Last week, we shared the first article in a series called, A Guide for Planning Women’s Ministry Events. We shared that the first and most important step as you plan any kind of event for the women in your church or community is prayer. Always seek the Lord’s direction before taking any other steps.
As you He shows you His plan for your event, consider using the following timeline to help you plan the details. Realistically, you may not incorporate every aspect of this timeline into your planning. This is simply a guide to help you get started and consider what may need to be addressed in the process. This is an extensive, overarching list of options to incorporate, so personalize this timeline to best help you minister to the women you lead.
One to Two Years Before the Event
- Set the tentative date for the conference or retreat. Be sure you have the event set for a time when there are no conflicts on your church’s calendar. It would be wise to also check school and community calendars.
- Determine your budget. This includes expenses and income. What will the event cost? How much will the church underwrite? How much will the participants have
- Contact the first keynote speaker. If the date works for her, contact other speakers. To avoid conflict, do not contact all of the speakers at the same time. Consider using two or three keynote speakers because different personalities minister to differing needs. Adjust the date if speakers are not available to be with you on your first choice of dates. Ask them if they require an honorarium. Even if the speaker does not have a set amount, be as generous with her as your budget will allow.
- In the case of planning a retreat, lock in on a location and reserve it. Popular facilities fill up fast.
Four to Six Months Before the Event
- Decide on a theme based on Scripture. From the theme, develop message titles, seminar topics (optional), decorations, and publicity plans.
- After you have decided on 12 to 15 seminar (small group) topics, pray about who God wants you to invite to lead them. After you have seminar leaders in mind, give the list to your pastor, other staff member, or fellow team member to pray about. Once you have both prayed and are assured that the leaders are right for your event, contact each one on the same day.
- Write your keynote speakers and let them know how plans are progressing. Give them all the information you can. Ask what you can do for them as they prepare to come.
- Decide whether to offer scholarships. If the decision is yes, secure funding and decide how to offer them to women who need them.
Two to Three Months Before the Event
- Send a registration brochure mailout and e-mail blitz (optional) to advertise the conference or retreat.
- Request facilities (rooms), food, publicity and printing, audiovisual equipment, and childcare as needed.
- Begin working with your teams. The following team structure has been helpful to us in planning our conferences and retreats. Retreat teams will not be as structured or detailed as conference teams. A retreat should be much more relaxed and will not require as many planning groups. Even so, to ensure a good response, get as many women as possible involved in planning. Use the following as a guide for how to assign the various aspects of planning.
- Program Director. This is usually the women’s ministry director/coordinator. She coordinates the event and is in charge of the program, speakers, music, and all other team leaders. She sets up meetings with teams as needed and monitors spending to maintain budget guidelines.
- Decorations team. The ladies are responsible for putting up and removing all decorations (or selling them after the event). This includes decorating for the meals, setting up displays during the conference or retreat, decorating the bathrooms, and any other extra decorations. This is important to women who tend to look at details. It will convey you are glad they came!
- Prayer team. These ladies are responsible for contacting women who would be willing to pray daily for the needs of the speakers, the team leader, the weather, those attending, and the facilities. This team might also want to prepare a prayer guide. Nothing is too trivial to pray over either before or during the event!
- Food team. These individuals are responsible for planning a menu for one or two meals, depending on the length of your conference.
- Lodging team. These ladies are responsible for making arrangements for lodging. For a conference, this might just be for out-of-town leaders. For a retreat, this team’s responsibilities include setting up lodging for leaders and participants.
- Secretary/registration team. These individuals are responsible for participant registration, childcare registration (if offered), correspondence to registrants, all monies received, and for keeping up with requests for lodging.
- Childcare team. As registrants request childcare (optional), this team will make the necessary preparations. Childcare registration should be closed two weeks before the event to allow for adequate preparation.
- Publicity team. These people are responsible for all publicity except registration brochures. Publicity can be through local newspapers, the state denominational paper, on Christian radio stations, or on television.
