Sometimes running a church can feel like living paycheck to paycheck. All of your efforts constantly go into keeping everything functioning on a week to week basis.

The truth is, though, operating on a weekly, monthly, or even seasonal schedule can be pretty inefficient.

It all but guarantees that you’ll be doing things in a haphazard, stressed out manner, which can have a pretty serious effect on the quality of your Sunday services. On top of that, it can also lead to missed ministry opportunities on a regular basis as you and your team struggle to keep your heads above the water.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a road map to help pastors and ministry leaders, in general, think beyond the next month or two.

This article will help guide you through the fall kick off and on an into the rest of the year that follows. The goal is to provide you with the opportunity to think things through, come up with a game plan, and then decide how to implement it in the best way possible.

Phase 1 – Plan your work

This first phase can be the most intimidating. It’s hard to look at a whole fifty-two weeks and think “what are we going to do to fill this many weeks up?”

Seriously, just the thought that a pastor is going to somehow come up with over fifty full-length sermons in that time is already pretty impressive, let alone things like worship sets, mid-week Bible studies, outreaches, VBS programs, and so on.

Oh, the possibilities

The good news is, planning the year out isn’t something that a pastor needs to do all on his own. Coming up with the next year of events, activities, sermon topics, and so on can certainly be an activity that involves a larger portion of your ministry team.

I would start by gathering everyone up for a good old-fashioned brainstorming session. Make sure to identify important dates and events at the beginning of the session, and then do your best to mediate the discussion and keep the brainstorming focused on the topic at hand.

You may be surprised to see what ideas pop up. When they do, write them down to be revisited later.

Choosing the best options

Once you’ve got a good bank of potential ideas for the year ahead, it’s time to sort through them and choose what you actually want to try to accomplish as a ministry this upcoming year.

At this point, nothing is set in stone — and you always want to leave room for God to move — but as far as is possible, try to get a solid idea of what you reasonably can fit into the next twelve months.

Phase 2 – Work your plan

Next, you need to come up with an actionable approach to put your proposed plan into place.

Scheduling it all out

First, organize and outline your ministry’s proposed agenda.

I suggest using a free platform like Trello to help layout and organize everything in a visual way that’s accessible to your whole team.

Break things up into topics like “sermons,” “events,” and “promotion” and even things like “graphics and content.” Basically, categorize anything that will require work and timing to do correctly.

Plan your promotions

Once you have your plan laid out, it’s time to put things into motion. Don’t just wait for each event to creep up on you, plan the work out weeks and months in advance.

This includes promotions. If you need to create free church graphics for a fundraiser, make sure you have them ready early enough not just for the event, but to use in your promotions leading up to it, too.

Prep your online hub

Your website should be treated as the center of your operations throughout the year. Every promotional effort should point to it. Sermons should be uploaded to it each week. Event information and sign up forms should be housed there.

You get the idea.

In short, make sure that your website is running like a well-oiled machine before the year kicks off in earnest. I promise you won’t regret having a smooth running site to help keep everything orderly and updated as you go along.

The magic of planning ahead

Planning your ministry’s year ahead of time really does make a huge difference.

If you can manage to break out of the short term mindset in order to prepare your year’s activities, messages, sermons, and so on, you’re likely to find that you and your staff are less stressed and more efficient.

On top of the easing of pressure on your day to day operations, having a well-organized, thought out plan in place means your ministry is likely to have a much more effective year as each item in your agenda takes place smoothly, predictably, and on time.