As youth ministers, we are truly all things to all people: Counselor, Janitor, Friend, Pastor, Babysitter, Technology Expert, Facilities Manager, and so on. And yet, we still have to meet our primary ministry obligations. In all of the running around, all the dividing our attention between the often disparate roles we play, it’s easy to loose sight of some of the potential pitfalls we can encounter.
One of the most overlooked and undervalued pitfall is the idea of “timing.” Here’s what I mean . . .
A friend of mine recently planned a series of special church activities. A lot of work went into scoping out the vision for these events. The problem was that he soon found out that on three of the four nights he had planned the events, there were major school events taking place in his small town. He was put in a pretty tough spot all because of the idea of timing.
Gone are the days when the church was the center of social activity in our communities. And so, the very first step in planning a youth event (once you’ve moved actually prayerfully conceived and validated the need and vision) is all about timing. What other events are there in your community that you should be aware of?
As you plan your next ministry event, here are some timing issues to keep in mind:
Simply put, we should find out what’s happening in your schools and try to avoid events that will involve your students and their parents. This will be harder on some than others, and you may never be able to plan an event with zero school conflicts. But since most schools now have web sites with lots of calendar information, you should make every effort to try and work around big school events. Especially be aware of sporting events, band events, and choral events. This is great not only to help you in planning but to keep you in the know so you can support your students.
Another valuable strategy is to get to know the main secretary at your schools. When in doubt, make a phone call and ask whether or not a specific school event will be well-attended or not.
If your church has a main booking calendar, check it before planning an event. The last thing you want is for students and parents to have to pick between your event and something else happening at the church. Also, if your church has vans or busses, checking the calendar will assure you of having the transportation you need. (I have planned stuff over the years only to find out our church van was already booked.) It’s also a good idea to make sure your events are on the church calendar, that way you help other ministries keep from planning on top of your events and creating the same problems you’re trying to avoid.
There are times that big community events may interfere with attendance at your event. In our town I would never plan something the night of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the weekend of our Watermelon Festival (that’s right, I said Watermelon Festival. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!), or the night of the city Christmas parade. Check with City Hall or the Chamber of Commerce to find out about community events in your area.
If you are going to invest time and money into a student ministry event, you want to make sure you’re having the most meaningful ministry impact possible.
You may not be able to find a time that avoids all conflicts, but with a little planning and legwork you can make sure your event is a success, thanks in part to your awareness of timing.