Planning for a New Year in Student Ministry

Preparing for a New Year in Student Ministry

(The value of the 30,000 ft. view in youth ministry)
By: David Livingston

Have you ever looked down from your window seat on a flight and noticed how different everything appears from 30,000 feet? You see the big picture—the way the rivers and lakes and highways lay out on the ground map. Seeing things from way up high helps make sense of what’s happening on the ground.   

In a similar way, viewing your student ministry from 30K feet can help you and your team navigate toward more effective ministry. That’s the value of an annual planning session with your team. I’ve seen it work wonders in avoiding confusion and surprises that invariably come up in a year packed with activity.  Here are some simple guidelines (suggestions) to make your annual planning a success: 

  1. When to Plan:  This varies based on your local school schedule. In my experience the most effective time will be in July or August, when the start of another school term is within sight and folks have pretty much returned from their summer travels and commitments. 
  2. Who to Invite:  Invite every youth worker who is committed to your student ministry. 
  3. What to Discuss: Every element of your ministry. 
    • Goals: Start with a review of your overall ministry goals and pray for wisdom to plan toward reaching those goals.
    • Critique of Last Year: This is the time to mine for gold or coal. Walk your team through an unhurried discussion of what worked well (gold) and what didn’t (coal). Try to identify the one or two areas of your ministry that accumulated the most coal, then work on a detailed plan to up your game in those areas. You want your biggest gains to come from the areas of most importance, not peripheral areas (Think “evangelism” versus “ice breakers”).
    • “Must-Have Commitments” for trainingWhen you want your volunteers at a leader’s conference or a local training meeting, do them all a favor and give them the dates early on. Put all your monthly or quarterly leader’s planning and training meetings on the calendar. 
    • Special Events: Do you host a D-Now weekend? A guy’s Iron Man initiative, or a Girls Conference? Is there an evangelistic event you want to attend, like Word of Life’s Reverb? If you want people to pitch in and be there to help or to be ministered to, make every effort to identify these commitments now.

We need to remind ourselves routinely that youth ministry is serious business. Though I mentioned prayer only briefly above, we obviously need to spend a good deal of our time together petitioning God for wisdom. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” An annual planning meeting is a great way to make this passage a reality. Remember- this session lays the groundwork for what will follow. Effective annual planning puts you in a position at your subsequent meetings (monthly or quarterly) to do some of that “lower level” planning that’s closer to the ground than 30K feet.

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