Let me tell you, whether you are naturally a planner or you will only plan when it’s done for you or you’re forced, calendar planning is a key to small group ministry effectiveness.
Here’s why calendar planning is important and also some keys to doing it well.
Why Calendar Planning Is Important
Although you may be be a play-it-by-ear type when you’re on your own, when you’re leading a ministry that involves a lot of people you’ve got to take the needs of a lot of people into consideration. Another very important reason that calendar planning is important is that we’re all competing for the attention of leaders. If you want your ministry to catch and hold the attention of leaders, you’ve got to plan ahead. Enough about why, here’s how to put together an annual calendar.
How To Build an Annual GroupLife Calendar
1. Keep in mind that there are two kinds of events that will go into your annual calendar.
Connecting events and strategies should be dropped in first. Right on their heels you’ll want to put in training and encouragement opportunities for both leaders and coaches.
2. The first step is to put in the biggest of the big connecting rocks.
For most of us, that will be to plug in the dates of a fall church-wide campaign and all the pieces that go with it. Most of the time that will include things like host recruiting, host orientations, and coach recruiting and training. I’ve also found it to be helpful to plug in a mid-campaign leader’s meeting for encouragement and to guide leaders of new groups into a next curriculum. The best time for this is usually end of September or the first of October. See also, Behind the Scenes: Developing a Time-Line for Your Church-Wide Campaign.
3. Another very big rock that needs to be placed is an event or strategy that will help unconnected people find a group in late January or early February.
In most cases the best strategy to connect people is a small group connection. It’s always a good idea to build in 2 to 3 weeks of promotion before the event. Also, you’ll want to plug in a new leader’s orientation no more than 10 days after the connection. See also, How to Launch New Groups with a Small Group Connection.
4. The last big connecting rock is often an opportunity to connect people after Easter (especially an early Easter).
Again, it makes sense to promote the event at least 2 weeks and choose a curriculum that will interest unconnected people.
5. It’s often a good idea to put in a connecting event for women following Mother’s Day and also men following Father’s Day. See also, Taking Advantage of Special Days to Launch New Groups.
6. With your connecting events in place…step back and look at the calendar.
Next, you’ll want to drop in some encouragement and training for your leaders. Although the idea of a monthly leadership community has been the model for some churches, I’ve rarely found that to be a workable idea. Instead, consider planning 2 annual training/encouragement opportunities that are centralized. Do everything else as decentralized events in the homes of coaches or leaders. See also, FAQ: How Are You Training New Leaders These Days? and Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Leaders.
7. I’ve found two leader gatherings a year to be about all that can be pulled off.
Early February is often a good time to schedule a Friday evening, Saturday morning event. It can be done at a retreat center or right on campus. Get your senior pastor involved in a time of vision and encouragement on Friday night. Use Saturday morning for a combination of huddle and skill training.
8. Another good time to drop in a leader training and encouragement event is at the mid-point in your fall church-wide campaign.
This allows you to build into the lives of new hosts and experienced leaders. Use the first part of a 90 minute event to allow your pastor to cast vision, tell stories and make heroes. Gather your leaders at tables with their coach (or by affinity) for encouragement for the middle segment. Dismiss to separate venues for appropriate skill training. See also, Watch Saddleback's Most Recent Host Rally.
Once you’ve got the big rocks of connecting and leadership encouragement/training in place, begin to promote an annual view of small group ministry. Use the website. Hand it out at meetings. Have it with you everywhere you go.
Add the magic of a rolling 12 month calendar
Once you have your annual calendar in place, it's easy to add the magic of a rolling 12 month calendar.
- Add to your process an automatic review of every event just completed.
- Add a "Will this happen in 12 months?" component to your review process.
The most important key to planning is to get started right away. The sooner you get your big rocks in place and publicized, the sooner you’ll see the benefits of planning.
Image by Dafne Cholet