Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How far out do you plan?

One of the most frequent questions I hear in conversation at arts conferences is "How far out do you plan your services?"

The answers are as varied as the arts leaders themselves.

In the span of my 13 years in service planning I have seen our services run the gamut from planning a few days out to planning several weeks out.  One of my biggest goals when I took the lead of our arts department was to become consistent in a planning system to allow us to average being 5 weeks out in our planning. Here is an example of the system I use:

1.  The upcoming Sunday:  Any final changes?
In our planning meeting (which we hold on Tuesdays) the first week we address is the upcoming Sunday.  We review the order we've created discuss any technical needs that haven't been discussed, think through transitions and check for anything we may have overlooked.

2. 2 weeks out:  When does what happen?
For the service that is two weeks out we look closely at the elements planned for the service and create the order or flow of service we think will best convey the Big Idea at hand.  We take into consideration several things like the tone of elements (is it fast/slow, somber/funny, etc.) and make sure that we won't cause any awkward moments.  More importantly we will try to anticipate where elements may create holy moments in the service and allow for space for people to have these moments and not let them be violated.

3.  3 weeks out:  Who's in What?
Three weeks out we make the selection of elements that we will use in the service and plan who will perform what role in the elements.  This gives our team leaders time to ask our volunteers if they can serve in those roles and give the leaders and planning team time to change plans if that is necessary.

4.  4 weeks out:  Whatcha' Got?
Four weeks out we put "on the table" elements we have found that we have found in our research of the Big Idea.  My hope is that everyone at the meeting will come prepared with a few ideas of songs, dramas, videos, personal stories or out-of-the box elements. This is the time when any original videos or scripts should be suggested to allow time for element creation. 

5.  5 weeks out:  What's the Big Idea?
Finally we take a look at the service that is five weeks out and determine what the main point or "Big Idea" as Andy Stanley calls it will be for that service.  We make it a point to leave this meeting with a very clear understanding of the Big Idea so that we can research elements for the next meeting. 

This system isn't perfect and neither is our ability to stay on it week in and week out all year long.  But it does provide a great framework to easily know where we should be to allow the time necessary to create a strong service in a manageable time frame.

Do you have a similar system?  What have you found that works for you?

[image by prettydaiseys]


Anonymous said...

I like this format, and I'm jealous that you're at a church that starts planning five weeks out.

The title of your blog is amusing because although I'm a musician (I'm the music and media guy at our church), I find that I'm wanting more organization.

I work with two very non-organized pastors and although they occasionally plan sermon themes in advance, nothing else, except for big services like Easter, gets planned more than a week ahead. This keeps us from being very intentional and creative.

Perhaps I'll pitch your outline to them ;)

Anonymous said...

I think it must be a general disease amongst pastors, as the church I attend is on its 2nd in the 22yrs I've been there - and he is just as disorganised as the first.

Great list though and I agree with crispone - start your list with the longest one out first.

Larry said...

Good list post. It is great that you are planning so far in advance. I have found that the further in advance you plan the more creative everyone becomes.

Dropped in from 31DBBB.

Deana Kistner said...

crispone, thanks for your feedback. Please note, we did not start out that way. It actually took 5 years for us to *very* slowly get to this place. I do, strongly, feel that the best way to approach our planning is with as much advance planning as possible so I stuck with it and, over time found myself surrounded by more and more team members who embraced the idea. Now we all (sometimes they push me) push to stay on track. It truly has become a part of the culture not just a mandate on my part. Keep working toward it and cast vision for every single time it has worked in your favor.

Deana Kistner said...

Hi Stuart. Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you suggested starting with longest out first. That is my next goal to move our planning meetings to working that way. It would seem like the easiest thing to knock out in the meeting would be the Big Idea for 5 weeks out and keep planning from 5 to the upcoming week. This is actually what keeps us from staying on the plan because if the meeting runs long it is weeks 4 and 5 that get skipped. Good thinking, thanks for posting!

Deana Kistner said...

Larry, nice to meet you and thanks for your input! I'm excited to see how much we all learn from 31DBBB.

brooke@KnowYourStory said...

I also agree with Crispone, you used the format very well. I found it very easy to read, and educational for someone who is not in the same line of work.