4 Tips for Sane and Strategic Church Event Planning

From ancient festivals to Vacation Bible Schools, events have always been touchstones for thriving faith communities. Events bring people together for fun and fellowship. They celebrate values and attract newcomers. But they also can be a lot of work!

As the fall and winter holiday seasons approach, you’re most likely firing up your event engines. How can you make sure an event inspires your attendees without exhausting your resources? How do you mobilize volunteers in ways that build them up instead of wearing them out?

We sought practical and spiritual advice from four experts in planning faith-oriented events. Here’s what Tiffany, Janice, Paula and Melissa had to say:

1. Unleash volunteer creativity

Enlist a diverse planning team. Specifically surround yourself with people who are gifted in areas where you are weak.
Involve people with influence. Give them leadership and creative space. But check in periodically to ensure unity for the overall event, provide accountability, and offer support and encouragement.
Set expectations up front. If you know exactly how you want something done, clearly explain the process and what you expect the outcome to be. In other areas, allow room for creative freedom.
Establish teams that mix in newer volunteers with seasoned ones. This will foster learning and discipleship during the planning process, while also welcoming fresh perspectives and ideas.

2. Minimize stress by maximizing order

Keep things simple. Kick off planning with brainstorming to inspire enthusiasm, creativity, and collaboration. But timeline and priorities must quickly set the course.
Set incremental deadlines with plenty of wiggle room. As the event gets closer, pinpoint extraneous stressors, and let them go.
Take care of yourself and your family. Remember to take breaks, get plenty of rest, eat regularly, and connect with those who live with you. Creativity and insight suffer when you’re worn down and your family is out of sorts.
Enlist special prayer warriors. Find a few people to faithfully pray for your leaders and your event who are outside the circle of event leadership.
Fellowship One can help. Make use of our software that handles schedules, resources, workflows, 
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3. Be an excellent host

Know your audience. Create an experience that’s relevant to them (not you).
Promote the event early and frequently. People don’t hear or remember just one announcement.
Vary your promotion venues. In addition to bulletin announcements, email, text, and social media, remember the power of a personal invitation. Ask your leaders to pray about inviting people personally, and reach out.
Give thorough information. Most people want to know exactly what they’re signing up for, especially if they’re paying for it.
Create a warm welcome. Make sure event volunteers can answer questions, and prepare them to serve as welcoming hosts throughout the event (not just at the door).

4. Yield all setbacks and conflicts to God

An event is about people, not the project itself. Relationships can grow out of the difficulties of planning the event.
Setbacks might be a blessing in disguise. What seems like a hindrance could be God’s way of taking you in His direction. The more you believe this, the calmer you’ll be when they occur.
Never assume an event will be flawless. Be ready to change direction, if needed, and allow imperfections to build humility in you and your team.
Begin with the end in mind. Building relationships, sharing laughter, and enjoying the presence of God will make the event memorable­­ – not the perfectly matched decorations.
The event is not about you. Don’t let its so-called “success” or “failure” define you. Assess with your team what worked well and which areas need improvement. Then, give thanks! And trust God to complete the work He started in all of those involved in the event.

Event experts included:

Tiffany, Corporate event planner for ACTIVE Network
Janice, Women’s minister, 19 retreats since 2005
Melissa, Volunteer event coordinator, 10 retreats since 2009
Paula, Church Administrative Assistant, Event planning for 37 years

This blogpost was condensed from our Event Planning Wisdom whitepaper, which focuses on women’s events. It’s yours to download and share!