Church Calendar Planning That Makes a Difference

May 4, 2016

I’m not a great calendar planner. As a matter of fact, I am notoriously bad with dates. When I look at a calendar to plan an event, it stresses me out. In the past, I have had to move events already advertised because they overlapped with things other ministries were doing in the church. Those experiences have made me gun shy (is calendar PTSD a thing?) and now calendaring is my least favorite thing to do. Sunday school calendar, youth calendar, children’s calendar, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, fellowship, senior adults; every church has a dozen calendars, and every calendar represents a different ministry with its different purpose and goals, and every one of them is important. When you’re dealing with a machine as complex as a church with all its moving parts, overlap is bound to happen. In an effort to minimize damage, and avoid embarrassing event cancellations and overlaps, you must be proactive about church calendar planning, and you must create one calendar to rule them all! But how can you pull such a thing off?

Do the Calendar as a Group

You can’t plan a calendar for your church or even your ministry on your own. It is very necessary for your ministry team to get together and plan a calendar together as much as it is possible. Your church calendar is a powerful tool and the number one way to accomplish your vision and mission. If you fail to do this, you’re essentially setting a precedence that this year it’s every ministry for itself. You will find your ministries overlapping and competing for resources and people. I’m not saying that you have to plan every detail, but the big things need to be decided together.

I find that summer is a great time to work on the church calendar. Sure everyone is busy, but it’s also the only time of year where ministries take an extended break from normal activities and focus on things that are already planned (i.e. camp, VBS, etc.). It gives ministries a chance to review the year and reach their mission and goals. It gives you time to readjust and refocus before the regular ministry year begins in the fall.

First Things First

  1. Start with a blank calendar, and put the holidays on it. Christmas, Easter, theses dates are immovable and affect your programming, so start there.
  2. The next, most important thing is to put in your school calendar dates, because it dictates the average family’s schedule. Make sure to include: first day of school, Christmas Break, first day of second semester, Spring Break, graduations, snow day make ups, and testing dates.
  3. Finally, don’t forget your regularly scheduled worship and discipleship times: Sunday morning worship, Sunday school time, children’s church, choir meetings, and whatever else is normal to the life of your church. These things are the skeleton of your calendar, the framework from which you will build everything else around.

Church Things Next

What are the things that your church will normally do? Do you have a graduation Sunday every year? A promotion Sunday? Missions emphasis week? At my church we have things that we do that are a given: Christmas Cantata, Easter Cantata, Spring Break Mission Trip, VBS, Maundy Thursday Prayer Meeting, Christmas Eve Service, Ash Wednesday Service, High School Camp, Middle School Camp, Children’s Camp, Elders Retreat. These are things that you know are going to happen, so, before you can even get creative, you have to put those things on the calendar. Resist the temptation to start planning them. That’s not the purpose of a calendar meeting. The purpose is to get things on the calendar and prevent overlap.

What’s Left?

Now that you have down the necessities, what’s left? What do you want to spend the remaining days and hours doing? What events can you plan to meet the needs of your congregation and accomplish your mission and goals for the year?

At my church evangelism is super important, so we would look at dates to put special outreach emphasis events. For example, we want to pick a Sunday where we will be encouraging members to invite friends and neighbors to church. We would pick a strategic Sunday for that. From that Sunday we would plan a fellowship event, a membership class, and a baptism Sunday all connected to that day, because that fits our mission and goals.

Edit, Edit, Editchurch calendar planning scissors

Churches have too much programming. It’s no secret. Please consider what sort of time demands you are making on your congregation. If you say that healthy families are important to you, but your programming interferes with family life, then you are communicating that families are not important to you.

Edit your calendars. How many hours a week are you asking the average member of your church to be at your church? Is that reasonable? If its not, then start cutting events. I think that you will be surprised by how much stuff is actually on your calendar, and, if you’re like me, you might start to feel a little overwhelmed and want to edit.

Final Thoughts

Here are some things to consider while you’re putting your church calendar together:

  1. When are your pastors going to be out for vacation, holidays, camps or missions? Remember, you are not omniscient, so don’t plan an all hands on deck event when you can’t all be there.
  2. Plan as far out as you can possibly think. I find that 18 months is generally pretty good, but, if that seems impossible, shoot for one year.
  3. Who is in charge of managing and keeping that calendar up to date? Remember, we are talking about the main church calendar. Someone has to keep it up to date.
  4. How can different ministries access it? If the youth pastor needs to check whether a lock-in he wants to plan is going to be in conflict with something else, where do they go to check that, who do they ask?
  5. Make use of program blackout dates. There are times where, for the sake of your members, blacking out programming would help. When is this? During important student testing days, memorial day, or whenever it would benefit to have just normal programming and not extra stuff.
  6. Is your event necessary? Does it meet the goals of your church? If it doesn’t, why are you doing it? Remember, mission sets the standard for programming, not the other way around.

It’s a big job to plan a church calendar. If you do it right, you’ll only have to do it once a year, and every time you do it will get easier. I promise.

Credits: FreeImages.com/Karlis Caupals

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