Week Four: Planning Out Your Year
- Look at some key considerations for planning your year.
- Share a sample calendar for you to reference in your planning.
Planning out your youth ministry is a very important step because it helps give you clear direction and vision for your year. This process will encourage you to think through your goals as well as stay on top of planning and coordinating. Take some time to think through some of the following aspects of your youth ministry.
Location and Duration
How often and how long should we meet?
Typically, the larger the group you have, the more frequently you will want to meet and the longer you will want your meeting time to be. Since youth ministry is about discipleship (building meaningful relationships with the teens) meeting only once a month for an hour will make it very challenging to find time to build these types of relationships. Meeting every week for 90 minutes gives you more opportunities to be there for the teens and get to know them better. It also gives you more time to fit everything into a Bible study since everything takes longer with more people.
Which day of the week works best?
Sundays and Wednesday are often days used by churches for their youth ministries. However, any day can work. Ultimately you want to find a day that works for as many of the teens as possible. Once you have a day, try to stick with it so the teens know exactly when youth group is.
Note: Be sure to check your church and local high school's schedules for big conflicts. For example, you don't want to accidentally plan your big event the same weekend as homecoming or graduation.
What is the best location for our group?
Consider a place that is less formal where the teens won’t feel like they are going to another class. If you need to meet in a classroom or the church basement, then try to make it more inviting by playing Christian music when the teens first arrive and rearranging the room to make it more friendly and inviting (e.g. put the desks in a circle). The location is important, but doesn’t determine the success of your youth group. That is always determined by the content of the meeting.
Theme & Bible Studies
Consider coming up with a theme for the year that the teens can get excited about. This can help wrap your year together coherently and also ignite different ideas for studies and events that you may not have thought about otherwise.
Next, think through monthly Bible study topics that support the year’s theme and are also relevant to the teens’ lives. If you are really ambitious, you can begin to brainstorm the specific Bible studies for each week of the month. However, this may not be necessary. It is sometimes nice to plan them closer to the actual time because it allows for flexibility in the schedule. If something big is going on in the world, decide to do a week on that topic. If the teens ask you to cover something, take a break from your current studies, and focus on that for a few weeks. Overall, you want your youth ministry to be applicable to the needs of the teens. A flexible schedule makes this more possible.
How often do you plan to do events?
Events paired with routine Bible studies are very beneficial because they allow you to build relationships with the teens. These relationships give you the opportunity to mentor them. Don't be afraid to think outside the box with events. There are so many creative things you can do with the teens; you don't need to be locked into something you did once before.
Make sure to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to promote your event to the teens. Also, don't overlook marketing to their parents. Many teens still depend on their parents to drive them to your youth ministry. If they believe something is important and worth attending, they hold a great deal of sway over their teens.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While events are an important part of your ministry, youth groups can easily fall into the trap of becoming just another venue to entertain the teens. Getting them to attend can feel like a battle with other extra curricular activities consisting of who can come up with the coolest events. The goal and measure of success can quickly become getting teens to turnout for youth group. While a packed schedule of exciting plans may bring in teens for the events, it often doesn’t translate into the teens becoming more active in God’s Word. Teens’ lives are already maxed out with school, sports, friends, and family. They don’t need another opportunity to merely socialize. Give them an opportunity for fellowship with other teens, but more importantly a place where Jesus' love is preached and lived out. That is something the world cannot offer.
Make sure to get the teens serving.
Service opportunities are so important for the teens. Our love for Jesus does not allow us to sit back in comfortable apathy. Our new life in Christ should motivate us to live lives of service for others. To give the teens Bible studies and knowledge about God's Word, but not encouraging them to live it out, misses out on showing them a crucial aspect of a Christian's life.
"When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." - John 13:12-17
Don’t overlook service events, which give teens the opportunity to socialize and live out their faith at the same time. Also, teens can often be the go to when churches need babysitters for events. While babysitting is one way teens can serve, it is by no means the only way. Think outside the box and don't be afraid to get them involved in serving in a way that challenges them to be mature and responsible. When teens are trusted and given the opportunity to rise to an occasion, they often will!
Download a sample youth ministry calendar:
Continue to week 5: Promoting Your Youth Group