We're not quite done with summer and football season hasn’t even started, but now is a good time to plan for the holiday season. If your team isn’t already playing Christmas music to get in the planning mood, here are some things to consider.

Step No. 1: Consider what worked well last year

You certainly don’t have to repeat what you've done before, but it;s helpful to consider what’s worked well previously. What made that Thanksgiving outreach so successful? Why did so many people sign up to serve? What made people rave about the children's Christmas production? Why did we have such a great response to the altar call?

Learn from prior successes and use those lessons learned to repeat and improve this year.

Step No. 2: Consider what didn't work well last year

Of course, learning from prior mistakes or "oops" moments can help us avoid those in the future. If you put too much weight on one volunteer and he couldn't get it all done, make sure you spread the workload this year. If fewer than expected served in an outreach, what can you do differently this time? Talk with your staff and volunteers to get their input and ideas.

Step No. 3: Decide who's in charge

Designate someone to coordinate each outreach, program or event. Having one person who's responsible for knowing the schedule, overseeing coordination of volunteers and vendors, and knows who is handling what is a huge help.

Make sure these coordinators communicate with each other frequently so they’re not competing for the same people at the same time.

Step No. 4: Catch the vision

Before you get into the details, talk with your senior pastor about his vision for this holiday season. Does he have a specific goal in mind? Does he have his sermons mapped out for that time period so you can create events that complement what he’s teaching?

Once you understand his vision, start communicating it with your team. Your detailed planning needs to support the vision and align with the overall direction of your church leadership.

Before we know it, we’ll hear Christmas music in the stores and will see the usual holiday rush get underway. Let's coordinate with our teams to create events and environments that focus the attention on Christ.

The birth of our savior, and the messages of salvation and hope are what our communities desperately need. Planning months in advance provides us the opportunity to be intentional and do our work with excellence.