The online church calendar — so useful, yet often the source of endless frustration for church communicators and administrators.
One of the most common challenges we see in calendar management is around deciding what goes on the church calendar.
When you have multiple ministries and staff who want to feature all of their events, outings and meetings, your calendar can quickly become jam-packed. An overly full calendar that’s difficult to navigate means visitors won’t take a second look and even members will start ignoring it.
On the flip side, if you’re too restrictive, your calendar may look empty, giving the impression that your don’t have anything going on or your ministries are inactive — which is almost always the exact opposite of reality.
So where do you draw the line on what events and information are featured on your online church calendar? How do you treat different ministries fairly while putting visitor and member needs first? Here are some helpful tips to help you make that tricky decision.
Serve visitors first.
Between bulletin and pulpit announcements, service slides, emails and social media, your members and regular attenders have lots of ways of learning about your event schedule. Visitors, however, are likely relying on your website for information, which is why your online calendar should cater to their needs first and foremost.
What does serving visitors first look like? Make sure it’s easy to find information about visitor friendly events, such as holiday services, community events, concerts and guest speakers. Avoid listing events or meetings that visitors would not feel comfortable “popping in” and joining.
Think of your church calendar as an event listing.
Yes, you probably call it a calendar, but we find it helpful to think of it as a list of events. If you wouldn’t categorize something as an “event,” there’s a good chance it doesn’t belong on the calendar. For example, meetings and rehearsals aren’t “events,” and most of the time don’t belong on your public calendar.
Look at how many events you have in the “average” month.
If you have dozens of meetings, Bible studies, classes, events, services, rehearsals and more happening every single week, you’re going to have to be more selective, limiting the calendar to only events that affect a large number of people. Alternatively, you can provide a way for users to filter information so they can easily find what they need. For example, allow users to select a specific ministry (i.e. Kids) or format (i.e. Bible studies) so they can limit what is showing. You should also plan to highlight major events outside of the calendar so that they don’t get overlooked.
If you only have a handful of happenings each week or month, you can set a lower bar for what gets on the calendar.
Establish objective criteria that events must meet before going on the calendar.
It can be helpful to have very clear criteria for what qualifies an event to get on the calendar. For example, an event must be relevant to at least 50% of the congregation for it be featured.
Leave weekly services off the calendar.
Most of the time, you don’t need to list your recurring Sunday or Wednesday services on your event calendar. Those service times and details should be featured prominently on your homepage and visitor page, or even in the footer on every page. If they aren’t prominently featured…stop reading right now and go make that change to your website!
Consider having a separate internal calendar.
If you’re finding it difficult to winnow your calendar down so that it’s both easy-to-use and visitor-focused, it may be helpful to maintain a separate, internal calendar for staff, volunteers and members. If you go this route, you’ll want to tuck it in your secondary navigation or footer so visitors don’t stumble across it, or you can even keep it as a purely internal resource.