Planning a church event involves a considerable amount of time, effort, and communication. From deciding on the theme and day of the event to recruiting volunteers, there are plenty of details to manage. Thankfully, a disciplined process combined with a few key technical tools can make planning less stressful.
Here are a few tips on how to leverage technology to plan your next event:
Tip #1: Create a Central Location for all Event-Related Files
A folder in Google Drive or on the church network server could be the perfect place to save all the files related to an event. The planning team will have plenty of details to manage and probably a tight timeline in which to get everything done. The last thing they need is to waste time searching for the latest flyer graphics, vendor contracts, or event schedule.
When you use a standard process for planning events, you can create a template filing system to use for upcoming events. For example, the process I advocate in my book, The Church Event Planning Toolkit, includes seven steps. Each step includes key documents the team will need to fill out or create as part of that step in the process. Having a template ready makes setting up the file structure for the next event a simple copy and paste activity.
Tip #2: Use a Cloud-Based Project Management Tool
There are typically too many tasks involved in making an event happen to keep them in a spreadsheet. You’ll need a project plan that includes all the tasks necessary to pull off this event along with who is responsible for each and the corresponding deadline. Using a cloud-based tool makes it easier to keep all this information in one place. It also helps the team collaborate with fewer meetings. The event planner can use the tool to quickly check on the status of tasks due within the coming week, so he can follow-up with team members and provide a status update to the ministry leader overseeing the event.
The corporate world tends to use Microsoft Project for its project planning efforts. However, that software is more than most churches will need and is fairly expensive. Tools such as Asana, Trello, or Basecamp provide great functionality at more reasonable prices.
My personal favorite is Asana. You can create various projects within the tool so that you can manage several events at once. Asana also includes the capability to create dependencies for each task. This is useful to note that your communications team can’t create the event graphics until they receive direction from the person in-charge of the event. Being able to see those dependencies helps the event planner identify potential bottlenecks and see the impact if a particular team member is late in completing a certain task.
If you don’t already use a project management tool, here is some key functionality you’ll need:
- Add an unlimited number of users (or at least enough to cover your staff and volunteers who will need access to the tool)
- Add individuals outside of the church staff to the tool
- Assign an individual to each task
- Assign a due date to each task
- Link to file(s) that are applicable to a particular task
- Add comments to a task (this can reduce email traffic and meetings)
- Automatic notifications
- Remind team members of upcoming deadlines
- Notify a task owner when the task she was waiting on to be finished is complete so she can start on her next task
- Create a standard template for event project plans that you can quickly copy to use for the next event
Tip #3: Leverage Church Management Software (ChMS) to Coordinate Volunteers
A ChMS tool such as Planning Center, Church Community Builder, Touchpoint, Realm, and others should contain the names and contact information for your regular weekend volunteer team. As the volunteer coordinator for an event prepares to invite people to serve, the ChMS is a great place to start when looking for volunteers.
Use the tool to send out emails inviting people to serve and providing them with information about the event. You can also use the scheduling features of your ChMS to schedule volunteer training sessions and send out reminders a few days before the event.
If you have several people contacting potential volunteers, make sure they note within the ChMS when they contacted each individual. You don’t want Susie to receive calls from three staff members asking her to serve at the event.
Planning a successful church event doesn’t have to be stressful. By implementing a standard planning process and using technology along the way, you can create events that draw people closer to Christ without wearing out your team.