Planning Youth Ministry can be tough. Thinking of games, devotions, Bible studies, ice breakers, and so much more week in and week out is draining. Volunteers may find it harder because they have other items to take care of weekly like kids, jobs, and personal lives. Called workers can find it difficult to plan because of other areas of ministry and events leading to Youth Group sneaking up on them.
Enter a Year Long Plan!
A Year Long Plan was so helpful for me coming out of COVID. Everything was starting up again. Some ministries changed because of the pandemic and needed more of my attention. As I looked at everything on my plate in 2021, I knew I needed to be more organized. So, I took a few days and planned for the entire year for both our Junior High and Senior High Youth Groups.
But, before we get to how to do that, Two Huge Things:
First, ask the Youth what they want to learn, the questions they have, the games they want to play, food they want to eat, and more. This not only helps you, but it gives the Youth a voice. You are volunteering in the Youth Ministry, not the Adult Leader Ministry. I’m not saying you need to get their input on every last detail but get meaningful contribution from them a minimum of 4 times a year.
That leads to the 2nd Huge Thing – being flexible. Man makes plans and God laughs. Or so I’ve been told. Planning so that you can simply coast week-to-week is, dare I say, lazy. A plan gives you structure, but if something happens, if the Youth want something different, you need to be flexible and change. If you are focused on spending time in God’s Word and helping students for a deep, resilient identity in Christ, then when pieces shift it isn’t a big deal.
Now, how do you even go about making a Year Long Plan?
Write the Normal Dates Your Youth Group Meets
When I did this, I used all the academic and event calendars at my disposal. My church had 3 school districts Senior High Youth from our church attended – so I needed their calendars. Since my church had a K-8 Day School, I also included its calendar. I also had the Church’s event calendar for the year handy so I knew when Christmas programs and special events were.
Then I picked days. Our groups met on Wednesdays – Junior High after school and Senior High from 6:30-8:30pm. I wrote down all the Wednesdays in the school year (September-May in my context) on a document. If there was a large event on a Wednesday, the Community Christmas Parade for example, I would put an “X” on that Wednesday to signify that we wouldn’t have Youth Group. For our church, that was typically community events, special events in the congregation’s K-8 School, or events for the School Districts (First & Last days of school, Senior Portfolio Night, School Musicals, etc.).
These days should only be your typical Youth Group meetings. We’ll talk about special events in a little bit. For now, just jot down the dates your youth normally meet.
Think of Topics, Series, Bible Studies, and Devotions
If you’re able, ask your group what areas of faith they want to learn about & discuss. Use that as a starting point. Some groups like to do things in series, so decide what works best for your group. For our church, 3-4 weeks was the sweet-spot.
If you need help thinking of ideas for Bible Studies/Devotions – check out this website! There are so many great resources you can use from wonderful LCMS men and women! If you’re the kind of person that likes to write your own content, look at things like the readings for each Sunday or books and movies that might have Biblical themes. It can be helpful to look at something like the 40 End Goals to see what topics and areas you might want or need to address with your teens.
Once you have your topics, themes, series, etc. thought out, put them in a new column next to the days you have Youth Group. Start where it’s easiest – Advent & Lent! Maybe your group wants to have a monthly Servant Event at your weekly meeting. Put that on the calendar as a nice buffer between series & topics.
You can get super specific and plan games out if you want too. Our JHYG played games and then connected one of the games to Scripture for our devotion time. If your group doesn’t do that and you like to be nice and relaxed when it comes to games – that’s fine too!
Assign Speakers, Presenters, etc.
If your group has multiple Leaders who lead the Bible Study/Devotion Time, assign them. Get their availability and ask them about topics/series they are most comfortable with teaching. Don’t forget to invite your pastor or other staff as well, even if they can’t regularly teach. If you have teens that help lead this time (awesome, btw!), get them on the schedule!
This is also a great time to think through Guest Speakers. Do you have a Thrivent rep and plan on having a series on Giving/Generosity/Finances? Consider having that person talk! Have a friend in the ministry (DCE or Pastor at a fellow LCMS church)? Consider inviting them to speak to your group! Our group, and many groups across the nation, have benefitted from having Tanner Olson come and speak to their group. Invite them and get them on the list!
Make a Food/Snack Donation List
Something the youth of my church loved was food. And while I had a budget for snacks, pizza, and soda – it was almost never enough.
Make a list of all your normal youth dates and have parents and church members sign up to donate those items! What a wonderful way for people to be involved in the Youth Ministry of your church! If it fits the programming, you can even invite them to stay to eat with the teens. Once you have people signed up, you can now have a better idea of when you’ll need to go to the store to replenish the snacks, pizza, and soda.
Add Special Events
Having a Christmas Party? Extra Youth Event like a Bowling Party or Servant Event? Put that date on your calendar! Have a fundraiser you do every year or one you want to start? Put that on the calendar! Even if the day changes as you plan these events, you at least know they are coming down the pipeline! In Youth Gathering years I’ve added the dates payments are due.
Present to Your Youth Leadership Team (If you haven’t done this already)
This should be a given. Lone wolves get the job done – but typically not as well as a pack of wolves. If you’ve been working with your team the whole time – bonus points for you!
Here is a 2-month sample of a Year Long Youth Ministry Plan after going through each of these steps.
Having a plan helps to get everyone on the same page and it allows you to be forward-thinking, rather than reactive, when it comes to your youth ministry. Revisit your plan regularly and assess as you go to make sure that your goals and your love for young people is the focus of all you do.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This text is as comforting and encouraging now as it was for the first hearers. As you take up the task of establishing a year’s calendar of activities, Bible studies, servant events and more, you may be overwhelmed. It is certainly not a task to be taken on alone. Take these words to heart and begin with prayerful meditation upon God’s Word. Seek His guidance in planning a year in youth ministry. Lay all your plans before God in prayer and rely on His gracious providing in all we do.