Focused and Fun Church Planning in 2018

January 4, 2018

The New Year is often likened to an empty book, one that is just waiting for its story to be written. What an exciting and often overwhelming time as you reflect on the past and begin to formulate future plans. For church leaders, this brief window happens in early January before diving head-on into Easter. So, take a breath friends, grab a cup of coffee and let us help with a few ideas to put an effective plan in place for 2018.

  1. Put All Annual Events on a Calendar

Start your annual planning by scheduling yearly events on the calendar or on a shared digital planner. Yes…Christmas will be December 25 once again, but Easter is early this year, April 1. Then backdate three months from each big event and mark “start planning for X event” in red. (Yes, that means start planning for Easter on Jan. 1!) Be sure all the teams involved in these events have it on their calendars as well and schedule a team creative meeting. It’s as simple as starting with what you know for sure.

  1. Consider Implementing a Church Planning Software App

Many large churches have sophisticated planning apps, but even smaller churches can greatly improve their planning and internal communications with some cost-effective software. One of our favorites continues to be Planning Center Online, which provides a full suite of apps. Whether you start with one, two or all of their apps, their products can be mixed and matched to meet your unique needs. If you need additional apps later, add them at any time and still get a 30-day trial.

Their products include:

  • Groups
  • Services
  • Projector
  • Music Stand
  • Giving
  • Check-in
  • Registrations
  • Membership & Church Facilities Management, and more…

They are all connected with the hub centered on people. Their apps are web-based and very user-friendly, and you can start with the modules that are most important to you at this time. There are many other planning softwares to consider include and we came across a great resource from Capterra.

  1. Try the 3-2-1 System for Focus

This is an oldie but a goodie, we love this idea from Karl Vater in an article from Christianity Today.

“I call it my 3-2-1 System,” explains Vater. “Every week, I take three uninterrupted hours to do nothing but think, plan, pray and write, in the following order:”

3. On one day I take an hour to think and pray about events and ideas that are THREE months away…these are often starter ideas, “what ifs” and crazy dreams.

2. On another day I take an hour to think, pray and plan events that are TWO months out. These are ideas that have gone beyond the “what if” stage and have been green-lighted. By now, we’ve started setting dates and times, promotional ideas, recruiting volunteers, decorations, artwork and so on.

1. On the final day, I take one hour to think, pray, plan and work on events ONE month out. This is when we work on details. We start promoting the event. I begin thinking about what skits, video clips, special songs or sermon illustrations I might use, and so on.

  1. Establish a Plan for Copyright Licensing Coverage

Now is a great time to take a step back and get the full picture of what copyrights you may be using for the year and make sure that you are using them legally. We use a simple acronym as a guideline for planning, PLAN, to understand four of the key elements for copyright compliance.

P = PREPARE policies, procedures & planning

L = LEARN the basics of U.S. Copyright Law

A = ALLOW enough time for obtaining permissions

N = NEVER assume it’s OK to use copyrighted material without licensing

Church and ministry leaders excel at planning activities, programs and events, but copyright clearances are often not included in their plans. Honoring copyrights and avoiding the risks of infringement takes intention, planning and preparation.

Following the guidelines of our time-tested PLAN four-part strategy, you will be able to develop practices that help your organization become copyright compliant. You can find much more detail on how to PLAN by downloading CCS’s Church Copyright Toolkit. This free tool, you can share with your team, focuses on six key steps to making sure all your copyright activities are legal.

  1. Schedule a Planning Day for Staff and Volunteers

January is a great month to gather your team for a day set apart from regular tasks and duties. At CCS, we like to use the term “advance,” rather than a retreat, because giving time for dreaming, collaborating and planning is an important step towards growth.

Here are some ideas for creating the environment and objectives for successful planning.

  • Set the stage by sharing your expectations and giving value to having everyone contribute. You may want to highlight what you view as the most important items with highest priority.
  • Provide a clear agenda for the goals and objectives. Highlight specific annual events that will require more detailed planning.
  • Ask someone else to facilitate the meeting, so you can sit in the back and do more listening than talking (80% listen, 20% talking). You’ll learn a lot more that way. Make sure the person is a practiced facilitator and knows how to include everyone and stay on track.
  • Make sure there’s time for fun and strengthening of team member relationships.
  • Allow down time for meals and time for brainstorming and collaboration.
  • Designate a “scribe” who will record all the ideas, goals and action items.
  • Plan on designating follow-up meetings with smaller groups for specific event planning; e.g., to work out the details for a youth movie night.


About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.”  CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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