Planning an entire year of ministry can seem as overwhelming to us as Acme must feel keeping up with Wile E. Coyote’s constant orders of dynamite, first aid kits, and ironic signs to hold up to children before crashing into a mountain with a rocket. But it doesn’t have to be. Over the years I’ve discovered 8 keys that have helped me stay ahead of the game and work in just about any setting:

1. Pray for God’s Direction.
I always feel like this is a “no duh!” step but it always bares repeating. Before you do anything get on your knees and ask for God’s vision. Notice I said vision and not direction. Vision comes first, the directions for how to get there come later, one step at a time. Use this time to get refueled by God’s Holy Spirit for the next season of ministry. Listen for His still, small voice and He’ll show you where to go and how to get there.

2. Figure Out Your Budget.
Money will play a big role in determining what you’ll be able to do next year. Put together a budget based on the vision you feel God has given you for this next season of ministry. Present the vision well. Be a team player and make cuts as directed by your ministry supervisor (REMEMBER: you’re not the only one trying to plan). Here’s a sample budget to help you get started.

3. Put the Big Rocks in First.
Every ministry has programs, practices, meetings, events, etc. that happen consistently each year. Start your calendaring by putting those in first along, with holidays and any other special traditions your church has. Then you’ll be able to see what space is left to work with.

4. Add Everything Else.
Now comes the fun part. What are you going to do in this next year of ministry. Where are you going to take the leaders and families you have been entrusted with? Start putting things into those spaces, being careful not to crowd the calendar. Your leaders and families have lives and so do you. Leave space to breathe, rest, and plan.

5. Revise Your Rough Draft.
Your first pass at next year’s calendar was just that: a first pass. Now that you’ve got all of the ideas out of your head it’s time to trim and tie everything together. Start eliminating the non-essentials. After that comes the hard part. After that you need to get rid of some good things to make space for the great things. Focus on doing a few things really well. If you’re not sure what the most important things should be here are three places to start.

6. Get Buy-In From Your Boss.
Everyone in ministry has a boss. Before you start casting vision and making changes you need to get their buy-in. They might not say it but your boss will be grateful you kept them in the loop about what’s going on in your ministry.

7. Make The Final Changes and Launch It.
No doubt your boss will have some feedback for you. Figure out what is directive versus what is suggestive and make the necessary changes. Let everyone know where you’re going and do what you can to get the right people on the bus.

8. Start Planning 4-6 Months Out.
Planning is essential. The dreams I’ve noticed that become a reality are the ones where the leaders plan early and don’t wait till the last-minute to get things done. Stay proactive by starting early. Here’s a free tool to help.

What has God put on your heart to tackle next year?

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