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.

All this talk about working to integrate our students into church before they have to make a huge leap from youth group to the adult services is helpful. But what isn’t helpful is the voices who simply want you to drop everything you’re currently doing (and is working) and go with some new plan.

Sometimes you have to get rid of something and start over completely—but we’re not convinced this is one of those times. So here are a few suggestions to help you take baby steps toward the integration of youth ministry and the church.

Serve together…mostly
An easy way to get some quick inter-generational ministry happening in your church is to combine some of your serve projects immediately. Consider cancelling the majority of your youth group service projects and join those in place for the church at large. Imagine the conversations that will take place as people serve food, rake leaves, or paint together. Chances are the older people in your congregation will be just as surprised as your teenagers at how fun it was to serve side-by-side!

Worship together…occasionally
Most youth groups have their own worship service or Sunday School happening at the same time the rest of the church is gathered for worship. What if you completely cancelled your youth stuff once a month so the teenagers could attend church with their parents? Sure, some might choose to stay home that weekend, but it’s a fairly simple way to make a statement that says, “25% of the time, our church worships together…and we need the teenagers to be part of the action!”

Mission trips…maybe
One of the big steps we’re considering is to integrate mission trips. Offering a Spring Break trip? What it everyone got involved? Is there a big church-wide trip to South America or Africa? Get behind it and take some students! Each church has their own missions agenda/format, but this is something worthy of consideration.

Hey, there are some things adults are happy are totally separate from them. Keep overnighters this way…but be thankful for the adults who do show up, give up sleep, and care for your students.

Where else is there opportunity for easy integration between your youth ministry and the church?

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.

Youth Ministry at Age 40

 —  September 9, 2011 — 9 Comments

I was asked to answer a few questions for a friend’s upcoming book on veteran youth ministry. While I’m not quite 40 yet (give me a few years and I’ll get there), I thought the questions were great and a fun chance to reflect on youth ministry from a little further down the road:

Name some things you can do at 40 that you could never have done at 20. Being 36 … I take a little offense to this question. But I do have a growing “black list” of things I’ll never do in youth ministry again. And I definitely do things differently 15 years in. The most exciting thing I can do with this age and experience is assure students that “I’ve seen it all” – they can share whatever is going on in there life and I won’t be shocked. I think I’ve heard of, dealt directly with, and am prepared for whatever mess students can make with their lives. I don’t think I could have said that in my earlier years.

What are some things you know at 40 that you wish you has known at 20. I think I can see now how rich and rewarding long-term youth ministry is – I think as a young youth pastor I saw the day-to-day pain of senior pastor relationships, poor time management and students screwing up their lives to appreciate the perspective of the wise old Yoda that I am now. Ha. Look like Yoda, I do, wise I am not.

What are some things you no longer do at 40 that you used to do at 20. The obvious answer is overnighters … but we still do those on occassion and honestly I look down on youth workers who refuse to do them. Just kidding. I think I used to worry more about keeping my job when I was 20, I used to worry more about how God would provide for my family. I used to worry about making everyone happy. I used to worry about … well, everything. I wonder sometimes if I should worry MORE now than I do, because I don’t anymore.

What are the benefits of growing older and remaining in youth ministry? I think there’s a certain credibility that comes of age. I think you don’t strive to be cool, you just want to care. I think there’s a rewarding aspect to mentoring other youth leaders that is really exciting. Most of all, it is seeing the teenage lives that God changed now grown up and doing His work. Some you thought would be incredible are … others flamed out. Some you prayed for but gave up on came back to Him and He did some amazing things with them. Who knew? Fun to see it from a few years down the road.


From time to time people ask us if we have any policies regarding overnighters using the church building. We do! Here’s a quick rundown of how our small group leaders can use it for a fun activity. If it is helpful to you then by all means adapt it for your setting and you’re all set!


We understand how beneficial this activity can be for your Life Group and we believe the Refinery is an awesome place to hold your small group event. We want to be sure that you as the group leader understand the rules and requirements to hold your sleepover/overnighter:

  1. All students participating in your sleepover need to be registered in your group. If you have other kids joining you for the night, please make sure that we are made aware of them in advance.
  2. Please notify our Security Department that you are on campus by calling 949-xxx-xxxx. We have Security Staff here 24/7, please notify them if you have any problems.
  3. We will make every effort to get any cleaning crews in and out of the building as quickly and as early in the evening as possible. Please note that some nights the building requires them to be in the building for longer time.
  4. If the facilities are being used for an event the following day and chairs and tables are set up, those areas might be off limits to you for the night, we can talk about arrangements with you for you to make sure all the tables and chairs are put back in place by the morning.
  5. Everyone needs to be out of the building by 8:00 a.m. the following morning. The building needs to look like you were never there.
  6. Due to Health Department regulations, any places where food is prepared are off limits. Do not go behind the counters. The drink machines are shut off each evening, so please make arrangements for your own food and beverages.
  7. Do not use any of the audio/visual/technical equipment unless you have received permission prior to your sleepover. No exceptions!
  8. Once the doors have been locked for the night by security, students will need to stay in the building and the doors need to remain locked.
  9. Please contact us if we can do anything to assist you in making your sleepover night an awesome experience for your group!


Was going to post about this weekend’s Life Group Retreat, but was happy to read more insight than I would have offered over on Phil’s blog. The idea for the retreat was a concentrated relational time with students and their Life Group leader. We had students from all classes present, but new groups and freshman/sophomore groups were the most likely to participate. My pitch to leaders was that while the event was optional, it would give them 24 hours with their students in one weekend, something they would be hard-pressed to do in a semester of group meetings. Here’s some of the insights on doing something similar, head there for lots more thoughts and logistics:

1. If we do it again I would rename it “Life Group Overnighter” or “Life Group Hangout” or something that gives a better indication of the low-key nature of the event and doesn’t encroach upon our programmed events (like Winter Camp and Summer Camp)

2. It is worth shopping around for hotels and a personal visit will help.

3. Check if the hotel has a rewards program.

4. When you submit the room list, request that girls and guys are on different floors.

5. As trip leader arrive hours earlier than the students/leaders, you will have to reorganize a few rooms around and fix a few errors.

6. Be proactive. I usually check with the front desk during the evening/night to see of there have been any problems. This gives a good impression and helps you head off any potential problems early.

7. Keep the programmed part of the event short. We met together and played a quiz that gave everyone the chance to in something for their group (ranging from a giant bag of popcorn to a deck of cards). Students will be hyped up to stay in a hotel so anything more than that will be tough. It’s just a chance to check everyone is ok.