How to Plan Church Events a Year Ahead

There’s no denying it, church events can be incredible ministry tools. Unfortunately, they can also drain your budget and burnout your staff. It is possible, however, to get all the benefits of hosting events without all the trouble. How do you do it? Plan in advance. In fact, I recommend a year out. 

No, I’m not saying you need to create a detailed to-do list a year ahead, but at least decide which events your church will host for the year. By doing this early, your team will have time to get all their ideas on the table, discuss what events are best at each time of year, and determine whether or not you need to space the events out. From my own event planning experience, doing this exercise when there’s no time crunch will help everyone to stay focused on the big picture.

Here’s how to get started planning church events a year ahead:

Step #1: Put Everything on the Calendar

This is the fun part: Get a huge wall calendar (erasable is best) and write out every event you intend to host in the upcoming year. Have each ministry department leader put their events on the calendar and make sure you include all other church-wide events.

Step #2: Organize a Calendar Review Meeting

Once you’ve written them all down in one calendar, organize an event review meeting. It’s important to have all ministry department leaders, the Executive Pastor, Senior Pastor, and ministry support department leaders (Finance, Communications, Facilities, etc.) participate in this calendar review. 

Step #3: Discuss the Calendar 

At the calendar review meeting, get to the nitty gritty of each event you’re intending to host. Here are some questions to help you move along the discussion: 

  • Have we hosted this event before? If so, was it successful? If not, why do we want to do it again?
  • Do we have too many events within a 4- to 6-week timeframe? If so, which ones can we move — if they aren’t specific to a season or holiday — or eliminate?
  • What else is going on in our church or community that might conflict with any of these events? For example: 
    • Does your community host a large charity race, fair, parade, or another big event that would conflict with a potential church event?  
    • Do you have any remodeling or building projects coming up that could impact your ability to host an event during a certain timeframe? 
    • For summertime events: How engaged is your congregation in church events during the summer months? Do most people take a vacation or do they stay around town? Consider this before planning too many summer activities. 

Step #4: Evaluate the Workload

Dive even deeper into your review discussion by evaluating the possible workload issues that could arise with too many events. Ask yourselves these questions: 

  • If you have several events within a 4- to 6-week timeframe, do you have enough volunteers to cover them without them having to work more than one event?
  • Does your staff have the capacity to handle the preparation for several events at once? For example, can your Communications department create graphics, webpages, video announcements, and other promotional materials for multiple events at the same time? Even if many of the events are department-specific, the supporting departments will work on more than one event at a time.  

Step #5: Consider the Budget

The last thing to consider in your review is the budget. Do you have a budget set (at least a draft) for each event proposed? If not, prepare those numbers before finalizing the calendar. You might find that you don’t have the cash flow to support several events at once. This could lead to you eliminating, scaling back, or spreading out events. Next week’s blog post, “How to Budget for Events”, will dive even deeper into the ins and outs of event budget planning.

Planning church events can be a bonding and exciting experience for you and your planning team, but only if you have enough time to enjoy it. With a little bit of intentional planning ahead of time, you’re setting your team up for success down the road.