4 Tips to Reduce Last-Minute “Planning”

“I have an idea…”.  These are the four most dreaded words for any planner. In the context of the church, a close second would be, “Hey, let’s (insert big event idea here) next month!”.  Though these sentences often come with good intentions from the one speaking them, all the event organizer hears is, “Let’s add more work to your already overflowing to-do list.”  

As you know, planning events is a tall order. Often it includes promoting the event, finding volunteers to work it, renting space to hold it, buying or making decor, securing food plans, and too many other details to list.  Add a tight deadline and a few extra “ideas” to the mix and you have a recipe for stress and late nights at the office. So if you’ve been hearing those dreaded words a lot lately and feel like your team is in a vicious cycle of last-minute planning, here are four tips to break the cycle.

Tip #1: Bring up the Budget

When it comes to ministry, money isn’t everything.  It is, however, part of the church event planning equation.  Sometimes you have to bring up the budget to add a dose of reality to those regular procrastinators on your team.  The next time a department leader mentions a last-minute event he wants to do, kindly ask him about the budget for that event.  If he didn’t include that event in his department’s annual budget, then he’ll have to request an exception or reallocate budget dollars from the budget.  It’s my experience that if you do this often enough, your repeat last-minute offenders will start speaking up more in annual budget planning meetings.

Tip #2: Provide Options

Now, Tip #1 only works if the procrastinators report to you.  It doesn’t work if the person dropping last-minute ideas is the Senior Pastor.  In this case, brainstorm a few options on how to make his vision happen on short notice.  Those options should include the corresponding price tag, how many volunteers you’ll need, how much overtime the staff members will need to work, etc. Of course, be respectful in how you deliver these options. It’s not about trying to get the pastor to ditch the idea in light of the dollar and time costs, but to make sure he clearly understands the potential impact of this last-minute decision.  I’ve personally worked with leaders who were frustrated at staff members who didn’t inform them about these impacts. When they learned of the real time and money costs after the fact, they wished they’d known ahead of time so they could have made adjustments or scrapped the idea completely. In short, know the full effects of a last-minute event before you begin to plan, and make sure your leaders know, too. 

Tip #3: Listen & Be Proactive

We all have different talents and abilities. Some of us are hardwired as planners while others are dreamers.  Both sides of that spectrum are important to strengthening the reach of the ministry. What’s also important is taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives.  I encourage you to get to know your visionary team members or leaders. Find out what drives them and why they tend to come up with these big ideas somewhat late in the game.  Then, help them understand how you can make their ideas happen when you have sufficient time to plan. Commit calendar dates to discuss the next 3-6-12 months and use these scheduled meetings to get their creative juices flowing.  These sessions are a great way to gauge what ideas they really want to execute. From there, schedule additional session time to brainstorm on specific ideas. 

Tip #4: Offer Tips & Planning Tools

Since some of us are more geared to plan than others, take the time to share your knowledge.  Offer a few planning tips at a staff meeting, share your best planning tools and strategies, train staff and volunteers on how to use a central project management tool (Asana, Basecamp, Trello, etc.).  What’s important here is to look inward for ways you can help your team members. Don’t just get frustrated by someone’s lack of planning, but educate them on how not planning ahead creates extra work for everyone — and ultimately costs more.  
As I’ve discussed before, there are many steps to take that can help with planning events ahead of time. I truly believe that once your entire church team understands these steps and the benefits of this practice, last-minute event planning will be a distant memory of the past. Go forth and plan ahead!

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