So, you've just been asked to plan your church's next big retreat or conference? Don't stress--here's everything you need to know to pull it off successfully.

It's inevitable--no matter what our primary ministry responsibilities, we all will eventually find ourselves responsible for planning, producing or directing a major meeting or event. It may be a yearly convention, a one-time retreat or a critical fund-raising extravaganza. And, in many cases, the results of that meeting will have a direct correlation to the future success and growth--or failure and decline--of the ministry we serve.

What a huge job and significant challenge you as the planner face in representing the needs of your organization! The weight of responsibility and the pressure of keeping on top of myriad details can induce a considerable amount of stress. So, before you start pulling your hair out, take a deep breath and listen to some good news: There's a great deal of information and assistance available--based on those who have years of experience in the field--that can help you make wise choices and intelligent decisions regarding meeting and event planning.

The following information is provided to help you think through major issues and critical decisions that can literally "make or break" the success of an event, and it is presented in an annotated outline form to facilitate your thinking and planning at a high level.

However, it's been my experience that the ultimate outcome and success of the meeting is in the details. Don't hesitate to brainstorm with others you know who have experience in this field and from whom you can learn a great deal. The Web sites mentioned throughout this article also provide other resources available to assist you in your task.

Perhaps I should first offer a word about my background. I have worked with my denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, for the last 10 years in location selection, event planning, event production and management for our annual general-assembly style of meeting for between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees. It is conducted in a different city each year. In addition, I've served at The Church on the Way in Los Angeles for more than 20 years and have planned numerous events on their behalf.

Currently, my wife, Lisa Whelchel, and I are planning and hosting a series of women's events at major hotels all over the country. I've also included materials and ideas provided by my good friend and colleague Scott Falk of Arrowhead Conferences and Events, which is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Scott and I often end up working together on large projects and events, and he brings many years of experience serving ministries of all sizes using the points provided on the outline below.

Let's get started--at the beginning! You must first clearly know the purpose of the event you are planning, or you'll have no tool to measure whether it was successful or not.

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