Join us Wednesday November 2, 2016 at 1pm Central Time as we discuss Planning Your Church Calendar on our Ministry Models Teleconference. Call 515-604-9000; Access Code 540330
Here are notes for the teleconference.
Planning The Church Calendar
From Chaos to Order
By Dr. Minner Labrador
“Trying to run a church without a master calendar is like trying to watch TV while someone else holds the remote control.” –Ellie Green
Every aspect of running a church requires time. Whether it is a phone call from a member who only wants a ‘minute’ and then talks non-stop for an hour or repeatedly calling a plumber to come and fix the outdated church toilet in the downstairs restroom. Time is the only truly universal equalizer of all pastors. All of us—the good, the bad and the ugly—have exactly 24 hours each day to oversee the operation of our church.
All church ministries take place in time and use up time. Yet most pastors take for granted this unique, irreplaceable and most valuable resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes a successful pastor from a burned-out frustrated one as much as their tender loving care of time. Business gurus refer to this as ‘time management.’
Tender loving care of time is based on forward-thinking which leads to forward-planning which results in a master church calendar! This master calendar serves as the ‘big picture’ where all church and school ministry activity and event dates are centralized and prioritized in one place for 12 to 18 months into the future! The larger the church, and/or the more active the church, the more carefully you should plan and the farther into the future the planning should extend.
Why a master church calendar is mandatory
It is impossible to operate a thriving, disciple-making church without careful planning!
Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” A well-designed and well-planned master church calendar assures that a disorganized or loosely organized congregation doesn’t ‘spend your time for you.’
A well-planned master church calendar organizes all ministries, activities and events over an extended period of time.
The advantages of a master church calendar
- Prevents surprises!
- Eliminates one or two strong-willed saints from running the church.
- Becomes a central source of information for all members as they plan their personal schedules around church activities.
- Brings social order and harmony to the church family by avoiding scheduling conflicts and misunderstandings about scheduled events.
- Assures that meeting areas and/or rooms are available for scheduled events.
- Church personnel–elders, deacons and deaconesses—are informed far in advance to schedule staffing for planned church activities and events—so that church doors are opened, lights are on, meeting rooms are set up and someone is scheduled to clean up and lock up following the event.
- Allows the church family to ‘look ahead’ and plan for inviting guests.
- Permits the church family to be aware of pastor’s (and other church leaders’) vacation dates.
- Builds confidence in the pastor’s administrative abilities from the realization that an assigned speaker calendar assures an absence of ‘hit or miss’ sermons.
- Prevents the conference, and/or church family members, from ‘suggesting’ a speaker for your pulpit and becoming upset when the master calendar prevails.
- Allows members to plan their offerings in support of upcoming events—rather than burdening the church with last-minute fund-raising drives.
- Supports tax deductions and insurance claims by having the master calendar a voted action of the church board.
- Removes pressure from the pastor. He no longer must deflect all the well-meaning suggestions by members of his congregation of who should preach, or what the church should be doing about various ministry opportunities.
- Reduces the number of phone calls and complaints to the pastor.
- Provides the pastor with documented accountability for how he is operating his church.
The Church Calendar should assume a leading role in the life of the church. The pastor’s office should have a very large master church calendar on the wall of his office that is sacrosanct. An item on the master church calendar should only be changed by the pastor after a vote of the pastoral staff. The change should be emailed to the church board secretary so that the church board minutes reflect the change.
This master church calendar on the pastor’s wall becomes the place where all church members go to see if a date is available for an upcoming, but unforeseen or unanticipated, event such as a baby dedication, baptism or wedding. One look at the ‘big picture’ master calendar on the pastor’s wall provides information of available dates, the speaker for that Sabbath and other scheduled events that might conflict with the current request. (See photo of wall calendar.)
Even in a very small church of less than 30 members a calendar is essential. It is extremely important when two or more churches are under the leadership of one pastor. In these cases, the church boards of both churches should meet together at a specified time for the purpose of developing their coordinated master church calendars for the next 12-18 months. This will take several hours so plan refreshments. Then follow the guidelines below.
Once the coordinated sister-church master calendar is developed, a wall calendar goes up in both churches. All changes are communicated to the church secretaries so that changes are updated in both churches.
Entering event dates on The Master Church Calendar
Experience has taught us that there is a prioritizing ‘pecking order’ that should be maintained for entering activities and/or event dates on a church’s master calendar during the planning session.
Here are the priorities we used:
- The first dates entered on the master calendar must always be the pastor’s Sabbath speaking schedule for the next 12-18 months because all else that happens in the church flows from the planned, divine worship services.
- The second entries on the master calendar will be the dates for the year’s evangelistic series and outreach programs.
