Best Practices to Batch Plan Your Ministry Year
Want more time & less stress? Build momentum with batch planning for your small church ministry. Follow these 6 steps to create your annual ministry calendar.
This article is for you if…
- you’re responsible for a ministry area in your small church
- you struggle to find time to implement your ministry ideas
- you have job, family, and life commitments outside of ministry
Ministry Planning for the Year Saves Time
Let’s face it, none of us has extra time. If you want to have more impact with less time, yearly planning is a must. Planning for the year makes it easier to involve other people, strengthens your credibility as a leader, and minimizes stress.
- last-minute planning that has you pulling your hair out.
- procrastination that leads to crappy results.
- cancelled events because of conflicting activities.
WHY BATCH PLANNING WORKS
Batching activities is a proven productivity hack; anytime you stop and start an activity you lose time.
By doing the majority of a full year of planning at once, you eliminate the need for planning each month of the year. You don’t have to keep asking “what’s next?” or answering others as they ask ‘‘what’s next?” because everyone already knows!
In addition to saving time, batch planning builds ministry momentum, makes recruiting volunteers easier, and grows your confidence because you have pre-determined your path, and you know where you’re going.
INCREASE YOUR MINISTRY IMPACT
Planning for the year keeps the WHY in the forefront and your ministry more strategic. Instead of ending one program and starting another, each event flows into the next on purpose. So your singular events have a larger purpose as part of the greater whole.
In addition to each event being part of something bigger, your ministry is also part of a greater whole.
Just as there is a rhythm in nature, there is a natural rhythm of the church year. School seasons, other ministries, and holidays influence this rhythm, along with community events, traditions, and culture.
By planning your ministry area with your church family and outside community in mind, you’ll be riding a giant wave of momentum instead of struggling to swim upstream.
This kind of planning eliminates many conflicts before they arise, lessens your stress, and cuts down on cancelled events.
GET READY & GET SET BEFORE YOU PLAN
Set Aside a Time Block
Choose a 3-hour block of time to plan your year. During this time block you will determine a skeleton calendar.
Then give yourself just one week to finalize your calendar by double checking community events and looping in key leaders & volunteers.
Involve Others in Ministry Planning
While yearly ministry planning can be done alone, as Ecclesiates says, two are better than one!
If you have a partner in ministry, a team, or a like-minded friend, involve them in the process; take that 3-hour time block and make it a planning party instead of a lonely task!
If you are planning for youth or children’s ministry, check out this article to learn how to involve parents, volunteers, and students in the Best Youth Ministry Planning Party Ever!
Gather Your Supplies
Here’s what you need:
- Copies of any mission or purpose statements, core beliefs, and goals in your ministry area.
- A 16-month calendar with squares large enough for post-it notes. (If planning with a group, I recommend buying a large desk calendar, ripping the months out, and taping them to a wall.)
- Printouts of the Ministry Funnel
- Post-it Notes. These are great for each event idea and easy to reposition on the calendar as you plan.
- Pencils, pretty colored pens, and highlighters for color-coding inspiration.
6 STEPS TO YEARLY MINISTRY PLANNING FOR YOUR SMALL CHURCH MINISTRY
1) Revisit your mission and your vision
Remind yourself of your why.
- Why are you doing what you are doing?
- What are the results you want to see?
- How do you want people to be transformed?
Keep in mind that your beliefs drive your actions; so if any negativity or hopelessness creeps in, take your thoughts captive and return to the WHY.
Pray and ask God to direct you, and pivot where needed.
2) Put all standing events on a 16-month calendar
Mark all national holidays, church holidays, and special evening services on your calendar. Include regular church events like picnics, Christmas caroling, soup suppers, camps, missions week, fall kick-offs, Sunday school promotions, and work days.
Next, include upcoming community events like fairs, festivals, holiday traditions, school start & end dates, and even the all-city annual garage sale weekend.
Why 16 months?
Part of the genius of planning ahead is eliminating the stops and starts that break momentum. So if do your planning in May, plan all the way through the following August. Then next year when May rolls around, you already have a good idea of next steps as you start to plan again, and the momentum continues.
3) Utilize the Ministry Funnel
Use the Ministry Funnel in your yearly planning to intentionally place the right events in the right order to meet real needs. Instead of just filling a calendar, you foster relationships to grow and discipleship to deepen.
[If you are unfamiliar with the Ministry Funnel, click here to read: The Ministry Funnel, What Jesus Taught Us About Small Church Ministry]
Make several copies of the Ministry Funnel.
- Use one copy for the people you are serving. Jot in names where you think they fit on the ministry funnel.
- Use a second copy to consider what events would meet their needs and encourage their growth in each area. Jot in some ideas for outreach events, relationship-building events, and discipleship events.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all ministry!
Your ministry may not look like any other church ministry, because your community is unique, on purpose; God designed it that way.
You may not need equal amounts of events in all areas on the ministry funnel; this is about being intentional and meeting needs, not filling in the worksheet.
4) Design Your Ministry Calendar
Follow these two rules for planning your yearly calendar: don’t overplan and don’t overthink.
