Last week’s blog post explored why it essential that we spend time planning our programme for our youth group and I outlined 5 reasons why this is so important. If you haven’t read that post yet, I recommend you pause here and go read and then come back. Over the next few weeks I am going to explore how we might go about building a programme that is exciting, fulfilling and, most importantly, fruitful so that we might see the young people we serve growing in relationship with God, and living out their faith in real ways.
If we want to see growth amongst our young people, we need to plan for growth. If you don’t agree, please take a look at my previous post. If you are reading on, then I assume that you are at least intrigued as to how planning may help.
Can I encourage you to give this process some time. Read the next few blog posts and maybe give it a trial run for a term and see in what ways it proves to be more beneficial than having no specific plan to your programme. No matter what kind of youth group you are running, whether specifically Christian discipleship or a more outreach, social kind of group, you will find planning makes a massive difference to what goes on in your ministry.
In this post, I want to focus on three areas of planning which are great ways to kick off your planning: getting both the teenagers and the leaders involved.
1. Involve the leaders
Leaders’ meetings need to be a regular part of your youth ministry calendar. Not only does it provide you with opportunities for praying together for the work, but it also allows you to get to know each other better, to offer some specific leadership training and to seek God together for his plan for the future.
Leaders’ meetings don’t want to be a mere passing on of information to your team. You could do that via email and save everyone from giving up a precious evening or weekend. No, meetings should be dynamic. A place where like minds come together and through discussion, dreaming, praying and planning, we develop a road map for a way ahead which none of us could have dreamed of alone. That’s what makes for a successful leaders’ meeting and will encourage everyone to come back next time!
2. Include the young people
Resist the temptation to second guess what the teenagers might want from their group. Ask them! Find out what they consider the purpose of the group to be. That can be a really interesting question to ask them as their reason for coming along might be quite different to what the leaders’ reasons are! It is good to know where the discrepancies might lie.
Find out what they have enjoyed from the last few months. What are the memories they have? What could have been better for them? If they were planning next term, what would they include? What might they change?
Asking these kinds of questions does two things: it provides you with useful research on which to base your planning, and it raises expectancy, and therefore commitment, amongst the group for what is to come in the year ahead. Everyone starts to feel more of a sense of ownership of the group because they know their opinions count and that they have a say in shaping how the group grows and develops.
3. Set bold goals
Once you’ve heard from the young people, gather with your leaders and set a few goals for the next season. I find it helpful to go through a simple process to do this. I use the helpful SWOT model to review the group and then choose three or four possible goals to focus on. SWOT is a business model of planning, that is very straightforward.
S – Strengths – what are the strengths you see in your group and in the young people at the moment? What’s going well? What can you celebrate?
W – Weaknesses – what hasn’t gone so well? What could do with being refreshed or replaced? What are some of your concerns with the young people?
O – Opportunities – what opportunities are currently facing you? What new things could you do? What are some of your hopes?
T – Threats – what are the factors which could derail your group? What might prevent the group from growing? These might be outside influences or internal ones.
Once you’ve explored these four areas, spend some time together thinking about areas where you might like to set specific goals. Pray over these areas and then try and be as precise as you can about what these goals might be. Don’t go for too many goals in one go. It is far better to have fewer goals, but bold goals, than many goals because we stand a better chance of reaching them.
Now you have these goals set you can think through what you need to do over the coming programme to provide opportunities to grow towards these goals. How might the programme look different as you work towards seeing these goals become reality? As you think these things through, start adding them to your programme plan.
Next time, I am going to explore four more specific areas you need to consider as you build a programme full of life and fruitfulness.
What are some of the difficulties in setting goals? Do you find planning easy or difficult? I would love to hear some of your experiences. Please leave a comment or a question in the comments section below.