Planning a long-term calendar can be tricky. There are so many things that must be taken into consideration but the benefit of a long-term calendar is that you can look far enough ahead to avoid major conflicts. Here is some very practical “nuts and bolts” advice for planning a long-term calendar.
Recruit some help
Bring someone in on the planning process with you. Another set of eyes will help to keep the perspective and creativity fresh. It may be another staff member, a volunteer, your spouse, or even a student or two.
Lay it all out
Start by laying out the calendar pages of the months you are planning. I know almost everyone uses the calendars on their phone or computer, and so do I. But during this stage of planning it helps to lay out actual paper so you can see it all at once and you are able to write (in pencil) ideas, thoughts, and suggested dates. Once you have laid out the calendar pages for the months you are planning (whether it is 4mo, 6mo, or 12mo), you are ready to start writing things in.
Start by determining conflicts
Begin by writing down any of the personal plans you have. Trips, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries, family outings, and any other thing YOU and your family have going on. This will serve as your base for planning youth events so they are planned without interfering with your family time. Block out those dates and plan around them!
Next, bust out the school calendar with all the dates of football games, dances, finals schedule, parent nights, and anything else the schools might plan that will keep students from coming to your ministry events. We have all experienced the disappointment of planning an event, market it well, announcing it for weeks only to have barely any students show up. Then you check your social networks to see posts of the playoff sporting event, major study session for a huge test, or dance pictures and it suddenly becomes clear. You didn’t throw a bad event, you just threw it on the wrong day. I know this frustration all too well, but the good news is it can be avoided by writing down the school events and planning around them.
-Vacations and holidays
Make sure to include three-day weekends, breaks, and any other holidays on the calendar. You want to be aware of when they are for a few reasons. 1. So you can use them to your advantage to plan a sleepover on a Sunday night when they are off school on Monday, or plan a spring break trip or something like that. And 2. So you don’t plan something expecting a lot of students to be there only to realize half the families in your community went out of town for the three-day weekend.
Let the actual planning begin
Now that you are aware of the dates to avoid, you are ready to start planning. This is up to you! I can’t tell you what to do I can only offer some helpful tips…
Space events out appropriately, throw in a good mix of things, be creative, and plan away!
If you want some ideas for events check out this post, 50 Themed Event Ideas.
Also, side note, remember to include promo in your planning. Promotion of events can be as big a deal as the event itself and a lot of times it doesn’t get done because it wasn’t planned. Once you have the event on the calendar, make notes on your calendar for what day to start promoting those events. Promotion could be announcements, flyers, or social media events. I usually do all of them. You are likely to get different types of students with different types of promo so, in my experience, it is best to do them all.
Planning can solve so many issues that come up in youth ministry. By simply thinking ahead and having a solid, thought-out plan, you are able to increase the quality of your ministry and hopefully reach more students for Christ.
Todd has been in youth ministry for 10 years and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com