Planning Events: The Reality of our Resources
The following series of articles are part of a partnership between the Next Institute and CDM, the PCA’s Committee on Discipleship Ministries. You can visit CDM’s Youth Ministry Toolbox here!
Because we are made in the image of God, we are creators like our Creator. Of course, we’re not making things out of nothing, but part of the image of God in us to have dominion over creation involves transforming the ‘stuff’ God has made into creative expressions of God-honoring culture. Ministry is a part of that work. Of course, viewed another way, this means that we are limited beings. We require resources – perhaps finances, buildings, food, but definitely people, time, effort, etc. – in our creative work. If this is the case, then knowing what resources you have and considering how to best steward those in the work of ministry is a huge part of the planning process.
So how do you determine what resources you have? What do you take into account?
· Finances – One facet of the ‘stereotypical youth pastor’ is a struggle with administrative concepts, such as budgeting. Youth workers need to understand what budget they have, how to submit receipts, how to receive payments, etc. They also need to be proactive in learning how to appropriately advocate for the youth budget, instead of bitterly complaining that the youth ministry of every church gets short-changed.
· Supplies – Many youth ministries spend far more than they need to because they are not aware of the things their church already owns. Game supplies, office supplies, decorations – these things go to die in church closets and attics, and no one knows, especially when leadership transitions occur. Doing a physical inventory of the things a ministry has access to can aid in planning events that would normally require much more in terms of resources.
· People – Ministries must be honest about the number of volunteers they have, and the abilities of these volunteers to serve (both in skills and time). For instance, ministries with many twentysomethings as volunteers may have time as a great resource, especially in the evenings or to go on trips. Yet ministries with parents as volunteers may have houses, skills they can teach, and the ability to relate to other parents. One is not better than the other – but knowing this prior to the panning process will affect what you plan.
· Potential – What can you obtain that you do not currently have? How much is realistic to fundraise, and what is it appropriate to fundraise for? What is a realistic volunteer pool you can recruit for specific events or needs? What things do people already have that they are willing to lend or donate?
Now, some will note Scriptural calls to not be anxious, to cast our cares upon the Lord, and to let our needs be known to him – usually citing cases where God has met tremendous ministerial needs beyond what we could imagine. This is by no means a call to not trust God, a ‘census’ of sorts that lets us rest on our own control. Rather, Scripture is also clear of our need to be stewards of that which God has given us, and to not make rash plans that are in the service of idols like ‘flash’ or ‘attendance’.
By knowing what we have in its entirety, we can consider a few additional questions as we plan specific events:
· Generally, what will our ministry needs be over an entire year? If a back to school event, for example, would leave a ministry struggling to find resources for an entire semester, it might not be the best use of resources to hire a musician and rent a professional light-rig. Choices made in the service of a certain event take some resources away from other possible events. Planning not only a single event but into the future helps youth ministries to make good stewardship choices for every event.
· Are the resources required for this specific event in keeping with its ‘weight’ (scope, importance in light of a ministry’s mission and vision, opportunity, other known and unknown ministry needs)? A high-cost ski trip, for example, might be incredibly fun, but if it serves only a group of already-committed students who would be as served by a simple movie night, it may draw heavy resources away from other ministry endeavors.
· What things are good ideas to invest in because they will have value over many events/years? Some ministries that run similar events year after year may ‘upgrade’ or add one resource yearly to aid in later events.
By knowing what we have, and what out limits are, we can move forward with confidence in intentional program-planning out of our ministry purposes, free of the fear of being unable to execute the missions God has given us and the anxiety of having to ‘perform’ by planning events outside of the scope of the vision and resources God has given you.