- Booklet team. These ladies are responsible for preparing the program booklets. These booklets contains the schedule, speaker’s outlines, Scripture references, information about the speakers, and provide room to take notes.
- Packet team. These individuals are responsible for the free packet given to each guest. They may contain things such as pens, program booklets, tissues, mints, and key chains. Check with local businesses for giveaways and door prizes. Include a list of donors in the packet. This team will need to order packets at least three months before the event.
- Transportation team. This team plans transportation for event speakers and participants as needed.
- Bookstore team. These ladies set up and run the bookstore and receive suggestions from speakers about resources to make available. Ask the speaker (if she brings and sells her own books) or bookstore provider for a percentage of sales (10 percent is a good standard).
- Counseling team. This group prepares or obtains decision cards, tracts, church information, and other follow-up materials. They also train women to counsel.
- Audiovisual team. Members obtain audiovisual equipment as needed.
- Greeter team. These friendly ladies are responsible for greeting women and directing them to registration, the book store, childcare, and seminar rooms.
- Follow-up team. These people call or send letters to attendees—especially those from outside the church. They contact women who made decisions at the event.
Two Months Before the Event
- Contact speakers and seminar leaders, giving them a deadline for providing their outlines for the program booklet. Also encouragement them and direction about the philosophy of the conference and what is expected of them.
- Make all hotel and airline reservations for guest leaders.
- Work individually with each team leader about her responsibilities. Even though group meetings may seem better, you can save time by working individually. This also facilitates the decision-making process.
- Finalize the schedule and confirm that all details are being handled.
One Month Before the Event
- Contact musicians: soloists, instrumentalists, and music leaders. Give them a copy of the program and verify their responsibilities. Thank them for agreeing to participate.
- Make plans for a pre-event reception/prayer time. This reception or prayer time is normally held the afternoon or evening before the conference or retreat. It includes speakers, team leaders, workers, and musicians. The reception can be in one of your women’s homes or at the church. This is a special time of dedication and prayer for the event. Invite all seminar leaders, keynote speakers, team leaders, workers, and musicians to come to the reception.
- Plan for a meal after the conference or retreat. The purpose of this meal is to feed out-of-town guests before they leave and to have something special for your workers before they clean up the facilities.
- Send a second mailout and e-mail blitz (optional) to advertise the conference or retreat. Remind ladies to send in their registration forms.
- If you don’t have all the speaker’s and leader’s outlines, call and request them.
- The booklets need to be printed and reproduced so they can be assembled at least two weeks before the conference or retreat. If you do your own printing, be sure to order plenty of supplies to complete the booklet. Include paper, binders, and cover pages.
- During the last two weeks before the conference or retreat, plan three or four workdays for your ladies. Put these dates on your church calendar. Clear the dates with your booklet, packet, and decoration team—they will need the most help. Publish a sign-up sheet for the workdays and circulate it around the church.
Two Weeks Before the Event
- Finalize plans with your team leaders, making sure details are covered and they have plenty of volunteer help.
- Confirm reservations for speakers and leaders.
- Contact women in your church to act as hostesses and to introduce the program speakers.
- Complete and assemble the program booklets.
- Stuff the packets and store them until the event.
- Write guest speakers and leaders, telling them how many are registered for the event and their individual seminars. Send them a copy of the program booklet.
- Complete program plans.
- Consider postponing extra women’s programs the week before the event.
- Give the financial secretary or church treasurer an itemized list of honorariums, including speakers, singers, musicians, and sound personnel.
The Day of the Event
- Try to relax and enjoy the day. It’s in God’s hands. He gets all of the credit and the glory!
After the Event
- Send thank you notes to all the people who helped with the event, including door prize and gift bag donors and the church staff (secretary, maintenance, etc.).
What would you add to this timeline based on how you’ve prepared for women’s ministry events in the past?
This article is adapted from Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry, compiled by Chris Adams.
Merci Dixon formerly served as Director of Women’s Ministries at Moss Bluff First Baptist Church in Moss Bluff, Louisiana.