How To Plan a Children’s Ministry Conference in Your Area: Interview with Amy Dolan

Have you ever wanted to plan a children’s ministry conference in your area, specifically for ministry leaders in your area that you wanted to connect with and collaborate with? Well, that’s exactly what happened in April in the Chicago area. The LOCAL children’s ministry collaborative conference was designed to do four things:

  1. Connect children’s ministry leaders with other leaders in their area.
  2. Bring in excellent speakers from the Chicago area to speak on topics that were important to the leaders in Chicago.
  3. Get ministry leaders talking about the important topics and brainstorming with each other for solutions to difficulties in their ministries.
  4. Introduce great resources that could be found in the local area.

local-final-1I was honored to be a part of the team that planned the event, in addition to coordinating the social media and live blog for the conference. Planning a children’s ministry conference is a lot of work, but our team pulled it off!

Are you interested in planning a children’s ministry collaborative conference like LOCAL in your area? To help you out, I recently interviewed LOCAL director Amy Dolan and asked her about the process of pulling off a big event like LOCAL. She provided great insight and some helpful ideas for ways to plan a children’s ministry conference anywhere:


A_D1. So how did you come up with the idea for a collaborative conference like LOCAL?

I’ve had a dream to create a forum for Chicago-area children’s ministry leaders to connect and learn together for quite some time. Last summer, I finally realized I couldn’t put it off any longer. When God puts a calling in your heart, there’s only so long you can ignore it, right?

I called my friend Matt Guevara and we met for a full day of dreaming and planning. Together, we decided a one-day event in which children’s ministry directors could meet each other and collaborate with each other on Chicago-specific ministry topics would be the best format.

2. What were the essential planning steps that you followed when preparing for a conference like this?

First, it was critical for Matt and I to determine our values. These are the things that would drive all of our decisions, and help us make good choices.

LOCAL Values

  • For Chicago By Chicago: All speakers, participants and sponsors would be from Chicago, along with our graphic and website designers, conference notebook printer, lunch caterer, and photographer. We placed a high value on creating a regional event specific to Chicago.
  • Collaborative: LOCAL began with the belief that leading in children’s ministry should be a collaborative effort. We are all children’s ministry leaders who need encouragement, support, and the advice of those around us to lead strong for the sake of children’s faith, and we believe that we’re stronger leaders when we’re working together. Our vision was to introduce and unite talented Chicago-area children’s ministry leaders.
  • Participant Driven: We wanted participants to drive how the topics were applied to their ministries. We did this by allowing the speakers only 20 minutes to introduce their topics and encouraged them to not share any practical applications. Following each talk, participants divided into medium-size groups for an hour and created their own applications. These were the best times!

After establishing the values, I formed a team, because I knew Matt and I couldn’t do this alone. I invited eight children’s ministry leaders from the North Suburbs, the South Suburbs, and the City to form the Core Team. They were critical in shaping this event.

Along the way, I met with advisers who offered their wisdom in planning the event. People like Scottie May and Greg Carlson let me process with them early on, and gave advice that made the event successful. This was a critical step in the planning.

How did having a planning team help with preparing for and carrying out the conference?

_MG_2211Oh man! The planning team, the Core Team, made all the difference in the world. I honestly believe this event never would have happened without them. The Core Team met monthly to make decisions and offer input. On the day of the event, each were each assigned roles. Cheryl was the Registration Leader, Sandy was the Producer, Esther was the Food Leader, Melissa was in charge of Environment and Décor, Jesse led the Sponsors, Steven oversaw all of the Social Media, and EC served as our Pastor. It was a team-led event from start to finish!

What were the most important resources that you used while preparing for LOCAL and running the event during the day?

I drew on my past experiences of leading and planning conferences, and relied heavily on my family’s support {my Mom, Dad, Sister, and Husband all served onsite during the event!}. It’s important to have people around you who know you, have served with you before, and can provide just the right help and encouragement at just the right moment.

What advice would you give others who would like to start a similar conference in their area?

If you sense God calling you to do something similar, do it! LOCAL, so far, has been the highlight of my year. But, if you’re going to do something for your area, make it your very own expression. Determine what’s right and most needed for the children’s ministry leaders in your community, then create the event that is perfect for them.


Amy’s leadership was key to planning the LOCAL children’s ministry conference. She actually documented many of the planning steps and other important things for the conference on her website, Below are the links to some of the articles she wrote, as well as a few articles from If you are interested in learning more about how to plan a children’s ministry conference in your area, you can check out the LOCAL website,, and the LOCAL articles on, or you can also contact me at for more information.

LOCAL Resources:

Documenting A Dream  |  LOCAL {Launch}  |  LOCAL {Updates}  |  LOCAL {One Week}

LOCAL {Outside Chicago}  |  LOCAL {Highlights}  |  LOCAL Live Blog on KidminTools

About the Conference  |  Gathering 1 | Gathering 2 | Gathering 3 | Giveaways