5 Program Planning Hacks You Must Start Using Today

Emily Katherine Dalton
December 4th, 2019

If focuses in ministry could have love languages, mine would be programming.  When we get this right, when we plan thoughtfully, teach creatively, and prepare so we can enter presently, we can truly change the course of a students’ life.  Here are a couple of my favorite tools for teaching, planning, and promoting:


Canva is a free online graphic design service.  If you have ever posted a graphic you created in your Instagram story, go ahead and open Canva in a new tab now and start getting familiar.  Canva offers well designed icons and templates for various pieces you need to create like presentations for an announcement loop or the powerpoint for your lesson because we all know visual aids are everything and poor graphic design sends students running. 

“Share squares”

Now that you are a canva pro and everyone keeps asking if you hired a graphic designer, go ahead and hair flip and let’s take another step forward.  Planning an event and want students there? Due to the algorhythms of Instagram they may be more likely to see an Instagram story post than a post on your account’s page.  In Canva, you can create a piece with “custom dimensions” so go ahead and make one that is 1080 x 1920 pixels and make a beautiful Instagram story promoting your event to your kids and maybe make a fun competition that you’ll randomly draw someone who reshares this story. 

Mail Chimp

Mail Chimp is a free e-mail newsletter service that is easy, simple, and sends helpful e-mails to parents and volunteers.  Simply upload your list of e-mails and click to create an e-mail campaign. You can schedule newsletters to go out later or send them right away to get the word out fast about an event or prayer request! (Pro tip: if you e-mail people more than weekly, they will unsubscribe.)

Evaluations and Feedback

I cannot stress how important evaluations are along with listening to feedback and making adjustments.  As the type A person I am, I remember experiencing the same issues year after year in my youth ministry due to programming oversight and wishing I could create a streamlined system for them.  I understand not everyone operates like me, but often volunteers, parents, and students have a different perspective that is important to keep in mind as you plan events. Sometimes, though, you do have to take feedback with a grain of salt, knowing we cannot meet all preferences, but sometimes great changes can be offered by your “boots on the ground” people.  I recommend using Typeform for beautiful surveys through there is a cost for this feature. Surveymonkey is free and easy to use along with Google Forms.

Sticky Status

This is a simple low-tech feature I have added to my teaching.  I am not sure where exactly I picked this up, but when teaching I will indicate a wall that houses the “sticky status” and place sticky notes and markers on the floor.  Students can write a question at any point and stick it to the wall here if they don’t feel comfortable asking in the group or if they are a student that is just full of questions we don’t always have time to get to.  Later, I’ll take time or maybe a whole night just to answer these questions.

Looking for specific ideas for your programming road block?  I’d love to talk more

Emily Katherine Dalton

Emily Katherine Dalton serves as the Assistant Coordinator of Discipleship Intensives with the WinShape College Program in Rome, GA. EmK grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina where she was called to ministry, moving to Rome, Georgia to study Psychology and Spanish at Berry College. She now works in full time college ministry, is pursuing a Master's of Divinity, has a book coming out in the next year, and loves all things chocolate peanut butter.

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