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

Chances are you are currently in the process of wrapping things up from the year and transitioning into summer mode.  That means camps, retreats, mission trips and planning for the fall.  Even if you are year round with ministry you look forward to the summer because the weather is nice, the days are longer and who doesn’t love ending the day with a barbecue?

And then you blink.  And summer is gone, September is a week away and you find yourself scurrying, flailing and gasping for any margin that might be left.  It’s another summer you blew away because you didn’t:

Maintain A Schedule:  Granted you have more margin in the summer, but you still need to know how much.  In the summer, life is a little easier because there might be less people coming to your ministry, and the trips you planned are set to go.  Just because the summer is planned doesn’t mean you can sit back, relax and forget about it.  By maintaining consistent office hours, and a work schedule you enable yourself to build margin instead of losing it.  Just give yourself thirty minutes to sit down and plan out your weeks and days.

Communicate Consistently:  I’m sure you hate playing that game where you need to guess whether or not certain people will be back in the fall.  You tell yourself, “I need a break and so do they.” And while that is true it doesn’t mean going M.I.A. for the entire summer.  It’s wise to check-in with your ministry team online through Facebook and Twitter.  Gather them together for a cookout or give them a call.  You don’t have to talk to them with any purpose in mind other than letting them know you are thinking about them. Then when the question of inviting them back comes up, it won’t be like breaking the ice all over again.

Rest And Refresh: Whether you break entirely or just slow things down it’s important to schedule a few days and even an entire week of true vacation.  If you can’t get away because of finances give yourself a stay-cation by staying home, sleeping in, plan a fun get together with friends, just make sure you give yourself a break.  Pace yourself and even plan some time to grow individually, professionally and spiritually

Put On Sunscreen:  Don’t get burned, put on a little SPF 30 and be safe.  No one wants to see you red as a lobster with those crazy tan lines.  Plus, as great as aloe is, the burn is always still too much.

Summer is a season to enjoy, it’s a season to refresh and set you in the right direction.  For some of us it’s busier, while for others it’s just a chance to step back.  Either way do not let this season get away from you, plan, and prepare so that you can walk into the fall excited.

What other mistakes do youth ministers make in the summer?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.