(Based on an article developed in 1987 for Royal Ambassador leadership.)
Good planning does not mean that the activity that you will plan will be successful, but planning greatly improves the probability that you will be successful.
You are trying to get people to give of their time by participating in your activity. You must work to make it worth their time and effort for them to attend. If the activity is not successful, you may not get the people to attend a future activity. How well an activity turns out does have an influence on the excitement the people will have about attending the next activity that you plan.
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Planning means that decisions will be made before you know if each decision is correct. You must be willing to take a risk if you are going to plan. It is hard to plan if you have to know if the decision is right when it is made, because you will not know until after the activity if you made a good decision. You can depend on the fact that you will make some decisions that you will later wish that you had not made. That is just the way it is when you plan and make decisions. Experience and good sound thinking are the tools you work with when planning.
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When you make a decision, you can be secure in the fact that someone will think that you should have done it differently. It is common for the people that will not take the risk in making the decision will be the ones that will after the fact let their opinions be known. These people have to be ignored, and do not get upset at their antics. Sometimes they will have good ideas so just file the idea away for use at another time.
Most people are aware of how you can get into problems when you make an assumption. DO NOT ASSUME anything when you are planning. Check out the situation and make sure. Assuming without verifying can make you look very foolish and feel very sorry. The decision is up to you.
In this article, the word, activity, makes reference to what you are going to plan such as "going bowling.” Tasks in the activity are the things that must be planned so the activity can be conducted. A few tasks associated with a bowling activity are: reserving the lanes, planning transportation, planning the food that will be eaten after bowling, planning the awards that will be given out for bowling scores, etc.
Some people are good at planning the over all activity (a big picture) but cannot work with the tasks (details) that are needed in order to carry out the activity. Some people are good at planning the details needed to carry out the activity but are not good at coming up with the big picture. Both types of people are needed, and one type is not more important than the other.
Both types of planning must be accomplished for each activity. The bigger the activity the more important it is that people are given responsibilities according to the type of planning ability they possess. Some people do not like to take responsibility for planning, but they (workers) are very willing to do what they are told (follow directions). The workers are very important to the successful to an activity. Never say or do anything that will minimize the value of the worker.
The first thing in planning is deciding what you want to accomplish. The end result must be determined. The desired result is what will guide you as you plan the activity. If you lose sight of the desired result, you will plan an activity that may not achieve your desired result.
Always remember the following words, What, When, Where, Who, Why, and How, as you plan the activity and its tasks.
The target group for your activity is the people you want to attend the activity. After the target group is selected, make a list of things (influences) that will cause them to want to attend or not want to attend. Wanting to have a wide age range of people to attend the activity will cause planning problems (concerns). In addition to things that may hinder a person from attending, the planning of the activity’s content should take into consideration the different interests of the people.
The things that will keep the interest of a young adult may not keep the interest of a senior adult. Keeping the focus of the planning on the purpose of the activity will help overcome the different interest.
Where is the activity going to be held? This question must be answered, because reservations may need to be made for you to use the facilities. You must decide on the type of facilities you will need. Is a room with chairs all you will need? Will you need tables? Even though you may only want to put kool-aid in the refrigerator to keep it cool, you should reserve the kitchen facilities and not assume that you can use the refrigerator.
The date and time of the activity are next to be determined. Not all of the target group may be able to attend the activity, but you should select the date and time of the activity that will have the least conflicts for the people in the target group. Check the church calendar to determine if there are any activities for the selected date that will have the same group of people as its target group. Activities for children that conflict with your activity can keep their parents from attending. Unless the activity is oriented to a holiday, do not plan an activity on a holiday or holiday weekend (you may be sorry).
Deciding the tasks that must be planned for the activity can take time. A good approach is to make a list of the things that you think must be done. For a bowling activity, the following is a list of some of the activities that must be completed: reserve bowling lanes, notify people of the date and name of the bowling alley, select people to serve on committees if needed, determine if people will meet at bowling alley or gather at the church and go as a group to the bowling alley, decide if each person will pay for his bowling or someone will collect money from each person and pay the bowling alley, decide if awards will be made, etc.