- The third dates to be entered are those mandated by the conference or union.
- The fourth dates entered on the master calendar (if your church has a church school).
- Fifth entry dates are those of all the church ministries’ scheduled meetings and activities.
The ‘nitty gritty’ of creating a master church calendar using the priorities
- Creating the Sabbath speaker’s schedule
Buy a big blank calendar. Put it in the middle of a fellowship table with some cookies and milk. Then invite your pastoral staff, elders, the music coordinator, and anyone else you choose, to attend your speaker-planning meeting.
After you explain that the purpose of the meeting is to help you develop the speaker’s schedule for the next 18 months—and they recover from the shock of being consulted—begin by blocking out your vacation dates with a red magic marker!
Next, put a red circle around every holiday date such as Christmas, New Years’ Sabbath, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Opening of Football Season, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving – just to name 12. Why are you doing this? Because these holiday Sabbaths draw visitors and you, therefore, will schedule yourself to speak on those Sabbaths—so that you can meet and greet visitors. Visitors are more likely to return when they’ve met the pastor.
Additionally, put a red circle around dates that are definite ‘visitor-heightened’ occasions for your congregation. We call them ‘High Sabbaths!’ Most churches average about three ‘High Sabbaths’ each year. For example, in the Sharon Church, a red circle would be placed around the ‘International Sabbath’ date.
This is a gala affair where the worship service begins by each member, who is from another nation, marching into the sanctuary carrying their country’s flag. We call this a ‘visitor-heightened High Sabbath’ because church attendance doubles each year for this special celebration of ‘nations, tribes, tongues and people.’
The pastor reserves these visitor-heightened Sabbaths for his special outreach sermons. These High Sabbaths provide the church family an opportunity to bring guests to meet the pastor and become familiar with our church.
You should now have approximately 15 Sabbaths circled in red that are your definite assigned preaching dates for the coming year. Of the 52 Sabbaths in each year, 37 are now left ‘unassigned to a speaker’ on your calendar. At this point you should share with the calendar planning team your preaching goals for the next 12-18 months.
Suggest the areas of spiritual growth you believe are most important for the congregation. Consider 3-week series sermons that you would enjoy preaching to meet areas of spiritual need in the church family. Note: Preaching theme series should not exceed three weeks. Decide how many series you wish to preach and choose three Sabbaths in sequence on your calendar.
Get feedback from your planning team about your spiritual sermon series ideas. Allow them to voice the spiritual topics they believe would most benefit the congregation. You’ll be surprised at how astute they are at helping you develop meaningful sermon series themes!
Let’s say that you and your team decide that you will do three series of 3-weeks each for a total of 9 Sabbaths devoted to series sermons. Put the dates for these series—in three Sabbath blocks– on the calendar with the spiritual topic to be presented. Three Sabbaths in the spring, three Sabbaths in the summer and three Sabbaths in the winter is ideal. Series longer than three weeks have little impact on the congregation—it makes your job easier but the church family loses the ‘thread’ of the theme over a longer span of time.
By involving your calendar planning team in the process of speaker and theme sermon scheduling, they will understand your preaching goals. In fact, you will discover that the church leadership helps you to achieve your goals by word-of-mouth broadcasting of the dates and topics for the coming year.
Once when I preached a three-week series on the power of the Holy Spirit, some of my members brought their friends and relatives. By knowing what would be preached, an excitement of anticipation was generated that encouraged members to invite their friends to the worship service.
Furthermore, knowing who is going to preach, and the subject of the sermon, allows the church ministry directors to build their youth programs, prayer meeting, worship preliminaries, music and children’s stories around the speaker’s theme. By involving your church leaders in your preaching objectives they begin to pray for you and become intimately involved in the results of your messages to touch souls and win hearts to the Lord.
At this point in designing the speaker schedule for the master church calendar, there are 28 unassigned Sabbaths!
Every pastor should have two alternate speakers who are affirmed by the congregation as ‘spiritual leaders.’ By ‘spiritual leaders’ we mean those who are known to be led by the Holy Spirit in all their conversations and interactions with others. These alternate speakers may be retired pastors or lay leaders within the congregation—men or women–who have won the respect and hearts of the people through the continuous witness of their Godly daily lives. Even though these spiritual leaders may not be dynamically elegant in their pulpit-presentation, nevertheless, when blessed by the Holy Spirit their message will be well-prepared, interesting and challenging.
These two alternate spiritual- leader-speakers may each be assigned to speak for 6 Sabbaths during the year for a total of 12 Sabbaths.
At the Sharon Church we used the head elder, a woman, and the assistant head elder, a man, as the two alternate speakers. The head elder successfully completed the Southern Union’s Lay Pastor Assistant training and the assistant head elder also was a participant in that course. Both speakers were affirmed by the congregation as spiritual leaders in the church.
It is very important that you do not yield the sacred pulpit to a new or little known member regardless of how charismatic or well-spoken they may appear. Insist that anyone sharing your pulpit be a member of your church for a minimum of two years, with the exception of retired Adventist pastors. Furthermore, observe carefully if their spiritual gifts have led them to spiritual leadership among God’s people and if those spiritual gifts have been affirmed by the church body.
Here are the signs that a person has been affirmed by the church body:
- Other members seek this person to pray for them.
- Members seek this person to answer tough Bible questions.
- They are equally friendly to all members refusing to become part of a church ‘click’ subgroup.
- The church family speaks well of them when they are not present.
- They have a stable marriage and well-behaved children.
- They speak well of the church and church leadership.
- They are supportive of the church with tithe and offerings.
- They never engage in church disagreements or member arguments.
All of these characteristics should be factored into the selection of an alternate speaker to stand in the sacred pulpit, before God’s people, on Sabbath morning.
If you do the math, this now leaves 16 unassigned Sabbath sermons in the year.
Of the 16 unassigned Sabbaths, 2 are assigned specifically for the evangelism Sabbaths, one will be left blank for camp meeting Sabbath which we will all attend, 1 will be designated as Pathfinder Sabbath with a guest speaker, 1 will be designated as Men’s Ministries’ Sabbath with a guest speaker and 1 will be designated as a Women’s Ministries’ Sabbath with a guest speaker.
This leaves 10 unassigned Sabbaths which the pastor should preach on topics of current interest to the congregation.
If this schedule is followed, as it was in the Sharon Church, the pastor will preach 34 times in 52 weeks. This means that you are preaching a two-thirds of the sermons in your church.
We have found that this is maximum number any pastor can preach while at the same time continuing to study, research topics, prepare interesting Spirit-filled sermons and lead his church in the process of disciple-making.
Here’s how the preaching schedule would look for one year:
Pastor preaches 15 Sabbaths: Holiday and special visitor-heightened Sabbaths
Pastor preaches 9 Sabbaths: Series-sermon Sabbaths of 3-weeks each
Pastor preaches 10 Sabbaths: Single sermon Sabbaths
Two Alternates preach 12 Sabbaths: Single sermons Sabbaths (6 for each speaker)
Evangelist peaches 2 Sabbaths: Evangelistic Sabbaths
Camp meeting 1 Camp meeting Sabbath
Pathfinder Sabbath 1 Guest Speaker
Men’s Ministries 1 Guest Speaker
Women’s Ministries 1 Guest Speaker
It also has been our experience that ‘breaks’ or ‘breathers’ in the pastor’s preaching schedule should occur every fourth week at a minimum. Three weeks of uninterrupted preaching, along with running the church, sometimes more than one church, is all that adequately can be handled by any pastor without experiencing burnout.
- Adding the evangelism dates to the master church calendar
No church ministry meeting or activity ever trumps evangelism! Remember your mission! Our Sharon Church mission: To Know Jesus Christ and Share Him permeates all that we do. The mission drives the church. It is the basis for all ministry within the church. A church that has no evangelistic program is like a filling station that offers all kinds of services but has no gasoline for sale. It should not advertise itself as a filling station!
Since evangelism is the church’s priority activity, all ministries come to a halt during the yearly evangelistic meetings and every church officer, all church staff and every church member supports the mission of the church as souls are won for Jesus Christ!
Your planning team should decide how you will approach evangelism during the coming 12-18 months. Traditionally, many churches have invited a denominational evangelist to come to their church and present a two-week series of prophecy seminars. As you know, there are advantages and disadvantages of this approach.
The advantage: there is less work involved for the church members and pastor. The disadvantage: the visiting evangelist is often viewed as a ‘hired gun’ who drops in, does his job and then gets out of Dodge! Because they aren’t intimately involved in the evangelism process, the church members often have little interest in the meetings.
This type of evangelism might be summed by saying: A visiting stranger ‘drops in’ to preach to visiting strangers—and all the strangers leave at the end of the meetings! In other words, there is a ‘disconnect’ between a temporary evangelist and the people who identify with him instead of the church pastor and its members.
We have learned that a growing, vibrant, healthy church is one where every member of the congregation continuously is involved in evangelistic outreach! From little ‘projects’ such as placing The Great Controversy in every newspaper holder in your neighborhood to lay members and youth actually preaching an evangelistic series.
