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In the world of student ministry, there are many stereotypes. And several of them are negative. I don’t know if it’s just how I am wired, but one of my goals has been to break those wide open, doing my best to represent this ministry well. Near the top of that list of stereotypes is the one that youth pastors aren’t organized and don’t work ahead.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in ministry, though, is the benefits of planning ahead. Recently, my program director and I came up with a plan for us to do this even better. I wanted to share it with you today for two reasons. One is to help you come up with a plan to also be more organized and plan ahead. The other is a level of accountability for me to keep it up, since I’m telling others what I’m doing.

Please note: We’ve setup our plan based on our situation. Currently, we have both paid staff and volunteers. I know, however, that many of you only have volunteers. If that’s the case, you may not be able to copy what we do. In fact, I don’t want you to copy our plan. Come up with one that makes sense for your ministry.

So, here is what we’ve come up with so far…

Giant Calendar: Back in the fall, I purchased a gigantic wall calendar on Amazon. It’s dry erase, too, so we can keep using it from year to year. We take it to our big planning days and hang it in our office for not only a constant visual of what’s coming up, but it also functions as a consistent reminder for us to plan ahead.

Big Planning Day: Each semester, we will meet for a day-long meeting to plan out the next semester of ministry. For instance, in the spring, we’ll meet to plan the fall and winter; in the fall, we’ll meet to plan the spring and summer. At this time, we will plan our teaching series, events, breaks, and meetings. These meetings really help us get ahead, but it also has a huge benefit to our relationship with parents, because we are able to tell them our summer camp dates, for instance, over nine or more months in advance. They love that!

Series Planning Meetings: We always try to stay at least one series ahead of ourselves, in order to give us more time to be creative and accomplish our goals. Our series are usually 3-4 weeks long, which means these are typically monthly meetings. Once we begin one series, we’ll spend a couple hours looking at the series coming next to brainstorm stage design, activities, illustrations, music, etc. that will fit each week of the series. This is also the time when we talk about guest speakers and assign out all tasks in order to make it happen.

Weekly Staff Meetings: Each week, our staff has a lunch meeting. This is a fun time to bond as we share a meal, but we also make sure to evaluate the previous week of ministry and touch base to make sure we are all set for the upcoming week.

Monthly All-Team Meetings: We also have monthly all-team meetings with all of our student ministry leaders (both paid and volunteer), where we do our training, pray together, and also remind them about upcoming series, events, etc.

Regular Parent Communication: On average of once a week, I’ll also send emails out to parents of students who have attended our ministry with news on either the upcoming series or a quick reminder of the upcoming message, with suggestions on how to take the conversation home. I’ll also remind them about upcoming events and occasionally pass along some resources for parenting teenagers. (For more on this, check out my last post.)

We also use our social media accounts to connect with student and parents throughout the week, but I’m going to save that for a completely separate post at a later time.

Again, please note that this is what works for our current ministry setup. It’s important for you to come up with a plan that fits your ministry. Even if it is you and two semi-dedicated volunteers, come up with a plan that works for you to plan ahead. Speaking from experience, it is completely worth it!

Do you have a plan in order to keep you working ahead and on task? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

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