A brand new calendar with all its white space makes me downright giddy. In preparing for the next calendar year, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
A. What will be your focus the next year…as a church…as a ministry with children?
B. What are the important days that are ‘known’ or ‘tradition’ in your church and community so children’s ministry can piggy-back or involve little people?
C. For what events do you already have champions to take the point and advocate?
D. What are your professional and personal priorities you should guard with the calendar?
E. Prepare to calendar 18-24 months out. (I do this every January AND June
F. Calendaring is not planning. Calendaring is about partnering. Calendaring is putting on the calendar that which complements other ministries and your local church as a whole body of Christ.

Gather supplies and documents:

  • Start with a blank, paper calendar. Why? Because it helps you see the big picture. You can always add it to your devices/apps later.
  • Your Vacation and Sabbath time: Shauna Niequist wrote in Present Over Perfect, “I fake-rested instead of real-rested, and then I found that I was real-tired.” She went on to write, “Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life. People love it when you say yes, and they get used to it. But you can’t have a yes without the healthy no. If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.” Remember you are in this for the long haul so though you can fill your calendar with a ton of good things, sustainability without killing yourself and others is the goal.
  • Last year’s calendar. Why? To record when to begin planning for specials and record major cultural holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, etc. Ex: Trunk or Treat in October requires a start in hard planning in July to get local advertising in; the year Palm Sunday started a spring break; Glee Club/Cherub Choir Wednesday night programming begins the new year AFTER the Atlanta area has historical issues with ice/snow.
  • Church calendar. Why? So as not to conflict with hard dates for space and volunteer base. Ex: Anything that has to do with major seasons like Lent and Advent; anything that requires all church hands on deck like a Fall Festival will drain a volunteer base for a period of time. Include seasonal events and holidays, traditions, and rites of passage that you know are ‘set in stone.’ Be sure to add your regular Sunday AM ‘bread’ schedule. Anything other than Sunday morning in ‘whipped cream’ programming.
  • Liturgical calendar. Why? Using colors and practices as past saints connect us to our heritage of faith. Ex: Advent is purple, not red & green; the magi come out for Epiphany and not Advent; 12 days of Christmastide; Maundy Thursday may change your Wednesday programming that week; we send home bags of empty, plastic eggs beginning on Ash Wednesday to be filled and returned for the church Easter Egg Hunt so prep has to be done WAY in advance.
  • Pencil and a really good eraser. Why? I’m visual and neat erasing matters.
  • School calendar. Why? Gotta plan for when families won’t be here as well as when they will be. Ex: Fall and spring breaks = low attendance Sundays which offers some special planning opportunities. Look especially at when the four fifth Sundays of the month are set.
  • Youth calendar. Why? Many specials for children require youth help and we all know it’s healthy for youth and little people to have youth faces involved in ministry with children. Ex: Coordinating VBS with summer youth mission trips; Parent’s Night Out when the youth may be on a retreat; Christmas parties that would possibly require parents to be in two places at once. Ex: Last year’s Faith Field Trips were such a huge relationship and sticky faith success, I’ve already set aside specific summer dates in partnership with another local church to share in the heavy work and other local churches are joining in. This lets me go ahead and make bus reservations on the dates that I know are not in conflict. Summer bus reservations in January…what a great idea!
  • Networking, Conference, Training dates. Why? The connection outside of your own house, face-to-face with live people is what keeps you at your best, encouraged, and provides energy. Ex: Our KidMin networking group meets once a month on the second Monday of the month; choosing my training for the next year helps me stay on task for the focus of the next year; early bird prices for conferences and local trainings are much more budget-friendly.
  • College Football schedule. Why? We live in the south. Just sayin’.

Then it’s time to start mapping out the year. Find a block of uninterrupted time to put it on paper. Pray for clarity and direction before, during, and after. Remember the rhythm of your community. Be sensitive to time expectations of your volunteers and your families. Don’t forget to map out your Sundays and Wednesdays, as this is the ‘daily bread’ of Children’s Ministry and it must be done well and take priority over ‘whipped cream’ programming.

When it’s finished, we all know it isn’t really finished. It’s a working document, but it’s a start to keep your priorities in line, plan well in advance, communicate well with your team and your family knows they are just as much a priority as your ministry.

“I’m not sure how you feel about a new beginning, but fresh starts are my favorite! I am the girl loves a clean slate.” – Becky Kiser from Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus