Ahead of the Game
Updated: Aug 4
By Pastor Emily Dalen
A few days ago, the calendar flipped to August and I immediately felt the anxiety kick in. September was coming! If you’re like other church workers, Fall brings about a new start to Sunday school, Confirmation, Adult Bible study, and maybe even youth group. Some congregations move back to having multiple worship services and before we know it, we are deep into running so many things. I started my new call in September of 2022 and for most of that school year, I felt like I was just trying to keep up.
As this new year lurks, I’m trying to get out ahead of the schedule. Here’s how I’ve done some of that. First, I’ve spent time paying attention to what is going on in the congregation and have a few goals in mind. I’ve thought about the “why” behind these goals so that when questions arise, I can share the vision for where we’re going.
Next, I’ve pulled out a calendar and marked all those important things for my family. I put the birthdays and anniversaries on it. I add my days off each week. I try to imagine when we might take vacation. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but the time is on there. I’ve added my daughter’s graduation party and ceremony. Then, I put in those things that I know happen every year at church like Affirmation of Baptism service, Christmas Eve, the beginning of Lent, etc. I’ll add things like “no school days” because I don’t want to schedule confirmation on a day when there’s no school.
After getting the big rocks on the calendar, the youth director and I go back into visioning mode. If we say we want to intentionally create more intergenerational relationships within the congregation, how do we do that? This year, we dreamed up having an all-ages bonfire and an Advent Fest. We don’t have all the minute details planned for these things, but we put dates on the calendar. We’re holding that space open so that we can work towards the goal. We’re also paying attention to things we’re already doing. Our confirmation program includes a mentor for each student. In the past, they’ve met one-on-one with a mentor, but this year, we’ll plan to have all mentors and students gather together for an event. We’re trying to balance new things with things that we’re already doing to move towards the goals.
Then, we go back to the calendar and add in a little more detail. We may assign Sunday school lessons each week. We may note which weeks we’ll do Bible study, service, or a fun event with youth group. Again, we don’t have to plan what Bible study looks like, but we know which days we’ll do it.
This process helps me to feel like I’m not so rushed. It also helps me to communicate well because I can be aware of what is coming down the road. As we get into the busy time of the school year, I can start to figure out the details for the things we planned over the summer. Having a plan gives credibility. It helps other people to see what’s coming up and how they can get involved. It makes it easier for volunteers to help because they can see the needs ahead of time.
When I go through this process, I often remember that none of these things are set in stone. Life happens and we need to adjust. Changes can be made, but it feels much easier to do that when you can see the big picture.
As you move into the school-year of ministry, may you feel God’s peace and guidance. Made you find the strength you need to do the work God calls you to. If you’re ever looking for a great training, visit www.peerministry.org and sign up for a Plan-It session. It covers much of what I’ve mentioned in greater detail and it’s really fun to see what other ministry leaders are doing in their settings.