Our youth programme is the hook we hang our relationships on in youth ministry. Our regular gatherings, whilst not being the primary purpose of youthwork, are usually the key times in the week where we get to engage with our young people. They are essential times and so we need to make sure that they are as relevant and exciting as possible. Planning ahead helps us to make the most of the opportunities we have and can help us keep moving forward together.
Some leaders don’t like to plan. They would rather see where it goes each week, allowing opportunity to build on the previous week. They would say the programme is secondary to the chance to meet and build relationship with each other. I totally agree with this reason but I believe that planning makes the programme become an even stronger environment to grow these relationships.
Here are five reasons why I think taking time to plan a youth programme will make an enormous difference to your youth ministry:
1. Planning prepares for the best
Whether we are planning ahead for the term or the year, taking time to reflect on what we have been doing with our young people and to consider the future makes us more purposeful in our ministry. It gives us the opportunity to think about what some of the issues are with the group, some of the difficulties and also to evaluate where people are in their journey of faith, their connection with one another and with the church. Taking time to plan helps us to dream about how things could be better and gives us a framework to work towards these aspirations.
2. Helps us to rely on God for the impossible
God is able ‘to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20). Taking time to plan a programme should take us more into God’s presence and help us to depend on him more as we dare to ask him to do incredible things through our young people. We need to put in as much effort as we can to create the best programme we can, and then ask God to breathe life into it and to do the impossible, to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine possible. Programme planning helps us to thank God for what he has been doing through us and to seek his will for the future. It also creates a hope for the future as we know where we are heading and we can pray regularly for what is to come.
3. It builds expectation
Taking the time to build a not-to-be-missed programme takes time and effort but the payback is incredible. You start to feel excited about what is to come. Your expectations start to rise about what might happen, how God might work, in the term ahead. It helps you to see progress and signs of development in what you are doing week in, week out.
4. It keeps everyone on the same page
Creating a programme is essential if you lead with others. Build the programme together and all the youth leaders start to be hopeful for the future. Together, you can rely on God for the impossible and be expectant to see him at work in your youth group. A programme plan enables important dates to be put in leaders’ diaries and means you can sort out any possible diary clashes well ahead of time. You can share out different elements of the programme and you can prepare together for all that is to come, gathering relevant resources, booking venues, purchasing equipment that might be needed, well ahead of the required time. Put simply, a programme makes it possible to share out the responsibility of leadership and, therefore, invests in your leaders as well as the young people.
5. It gives a clear purpose
Spending time planning a programme helps you to realise what you are trying to do in the coming season. It clarifies what your purpose is, what you are trying to achieve, what you are hoping for. I think this is precisely why many people don’t plan a programme. Non-planner leaders might say they don’t want to restrict God by creating a clear purpose for the youth group. I think that, by praying, God gives us revelation as to what he his doing and helps us to plan and to work in partnership with him. Planning helps us to seek God more, to ask to see his plans and to work together. That has to be a more exciting way to live! As we spend time together, as leaders, praying, we will get clarity in the role he is calling us to and to be a part of his plans for building his kingdom at this time in your church.
Over the next few blog posts I am going to write about how we can go about creating a not-to-be-missed youth programme. I will explore some key elements and give some tips about how to put that programme together.
If you have any questions or areas that you would like me to cover in these future blog posts, please leave a comment in the comments section below.