The bottom line to promoting an activity is to inform people of the activity and create in them an interest to want to participate in the activity. In order to get people to remember the activity, the promotion has got to leave an impact on their minds.
A lot can be said about the timing of promotional activities. Promoting too early may cause people to grow tried of hearing about the activity, and promoting too late may not generate the interested to get the target group to attend. Just remember that you must convince the target-group that it is to their benefit when they participate in the activity. Also, the who, what, where, when, why, and how must be communicated to the target group. Do not be afraid to be different in the way you select to communicate what you want the target group to know. Often the unusual method is what people will remember.
Evaluation of the activity after the activity has been conducted is a must if you are to improve your planning process. You need to look at what worked as it was supposed to and what did not work as expected. The people involved in the planning should be involved in the evaluation. The purpose of evaluation is not to point out who did not do their job, but to strive to understand why an activity did not work so the same mistakes will not be made again. Also, the activities that did work as planned should be looked at as to ensure that the same approach to the planning of the activities will be done again in the future.
It is a good idea that at least one person is set aside to be available to perform the tasks that seem to always pop up at the last minute. [ One time I was responsible for a cookout for about 30 people. Someone forgot to bring a spatula for turning the hamburgers. I spent some time using the lid from a large can and locking pliers to form a very unusual looking spatula. ] I was available to be an inventor, because I had planned for myself to not have specific duties during the actual cookout just in case a typical last minute unplanned task appeared.
Two heads are normally better than one when brainstorming for ideas. It must be very clear as to who will make the final decisions as to which ideas will be used. When involving more than one person in planning, someone may get their feelings hurt because his idea was rejected. That is just the way the ball bounces.
Who will pay for the activity? People can donate food, supplies, time, etc. There will always be people that will try to get by with giving nothing or only as little as they have to do. Also, there will always be people that will go beyond what is their fair share of the expenses in their effort to make the activity a success. Determine the cost of an activity and how the activity will be financed are important aspects of planning the activity’s budget.
You may need to determine the cost of the activity so a charge per person can be determined so the money spent will be recovered. A treasury may be set up so money can be collected to pay for expenses. A church-sponsored organization may have an amount in its budget from which money can be drawn.
If you want to involve adults that have small children in an activity, you should make plans to provide some type of child care. If you do not provide child care, some adults may not attend, because they could not locate someone to keep their children.
You will need to find a trustworthy person (maybe several) to watch after the children. You will need to determine how much to charge for the child care service.
You can start planning a small activity (two people eating at your house) and work up to bigger activities (church picnic for 200 people). Plan the activity for two people to visit you in your home. Plan the meal, games, watch TV, etc. they will do while at your home. You can then invite six people to visit you so you can plan for what they will do and eat. Next plan for a fellowship for your Sunday School class and then plan a fellowship for your Sunday School department. I used the word, fellowship, instead of the word, party, because some church people get upset when a church organization is referred to as a party.
It is common for people to need deadlines so they will put forth the effort to complete what is assigned to them. Believe it or not, some people will wait until the last minute or even after the last minute to attempt to fulfill their responsibility. A few days before a deadline, some people need to be reminded of the approaching deadline.
It seems that the only people that understand the need for deadlines are the people that have to make reservations or buy food/supplies for an activity. You have to decide if you will be very hard nosed about the published last day to sign up for the activity. It is a very unusual situation if you do not have someone to decide after the deadline that they want to participate in the activity.
It is best to set the deadline date several days before the last day that you can allow people to decide to participate in the activity. Do not allow people to be added after the deadline has passed until the impact of the additional people on the planning of the activity has been determined.
You can expect the people that wait past the deadline to try to get an influential person in the organization to try to get you to change your decision.
Do not be surprised if a person that has made a reservation decides to not attend. If they have paid a deposit when making the reservation, they may expect to have the money refunded even if you have spent the deposit to purchase a ticket, buy supplies, rent facilities, etc. with the deposit money. Make it very clear from the very beginning that no money will be refunded unless another person decides to take the reservation that the person is refusing to honor.
