FAQ: How Far Ahead Should I Be Planning?

Share via:

4249518893_32cf9577c8_bI get questions. A lot of questions. Some are very particular to specific churches. Others are such common questions, they really beg to be answered here on the blog.

One of my most frequently asked questions is, "How far ahead should I be planning?"

Here's how I answer that question.

There's an element of planning that is an annual process with a view to a 12 month period. There is another element that happens in rolling 4 month segments.

3 key components to our planning process:

First, we start with a year-long calendar approach

First, we start with a year-long calendar approach where we pencil in the major pieces of our annual strategy to launch new groups. Although some of the details are exact and fine-tuned, some of the strategies that are farther removed from the planning process will be fine-tuned later.

  1. We intend to run a church-wide campaign every fall. It is without question the very best way to launch the largest number of new groups. The fall ministry season is the easiest time to recruit the largest number of new leaders and unconnected people. See also, Behind the Scenes: Developing a Timeline for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
  2. Late January/early February is another very good window to launch new groups. We like to schedule a small group connection at the end of January or the beginning of February. With its shorter promotion requirements (3 weekends as opposed to the 6 to 8 weeks required to properly promote a church-wide campaign), it makes sense to block in a connection. See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection.
  3. We drop short-term on-campus groups (a 6 week on-campus strategy that launches off-campus groups) into our calendar once or twice a year, fitting them in in late spring and early summer. See also, How to Launch a Short-Term On-Campus Strategy (that leads to off-campus groups)
  4. We've had very good success with running a "book club" approach off of Mother's Day and Father's Day. Generally, we like to begin promoting a week before the special day and start the "book club" about 10 days after the special day. This is an approach we often take in the summer as well.

Second, we are committed to developing and discipling our leaders and leaders of leaders.

You can see that these dates are pencilled in with an annual view.

  1. Twice a year we hold an on-campus event on a Saturday morning called Lead Well. The combination of a slate of breakouts (sometimes by ministry area and other times by topic) and a plenary session featuring our Lead pastor or a guest speaker allows us to invest in our leaders and leaders of leaders.
  2. 8 times a year we hold a Saturday morning gathering for coaches and groups directors (our term for leaders of leaders of leaders).

Third, after the strategies for the year are in place

Third, after the strategies for launching new groups and developing and discipling our leaders are pencilled in, we begin fine-tuning with the nearest four month segment. For example, our fall ministry season (September through December) began to be fine-tuned in mid-May (Note: The planning for the promotion sequence for our fall church-wide campaign [June through August] happened in February).

Fine-tuning includes the following:

  1. Reserving on-campus space for priority events (small group connections, location for Groups Central booth, Lead Well plenary and breakout sessions, etc.).
  2. Scheduling communication elements (promotional videos and pre-service slides, service host and sermon references, church-wide emails, bulletin inserts, website content placement, etc.).
  3. Planning meetings and discussions with weekend teachers to clarify the "ask" for recruiting hosts and participants for church-wide campaigns.


As you can see, this description of our planning process is very specific to our work at Canyon Ridge. Will your planning process be different? Most likely. The key is that there is an annual planning element and a shorter term component. Both are essential.

Further Reading:

How To Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar


What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Andrew Mason on April 18, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Very insightful Mark, thanks for sharing!

  2. markchowell on April 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks Andrew!