It’s that time of year again where many of you start prepping for next season. One of the big headaches tasks is always to create a youth ministry year plan with all the activities. This calendar is basically your planning for the entire year and shows you exactly what happens when.
Creating this season plan takes a lot of effort. Usually many people are involved, or need to have a say anyways. And many dates seem like a given, like the small group dates, or the youth service planning.
But before you finalize that plan, before you approve that calendar, take a step back to evaluate. Sometimes we are so caught up in getting it done, that we forget to look at the bigger picture. To help you do that, here are 7 principles for creating a youth ministry year planning.
The first principle of any planning is that it has to be mission-oriented. And by mission I don’t mean outreach or mission trips—though these are certainly worthy activities. No, I’m talking about your mission statement and your vision for your ministry, the long-term goals you want to accomplish. Your year plan should be a logical result from those goals and should help achieve those goals, or at least work towards them.
If your youth ministry is operating without a mission and vision, you might want to check out the course we offer on this topic!
Question: If you were to execute your year plan to the letter, would it bring you closer to your long-term goals? Would it help you realize your vision?
Focus is essential when there are so many things you could do and so many programs or approaches you could use. The bottom line is that you can’t do it all and you have to make choices—choices that are in line with your middle and long term goals. Anything that doesn’t contribute to those has to go, no matter how solid or fun it may seem.
Question: Does every activity and every program contribute to your goals? If not, why are they on the schedule? If you still feel they are crucial, does this means you have to adapt your mission and vision?
3. Student Family Friendly
The mom of one of my high schoolers once asked me not to plan activities every single weekend, since she also wanted to spend time with her kids as a family. I didn’t have kids at that time and it never occurred to me that my ‘cool plans’ for events and activities were preventing students from spending time with their families. Your planning has to be family friendly to the families of your students, which means you take into account that families want to spend time together as well. Or you should allow for students to not show up and give them that ‘permission’.
Question: If your students were to come to every activity geared towards them, what would their time with their family look like?
4. Volunteer Family Friendly
Another family to take into account is the family of your volunteers. If you ask of your volunteers to be present at every event, how much time does that leave them to spend with their families? The solution then is to either get more volunteers, or schedule fewer activities. Investing in the marriages and family relationships of your volunteers is an investment you won’t regret!
Question: Calculate how much time each volunteer would have to spend at youth group each week to execute your plans. Is that a reasonable amount that leaves them enough room for their family and for personal growth and relaxation?
Before finalizing my schedule, I always checked for balance in a couple of areas:
- Are there activities for each of the students’ ‘groups’, like core students, regulars, visitors, non-believer friends, etc. This is where the classic book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry really had a lasting effect, as it helped me divide my students into groups according to their spiritual ‘level’ and dedication to the youth group. That way you can make sure you target all groups in your plan and not just the core students for instance.
- Is there a balance between activities boys like and those that girls prefer? I hate to be gender-stereotyped but fact is that boys tend to like messy games more, or games that get very physical. If you’re a guy yourself, make sure you also offer activities that girls love and the other way around. Messy games are definitely not my thing, so I know I shortchanged my boys there at times.
- Is there a balance in activities throughout the year? Certain months tend to get very busy, like December, or springtime, so make sure you don’t put unnecessary big events at peak times. Spreading them out works better for everyone—unless it’s an event that’s very date-specific of course.
- Is there a solid balance between fun and spiritual content? This is one that I was very critical of. Saying your youth group is Jesus-centered is easy, but does your schedule truly reflect it? It’s often easy to plan the big fun events, but are they well-balanced with spiritual activities? If the spiritual activities you do are limited to small groups and youth services, you’re missing out on great opportunities. Try and do something deep, like organizing a Passover Meal with your students, or doing service projects in your area.
Question: Is your schedule well balanced in these areas? Where do you need to adapt to create more balance?
At the very heart of youth ministry are relationships between youth leaders and students. Your year calendar should reflect this relational ministry. That means that whatever you plan allows for one-on-one conversations, or at least small groups hanging out, or leaders spending time with students. If your schedule is so packed that it leaves everyone breathless relationships aren’t gonna happen.
The same is true when you only schedule big and ‘loud’ events, or passive ones where there’s little opportunity for interaction.
Question: Look at each and every activity and rate the relational score on a scale of 1 (no interaction possible) to 5 (very relational). Add up and divide by the number of activities and/or events. How does your schedule score? What could you do to make it more relational?
7. Youth Pastor Friendly
The last, but certainly not the least principle is that your year planning has to be youth pastor friendly. That means it creates a sustainable pace for you as youth pastor, or youth coordinator. You are the single most important ‘asset’ your ministry has and taking good care of yourself and your family should be your first priority.
If you schedule more than you can handle without sacrificing your family, your rest including your Sabbath, your spiritual time with God, or other things in your life that you need to stay balanced, you need to reconsider.
One solution is to choose not to attend certain events or activities and delegate the responsibility to others. The bigger your ministry, the more likely this is the way to go. You simply can’t be there all the time.
Another way to go is to cut back on activities. This may sound like you’re cheating your students out of great events, but there’s another way to look at it. First of all, his will force you to really focus on those activities and programs that matter most. You cut the fluff so to speak.
Secondly, rest may be the single best ‘activity’ you could ever create for yourself, your students, and your volunteers. It’s a crazy busy world and many people would be all too happy with more downtime. I don’t think any ministry has ever suffered for intentionally doing less instead of more.
Question: How sustainable is the pace you’re setting with your plans? What do you need to do to create more margin in your life?
I hope these 7 principles will help you create a youth ministry year plan that’s focused, relational and balanced for everyone. I’d love to hear your thoughts!