If you have to spend money to make reservations, make sure that you collect the money from the people before you make the reservation.
CAUTION - People do not always live up to their word and you can end up holding the bag with not enough money if you spend money before collecting it.
Be sure to document any special instructions concerning the use of the facilities. The instructions may cover how the facilities are to look after cleaning up, closing all doors and windows, taking out the trash, where to leave the key, turning off the water and electricity when leaving, etc. Be sure to obey the rules for using the facilities so you will be allowed to use the facilities in the future.
Be sure that the facilities are left is as good a shape as you found them. Do not leave trash, paper, etc. laying around. If you set up tables and chairs, be sure that they are put back where you got them. Also, if you rearrange the furniture for your activity, be sure that you put the furniture back where you found the furniture at the end of the activity.
It is important that the person in charge of cleaning up is aware of any special instruction concerning how the facilities are to be left.
What am I to do with the food that is left? A few options for handling leftover food are to give the food to the people that brought the food, to the people that worked in planning the activity, and to shut-in members of the church.
Leftovers can be items other than food. If the items can be used at a later time, keep them. Money can be a leftover. Collecting more money than was needed creates another problem. The extra money can be refunded to the participants or donated to the church. If the money is donated to the church, a specific budget item or ministry can be designated to receive the money.
It is a good idea to plan ahead by anticipating leftovers you may have and how you can handle the situation.
This is a must! Sometime during the activity, be sure that the people that spent time in planning, setting up for the activity, carrying out duties that enabled the activity to occur, etc. are recognized for their effort. People need to be told that they are appreciated.
Displaying pictures of a past activity is a wonderful way to communicate what happened. Displaying pictures of a previous activity that is similar to an activity that you are promoting is a good way to generate interest in the activity. Be careful because the pictures must be such that they convey excitement and a true situation that will occur.
I do not know if a picture will say more than can be said in a thousand words. I do know that a picture can say more things in a four inch by three inch space than can be said in the same space using words.
Be sure to save the pictures from previous activities. They can be used to promote future activities. People will stop and look at pictures on a poster before they will stop and read a poster.
You do not have to be an expert or use an expensive camera to get good pictures. You need to have a basic understanding of what your camera can do. The content of the picture is the most important consideration. The purpose of taking pictures is to capture an image on film that will help you remember what you were experiencing when the picture was taken.
Caution needs to be exercised when planning activities which can cause someone to get hurt. It does not matter how careful the adults are at watching the children and youth, a person can get hurt very quickly even under very watchful supervision.
It is interesting that parents that demonstrate very little supervision of their kids at home will get bent out of shape when their little darling gets hurt at a church activity. The little darling will behave at the church activity just like he does at home. That is he will not pay any attention to what the adults say to him. Poor parenting skills at home frequently create problems for adults that work with children and youth.
Make sure you have a phone number for each child/youth to call in case there is an emergency. This can be the phone number of a parent or relative.
When working with children and youth, be sure you plan to have doors watched that the little darlings could use to leave the activity. A bored child/youth can cause them to generate their own excitement which can include leaving the area of the activity.
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You will probably not need to use the phone, but it is wise to know the location of a phone, Emergencies can develop very fast. When renting facilities, the available phone will often be a pay phone. Make sure someone has the needed coins in case several phone calls have to be made.
Find out the phone number to be called by a person not at the activity that “needs” to contact a person at the activity. For child/youth activities, this phone number will need to be given to parents. Do not be surprised at the things people will consider so “important” that they must contact a person at the activity.
Some youth seem to have a built in trait that they have to call a friend when they are at an activity. Establish clear rules about the use of the phone during the activity.
The people that are conducting the activity need to know where the wet and dry mops, brooms, water buckets, etc. are kept in case there is a need.
It is good to know the phone number of a person associated with the facilities to call if there is a need. It is good to have tentative plans in case there is an emergency.
Contact Dale Lee with your comments.
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