5 Key Ingredients For Managing Chaos

Author Steven Cribbs    Category Leadership     Tags

Leading, moving and managing a large group of people is a lot like HERDING CATS!  This is especially true in the context of a big event; and especially true when two-thirds of those in the group are children.

[This is part of the Why We Cannot Wait For Summer Series. Have you seen the other posts yet?]

Cat Herders

Think about it, the task of simply moving a large group of people, in a short amount of time, from one place to another is just like trying to move a few dozen cats from the café serving tuna-surprise to the store down the street that claims the world’s biggest ball of string.

Herding Crowd

People Are Like Cats

There are challenges, to say the least, when you have a large group of people.  Like cats, people have a mind of their own.  Like cats, people have a hard time listening to authority when they want to have their own way (and even when don’t they want to have their own way).  Like cats, people easily get side-tracked with the simplest of shiny objects.  And, like cats, people will move at their own speed (slow or fast depending on what they want at the moment) even if instructed differently.

Crowd Chaos

So, how do you manage the chaos of a large group of people and a big event like our Vacation Bible School (or even smaller groups of people and not-so-big events)?

Five key ingredients:

1.  Vision

Every great event, starts with an inspiring vision.  Vision, on a simple level, is a mental picture of a preferred outcome.  Seems rather basic; but, this mental picture is essential.  It provides the foundation that everything else will be built on.

A vision does not encompass the “how-to’s” of implementing a project. Instead, a vision gives you direction, purpose and inspiration.  It also becomes the standard by which questions and judgments concerning the overall event must be made.

And the vision often becomes the rally-cry that draws people to your cause.

Without vision, efforts fail and dreams perish.

2.  A Plan

After vision is established, a plan must be developed that will set the framework for accomplishing the vision.

A plan is like a road-map and shows how a vision will be accomplished.  A (good) plan includes tasks, timelines, milestones and information that helps everyone to be on the same page.  A (good) plan can also be used as a check-list to make sure that every necessary component gets accomplished.

A plan may be greatly detailed; or, it may be loosely structured.  My experience shows that the bigger the event, and the more people involved, the greater the depth of details that will be required.

Bonus Ingredient: Communication

Vision and a good Plan are essential and they must be communicated.  Communicate well and people will walk alongside of you. Fail to communicate well, and you will walk alone.

3.  Leadership

From the very beginning, strong leadership is needed. In addressing the chaos of a thousand people and unfathomable numbers of details, it is paramount that the people have leadership whom they trust and will follow. There must be leaders who, not only communicate the vision, but help the group understand and own the vision. Through this process, the group will come to trust those in authority and know what to expect.

4.  Preparation

Before the event ever starts, you must prepare for everything you can think of. For our VBS, we were intentional about many aspects including the venues for each component, how many people each venue (room) could accommodate, how people would move from one area to another (traffic patterns), and what to do in case of emergencies.

We also looked at each part of each day’s schedule and addressed questions such as how much time will be needed for each element, how much time will be required for setup and how much time will be needed to move from one element to another.

FREE TIP:  Always allow more time than you think you will need – especially as the group grows bigger!

REALIZATION:  You will rarely (if ever) prepare as well as you would like.  And, you may even forget elements until the last minute.  And, you will almost always get to the end and wish you had just a little more time.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Pray.  Do your best through the process.  Allow God to work through the rest.

5.  Teamwork

One person cannot pull off a big event by themselves. One person cannot herd a thousand cats by themselves. It is essential to have leaders throughout the group, at all levels, who will work together in implementing the plan.

There is much to say about teamwork and I will write more on it in another post.

So, there you have it.  Vision. A (good) Plan.  Leadership.  Preparation.  Teamwork.  The 5 ingredients to handling chaos.

Question:  What is the most chaotic event that you have been a part of?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

18 Comments to “5 Key Ingredients For Managing Chaos”

  • Brandon July 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Awesome post! I have been a part of many chaotic events…

  • Jon Stolpe July 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

    How about organized chaos? Our kids ministry team at my church does an awesome job organizing big events. Our kids camp is set to take off this Wednesday morning and they already have more than 1060 kids preregistered. Events like this can seem chaotic. But it’s amazing to see how well our team can pull off such an event – with safe and happy kids who learn about God and bring their families back to our church family.

    • Steven Cribbs July 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      I like organized chaos – it can actually be quite fun! Definitely sounds like some days of organized chaos for your church – would love to experience that.

  • Jeff Randleman July 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Loved this post! We are in the process of figuring how we can take our children’s priogram from 90 kids to 180 kids over the next year or two. We have identified our plan, and are casting our vision for it. Getting people to buy in is hatrder that we thought, but we are getting there, slowly.

    Recuiting the right people is the next major step for us, both into leadership positions, as well as staffing the program.

    By the way, I love the commercial that goes with the herding cats pic!

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  • Steven Cribbs July 21, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Recruiting seems to be one of the most challenging steps in the process – getting the right people into the right places that will stick around for the long term. May God do some incredible things within the church and the people through this process!

    I loved the commercial too :)

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