Every year, usually in the summer, I sit at my desk surrounded by school district calendars, my personal calendar and our church’s master calendar and attempt to plan our entire year’s worth of ministry activities for youth (usually August-August). While I am the one responsible for making sure our acitivities do not overlap something major at our church, I get my students to plan EVERYTHING we do—from special activities to service projects to topics we hit at our weekly youth nights. Here’s how!
The weekend after school starts, we have a big “Game/Plan” Night. We bring all of our students together for a night of crazy and out-of-the-ordinary games. In August the weather is normally still decent, so we are able to do everything outside. We alternate each year between a Messy Game/Plan Night and a Water-themed Game/Plan night. Here are some examples of the games that we do at each:

Wet ‘n Wild Game/Plan Night

Water Balloon Name Toss – Toss water balloons around a circle while saying the person’s name you are tossing to—great for a beginning of the school year activity when you have new students. Start over every time a balloon breaks.

Water Balloon Volleyball – We have done this two ways: 1. Using an actual net, kids partner up with a towel held between them to catch/launch water balloons, or 2. Park our two church vans together with a tarp in between—balloons must be thrown underhand and attempted to be caught

Slip n Slide Kickball – bases are kiddie pools with a slip-n-slide into home plate.

Giant Tarp Slip n Slide – use several large tarps to create a slip n slide.

Messy Game/Plan Night

Split kids up into small groups (we’ve done it by grade). Using an old sheet or butcher paper and ketchup and mustard to design their team “flag” for the event. Play games such as the baby diaper chocolate bar game (common at baby showers but my students loved it—they have to try and guess the chocolate bar melted in the diaper), relay with digging gummy worms out of chocolate pudding, pulling grapes out of a kiddie pool filled with ice with their toes, Flour Ball (flour “ultimate frisbee” with two trash cans and flour balls made out of flour and panty hose) and Spam Ball (same concept as flour ball but with Spam).

This is the crazy part of the evening. Generally we do this for an hour to an hour and a half, and I bridge to the planning part of the evening with a devotion on Baptism—being washed/wiped clean and being claimed as Christ’s own. A Baptism devotion works with either type of event and is a great way to kick off the school year with that reminder.

Planning Time

Then, we move inside to the planning part of our evening. We have four large sheets of newsprint with the following categories: Free Activities, Activities that Cost $, Ways to Serve, Topics to Discuss. We put an even number of kids around each sheet with markers, and give them two minutes to brainstorm on the sheet what they would like to do this year. After two minutes, every group rotates to the next sheet to fill in their ideas. After all the groups have gone through the sheets, we give each student two dot stickers per sheet to “vote” on what they want to do. They go around to the sheets in their groups again, this time with a minute to decide what activities to put their stickers by. Once this is done, I collect the sheets, we pray, tell the kids what our next event is (the only one that I have pre-planned besides the Game/Plan Night) and send them on their way. I then take the sheets, compile the results into a word document, and place the high “vote-getters” into our calendar where they fit best and our schedule is done! This way, the kids have a fun night planning out the year, I can get the entire schedule of events out to parents in September and the kids feel like their opinion on what we do matters!