Planning Your Ministry Year

Planning Your Ministry Year

It’s the time of the year when many pastors and ministry leaders are thinking about their new year. Let’s get into a basic framework I like to follow when I am personally walking through it. I always like to start any sort of planning session with a good brain dump. To do this well, I find it is best to create these three lists, and in this order.

When will you be out of the office?

Think through the times of the year when you will be on vacation, at a conference or on study leave. You don’t need to have the exact dates, but understanding it as far as weeks are concerned, or blocking it off broadly will help you plan better. And pastors, take your vacation and time off.

What are the important church and/or community events and seasons?

Note the days like Mother’s/Father’s Day, other non-religious holidays. If you are in a liturgical tradition, note when advent/lent/Pentecost are. If there is a special time or day in your community that would affect your larger church planning, make sure to put that down as well.

We note these things for when we start to do broader planning. You don’t want to be in the middle of something important and have one of these get broken up by it. Just having a higher view of what and where energy might be going, and what might affect Sunday worship is a great piece of clarity to have.

Ministry Essentials (three additional lists)

Now I make three specific lists. The things I want to do, the things I need to do, and the things I have to do. You can also attach the broader WE here (for things the church needs to do, but you need to be leading or making sure happens). There are some subtle differences here, but each matters.

The things you want to do are just that. It might be a dream to kick off a new ministry, or another specific project. Make sure to use the Jurassic Park principle here (just because you can doesn’t mean you should).

Things you have to do are the unavoidable parts of ministry. VBS, Charge Conference season, or other denominational responsibilities. It also can mean specific things to your church that are going to happen no matter what. Those special events like the women’s ministry banquet or the 60-year-old Advent traditions.

The things you need to do are those larger projects that might not be fun but are essential. If you have to raise 20k for a new AC unit, that needs to go there. Creating and implementing a database.

How do you organize all of this?

I use Trello (surprise, surprise). I find it helps me plan at a higher level, but also to work inside of these plans throughout the year. It is a great digital version of the old-school David Allen concept of 43 folders. I teach how I do yearly planning in module 2 of my course, Trello for Personal Ministry. It lets you plan and project manage. Trello is also highly adaptable.

By Rev. Chad Brooks

Again, my thanks to Chad for allowing me to post his notes here. Let’s be good stewards of our time this year! To listen to the podcast in its entirety, go to

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