Here is a step-by-step guide on planning events that you can use for almost every event in your ministry. This guide can be used for weekend retreats, days for discipleship, fun events, or any other event you need to facilitate. Throughout the whole process of event planning, remember to be in prayer for your students, your adult helpers, and your own relationship with God.
12 Months Out
- Determine your target audience and the goals of your event. Starting with these thoughts will give you a trajectory to follow for the rest of the event. You must decide if your event is for all of your students, your student leaders, your girls, or your high-schoolers. Who you invite to the event will determine the goals you set. You can then set goals like outreach, spiritual renewal, unity, or student leadership for your group.
- Decide on a projected amount of students and your anticipated cost. This may be one of the most overlooked and important steps of the planning process. However, if you do this up-front you will not run into budgeting issues later on. Be realistic with your attendance numbers. Don’t start looking for pricing based on 60 students if you average 20 in your youth ministry. Do some research about past events and choose an average number of students to make sure you cover your costs. When first looking at cost, talk to some of the parents about what they would be willing to pay for your proposed event. It may be really cool to take your students to the lake for a day but if your parents are only able to pay for a $10 event, you may be out of luck. Be realistic in your early planning stages and you may find some creative ways to add fun into your schedule.
- Research Locations. This is the time that you should be looking into places to take your group. During this time, keep in mind how you will feed your students and the types of things that they may need to bring with them while traveling (ie, food, sheets, pillows, etc). You may also want to check with other local youth pastors or networks to see what places have good rates. Pick several options in a variety of locations and set prices for each location.
6 Months Out
- Talk to Students. Never plan an event until you talk to your students. You may think one place is cool while your students disagree. Take some of your trusted students to coffee and ask them which location they would bring their friends to or be excited to go on their own. If your students aren’t excited, you may need to revisit some of your goals and location.
- Find adult sponsors. Before you share your excitement with all of your students, find adult sponsors who would be willing to attend your event and help in certain areas. Sometimes these adults come along to just be with your students, others may want to be in charge of games, and some wouldn’t mind helping you with food. Talk to your adults and hear their heart for serving your students. They may help you more than you think!
3 Months Out
- Create registration materials. In this stage, you will be creating some of the promotional materials for your event. Make sure that your students have something in their head and something in their hand about your event. Hopefully at least one of those will make it home with them. These forms may include a flyer for your event, a packing list, or possibly a medical release form. Keep your students and parents over informed about what you will be doing.
- Promote your event. You need to find creative ways to get your students excited about the event. Don’t just hand out flyers. Show them a few pictures, tell them you are giving out t-shirts, or make a video to get your students talking about your event. You want your students and their friends to know about your event before your deadline. You should be promoting at least a month out for any event, however many students and parents will probably need more time than this to prepare for an event. Make sure you are also promoting to parents. If the parents don’t know about your event, you won’t have many students sign up.
- Develop lessons and other activities. If you will be teaching, running any games, or other activities this is the time to develop your ideas. You will need to prepare these things a few months ahead of time to make sure that you have all the supplies needed to make your event or retreat great.
- Set a deadline. Do you have to order t-shirts? Do you have to prepare any food? Do you need to get more adults to drive? There are events where deadlines aren’t necessary but for most events, set a deadline so that you can finish preparing for the event. If you want to give your kids extra grace, set a deadline and know that you will be offering an extended deadline for anyone who didn’t make the first.
1 Month Out
- Decide on transportation. Is your retreat or event away from your church’s campus? If so, you will need to make sure you have enough transportation to get all of your students where they need to go. You may need to recruit a few more adults to help drive your students or even find more trunk space for supplies or luggage.
- Go shopping for last minute needs. Make a list of things that you might need to get in the weeks or days before your event. You may also be able to get one of your parents or sponsors to help you get some of these items.
- Get some rest. We all want to be present when spending time with our students. The most important thing that you can do before a big event is to get some rest. Make sure that you are the best that you can be for the time you have with your students.
During the Event
- Have fun and be flexible. If you have survived the process of planning your event, go ahead and enjoy all of the hard work that you put in to make the event happen for your students. If something does go wrong, be flexible and focus on accomplishing your initial goals. Sometimes the things that go wrong aren’t that important after all.
Jen Willard is a full-time youth pastor in Charlotte, NC where she lives with her husband, Bryan. She is currently attending Nazarene Theological Seminary to obtain a Masters of Divinity. Jen is a coffee snob, beach addict and travel enthusiast who loves walking with teenagers toward Jesus! Find me on INSTAGRAM and TWITTER as @DUCKJD.