I remember my first youth group Christmas party.
I had planned a big party for the youth group, which was heavily middle school at the time. I lined up a host home for the event. We hyped it and publicized it. We prepared games and activities and spent part of our meager budget on prizes.
No one came.
As it turns out, the night of the Christmas party was also the night of the middle school homecoming basketball game and dance. The high school team also had a basketball game that night.
So, I had a youth event hosted by church members that no one attended. I was embarrassed. The host family was gracious, but I always felt bad that they spent money for food that no one ate. All wasn’t lost, though. I learned a valuable lesson: know the community calendar.
In my two previous posts, we discussed why and how to calendar. Today, I want to equip you with knowledge. Specifically, what information do you need before planning a calendar?
First and foremost, you need school schedules.
In my rural community, fall and spring breaks are sacred. Most of my youth families head to points south for the week, so scheduling a major event during those times is a futile effort. When we prepare our youth calendar, I always come with our school schedules in hand. (In my community, school schedules are usually approved by the end of March.)
Before we start scheduling events, all five school calendars are incorporated into our master calendar. I include every school break and off day of any school in the area. (I’ve found three-day weekends hurt attendance too, so I need those days on the calendar.) If I can, I even put probable dates for homecoming and prom and significant school fundraisers, like fall festivals.
Next, you need to have dates for prominent community events. County fairs, town festivals and Christmas traditions need to be known. In my first ministry community, the county fair was huge. Everything stopped that week. At my last church, an annual city festival shut down schools and the government. Needless to say, we scheduled around those events and often times incorporated them into our own schedule (like dismissing regular youth those weeks).
Holidays should be a given. You need to know when Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Easter are going to be for the next year. Is Christmas in the middle of the week or the weekend? What about Independence Day? You need to know that.
Finally, know your annual dates. We take certain trips with our group each year. I need to carve those dates out in advance. We annually do a Super Bowl gathering. I need to have that already on the calendar.
Having that information will make your calendar planning go smoother, your meetings go shorter and your calendar to be most effective.