One of my favorite mantras is: Done is better than perfect. Your goal is to sketch in a working calendar, not a perfect calendar. This can be done in an hour or less.
First consider the standing events already on your calendar from Step 2.
Remember this truth: great ministry isn’t about doing more things, it’s about being intentional with the things you’re already doing. Think about ways you can join in events that are already on the calendar.
Here are a few examples:
- Your church hosts an all-church work day. You might plan your women’s ministry to organize the children’s Sunday school rooms. So the church work day now doubles as a women’s service project.
- Your church hosts Lenten soup suppers. You might use that opportunity to host a table for your discipleship group, with discussion questions about community fasting. So the soup supper now doubles as a discipleship group event.
- Your town has an annual garage sale. You might plan a youth group garage sale that same day as a fundraiser for the Compassion Child they sponsor. So the community garage sale now double as a youth service event.
Hijacking existing events like this doubles the benefit and lessens your effort, because much of the planning and promotion is done for you!
Second, supplement your own events to fill the calendar.
Add your event ideas to the planning calendar, being careful not to overschedule.
In addition to regular weekly services, classes, and programs, more than one event a month (including the all-church events) is usually too much for a small church. Strategic quarterly events might be a great choice!
Consider the Ministry Funnel and how one event can flow into the next to build relationships and depth in discipleship. Here are a few examples:
- A youth lock-in (with an outreach emphasis) might be followed the next month by a game night (with intentional community building) and then by a service project a month later with a Bible Study highlighting Jesus’ call to serve the poor and feed the hungry. This progression of events offers an opportunity for deeper relationships and growing discipleship.
- After summer vacations when people are more disconnected, a women’s retreat in September may have the theme of Growing Friendships. On the other hand, a women’s retreat after the Lenten season might have emphasis on reflection with a deeper theme of spiritual growth.
5) Schedule Team Meetings
Now that your ministry events are on the calendar, consider team building. Add team meetings into your calendar, including vision casting, training, appreciation, celebrations, and your next annual planning.
Remember that volunteers are part of your ministry. Your call is to pour into them, so make sure it gets on the calendar! For more on team building, check out The Ultimate Guide for Finding, Keeping, and Appreciating Volunteers.
If your team is currently just you, still block those times for vision casting, training, appreciation, celebration, and planning. Even if you feel alone, you still need to create your vision, grow in skill, celebrate, and plan!
[If you work with children and/or youth, schedule at least two parent meetings (or parties) during the year. Use these times to cast vision, share policies and updates, develop relationships, answer questions, and minister to families.]
6) Add Personal Vacations & Breaks for Renewal
Finally, choose two consecutive weeks during the year when you will not think, plan, do, or even answer phone calls about ministry. This is a focused time to rest, recover, and grow in personal discipleship.
Consider your ministry’s rhythm when you choose this time. If there is not an untouched two weeks for this to fit, move calendar items or delegate them so you don’t have to attend.
You may even want to add quarterly retreats or family weekends when you are on break as well. You are first a disciple of Jesus, and you need to prioritize times of rest and renewal. (Breaks for renewal are not optional if you want to serve well in ministry.)
BEFORE YOU PUBLICIZE YOUR CALENDAR, SHARE IT WITH THESE PEOPLE
Don’t get too attached to your dates until you bring several others into the loop. Hold your plans loosely, and be ready to pivot until you’ve shared with the following people.
Pastor and/or supervisor
Share your calendar plans, including your vacation dates, with your pastor, board, or anyone else who supervises your ministry.
Ask for their wisdom, advice, and support. Remember, you are part of a larger ministry. Cast vision where you can, submit where you need to, and work as you are part of the greater body.
Your Ministry Team
Hopefully your ministry team was part of the planning. If not, share your ideas and plans with key volunteers. They may catch conflicts you missed and have great ideas to add.
In small churches, it often only takes one family on vacation to impact the success of an event. Share dates and plans with those families you are counting on. Make sure to include your own family too!
If there is already a conflict, better to know now and re-plan if you choose. If no conflicts exist, families will appreciate that you valued them enough to consider their schedules.
Other Staff Members & Ministry Leaders
Share your calendar with ministry leaders in other areas. This is not about staking a claim to your dates; this is about showing value to them and their ministry areas. You also benefit from their wisdom, input, and support.
Once again, this helps head off conflicts before they arise, and you may choose to adjust your calendar in places to accommodate their needs.
Sharing your yearly plan with other ministry leaders also inspires them to think ahead, builds more support for your programs, and may spark a greater vision of collaboration.
Once you’ve looped in all those people, you are ready to put it in ink!
Now your calendar becomes a tool to develop a promotional plan, recruit your team, delegate specific events, and make it happen!
MAKE YOUR YEARLY MINISTRY CALENDAR WORK FOR YOU
Keep your yearly calendar in view to power your team meetings, build excitement, and make this your best year ever. Send it out on magnets, print it up on flyers, and share it with the world!
Who could you share this post with for more support and partnership? Forward this post to your pastor, other ministry leaders, and your volunteers. You’ll gain more support and a little accountability to make it happen!