BIG DAY – Set Up a Timeline

Reverse Engineering

When smart people reverse engineer something, they take the finished product apart to see how it was made. Countries do it with captured ships, competing companies do it with hot-selling products, and we do it with our Preaching Rally.

You might have read the advice, “Begin with the end in mind.” Start with what you want, and reverse engineer the process. Or, figure out what it took to build what you wanted.

For us, we had a one-day youth conference in mind. We had a particular goal of how it should look and feel. Starting out, I had NO clue of how we were going to get there, but I knew we had the benefit of time.

Our first Preaching Rally came together in about three months, and subsequent Preaching Rallies grew easier and easier, because we built systems into place. On our second Preaching Rally, we set the BEST system of all: a timeline. To reverse engineer what we had in mind as “The Preaching Rally,” we knew a lot of parts had to fall in place in the right order.


First, we had to prioritize the task list. After our first brain-storming session, we had a general idea of what needed to be done–register churches, create a mailing list, choose a theme, schedule a guest preacher, create graphics, print booklets, plan games, buy food–but we had to decide which one was MOST important.

I knew that the selling point would not be the theme, so I decided to wait on hashing out the details for that. I also knew that all print materials could wait until closer to the date. My two main concerns at first were the mailing list–who would come to the Preaching Rally–and the preacher–someone who could be available within 3 months’ notice.

The rest of the details would have to wait. We pieced together a local mailing list and contacted our preacher (Bro. Bryan Samms of West Coast Baptist College) with the general idea of what we would be doing. He was available on the date we set, so our first two main concerns were done. Next came organizing the chiefs and delegating the rest of the responsibilities to other leaders (discussed in the next chapter).



The ultimate deadline is the Preaching Rally itself. Obviously. If you miss that deadline, there are consequences.

The concept behind deadlines is simple: dates on the calendar to help you meet your bigger goals. If you miss your deadline, you suffer the consequences. Some of my deadlines really matter, others do not. For example, if I miss my deadline to design and order my pens (one month before the conference), I may not get the pens in time for the Preaching Rally (the consequence of missing my deadline.) Or, another consequence might be that I have to pay double or triple for rush shipping.

On the other hand, some of my “deadlines” only serve as reminders. For example, my deadlines tell me to have my wording complete for my mailings a week ahead of when I print the mailings. I defy that deadline. Right to its face. I ignore it like it’s an annoying kid. Soon, though, the consequences heat up (like, “we can’t print and mail the notes today until you finish what you want the mailing to say.”) Unfortunately, that is usually when I really crank out the work. I am really productive when my back is against the wall, so to speak. Boy do I get a lot done! Dummy me, though, for waiting until it is almost too late. It is always better for me when I work ahead, or else a lot of back-against-the-wall deadlines happen all at once.


Google Calendar

Starting with the end in mind, we take small steps that build up to our Preaching Rally. Each main area of the Preaching Rally has its own timeline, but some of the leadership aspects and graphics deadlines are listed below. I have a Google Calendar with “Repeat Annually” settings turned on, so every year about the same time, the highest-priority tasks get noticed on time.

Our Preaching Rally is usually the third weekend of February, so the monthly markers lead up to that date.

7 Months

Thu Jul 7, 2016

  • Batch 1 START (General theme graphics, mailing 1)
  • Mail 1 wording begin – “Save the Date” postcard

Fri Jul 15, 2016

  • Mail 1 graphics BEGIN – Save the Date


6 Months

Mon Aug 1, 2016

  • Batch 1 DONE
  • Mail 1 Graphics DONE – send to printer – “Save the Date” postcard

Mon Aug 15, 2016

  • Mail 1 RECEIVE prints – “Save the Date”

Tue Aug 16, 2016

  • Mail 1 – MAIL postcards – “Save the Date”


5 Months

Thu Sep 1, 2016

  • Batch 2 START
  • BEGIN – letterhead, posters, postcards (4up for mail 3), Ann. sheets, signups, scratch pads and bookmarks
  • Think NEXT year’s theme


4 Months

Sat Oct 1, 2016

  • Order Pens
  • SEND FILES to print – letterhead, posters, postcards (4up for mail 3), Ann. sheets, signups, scratch pads and bookmarks

Sat Oct 15, 2016

  • RECEIVE PRINTS – letterhead, posters, postcards (4up for mail 3), Ann. sheets, signups, scratch pads and bookmarks

Mon Oct 24, 2016

  • Preaching Guidance Doc Due


3 Months

Wed Nov 16, 2016

  • Batch 2 RECEIVE
  • Mail 2 – Graphics start – “Intro” (Letter introducing the theme)
  • Mail 2 – Wording begin – “Intro”
  • Mail 2 labels – return AND mailing – start

Wed Nov 23, 2016

  • Decorations/Skit Guidance Doc Due


2 Months

Thu Dec 1, 2016

  • Mail 2 – Inhouse PRINT – “Intro”
  • Mail 2 labels – return AND mailing – Inhouse PRINT
  • Mail 3 labels – return and mail – START (packet with poster, postcards, etc.)
  • Mail 3 Wording START – letter –
  • Mail 4 – followup pcard BEGIN Wording and graphics
  • NEXT Year’s theme DONE

Wed Dec 7, 2016

  • Mail 2 ASSEMBLY – “Intro” – letterhead, return and address labels

Thu Dec 8, 2016

  • Mail 3 – inhouse LABELS print – ret and mailing
  • Mail 3 – letter – inhouse PRINT

Sat Dec 10, 2016

  • Mail 2 MAIL – “Intro”

Wed Dec 14, 2016

  • Contact next year’s PREACHER


6 Weeks

Sun Jan 1, 2017

  • Mail 3 ASSEMBLY – letters, poster, postcards, ann. sheets, signups, labels

Tue Jan 3, 2017

  • Start PR booklets


5 Weeks

Tue Jan 10, 2017

  • Mail 3 MAIL – letters, poster, postcards, ann. sheets, signups, labels


2 Weeks

Sat Feb 4, 2017

  • Complete Booklets – Print


Week of

Wed Feb 15, 2017

  • Mail 4 MAIL (postcard announcing updated website with sermons, pictures and next year’s info)


It Gets Easier

With these as my main building blocks, everything else falls into place in time. In the chapter on graphics, I go into more detail about what each of these mailings are, and what each item’s purpose is.

I have never hit all my deadlines, and usually I am scrambling at the last minute because of my procrastination. But I am trying to train myself as the years tick by that I can get by with a lot less stress if I only work ahead.

The timeline’s main purpose is for me to have markers along the way through the year to remind me to keep working with the end in mind. As I take each little bite, the huge project of the Preaching Rally becomes easily manageable. In fact, it becomes fun!