You've got 100 people waiting outside your church for your big
event. It's 8 a.m., and you've slept in! The coffee maker's broken,
the chairs aren't set up, and your spouse forgot to pick up the
speaker from the airport. A catered lunch is on its way to -- you
guessed it -- the wrong address. Your event is turning out to be a
Okay...you can wake up now. It was just a bad dream!
But how many of us have had at least one of these -- or other --
things threaten to go wrong on the day of our big events? Planning
an event can be exciting and stressful both for the detail person
and for the organizationally challenged person. With careful
planning and by following the expert tips in this article, though,
your next big event will turn out to be a dream instead of a
What's Your Goal? Begin with prayer, because God has a purpose
for your event. Follow his leading and direction. Children's
minister Wayne Rockwell of Madison, Wisconsin, suggests, "Know what
you want to accomplish with the event, stick to that one purpose,
and carefully prepare the environment so that purpose gets
The four main classifications of children's ministry events with
their primary goals are:
• Training -- Since the goal of this
event is to train people, it requires trainees, an experienced
trainer, and an atmosphere conducive to learning.
• Brainstorming and Planning -- The
goal of this event is to determine a plan of action, so this event
often requires a smaller group of key decision-makers, a detailed
agenda, and a relaxed and creative environment.
• Appreciation and Celebration --
Events planned to appreciate volunteers or to celebrate a milestone
call for excitement -- from the invitations to the decorations.
• Outreach -- An event focused on
reaching outside your church walls can be located at a community
center or amusement park with a welcoming atmosphere.
Who's Your Event For? Is your event for adults or children,
volunteers, staff, or new recruits? Knowing your target audience
allows you to make key decisions about location, time of day, food,
theme, decorations, and many other details surrounding your event.
A catchy theme can be woven through the event from decorations to
food to a memento to take home, but the theme must be appropriate
for the people you're targeting. For example, an outdoor theme for
children may have giant bugs and butterflies -- and even plastic
ants in ice cubes! Adults would more likely appreciate checkered
tablecloths and live plants as centerpieces.
Children's minister Selma Johnson went all out for her theme
when she was serving at a church in Las Vegas. Her church brought
in 10 tons of snow in August in 112-degree weather. Their event
made the news and the front page of the local paper, and the snow
lasted for three days for their arctic-themed vacation Bible
What's Your Budget? This is a challenging subject that keeps
many church leaders from planning events altogether. Is there money
set aside within your church budget for your event? Will your
church board accept a proposal for using additional funds? Will you
charge a registration fee?
Once you've answered these three main questions, take the
1. Form a team. Many people want to
help, so delegate. Some enjoy cooking; others would love to sit
with children while your volunteers attend training. Someone could
thrive if asked to take care of decorations.
Rockwell says that some of the "worst moments have happened when
the team leader bottlenecks by taking on too many responsibilities.
This usually happens because the leader wants things to be done
exactly the same way he or she would do them. The leader needs to
share the work and the decision-making."
Meet with your team often and clearly communicate your
expectations, the status of details, and tasks yet to be
2. Choose your location. Ambiance
truly sets the mood for any event. If getting your entire team to
attend is important, holding the event at your church may be more
convenient. For a brainstorming event, hold the meeting at a new
venue: a local restaurant, a community center, or a hotel meeting
room. Hotels often negotiate the room rental fee if you order food
and beverages. The downside to a hotel is that the food and
beverage prices are often high and are subject to an even higher
tax and gratuity. For tips on working with hotels, go to www.meetingscoach.com.
3. Make a date. Plan in advance!
You'll find that your church calendar, your personal calendar,
school calendars, and the potential attendees' calendars fill up
fast. Be respectful of other commitments your team and attendees
Children's minister Dale Hudson, says, "Work with the other
ministries in your church. Don't make kids or parents have to
choose between two events. An example [to avoid] would be having
VBS family night when there's a men's conference also going
Avoid holiday weekends, times when children may have a break
from school, and other congested days on your church's calendar.
Would a weekday evening be better-attended than a Saturday morning?
Having child care available on-site will allow more people to
attend. Strive to plan for the best time for the majority; rarely
is there a perfect day and time for everyone to attend.
4. Determine your event plan. People
are busy, so you must make your event worth their time if you want
them to make time for any of your future events. Consider who's the
best leader for your event -- you, another team member, or an
outside speaker. Get a commitment from this person far in advance,
and communicate your expectations. Be creative. There's no reason
your event has to be run the way it always has been. Children's
minister Cheryl Jordan in Troy, Illinois, put a new twist on a
"Our best time was a teacher-training meeting where teachers had
to go on a scavenger hunt," Jordan says. "We had a lot of new
teachers who weren't aware of where things were kept -- everything
from extra diapers to the copy machine to accident report forms. So
we divided our teachers into teams, making sure there was someone
from each age group on each team."
Jordan gave each team a sheet with questions such as "If you
were teaching in the 2-year-olds' room and an accident happened,
where would you find accident forms?" When the team found the
accident forms, they also found their plates for lunch. At other
places they found forks, napkins, and cups.
"When they had completed all of the questions," reports Jordan,
"they came back with everything they needed to eat as we began the
training. It was great fun, and even the more experienced teachers
found out a few new things!"