HOW TO: Set your small group ministry’s annual calendar

When you are called to serve as a Small Group Facilitator, more often than not, the commitment to hold and/or host meetings is one among many commitments (i.e., holding a full-time job, raising a family, maintaining a social life, etc., etc.). If your parish is fortunate enough to have a Small Group Coordinator, some of the more big-picture/administrative responsibilities of establishing an overall vision, training/developing facilitators, setting calendars, etc. are alleviated from the already significant load of a Small Group Facilitator.

Unfortunately, for a whole host of reasons, most parishes do not have a dedicated Small Group Coordinator, and most parish small groups tend to be a collection of disparate groups of people who rely on the parish to recommend and provide appropriate small group resources. Often, meetings end up getting planned from week to week (or maybe from one book to the next), without any real sense of what the big picture is.

This HOW-TO post, is my way of equipping Small Group Facilitators with the tools to establish a framework for your group to flourish, beginning with the administrative (and admittedly, mundane) task of planning out your small group’s annual calendar. If you’re a teacher, this concept shouldn’t be foreign to you — it’s simply providing your members with the dates that your group plans on meeting in the upcoming year (the equivalent of the academic calendar that a school district provides for their respective schools). While this may seem a little overboard, I guarantee that your members will refer to it throughout the year when they need to plan around their families’ schedules. To help you create your ministry’s 2014-15 calendar (specifically, July 2014 to June 2015), I’ve provided the links below along with step-by-step instructions:

STEP 1: Refer to your local public school district’s academic calendar and take note of all holidaysSince I have never believed in re-inventing the wheel, I’ve found that it makes the most sense to use your local public school district’s academic calendar as a reference point.  If your local public school district is anything like mine, that means that the upcoming school calendar has just been approved and important dates have been released to the public (to see what I’m talking about, click here). Even if you don’t have members with kids, it’s always good to know when 3-day weekends are occurring, as well as Spring Break, Winter Break, etc. Identify all holidays and make a decision on whether or not you want your group to meet during those weeks. Or maybe, instead of scheduling a regular meeting, you can make a point to schedule your annual White Elephant Christmas Exchange during one of those weeks in December. The possibilities are endless when you give yourself enough time to plan ahead! (In case you haven’t noticed, I am one of those crazy people that LOVE planning 🙂

STEP 2: Refer to the liturgical calendar by clicking here. (You can also use those snazzy calendars that parishes give out to parishioners every year if you’d like to refer to a hard copy.) Take note of times like Holy Week, days of obligation — maybe your group can choose to attend Mass together if your meeting time happens to fall on a day of obligation. Or maybe you want to make a plan to attend your parishes’ Stations of the Cross or Lenten Soup Supper together instead of meeting at your normal time. Again, it’s easier to make decisions like these when you plan ahead of time.

STEP 3: Schedule a meeting with your designated Staff Contact and inform him/her of your intent to go over your ministry’s calendar with him/her. Give yourself enough time between now and your meeting to finalize your calendar. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep your parish informed of your group’s plans. It makes the pastor/Director of Faith Formation feel better about knowing what exactly is going on with their parish programs, and it makes you look good since, hey, you’re planning a whole year ahead of time!

STEP 4: Finalize your calendar. Take a look at all the dates that are left and begin indicating which days you are meeting. If you are using the “Photo Yearly Calendar” template above, you can use different colors to indicate which days your group is meeting. If at all possible, make plans to participate in a retreat or day of reflection together. Maybe one is being offered at a local retreat house — your diocese most likely has a list of all the retreat houses in your area; it’s worth checking their website!

I hope this post proves useful to you and your ministry — please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions!

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