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One bite at a time: Event planning made easy

 

By Tricia Brown

Event planning can seem like quite a mouthful! But if you break it into smaller pieces, it won’t be as challenging. Check out these great resources to plan your next big event.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Event planning is one of those jobs that can seem like quite a mouthful! But if you break it into smaller pieces, it won’t feel like such a challenge. Check out the variety of great resources online, and you might even find that planning church events can be fun.

Whether you are planning next year’s vacation Bible school or next Sunday's potluck, there are six basic things to consider from the start:

Determine the mission. Why is your church hosting this event? What is the objective? It’s important to know what the goal is if you ever intend to reach it.

Recruit volunteers. The size of your team will depend on the size of your event, but more hands generally make less work.

Set the date and time. Put some thought into this. Avoid times and dates that will conflict with other church events. Think about how major holidays might affect your event. Give yourself plenty of time. Most events require 4 to 6 months of planning. Larger events, like VBS, are often planned 9 to 12 months in advance.

Create a name and a theme. There’s a reason vacation Bible schools have names like “Hero Central” or “Maker Fun Factory.” Events, like people, need names. If yours doesn’t have one, then think of something catchy yet practical. Consider a theme. “Senior Ladies’ Mission Luau” sounds a lot more fun than a “Senior Women’s Mission Lunch.” Get creative.

Establish a budget. This is not an area where you need to “wing it.” Know how much you have to spend before you start spending, and make sure your volunteers understand the budget as well. Allocate how supplies will be purchased or gathered, who has the authority to use funds, or how spending must be approved.

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Divide and conquer. Start by dividing tasks into categories and assigning a volunteer to head each category. There are a ton of free event-planning tools to help the process flow more smoothly. Check out some of the following to get you started:

  • Lists and worksheets. The United Methodist Church offers an Event Planner Workbook to get you started. In addition, there are lots of great event-planning guides, worksheets and checklists available online including Word and Excel templates and PDF documents. Spend a little time looking through several different types and find the one that best suits your style of planning and your event. For example, many VBS curriculums offer specific planning tools that become available when you purchase the program.
     
  • Communication. In addition to mass texts and emails, you can help your core volunteers stay in touch with a few tools for managing virtual teams. Various apps and websites offer the ability to have online meetings using FaceTime or chatting features. Doodle.com and vite.io offer free calendar and social media management tools that send reminders and updates about upcoming deadlines.
     
  • Forms and registration. Event registration can be one of the biggest hassles of any event. Yet, it is also one of the most important. Take advantage of online resources to make this part of your event a little more manageable. The General Council on Finance and Administration uses etouches event registration to save time and money and help streamline the process.
     
  • Online calendars. Free online calendars can go a long way toward helping you and your volunteers stay on track when planning your next big event. Google Calendar and localendar allow groups to share the same online calendar to stay on track of assignments and deadlines. In addition, tons of free printable calendar templates can be found online.
     
  • Potluck and meal planning. Gone are the days of passing around a sheet of paper and asking everyone to sign their name and what they are going to bring to the next church meal. Online potluck planning is a great organizational tool for these types of events. Planning the perfect potluck or organizing to take a family meals couldn’t be easier. Whether you are planning a churchwide event or asking volunteers to take a meal to someone in need, starting a meal train is pretty simple. A coordinator simply sets up a free account and then passes the website address along to potential volunteers. Participants can go to the site, view all relevant information, see what other people are taking, and sign up for what they want to bring.
     
  • Promotional tools. With social media at your fingertips, word-of-mouth promotions have taken on a whole new meaning. Want to find out if anyone is talking about your event? Sign up for Google Alerts to find out when someone types your event name into a Google search engine. Looking for a way to stir up a little excitement for your event? Use Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram to send “behind-the-scenes” promos. You can also check out sites such as Eventbrite for free event promotional tools.
     
  • Follow-up features. Follow-up is an essential, but often overlooked, part of event planning. Step up your follow-up procedures by planning ahead. Want to find out what participants thought of your event? Follow up with a survey using a service such as SurveyMonkey or SurveyHero. Both have free services that will be sufficient for small churches. Or send follow-up emails to thank volunteers or provide more information to participants about other church ministries.

Hosting an event is a lot of work, but every job is easier with the right plan and tools. Take it one step at a time, and start planning your church’s next big event today.

Tricia Brown

Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.