As many of us wrap up our school year, it is a perfect time to begin the calendaring process for next year. For many of my colleagues, the thought of calendaring an entire year out is an overwhelming task. If that is you, have now fear, there is this amazing FREE tool that I have recently come across to make this process quite easy. Here is my process:
1: Find 2 hours of time in schedule to work on this
2: Go to PDFcalendar.com and set in the calendar dates from the last school year.
3: Fill in all the lessons and events that you did over the course of this last calendar year.
3a: If you can not accomplish this part of the process, have no fear, just know that you might need a little more than 2 hours. The only way to improve, is to honestly reflect and evaluate our past actions. The only way to make sure we are providing a balanced program in terms of curriculum and events is to map it all out ahead of time. There is no time like the present to begin mapping this stuff out. So skip to # 6 and begin from there.
3b: If you have never thought through how to develop your own ministry plan, click the link so read a series I have written a while ago to walk through this process.
4: Evaluate the effectiveness of your curriculum, lessons, and events. What is worth while in keeping? What should never be done again? What might need to be put on hold for another year or so?
5: Evaluate the balance of your program. Are you providing enough diversity of teaching topics and styles? Is your event calendar have events that would be classified as fun, outreach, discipleship, missions, community building, service, etc. Many of us simply do the things we are passionate about. By laying it all out in front of you, it is now possible to make sure that your ministry reflects the larger values of the church and not just your pet projects.
6: Go back to PDFcalendar.com and type in the dates for the upcoming year.
7: Before you freak out with all the open space, lets start with crossing out the dates where there won't be program. These are natural breaks like Thanksgiving week, Christmas Break, Spring Break, etc. These breaks will naturally break down you calendar into four manageable parts. Fall, Holiday, Winter, Spring.
8: Fill in the curriculum that you will be doing at youth group and / or Sunday School for the entire year. Think of all the things that need to be communicated and spread them around in a way that is appropriate to the school calendar or big trips. If you use curriculum then look ahead and write down the topics.
9: Fill in the events. If you are responsible for both Jr and Sr high, then color code it so you can easily see the flow of events better. For our calendar we want to provide a balance of fun, connection, discipleship, service, and mission. Some events are annual and great, some are sacred cows that I haven't had the guts to kill yet, some are new events completely that I can't wait to try. Mapping them out ahead of time allows you to use the calendar to your advantage as opposed to being a slave to it. Spread out the love and create a calendar that will be a tool to move toward your vision and goals in ministry.
10: After all this hard work, put it away for a week.
11: Look at it again with fresh eyes. Make the appropriate tweaks. Submit it to your supervisor for review.
12: Make sure you get this document into the hands of all your volunteers and parents.
13: Soak up all the goodwill that this exercise just gave you. Parents want to trust you. By laying out your curriculum and events a year in advance you have just made it incredibly easy for them to do just that.
14 (optional): Find some graphically clever way to present it. The wow factor is another way to build excitement and anticipation for the upcoming year.
Below is my calendar for the year. As you will see, there is nothing fancy or amazing on it. It is a standard, average, youth ministry calendar. There is an intentional scope and cycle to our curriculum, and a balance to our events. Feel free to copy, tweak, or mock. Good Luck!