Calendaring is Key
Ask any youth director, and they can probably name a time when they forgot to do something because it wasn’t written on their calendar. Something small that fell through the cracks but still needed to be done. This has certainly happened to me, and while most of the time, it has not caused major problems, I still wish I had it on my calendar in the first place.
Calendaring most likely isn’t why any of us choose to work in youth ministry, and it may not be something you are naturally gifted at. Still, it is a necessary tool to keep your youth group running in an organized manner. Not to mention saving you unneeded stress! There are many different calendars that can help you out, and the following certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all of keeping a schedule. It’s about finding what works for you and how your brain is wired.
Calendar 1: Online Combined Personal/Work Calendar
Keeping an online calendar is useful for several reasons. The first being that it is easily editable. You don’t have to worry about erasing a hole in your paper calendar when the unpredictability of youth ministry makes its presence known. Meetings get moved, deadlines get pushed forward or backward, or a last-minute invitation to a student’s soccer game can be quickly changed on the go.
Secondly, you can include both personal and work appointments and events on your online calendar with ease. I am a passionate advocate of work/life boundaries – especially in an emotionally demanding job like youth ministry – but having separate work and personal calendars can get messy really fast. I use Google Calendar, and having the app on my phone makes it easy to check my availability wherever I am and see what’s going on, both personally and for work.
Calendar 2: Weekly Calendar
As previously mentioned, youth ministry can sometimes be unpredictable. Every week can look different. So how do you keep yourself on task and ensure everything is completed? A weekly calendar! This calendar requires a bit of introspection in order to set yourself up for the most success.
First, list all the weekly tasks you have, from big to small. Answering emails, check-in meetings with the pastor, leading weekly youth group, etc. If there are specific days/times for these weekly tasks, include those as well, or if you can be flexible. For example, the staff meeting is always Tuesday morning, but you can draft small group questions whenever.
Next, decide how much energy or focus each task requires of you. Are you a naturally gifted writer, so creating the weekly newsletter doesn’t require much mental energy? Do you feel best about delivering the sermon at youth group only when you have been able to block off a chunk of time to practice where it is quiet?
Then, think about the times of day and days of the week you are most focused and/or have the most energy. Do you characteristically get more done in the afternoons after you’ve had a chance to wake up (and maybe drink a couple of cups of coffee)? Or do you find yourself hitting the 3 PM slump harder as the week goes on? Figure out what your natural rhythm is and write that down.
Finally, combine your lists. First, write down anything that has a specific day/time. Then look at the flexible tasks and your natural rhythm, and place tasks accordingly in the calendar. If you need more mental energy to plan big events, don’t put that task in a time period where you know you’re usually tired or it’s harder to focus. The rule of thumb is to put easier tasks where you have less energy and harder tasks where you have more.
Now, you can see what to work on and when you have flexible time to complete whatever else might be needed. If you schedule administrative tasks on Monday morning because you need your “beginning-of-the-week energy” to do this successfully, you now have Monday afternoon for flexible tasks without being concerned about when you’ll get the admin stuff done.
And while little things might pop up or big events like helping with Vacation Bible School will disrupt the weekly calendar from time to time, scheduling yourself this way helps prevent weekly tasks from piling up until you get to Thursday afternoon and have to play catch up.
Calendar 3: Yearly Preventative Maintenance Calendar
Ever felt like an event snuck up on you, even though you knew it was coming? You’re stressed about finding a place to host the pool party because you forgot to call months in advance. You forgot to ask parents for their child’s pictures for Senior Sunday until a week before, and now you’re panic-creating the slideshow. We’ve all been there, and creating a Yearly Preventative Maintenance Calendar can help prevent this from happening.
Start by finding a yearly calendar template you like, and order the months how you orient your ministry year. Personally, I do August-July instead of the typical calendar year, but do what works best for you.
Start by adding in all annual events as well as monthly events/tasks, from summer mission trips to the monthly newsletter on the dates they happen. Then, consider how far in advance each prep task needs to happen for each item. I recommend giving yourself more time than you might think, especially for the really big things. If you know the dates for the summer mission trip by December of the previous year, put volunteer recruitment for it starting in January. However, ordering t-shirts for the mission trip might not need to happen until April if the trip is in June. And something smaller like the monthly newsletter might only need 2 weeks in advance. Don’t forget to include other deadlines, like RSVPs for events, so that you can schedule reminders for those as well.
This is not an exhaustive list of calendars by any means, and what matters is figuring out what works best for you. But, having a weekly, monthly, and yearly calendar can be a significant step in keeping yourself organized and on top of all the tasks that go into both weekly programming and big events. Save yourself some stress and spend some time calendaring so you can be present with your students and focus on the parts of the job you love the most.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- What kind of calendaring has helped you stay organized?
- Do you have any tips for those who may not be naturally geared toward calendaring?
Ready for more articles and training? Check out these top posts!