’t it occur to anyone to spread all these events out more when we planned them”?
I’ve been there! I found myself asking this question just this last year. Our team made the mistake of planning a middle school ministry and high school ministry event in the same month our church was doing an all-church baptism event along with a kids ministry event (the all hands on deck kind). All of these events happened to fall on consecutive weekends and were on top of our regular weekly programming. It was a lot. I was exhausted and desperately in need of for a vacation by the end of it.
After reflecting on what made that month of ministry so stressful, I was able to boil it down to two words: poor calendaring.
At the end of the day, that crazy month of ministry could have easily been avoided had I calendared better. So, here are some calendaring tips I’ve learned along the way that will help make your ministry calendar not only more manageable but also more strategic.
1. Plan Your Student Ministry Calendar One Year Out, And Stick To It.
This might sound like a lot of work, especially up front (and it is), but trust me when I say it’s worth it. The parents of your students will thank you, your volunteers will thank you, and future you will thank you. Taking the time to plan out your entire year’s worth of programming gives you the ability to see the big picture of your upcoming ministry year.
- It allows you to better space out your bigger events so that you’re not spreading yourself thin.
- It gives you the ability to give your families and your volunteers the dates for the big stuff you want them to be a part of months in advance so that they can plan to be a part of what your ministry has going on.
- It gives you an ample amount of time to think and plan ahead so that you can spend less time scrambling to get all the smaller details done and more time with your students and volunteers.
Once you create your ministry calendar, stick to it! Work hard to develop an annual rhythm of creating your calendar, sticking to what you have planned, and evaluating how everything you planned went at the end of the year before making any big changes.
2. Your Ministry Calendar Is Not The Only Calendar You Should Be Looking At.
It can be really easy to get into the habit of planning out our ministry calendars in a vacuum and assume that our calendar should be everyone’s top priority. News flash: often it’s not. We know as well as anyone that our families, our volunteers, and even our church’s calendars are busy. And often, these calendars impact more people and therefore tend to be significantly less flexible than our student ministry’s calendar.
So, here are a couple of different calendars you should consider as you’re making your own.
- Your church. Ask for your church’s calendar for the next year. Even if your church isn’t the best at planning, chances are they have a somewhat regular annual rhythm and can give you a pretty good idea about when the big stuff will happen over the next year (VBS, Baptisms, All-Church Events, etc.)
- Your Students’ Schools. When are your students on break? When is homecoming or prom? Is going to the home football games or wrestling meets a really big deal in your context? If most of your students are in the marching band, when is their state competition? These are all questions you should ask yourself as you calendar. The larger your ministry is, the chances of you being able to plan around absolutely everything is going to be impossible, but mapping out when all the big events are will allow you to plan out your year so that you’re not constantly competing with other things.
- Your Personal Calendar. After a busy season of ministry, you’re going to need breaks of your own to spend time resting and recharging with the people in your life who matter most. If you don’t put your personal breaks or vacations on your ministry calendar, chances are pretty high you’ll never take one.
3. Be Strategic With Everything You Calendar.
Whenever you’re planning out your calendar, a really good question to always ask yourself is, “What purpose is this __________ fulfilling?” If you’re having a hard time answering those big picture “Why?” questions, chances are you need to honestly evaluate something on your calendar. Intentionally thinking through the “why” questions ahead of time allows you to avoid doing the things your ministry have always done that serve little to no larger purpose.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from a close mentor of mine is the importance of having a clear target you’re aiming for whenever you’re planning anything. The more specific the target, the better. The more specific your target is, the more honestly you’ll be able to evaluate whether you hit your target or need to rethink some things for next time.
Maybe you’re wanting your students to get into the habit of sharing their faith with their friends, so you plan a fun event on the calendar to challenge your “insider students” to invite one friend from school to the event. Or maybe you want your small groups to build deeper relationships, so you might plan an event that only your small group students are invited to attend, and all your programming for that event is geared towards hitting that target.
Maybe you’re looking to build momentum for your ministry, but you know your ministry tends to lose some steam during the spring semester (as ours tends to do). You could be strategic with your calendar and plan a super engaging event that draws students back.
Setting those targets ahead of time gives you the ability to be laser-focused on the overall purpose of whatever it is you’re doing and allows you to cast a compelling vision to your volunteers, parents, and students about why that event is on the calendar and what purpose it’s serving within your ministry.
Planning out your calendar will either be one of your favorite things you do every year or something you look forward to with dread. Either way, being intentional with how you plan out your calendar will save you a lot of stress and scrambling during the year and allow you more time to spend investing in the lives of your students and your leaders.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What is your current calendaring strategy? What are some shifts you can make to be more intentional with what how you plan your ministry calendar?
- Are there any events on your calendar that could benefit from an honest evaluation? Which ones are they? How does their original intended purpose differ from the purpose it’s currently serving?
- What other calendars do you need to consider when making your ministry’s? What are some dates to avoid scheduling a ministry event on?
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