Dec 10

Purposeful Planning Part 2: up, in, out

As we continue our series in how to plan purposefully so you create that killer youth programme, in this post I want to explore how we create space to build in three different directions: upwards, inwards and outwards. How do we help young people experience God? How can we build the group identity? How can we get the young people serving in the church?

purposeful planning

It is easy for our planning to take the shape of being purely teaching driven. What theme might we teach this term? What book of the Bible shall we focus on for the next few weeks? Many groups don’t have plans to help build the deeper, longer-lasting relationships. But Christianity is built on relationship and so we cannot avoid including purposeful opportunities in our planning to enable our young people to build better relationships with God, with each other and with the wider church.

If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, take a look at:

Why you need to create a not-to-be-missed programme

Purposeful planning produces a productive programme part 1

1. Upwards – experiencing God

Include in your programme as many ways as possible to help your young people experience God for themselves. This is essential. Young people today aren’t asking the question, ‘does God exist?’, but rather ask, ‘what difference will he make to my life?’ We need to be able to give them opportunities to see that not only does God exist, but that he also wants to be uniquely involved in their lives. God is a God of relationship and encounter so we need to allow these meetings to happen. Sometimes, we can feel put off from allowing this to happen. It might be caused by our fear: will they experience God? Whatever the reasons for our hesitation, enabling the group to experience God is essential if they are to grow in faith and leaning on God.

Try different ways of connecting them. Get them used to praying, both quietly on their own and out loud. Give them opportunities to vocalise their prayers, thoughts and questions about God. Make it normal for conversations to be God-focused and to chat naturally about God-encounters. Give them space to listen to what God might be saying. Teach them how we can weigh up whether something might be from God or not, using Biblical teaching. Help them to expect God to break into their lives, to guide them, to give spiritual insight, words of knowledge and prophecy. Help them to read Scripture with an ear open to what God might be saying.

2. Inwards – group building

We need to make the group feel like a close-knit community, regardless of how big or small the group might be. Make sure you have plenty of games and activities that allow the group to get to know each other better, challenge each other and have lots of fun together. Mix the group up regularly so that they don’t always go with the same people when they are asked to get into teams or discussion groups, or whatever it may be. If the group don’t know each other well, take time each week to help them discover what they have in common, what their interests are and enable them to compete together.

Some leaders might think this isn’t that important but if we want to develop trust and honesty amongst the members of the group, we need to help them get to know each other better. That way they will go deeper with each other, be more open about their struggles as well as more likely to celebrate together the positives in their lives.

3. Outwards – serving others

One of the best ways of building a sense of belonging is to get members involved in activities and serving the wider church. It helps them to feel a part of something bigger whilst at the same time helping to see that they have something to offer to others. As you plan your programme, sit down with a list of all the young people that usually come and think about each one individually. What are they good at? What are their talents? Write down at least one thing that each of them could do over the course of the next term as part of the group. Who could bake something to bring and share? Who could lead a game or activity? Who might play some music? Who could pray? They might want to do this in pairs, so think creatively.

Don’t forget to think also about how they might serve in the wider church, where appropriate. Think both about how they can serve together as a group and also as individuals. As a group builds confidence; as individuals builds commitment and enables them to meet others in the church more.


Purposeful planning takes time but, if done well, it will be time well rewarded. Have you set time aside in your diary yet to plan the next term? Don’t leave it to the last minute if you want to see significant change and transformation take place amongst your group and don’t forget to ask some people to pray for you as you plan.

In our next blog post, the final part in this series, we will explore three further essential components to building a purposeful programme designed to be fruitful.

Which of these three elements do you tend to focus on with your group? Which could you easily add to your next programme? What might you do? Please leave a comment or question in the space below.