Why We Operate In Seasons As An Organization

Luke Barry

November 17, 2019
5 min read

At VOUS, our calendar does not function like a typical organization. Instead, we've engineered our planning to follow a distinct rhythm we call seasons.

Why do we do it?

In the early days of VOUS, we were designing our culture and crafting our calendar. Most of us had come from church backgrounds and had experienced the seemingly haphazard planning of ministries and events. At times, it felt like events were scheduled and new “ministries” were created on a whim. Someone was upset. The pastor had a new idea. So we added a Saturday night service, or a Friday morning prayer meeting, or a Tuesday night Bible study, or a food pantry for the homeless. And, for some reason, we committed to these things with a start date but no end date, and no plans to ever evaluate or update them (unless something went wrong and we were forced to react). After repeating this process a few times, we ended up with a calendar full of overlapping events and disconnected programs that didn’t support our mission and vision. They weren’t created with vision, so why would they support it?

Along with the general disorder of the average church, we knew that people—and organizations—have a tendency to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Change requires energy. It’s not natural for us to change things once they’ve been established, even if they’re not working anymore. So we wanted to systematize change. We wanted to build it into the rhythm of our organization. Before we felt like changing the design, or the stage, or the lobby, or the print pieces, we wanted to pre-decide and schedule when those changes would occur. We decided not to wait until we couldn’t stand to look at it anymore or someone submitted a complaint, but rather to put it on the calendar and commit to it because it was something we valued and because it supported our vision.

So we created a seasonal model for our church. It wasn’t original, but we knew it was powerful. We didn’t model a specific church or organization, but the principle was simple enough. The earth operates in seasons. Fashion functions in seasons. Life happens in seasons. We decided that we would follow that flow.


How does it work?

Our church calendar is divided into three seasons. We stylize them as SZN 1, SZN 2, and SZN 3. Between each of these seasons is what we call an off month. Some things fall within the seasons, some things happen during the off months. This provides us with a framework for all of our services and events.

The beginning of each season is punctuated by three key changes:

  • New graphic design
  • New environments
  • New stage design.


Graphic Design

Each season, we create a generic look that we apply to our announcement slides, pre- and post-service announcement rolls, and two print pieces: our Sunday Invite Cards and our Crew Card.

We create four variations of our announcement slides and rolls so we can shift the look each week while staying within the overall design framework. By creating a rotation, we ensure that a given look is displayed a maximum of four times each season. This keeps things fresh and allows a single concept to last for four months. (Seasonal looks carry over into April and August. In December, we create a new look for the Christmas season.)


SZN 1 Design

  • January 6 - Week 1 Variation (First Display)
  • January 13 - Week 2 Variation
  • January 20 - Week 3 Variation
  • January 27 - Week 4 Variation
  • February 3 - Week 1 Variation (Second Display)
  • Etc.


We create three variations of our Sunday Invite Card and only one version of our Crew Card. There are many ways to create variation, but we’ve found that two key variables are color and layout.


Environments

Our church meets in two locations, both of which are public schools. For that reason, our primary environments are outdoors in what we call our courtyards. Each courtyard at VOUS has four key features:


  1. Connect Corner - yearly change
  2. Resource Corner - yearly change
  3. Photo Wall - seasonal change
  4. Coffee Station - seasonal change


The design and layout of our Connect and Resource Corners last beyond our seasonal model and are updated on a yearly basis. Each season, we create new looks for our photo walls and coffee stations. Our Environments Team has both creative and operational components. Creatively, the team researches references, creates mockups, and finalizes a plan for the upcoming season during the current season. Operationally, they manage the logistics of the current environments by scheduling teams to serve at each location each week, loading in, setting up, loading out, etc.


Stage Design

One of the biggest components of our seasonal shift is the change in our stage design. This process requires creative conceptualization, logistical planning, and technical execution. It is a collaborative effort between our Creative, Production, and Operations Departments. Creative helps with concepts and Operations helps with logistics, but Production does the bulk of the work. References lead to concepts, which are translated into mockups, which give way to the final look. Once the look is finalized, Production creates a detailed schedule for the buildout and executes the installation at each location.


Calendar

One of the greatest benefits of the seasonal approach is the clarity it brings around the placement of events. Over the past four years, we have established a rhythm for each month of the year. We cannot overstate how much this consistency has bolstered productivity for our organization. Because our staff knows what to expect, they are able to plan and work ahead. This clarity supports a culture of responsibility and accountability. No one can say “nobody told me.” Departments are expected and empowered to be proactive.


Here is a breakdown of how our year generally flows. Of course, we make adjustments and pivot as necessary.


SZN 1

January

  • 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting
  • Pray First Gatherings
  • Heart & Soul
  • Book Study & Bible Journal


February

  • Crew Catch Up


March

  • VOUS GIRL


OFF MONTH: April

  • ILMC Easter Egg Drop
  • Easter Services
  • Heart & Soul



SZN 2

May

  • VOUS Conference Team Night
  • VOUS Conference Meetups
  • VOUSternship Begins


June

  • VOUS Conference Prayer Night
  • VOUS Conference
  • Crew Catch Up


July

  • Staff Retreat
  • Book Study & Bible Journal
  • VOUS GIRL
  • ILMC Serve Day


OFF MONTH: August

  • 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting
  • Pray First Gatherings
  • ILMC Back To School Bash
  • VOUS College Begins



SZN 3

September

  • Vision Sunday
  • Heart & Soul
  • Anniversary Services


October

  • Team Conference
  • No ILMC


November

  • VOUS GIRL
  • ILMC Thanksgiving Drive
  • Crew Catch Up


OFF MONTH: December

  • Vision Offering
  • ILMC Toy Drive
  • Christmas Services
  • Year In Review Video Sermon



OFF MONTHS

  • No Crews (Small Groups)
  • No VOUS Care (Classes)
  • No Team Night (Team Training)
  • Crew Coaching (New Crew Leaders)
  • Off-Month Meetings (All Team Leaders)

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