How To: Planning events with purpose

Contributed by: Charlie Baker, Diocese of Auckland, 17 December 2013

planningeventsSWhether you’re planning a special youth event, service or camp, here’s a step by step guide that will help your event run smoothly and take your youth to the next level.

1. Prayer

Prayer is an essential part of the planning process. It’s easy to forget to take time to pray when we’re enthusiastic to get stuck in, and when there’s so much to get done. But  it’s incredibly important to remember to pray during all stages of the planning process – before, during and after the event.

Pray individually, gather as a leadership team to pray, and don’t forget to ask others to pray during the event for your team and those who are participating.

2. Purpose

When we’re planning an event, most often we start with the “what” question: “What are we going to do?”. The key to a truly successful event is not to start by asking “What?”, but instead ask “Who?” and “Why?”… these questions will help you clearly define what you will (and won’t!) do at your event. So leave that “what question” until last!

Firstly ask “Who?”: who is this event for? Don’t just say “my youth group”, but really take the time to think about who the people are you’re aiming this event at. Know your audience. How old are they? What are their interests? What sub-cultures exist in your group? Where are they at on their journey with Christ – do they have little interest in Jesus or are they growing and committed to Christ? Is this event intended for those who come regularly or for those who are on the fringes, or who come occasionally?

Note: this is who you’re planning for, that doesn’t mean that others can’t come along or gain anything from it. Your primary aim however is to reach those youth and help them take the next step in their faith journey.

Now ask “Why?”: why are we doing this event? What is our purpose? You can define purpose in a number of ways, but I like to keep it simple by focusing on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, which can be summed up as:

  1. Love God
  2. Love others
  3. Make Disciples

The main aim of your event should be to help people grow in one of these areas. So consider the purpose of your event: is it to help people to grow in their love for God? Is it to show love to our ‘neighbours’? Is it to make disciples? These questions will help you be intentional about the types of activities you engage in whether it’s worship or practical service or Bible studies.

Finally, we can ask “What?”: what will we do at this event? Your response to this question will be shaped by the “who” and the “why”. For example, the type of event planned primarily for committed Christians will be very different from one focussed on reaching non-Christians, and a worship event will look different from a fellowship event.

Exercise:

  • How could you bring an aspect of ‘loving God’ into a community focused event?
  • How could you bring an aspect of ‘loving others’ into an event for your committed youth group members? How would you shape that event differently if you were aiming it at the youth who are just starting to show an interest in Jesus? 

3. The big three: Date & Time, Venue & Budget

Now you’re ready to lock in what I call ‘the big three’ – the important details you need to organise before you can go any further.

  1. Date & time – remember to consider what’s going to work best for the people you are aiming this event at. Think about factors such as exam seasons, bedtimes (for younger youth), mealtimes etc.
  2. Venue – consider factors such as availability, size, proximity, ambiance and hire-age cost (if any).
  3. Budget – do your research and estimate your costs. Remember to add a small contingency for all those unexpected costs too. How will you get the income to pay for the event – will you apply for funding? Find sponsorship? Charge an entry or registration fee? Be realistic about the number of people that will attend, and think through your worst case scenarios. Make sure you assign someone to keep on top of your budget, keep all receipts – and don’t be afraid to ask for help (e.g. from your church accountant) if you find it’s getting on top of you.

4. Promotion

What will be most effective way to promote your event for the people you’re trying to reach? Make the most of as many promotional tools as you can – create a facebook event, do a mailout, make a promotional video, put posters on community noticeboards. Don’t just rely on one method (e.g. your church newsletter). Be creative and capture people’s interest.

5. Get organised

Break down the tasks and figure out who will do what, by when, with what.

Gather your resources:

  • people – do you need to invite more people to be part of running this event? what skills do they need to have? Do you need techies, promoters, small group leaders, welcomers, bakers, a set-up/pack-down crew…, intercessors, musicians?
  • things – what do you need for your event? What can you borrow, make, hire? What could people donate? What will you need to buy?

Put in place safety measures – do risk assessments, get signed permission slips, organise appropriate supervision. Make sure you have done police checks on all your leaders.

6. Team meetings

Depending on the scale of your event these could just consist of one quick meeting before the event, or there may need to be a series of meetings leading up to the event for a bigger event, such as a camp. Share the vision with your team, delegate tasks, provide any training your team might need, and pray, pray, pray.

7. The Event

Now it’s time to hold your event: set it up, have a blast, pack it down – then pat yourself on the back and put your feet up… you’ve pulled off something amazing!

8. The Aftermath

The event is over and (hopefully!) has gone really well! But there’s still some things left to do, make sure you thank everyone who has helped with the event – take the time to write a thank you note, it will mean a lot to them. Make sure you promptly return any gear you have hired or borrowed. Gather feedback from your team and those who attended the event.

9. Follow up

Follow up with the people who attended your event: depending on the purpose of your event, this follow up could be anything from discipleship, pastoral care, thank yous (e.g. if it was a fundraiser, to those who gave letting them know how their money will benefit others), sharing photos on facebook, etc.

You can download a PDF version of this training resource here. Feel free to print and hand out these notes to your youth leaders.