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Want to make your spouse happy and be in youth ministry for a long time? 3-4 times a year spend an hour or two synchronizing your family + youth ministry calendars together. Spent some time this morning doing the same!

JG

I love Google Maps.

When you load the homepage the default view is zoomed way out showing you the whole United States. Type in an address and it zooms in quickly to show you a specific region. Click “street view” and BAM! you’re looking at things as if you were literally walking through the neighborhood by foot. Kinda creepy since Google is secretly stalking us, but kinda awesome at the same time. And a great example to how we typically plan our youth ministry calendar.

We first take a look at the big picture of our ministry, then zoom in on the season ahead, and finally get a street view all of the way down to the current teaching series and events. Let me explain in a bit more detail:

THE BIG PICTURE
It is a wise idea to get away for the day and get a big picture of your ministry. Take a break from the pace of ministry and the distractions of email, voicemail and the persistent nagging of Google+ and wrestle with an overview of your youth group. August is the perfect time for this! Now for some this is a simple task because they live in the world of ideas and vision – for others it will be challenging to stick your head up over it all and get a glimpse of the whole.

Key questions to ask yourself at this big picture stage:

  • Where you think God wants to take students in the next year?
  • What worked well last year, and will it work again?
  • What annual events would be effective again this year?
  • What needs to get the axe?
  • Have I blocked out my 2 weeks of vacation?
  • Where are we strong and where are we weak?
  • Is there a good balance of God’s eternal purposes for our ministry (evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship)?

Paint in broad strokes what your youth ministry year will look like at this point. Lots of prayer – ask God for discernment. Use pencil.

THE SEASON AHEAD
You’ve now got an idea of the big picture of your youth ministry – now it is time to specially plan the next season. There are lots of ways you can do this – right now I like to divide the year into 3 unequal parts – Fall, Winter-Spring and Summer. This is the time to start to really firm up specific teaching topics, series and events. You probably already locked up some bigger things like summer camp, trips and retreat locations, but now is the time to make final decisions.

Key questions to ask yourself at this season stage:

  • What needs to be cut?
  • Am I keeping this program to satisfy a parent/vocal students or because it is what is best for our ministry?
  • Where do I have momentum naturally and where is it lacking?
  • What are the teaching topics for this season?
  • Who is the best person to teach?
  • Has my spouse seen this before I go public with it?

What looked good in the big picture view might be too much now that you’re zoomed in a bit closer. You are still flexible enough at this point for an audible. Use the eraser now if needed, but definitely not on your vacation time.

CURRENT SERIES/EVENTS
The closest we zoom in for planning is the current month. You’ve planned everything from a year out, you firmed up much of those plans in your season overview, now it is time to lock everything down and walk into what you’ve planned.

Key questions to ask yourself at this season stage:

  • What adjustments do I need to make based on circumstances that have come up since we planned the year/season?
  • Am I balanced and healthy with this calendar?
  • What can we do make our youth ministry even better next year?

I’m in the thick of planning our summer right now! May God bless you as you serve students and plan your youth ministry calendar, too.

JG



One of the most important administrative steps of any youth leader is the development of a yearly planner. Taking some time each spring/summer to plan out the next school year’s calendar (August – May) holds countless benefits for you, your students, your volunteers, and your church leadership.

Consider the value of strategically laying out a well-planned Ministry/School Year Calendar:

  • Communicates you value students’ busy lives.
  • Allows you to effectively communicate details with parents.
  • Helps you budget more accurately.
  • Provides opportunity to begin promoting events earlier.
  • Forces your hand to strategize various ministry events.
  • Reinforces your leadership ability to superiors.
  • Promotes better work/personal life balance (family appointments, out-of-town schedules, etc).

And yet, developing a Yearly Calendar is neglected by far too many youth leaders and pastors. For some, they don’t recognize the benefits because they’ve never experienced them. But for others, the process just seems too difficult… planning events 8-9 months in advance appears too daunting of a challenge. Be encouraged, many of your colleagues around the country are proving the challenge is not too difficult. And with the right system, you can accomplish it too.

I’ve used the exact same process every spring for the past 15 years to produce a calendar for the next school year. And I’ve found that the whole project can be accomplished in 5 completely achievable steps.