We use the lay members of our church to do continuous evangelism through several programs:
- We conduct a continuous every-Sabbath-morning-evangelistic-series, from 10 AM to 11 AM, in the church sanctuary! This evangelistic series is led by two Sharon Church elders and is well-received. All visitors are directed to the sanctuary on Sabbath morning. This continuous weekly evangelism program provides our members with a place to bring their neighbors, friends or family immediately when they express a spiritual interest—they do not have to wait until we have an ‘evangelistic series.’ Our elders use the fill-in-the-blank lessons from several courses purchased through Seminars Unlimited, Amazing Facts and It Is Written.
- We created a video series of informal discussions on Biblical topics called Bible Breakthrough with an accompanying workbook. This is a very easy way to give Bible Studies. You may view these videos and studies by logging on to biblebreakthrough.com.
- We hold yearly evangelistic series led by either our youth or our lay members. This has yielded baptisms because each person assigned to preach brings all their family and friends to hear their presentations. For these series we have used the ShareHim sermons and Power Point slides (See picture of brochure) or our own Bible Breakthrough lessons.
- Additionally, we have trained several members to give Bible studies and we assign ‘interests’ to one of our lay member Bible teachers.
We have found that when the body of Christ understands that the only reason for the church’s existence is to do the work of evangelism –and when each member of the congregation understands that they are an evangelist –evangelism works!
- Adding the Union and Conference dates to the master church calendar
These dates are usually printed in plenty of time to be included on the master church calendar and should include the ministerial meetings which the pastor will attend as well as those of special interest to member groups such as men’s ministries conferences, women’s ministries weekend retreats, camp meeting dates and so forth.
- Adding church School dates to the master church calendar
When churches operate church schools, especially if there are constituent churches involved, it is mandatory that the school’s activities are entered on the master church calendar to avoid conflicts during the school year.
For example, all school trips, scheduled holidays, spring break, teacher’s work days, graduation, Education Sabbath and so forth should be entered. The school calendar must be integrated into the church calendar so that there are no conflicts during the year.
- Adding the dates of all church ministries’ meetings and activities.
Finally, the church ministries’ meetings and activity dates are added to the master calendar. This includes Adventurer and Pathfinder meeting and event dates as well as all the other church ministry meeting and event dates such as scheduled elders, deacons, deaconess, pastoral staff, school board and church board meetings.
Each year, at the June church board meeting, all ministry directors turn in their calendar of activities for the coming 18 months on the Ministry Form. (See form) this form provides the pastoral staff with general information about the goals of the ministry leaders and the anticipated dates of their ministry activities.
It also provides feedback on:
- How the pastoral staff and elders can assist in their ministry.
- The training they believe necessary to do a better job.
- The adequacy of or need for resources such as space, storage or budget.
- Challenges or improvements necessary to enhance their ministry.
There is a section to provide feedback on the methods the ministry director will use to accomplish his/her ministry goals as well as the primary plans for the ministry for the coming months. Comments from each director are reviewed and answered on an individual basis by the pastoral staff.
These completed forms are collected from each ministry at the June church board meeting. The pastor, head elder, and whomever else the pastor chooses, uses these forms to create an 18-month calendar.
Each ministry director’s request for dates will be carefully considered by the team. If two, or three, ministry directors request the same date, the pastoral staff will prayerfully decide which ministry gets the date and will assign another acceptable date to the other ministry. At the end of this master calendar compilation, the church activities and events are organized and established for the next 18 months.
One month later, at the July church board meeting, printed calendars will be distributed to the board members and a careful review of the assigned dates will be made by the group. Alterations or revisions will be suggested and ‘fixed’ and the final calendar will then be presented at the August church board meeting.
Once this calendar is voted by the church board it may not be changed without the vote of the pastoral staff. No ministry may ‘bump’ another off the calendar because they ‘forgot’ to list it on their calendar and now have to assigned date for their event. Of course, there are always unplanned events that occur such as funerals, weddings, baby showers and so forth. These events are accommodated around the scheduled calendar events.
The topics for our Ministry Models teleconference listed below will rotate between these general categories – Personal/Family, Soul Winning and Pastoring. We will post notes for each topic/teleconference.
- September – Time Management
- October – Increasing Your Baptisms
- November – Planning Your Church Calendar
- December – Goal Setting & Accomplishment
- January – Baptism Preparation
- February – Nominating Committee
- March – Family Time
- April – Finding Interests
- May – Church Board Meetings
- June – New District – Starting Well
- July – New Member Orientation
- August – Mobilizing Members in Ministry
Please join us by phone (whether walking, driving, eating or studying) and let’s see what the Lord does to help us each succeed in our daily walk with Him, all our relationships including our families, and in our ministry and mission.