Over the course of a ministry year, there are obvious ups and downs. Certain times in the year lend themselves to large-scale promotions and bringing in new contacts, and other times are better for going deeper with the relationships that one already has. The goal, through it all, is to build a strong community, strengthened by big events and ongoing programs, which will give members the most opportunities for positive change. This post will explain how we think about our year, and some of the thought process behind our planning.
The currency is relationships
In any local charity work, the most important thing is relationships: relationships with individuals, with other charities, churches, community officials, and so on. The value of one’s work in a community rises and falls with the effectiveness with which one is able to build relationships. Good relationships open the door to good work and lasting progress; a lack of relationships will handicap any organization until they are able to change course.
Fall: the beginning of all youth work
Nearly all school systems begin their academic years in the fall, and positive thoughts and emotions are always at their highest during the first month of the academic year. This is the time when we aim to plan our biggest events; this is when the money (if we have it) is spent.
Academic-style extracurricular events, seminars and workshops, are usually the easiest kinds of things to organize at this time, as they are always a big hit with faculty, and students are most apt to take in an extra lecture or two early in the year. Our goal is to organize something that is a legitimate benefit to students in our community — something that will give them an opportunity that they would not normally have.
Retreats: the ultimate tool of community building
Some time late in the fall, many people in our line of work like to schedule some kind of trip, usually called a retreat. It’s a great opportunity to take a few people whom you’ve just recently met and go from near-stranger to good friends within the space of just a few days. These are the times when memories are made, and the foundation for impact is set.
Winter: the slowing down of all things
As the grass turns brown and the leaves begin to whither and fall, so do our attempts to meet new people. This is a much better time to focus on the people that we have met during the fall months.
English classes are usually running full-speed by this time, and we try to schedule a few fun events for people who are already involved in our work. But, in the midst of winter, the holiday season comes and offers a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our community through generosity. During the past several years, we have been able to organize community service projects to help those less fortunate in our cities right at the end of December.
Spring: new birth and new life
Spring comes, and with it, new opportunities for meeting new people. Students who have been with us since the fall are full of new energy, and the opportunity for growth is once again apparent. During this time, we usually try to plan a second “big” event.
Summer: time for rest and refreshment
Summer is a break from all things. Most people use the opportunity for rest and rejuvenation, and we are no different. In the past, we have organized a retreat at the coast, or trips to the mountains for hiking. These are good opportunities to bring the year to a positive close, giving purpose to the past nine or ten months of work.
All in all, a community is formed, and people have been positively impacted along their journey through the year. The ups and downs in the year at times are hard, but can often be allies as we navigate the calendar and plan for a positive impact.