As we soak in the sunshine and enjoy summer, we can’t lose sight of what is just around the corner–fall and the various events that come along with that season. From kids heading back to school to gearing up for the holidays, fall is the on-ramp to the busiest time of year for churches.
To ensure successful events that don’t wear out your staff and volunteers, here are seven tips to make planning events a bit easier:
TIP #1: REVIEW OR DEVELOP YOUR FALL EVENT CALENDAR
Ideally, your church leadership approves an event calendar twelve months out. If that’s not the case, obtain agreement as soon as possible on what events you’ll host this Fall. Get the leadership of each department together and tentatively place events on a large calendar for all to see. Address any double-booked dates, facility constraints, how many times you’ll ask the same volunteers to serve in a given timeframe, and the staff workload of event planning and preparation. You may also want to find local event calendars to see if any community events conflict with the dates you’ve selected.
TIP #2: START PLANNING NOW (IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY)
If students head back to school after Labor Day, it’s best to start planning back-to-school events in June or early July. This gives your student ministry leaders time to plan a fun event. It also provides your graphics and communications teams time to generate buzz about the event.
Depending on the size and scope of your other Fall events, you’ll likely need at least two to three months to plan and make each successful. Give staff enough time to do their job with excellence. Keep in mind that events are special projects you’re adding on to regular weekly activities.
TIP #3: ASSIGN AN EVENT PLANNER TO EACH
You’ll need one person to develop the plan, keep team members on-track, troubleshoot issues, and make sure departments are communicating well with each other. If you don’t have a dedicated event planner staff member, someone already on staff who is detail-oriented and works well with teams could be a great fit. One person should be able to manage the planning effort for multiple events, so you might be able to get by with just one.
TIP #4: TALK WITH THE COMMUNICATIONS/MEDIA TEAM
Since each ministry department (Marriage & Family, Kids’, High School, College & Career, Small Groups, etc.) likely plans to host their own events in the next few months, that means a lot of work for your communications team. Pull in the event planners and the communication department head to discuss the communications requirements for each event. This list could include event graphics, webpages, registration, video promotions and announcements, tickets, flyers, email campaigns, social media advertising, and posts, etc.
Coordinate a schedule to meet the needs of each event without causing late nights for the Communications team. Consider scaling back some of your communications requests, allowing room in the event budget so Communications can outsource some of the work or finding another solution to not burn out that team.
TIP #5: WORK WITH THE FACILITIES MANAGER
Unless you host an event off-site, you’ll need to reserve rooms or the entire church facility for certain events. Talk with your facilities manager about the needs of your event.
Items to consider include:
- Is the event outside, inside, or a combination of both?
- How many people do we expect to attend? Do we have enough parking available?
- Which room(s) do we want to use for this event?
- Will we provide childcare during the event? If so, have we accounted for having security present?
- How do we need each room setup? How many tables and chairs will we need and in what configuration? What audio/visual setup will we need?
- Will we cater this event?
TIP #6: LEAVE SOME BREATHING ROOM ON THE CALENDAR
You don’t have to host something at your church every day. It’s perfectly acceptable to have some space on the calendar with nothing scheduled – especially if you have one to two large scale events planned that month. Give your staff the time they need to plan and execute incredible events. That’s tough to do if you have back-to-back events planned. Also, consider that Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t that far away. Don’t put your staff in a position where they’re going into that busy season exhausted.
TIP #7: INVITE VOLUNTEERS EARLY
Avoid the last-minute scramble for volunteers. Instead, start inviting people to serve at least a month before the event. Decide what volunteer roles you’ll need to fill and how many people you’ll need in each role. Be careful about asking the same volunteers to serve at multiple events in a short timeframe. Make sure everyone knows who is being asked to serve and try not to ‘double ask.’ If your staff contacts the same person to serve at an event in two different roles that communicates you don’t have this process organized. People are less likely to volunteer when they’re not sure if you’ve planned well or will provide clear direction.
Start planning for fall events (and through the holidays) now to make your events more impactful and less stressful for everyone involved.
Adapted from Deborah Ike article on Communication Tech