The DO’s and DON’Ts of Small Church Calendaring

Youth Specialties
August 10th, 2015

I’ve heard every one of these statements while doing small-church youth ministry assessments.

“We don’t have enough students to do anything, so why bother planning ahead?”

“My daughter won’t go, because she never knows if anyone will be there.”

“How can we do big events if we never know who’s going to show up?”

“It’s a vicious cycle: parents won’t commit, so students don’t commit. How will we ever get off the ground?”

A major conundrum for smaller youth ministries is critical mass, and it starts with the calendar. But before a small-church team should pencil in even one date, here are some preliminary questions to ask.

Is youth ministry truly a part of your church’s mission, or are you doing it just because you think you should? (This must be a church-wide decision and can’t be born from a desperate need to “save” your church.)

Has the church agreed on successful target participation goals for the youth ministry? Generally 10% to 20% of the average weekly worship attendance is a healthy number.

Rather than doing ten mediocre things, what are two to three ministry areas your church wants to make excellent? Small churches have only so many resources to go around (people’s time and the church’s money).

After answering these foundational criteria, take a look at these calendar do’s and don’ts for successful, sustainable small-church student ministry.


  • Look at the overall church calendar for things that could compete with other events or spread people too thin.
  • See what church-wide events could be added to the youth calendar. For example, the church’s annual talent show can be a lot of fun for teenagers!
  • See what youth events could be added to the church’s calendar. Why not make your high school students’ Christmas concert dinner and a show for church members?
  • Plan twelve months out: people can’t prioritize what they don’t know about.
  • Only have a regular weekly youth meeting and one special thing a month during the school year,
  • Put down major holiday, school, community, and church dates before scheduling even one youth event. You don’t want to accidentally schedule a youth retreat on the same weekend as prom.
  • Use Google calendar (or some other free in-the-cloud app) so that youth and parents can access the latest info on the calendar at any time.
  • Consider setting aside any pet project events that the church has always done but don’t really add to the goal of fewer and better.


  • Put so much on the calendar that it causes people to choose. Remember, critical mass is the goal, and people can only do so many church things.
  • Think last minute switching is okay.
  • Cancel because “only two or three are coming.”
  • Plan events that need a minimum number to go.
  • Pass out a hard-copy calendar. It’s just not helpful anymore—especially as your primary form of communication. People need to access dates quickly if you want them to say yes to your event.
  • Don’t give away your Sabbath or day off without replacing it with another day of rest.

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STEPHANIE CARO has been involved in ministry for more than 30+ years. She’s the senior consultant for Ministry Architects and the director of their Small Church division.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.