So, a few weeks back the 15th anniversary of September 11th passed, and it fell on a Sunday. I went to church on that Sunday, and while there I realized we totally blew it. everything.church forgot to recognize September 11th. We failed to realize it would fall on an actual Sunday. We didnʼt have anything ready on our social accounts. We didnʼt preemptively write a post about the best ways your church could celebrate or honor families who might have been affected.
Granted we didnʼt miss Christmas or Easter or a religious holiday of sorts, and I know some ministry leaders don’t like to cross the lines of religion and nationalism. However, September 11th is part of our story. Itʼs part of our story in the American church as brothers and sisters in Christ. Additionally, with tensions high throughout the country because of both the election and racial injustice, there was a significant opportunity for churches to use September 11th as a time of unity. I wholeheartedly believe some churches did just that, but we still would have loved to have made that part of our own ministry platform. September 11th only falls on a Sunday once every seven years, and we would have liked to have been prepared for it.
Part of my surprise is because things like that donʼt happen to us at everything.church very often, we are usually REALLY prepared. However, in my years of ministry experience being prepared weeks and months in advance was often not the goal, nor the norm. On the rare occasion I have heard of a church who had an actual year of messages or events planned out, but more often than not we encounter churches barely surviving weekend to weekend. The fantastic thing about what Iʼm going to share today is that any person in ministry can do this and be more prepared. It would be awesome if your senior leadership team was doing this, but that may not be realistic. However, that doesnʼt stop you from being able to be as organized and prepared in your own ministry as possible.
Iʼve been in your shoes, this type of organization isnʼt fun, but itʼs necessary. Itʼs the kind of thing you just need to commit to a day and then sit down and do it. If you can have people that can help contribute and brainstorm, then thatʼs even better.
At everything.church we use trello.com. Trello is an app and organizational tool that people can collaborate on together. Collaborations take place in real time, which makes it perfect for teams. We have several boards. One has our blog content and podcast content scheduled out several months in advance. Other boards break down the steps for processes, future plans and starter packs. We have used other apps at different times, but the real-time collaboration just cannot be beaten in our opinion.
Preparing content and ideas can make you feel overwhelmed; so, when youʼre prepping to have a planning session give yourself a bit of time before the meeting to let ideas stew in your head. Be mindfully praying about the things that you think could help reach people and further the mission of your church ahead of time. Be full of energy (if that means coffee, then coffee up, if that just means sleep, then get a good nightʼs rest). Show up ready to conquer and consider these five things when trying to plan ahead.
one – highlight the dates you donʼt want to miss
Start your session by talking about all the series and events you typically put on and celebrate. In the beginning, you are just brainstorming all the good things you can think of. Start by calling out all the things you know 100% that will be coming your way or things that are deep in the culture of your church. Things like “See You at the Pole,” chili cookoffs, youth camp, VBS style events, menʼs event, small group kickoffs, and back to school drives arenʼt going to be listed on a calendar the way holidays are, so start by trying to recall these types of things. If you are in Senior Leadership and you actually wanted to apply this to sermons. Start with all of the issues, topics and principles you want to talk about, i.e., anger, love, giving, faith, honor, holiness, passion, the tongue, etc. I know tons of pastors do not have such a detailed plan for sermon prep, and I am aware many opt to preach exegetically one book at a time, but regardless of the system you use, if your system is organized, you will be able to leverage your organization to further your reach.
It is a fact that the church is shrinking. Too many Christians are sitting back and criticizing people for not letting the Holy Spirit lead or for over planning our environments, but there is a very real truth that we need to begin to understand. Google, Facebook, Apple, Walmart, Target, your political party, your news site of choice, your grocery store and every other business in the world knows everything about you. They literally know EVERYTHING about you, and it didnʼt happen by accident. It happened by strategically exchanging information about you and targeting you at the right time. If the church wants to take back ground, it will only be accomplished strategically. It will lean into the patterns and habits of your congregation and by targeting them in a new way. This is the new wave of evangelism, and we encourage you with absolute sincerity to get on board.
two – take a look at the entire year in advance
At this step, you open up a calendar before you, and you see what events and holidays are already present each month. Then you start talking about if youʼre going to do anything to incorporate ideas from New Years, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Valentines Day, Daylights Savings, Easter, Motherʼs Day and so on. These events are affecting the lives of your members, and you have to decide if there is something your church needs to plan around them to grow your community or your influence.
At this stage, you will also take a look to see if any of these holidays fall on the weekend. If they do, will it affect attendance? If you plan an event around it, will it help or will it hinder? Push all the way through until the end of the year. With greater intention, you can weave everything you do around one particular idea or thing youʼre trying to accomplish, which makes the end of the year feel very connected and prosperous.
three – pencil in ideas you have right away
During this meeting, write everything down or rather (trello everything in.) Pencil in all the events, series, classes, and special weekends you want to have. Allow your past year’s planning to guide you, as well as the actual calendar (because not every year has a presidential election or has a Sept 11th that falls on a Sunday). At this stage, if you think something might be a possibility then write it down because your creativity is flowing. While churches donʼt want to over-schedule their member’s lives, we also want to be creating events and community with more intention than ever before.
four – quarterly and monthly solidify events, programs, and series
Planning ahead happens in two distinct steps. It starts with one full-scale planning session. This might occur in one long day or over several concurrent days. You donʼt want to keep rehashing the same ideas or plans, so timeliness is essential for this first step. The second distinct step is following up on your plans either monthly or quarterly. People in ministry often do this follow-up step very casually, almost accidentally as a month or season “suddenly” requires plans.
However, donʼt let this step sneak up on you, intentionally plan out a time quarterly or monthly to finalize the coming events, plans, and series. Put these follow-up dates on the calendar at your first collaboration event. That doesnʼt mean that things wonʼt ever change at the last moment, or people wonʼt feel God prompting them to change something, but for your team to have the full bounds of creativity and excellence, they first need an outline and a framework to be able to create.
five – leave room for god to move
This post wouldnʼt be complete unless we prioritized that the reason we do all that we do is because of Him. In Him, we live and move and have our being, and sometimes God is up to things that we canʼt foresee or plan, and His way is always better than our way.
See my first point, if you think Iʼm saying, you shouldnʼt plan, cause Iʼm definitely not saying that. We need a mix of strategy, planning, and intentionality followed up by letting God just do his thing. We have to be more strategic and more intentional than any generation ever before if we plan to keep reaching people for Christ. However, when you have a plan, and God shows up, miracles happen!
Chief Creative OfficerStacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.