Event Planning Made Simple

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” 
– Winston Churchill

Events are part of youth ministry culture. A chance for relationships to be built and deepened with and among students with the ultimate hope that they will find and grow in relationship with our Creator. Ideas, themes, and purposes vary, but events are crucial to what we do.

The importance of planning an event well is easily overlooked. Planning certainly is not as fun as the event itself, and it also takes time, which seems limited to all of us. Whether planning and details is your thing or not, here are a couple of things to help you kick your event planning up a notch or two.

Calendar

A year-long calendar in front of you can help you stay on track with event planning. Yes, setting dates a year out is possible! Start with dates provided to you – Global, Regional, Field and District NYI events and then add local church (annual events, etc) and community events. By putting all these events on a calendar or listing them by month, you can see where students and families might be overloaded or where there is a gap where a youth ministry event could nicely fit. One big event per month (no matter whose event it was), is enough for my students.  (Tip: You also might want to take a look at school calendars to find out key dates to avoid, like homecoming, or possible event dates when students are off school.)

A yearly youth ministry calendar will come in handy when talking calendar with church staff. You will also find that there are a few parents in your youth ministry who will love you for planning this far ahead. They may even be the ones to come alongside you to help plan these events.  

Once the dates are set, you will just make small tweaks throughout the year as needed. Try to update the calendar quarterly so you are always a year out. Each week, set aside a little bit of time in your schedule for event planning. Whether it be an entire day, an afternoon or an hour, a lot of the event details can get knocked out preventing them from sneaking up on you last minute.

Tip: Most events have the same details – location, transportation, budget, promo materials, speakers/personnel, swag, etc. Creating a checklist to remind you of these needed pieces can be really helpful to keep you on track when you swing back into planning mode each week. Once you have a basic event checklist, just update and tweak as needed for each event.

During your event planning time, pull out the calendar and start with the closest events, those happening the soonest, so you can wrap up the last minute details. Be sure to save time to plan further out and make arrangements for events down the road to save yourself from scrambling at the last minute.

Tip: Planning a budget is one of the first – and ongoing – pieces to event planning. Creating a budget template can help remind you to include and stay on track for costs associated with event space, lodging, transportation, food, supplies, speakers/personnel, swag, promo materials, scholarships, etc. Once you come up with a template, you just have to fill in the blanks for each event.

Communication

In addition to an up to date calendar, communication is extremely helpful in event planning. While the calendar is a great start with church staff, parents and youth volunteer staff, continue to provide them with the important information leading up to the event. As dates, times, or locations change when you get into the actual plans, share that information with those who need to know.  Your communication timeline is often tricky because you have the extreme planners and those who fly by the seat of their pants. Aiming to get information for the extreme planners helps you stay ahead of the game and you can always bring the last minute people along as you go.

Tip: Recruit the parents who are planners to help you plan events for their students. It can be a win-win for you and them!

There are so many ways to communicate information. Use as many methods as you can to reach as many students and families as possible. Early on in the event planning process, use a save the date card, promo in the monthly parent email, and posters in the youth area containing minimal information like name of the event, date, time, location and any other big details you already know like speaker or activities. When you are ready to really promote the event and have students register, use a registration flyer or packet, email to parents, posters, bulletin announcement again listing the same information from before, but adding cost, registration deadline and any other details such as things to bring list.

The days leading up to an event is time to communicate the last minute details and reminders through text, email, and social media. Communicating well ahead of time cuts down on the amount of information given at the last minute, which is generally a good thing for you and for participants.

Tip: Many of your communication methods can share the same content or design. Even if they are scheduled to go out at different times, you can create them all at the same time ahead of time so they are ready to go when needed.

 Event planning is probably not ever going to be as fun as the event itself! But recognize that it is essential for the event and your students so you can get it done sooner rather than later.

Jana Burnham

Jana Burnham

Jana is an ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene currently serving in the USA/Canada NYI Office. She has been involved in youth ministry for 15 years and is a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University. Jana and her husband Jason have 2 girls, Mackenzie and Madelyn.
Jana Burnham

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