We stood in the middle of an arena while hundreds of junior high students were running around, playing ninja and 4-square with more AXE body spray on than any human should be allowed. The concern on Rebecca’s face was real. She had been leading her youth ministry for just over a year and was feeling as if their Sunday morning small groups were a little flat. She wasn’t at any type of breaking point, but wanted to make the planning process a lot smoother than what it had been. She wanted to get ahead of the curve. If she could be more intentional with her planning, her students would be a little more responsive, and she could make some headway in helping them lay a solid foundation for their lives.
Here are a couple of practical tips I reminded her to keep in mind when attempting to intentionally plan ahead for optimal health and longevity in ministry:
1. Carefully gauge where your students are at spiritually.
This is going to be a general assessment. Yes, every student is at a different place in their spiritual journey. However, we should be able to have a general understanding of where our students are at. We’re able to assess this by prayerfully looking at the conversations we’ve had with them, looking at some lifestyle choices they been making, and by having healthy communication with their parents.
2. Prayerfully determine where God is leading your group.
Most of us are looking for a quick-fix solution on this one. With numerous Bible study and curriculum options available for us, it’s really easy to make a knee-jerk reaction on what we are going to teach this upcoming week. Yet nothing replaces the discovery that only comes with prayer and reflection. This is the time when God speaks to the deepest part of our hearts in showing us not just where our students are at, but where he is wanting to lead them in the next season of life.
3. Intentionally plan ahead, allowing for flexibility.
Here is where things start to get really fun. Planning out a teaching calendar, whether a month or six months in advance, can be somewhat overwhelming yet very freeing at the same time. Once we know where our students are at and where God is leading them, we can intentionally plan out the teaching path. A tool that we love to use in our youth ministry is the LIVE engine. Our junior high pastor can plan out months of small group lessons ahead of schedule, including lessons that she has written, and then loop all of us in simultaneously. Through this tool she also has the ability to be sensitive to current events, ministry needs, and last-minute schedule adjustments by moving lessons and rescheduling them within the calendar.
Over 15,000 churches worldwide have partnered with LIVE to intentionally plan ahead and to communicate with their leaders and parents. Start your free 30-day trial and see how LIVE Curriculum can come alongside you to make planning a little easier.