We're still experiencing warm weather, sunny days and lots of outdoor activities. Oh, and we also have about five months until Christmas.

While that sounds like plenty of time now, consider this:

  • You likely have many events planned between now and Christmas. Back-to-school, small groups or discipleship program launches, fall festivals, Thanksgiving outreaches and more will all compete for your time.
  • You still have Sunday services to plan and conduct.
  • You'll need sufficient time to coordinate volunteers, decide what programs or events you’ll host during the Christmas season, and how to pull those off successfully.

With that in mind, now is the time to get started in planning for Christmas:

Step 1: Define your vision and goals

What do you want to accomplish during this Christmas season?

Do you want to ...

  • Provide an environment for families to celebrate Christmas with their church family?
  • Create a service or program that attracts people who aren't already part of a church?
  • Combine a celebration of Christ's birth with a community outreach?

Are you looking to create ...

  • A fun, festive environment?
  • A reverent reminder of the significance of Christ's birth?
  • Somehow transition from one to the other?

Knowing your vision and goals for this Christmas' events will help you plan accordingly.

Step 2: Consider last year

What did you offer last year for Christmas services? What special events, programs or outreaches did your church host?

Now, consider the impact those had on your congregation and on your community:

  • Did you reach your goals through those events? If so, why? What can you replicate this year to maintain and advance the success of last year?
  • If you didn't reach your goals last year, why did that occur? What do you need to do differently this year?
  • Were staff and volunteers exhausted by the end of the Christmas season last year? If so, were they overwhelmed by multiple events during that time frame? Was the planning process started early enough? Did you have enough volunteers?

Step 3: Assemble your team

To begin, you need someone who's responsible for the overall coordination of Christmas events. This is the person who will develop a plan, lead planning meetings, direct staff and volunteers, and in general keep things moving forward.

Depending on the type of event, you'll also need staff and/or volunteers to manage various aspects of the process. This may include marketing, graphic design, décor, parking, security, hosting/greeting, actors, among others.

Step 4: Develop a plan

The planning coordinator should talk with each member of the team to determine which tasks are required for his/her role.

The coordinator should document those tasks into a project plan with a due date and individual assigned to complete each task. This is doing the work on paper before you do it in real life. That process enables you to see time constraints and other potential issues coming so you prevent them.

Step 5: Work the plan

This is the part of the planning process where the coordinator helps the team stay on track. He/she should:

  • Lead team meetings to discuss progress, address any issues, and make sure everyone is aware of key decisions made by church leadership.
  • Send reminders to each team member of his/her upcoming tasks.
  • Request status updates from each team member on a weekly basis.

Step 6: Celebrate and learn

Once the event is over and the team has had several days to reflect, take time to celebrate and learn from the experience.

Bring in donuts, go out for lunch, etc. Do something to celebrate as a team and recognize everyone's hard work.

Next, conduct a lessons-learned meeting. Ask two key questions:

  • What went well that we should repeat for the next event?
  • What didn't go well, and how can we prevent that issue next time?

Assign someone to take notes during this meeting, then save the notes to review before starting the planning process for your next event.

Starting the planning process now will lead to a more successful and less stressful Christmas season. That's a wonderful gift to give your staff and volunteers.