  1. Create an editable calendar document displaying each month of the upcoming school year with clearly labeled holidays. I recommend using a landscape-view displaying 2 months on each page. This allows room for a readable font, but still hangs nicely in your office without taking too much space. I also recommend using the Tables function in a simple word processor to create the template. This allows opportunity to insert text and a variety of shading opportunities. To get you started, here’s the template I’ve used for years (.doc / .pages). 
  2. Track down your local school’s district calendar typically located on their website. Import the important dates onto your calendar marking school vacation days with a consistent shade of gray (again, creating your calendar as a table in Word or Pages makes this shading simple). Be sure to label the first day of school, last day of school, vacation days, and testing weeks if applicable.
  3. Import your regular-occurring ministry calendar programs. Your ministry likely has a weekly/monthly schedule of events (think Sunday Mornings, Small Groups, Wednesday nights, Monthly Trainings, etc.). Begin populating your yearly planner by inserting them on your calendar template. Simply create the title, then copy (Ctrl-C) and paste (Ctrl-V) on to each appropriate day.
  4. Schedule/record any overnight trips for your youth ministry. Some of these overnight events occur on a yearly recurring basis. For example, my ministry goes on a weekend retreat every January and a week-long high school trip in July. Scheduling those on the calendar are easy – they occur every year at the same time. For the overnight trips that don’t recur yearly but you still plan to accomplish, your calendar template will help you select the most strategic week/weekend for each trip.
  5. Schedule the rest of your events for the ministry year. Your final step involves scheduling and recording everything else: outreach events, special parties, unique Sundays, and whole church festivities (just to name a few). This will, of course, be the most difficult of the five steps and will take the most amount of time and foresight. But take heart, with the first four steps completed, you’ll be surprised how quickly this last step flows. Once you can glance at the entire yearly planner in front of you, you’ll find the rest of your events almost schedule themselves.

Once completed, your calendar will quickly become one of the most important documents in your office as it helps provide clarity to your disciple-making strategy and decision-making process. But don’t leave it hanging on your bulletin board. Make sure it finds its way into the hands of your students, parents, and volunteers. You’ll be glad you did… and so will they.

Joshua Becker is a veteran youth pastor who has served churches in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Arizona. He blogs regularly at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning fewer possessions. You may also enjoy following him on Twitter.

Here are a few big picture thoughts to help you plan a great summer calendar

Go with something gender-specific.
A couple of years ago we tried a girls-only Bible study called Bagels & Bibles. It didn’t even necessarily cover girls issue that first year—but we stumbled onto something great: Something for the girls was a HUGE hit. In fact, the guys startled grumbling and asked for a Bible study of their own, too! While Donuts & Dudes has a much higher sugar content, it is a great idea, too. We also do a guys overnight trip called “Burly,” and a girls trip called “Girly.”

Give guest speakers that stage.
You probably want to teach during the most important weeks of the year—back to school, promotion, New Year—but summer is a great chance to develop some new teachers and build skill in the second tier. Let them have it! It’ll give you a chance to be the relational giant you thrive at, anyhow.

Carry over the winners.
Every summer you learn from the last—carry over the winners from summer to summer, and create a few key traditional events and activities students will look forward to year after year.

Steal from everyone else.
Be a learner! Scour youth ministry blogs for ideas on summer ideas that might work in your setting. At your next network meeting ask around and see what is and isn’t working for other people. Even ask members of your congregation for their best summer memories as a teenager and see if you can create or recreate something special and memorable. Quick aside: If you trigger good memories for people from their childhood, they’re super likely to volunteer at a similar event hoping for others to have the same life-changing experience they once had.

Block out a week at the end for you.
Don’t make the mistake of planning a killer summer and then heading right into “back to school” mode and fall kickoff. Take a break! This year we’re planning a “down week” at the end of summer and making sure that everyone is refreshed and healthy for the new school year. A great summer sets the table for a great fall—make sure you build in some time and space for yourself as well.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



You might not have noticed yet that Slant33 has been relaunched recently but the premise remains the same: 1 topic, 3 perspectives. I got a chance to jump in on the question How Far Do You Plan Out Your Youth Ministry Calendar? What’s Your Process? Why? Here’s part of my thoughts on the topic, click through for the complete thought and to get the other 2 takes from Brian Berry and Lars Rood, too:

I love Google Maps. When you load the homepage, the default view is zoomed way out, showing you the whole United States. Type in an address and it zooms in quickly to show you a specific region. Click “street view” and BAM! you’re looking at things as if you were literally walking through the neighborhood on foot. Kinda creepy, since this means Google is stalking us, but kinda awesome at the same time. And a great example of how we typically plan our youth ministry calendar.

We first take a look at the big picture of our ministry then zoom in on the season ahead and finally get a street view all the way down to the current teaching series and events.

It is a wise idea to get away for the day and get a big picture of your ministry. Take a break from the pace of ministry and the distractions of email, voicemail, and the persistent nagging of Google Plus and wrestle with an overview of your youth group. August is the perfect time for this!

For some, this is a simple task because they live in the world of ideas and vision. For others, it will be challenging to stick your head up over it all and get a glimpse of the whole.

Key questions to ask yourself at this big-picture stage:

  • Where do you think God wants to take students in the next year?
  • What worked well last year, and will it work again?
  • What annual events would be effective again this year?
  • What needs to get the ax?
  • Have you blocked out your week of vacation?
  • Where are we strong, and where are we weak?
  • Is there a good balance of God’s eternal purposes for our ministry (evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship)?

JG