Being in youth ministry for fifteen years now I have seen a lot of different youth group styles, philosophies, and I can tell you that haphazard is not a good style or philosophy. Having a strategy for your youth group needs to be a value, but not an idol. Strategy is important; it provides clear understanding of objectives and parameters around how they will be achieved.
It’s not the be all end all – but if done right, it will go a long way to creating a smoother process for yourself and your leaders. Here’s why:
Strategy breeds consistency: Having a standardized skeleton of how things are done is really disarming for students and leaders. When the program changes week in and week out and we stand at the front and encourage them to bring a friend, what are they bringing them to? When you have objectives and a somewhat strategic program, leaders know what to expect and students know what they are bringing their friends to. This simply requires that we commit to following through with whatever we decide will be our approach.
Strategy requires rationale: When we use a strategic approach, it requires that we have a reason for every element of the program and that if asked we can explain it to a parent or student. An example might be playing a secular song when the students are coming in as a means of disarming visitors who might be walking into a church for the first time. Why do we have worship? If didn’t have it, why not? Why do we play very few games? I am not sure its wise to have many elements of a youth night that have no reason or purpose.
Strategy is dynamic: It is vitally important that we be attentive to what God is doing in the midst of all of this. If students are encountering God in worship, it might be time to cut back the intro to increase the worship time. Maybe your group is not ready for a thirty-minute talk. Keep tabs on things and adjust as necessary.
Strategy is important … but not the most important thing. Doing good ministry, being attentive the needs of your students’ spiritual growth is key. Having a strategy is most helpful in taking the high level vision to an attainable and implementable set of actions for your leaders to work with.