On Planning Your Youth Ministry

I have to admit that I often enjoy the planning process of youth ministry. There is something about the start of the year, when the calendar is fresh and empty, that inspires creativity and excitement about the ministry year ahead.

Over time I’d like to think I’ve grown in my understanding of how to plan a youth ministry year. This growth has helped in solidifying my process and systems in preparing an event, a curriculum, or even gaining a grasp on the coming 12-months. It’s not always easy taking the ideas and inspiration for youth ministry and making them fit into an already busy year. However, I’ve found it helpful to put my planning in perspective as I look ahead to the year.

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(1) Make A Plan To Plan

There needs to be some time set out in your calendar to actually plan.

This will require planning itself.

But as the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. With this in mind I’d encourage you to look at your calendar over the next couple of weeks and block out a whole afternoon to plan the coming months (or more). First and foremost, there needs to be time set apart for planning our youth ministries.

Go.

Do it now.

(2) Put Planning In Perspective

When I haven’t planned well I can get into an anxious and stressful state.

But when I have planned an event or a meeting to the best of my ability I am considerably less anxious. Even when my planning fails, knowing that I’ve done all I could have in the lead-up allows me to reconcile the failure. It puts me in a better position to evaluate what is happening while things are going wrong and also gives me the metrics to learn what I could’ve done better.

It’s also helpful to be reminded of the words in the book of Proverbs, that while

“…the hearts of humans plan their course, the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

With this kind of thinking my planning is put into perspective.

I can do as much as I can, as well as I can, but at the end of the day I need to recognise God’s hand in these plans too.

Keeping this in mind helps me from relying on my own skills, abilities, and self and turns my heart to praise as I know I’m part of God’s wider, global, mission in youth ministry.

(3) Move Those Plans To Action

We could spend a lot of time planning and little time actually implementing those plans.

Remember to make sure you have the time and energy to put these plans into practice. Each year that goes by I always find an adjustment is needed in my schedule to move the youth ministry forward.

At the end of the day I am hoping to implement the plans I make, having a heart for the Lord to use them in whatever capacity he chooses.

May it be so for me, just as it may be for you as you serve God and his people.

3 Ways The Beach Helps Youth Ministry

The beach is great.

If it was a choice between a warm beach location or say a cold snowy type location, the beach wins every time.

And so with summer holidays and hot days comes the annual visit to the beach. A few days spent relaxing, reading, and having a rollicking time with the family. Last year I spent hours making an awesome sandcastle with my daughter, this year it seems we’re more adventurous and have ventured into the cooler waters and waves.

Oddly enough, the beach had me thinking about youth ministry. Perhaps it was the salt water, the days off, or too much cricket watching (can that ever be the case?). Nevertheless, using the beach as an illustration for youth ministry it reminded me of three things we youth leaders need to have in mind coming into the 2018 youthmin year.

First, we need perspective. 

Sitting on the beach gives you a view of the large expanse of water in front of you. It gives you a view of stretches of sand, to your left and right. It reminds you that there is something bigger than your small self going on in this world. As one person sitting on a small patch of sand, millions of grains within arms reach, you are given perspective on life, faith, and ministry.

As Psalm 139:7-10 reminds us, God is huge. He is everywhere.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

In youth ministry we often need perspective. It’s not about the next event, the next catch-up, the next Bible study, the next service, the next hard conversation. It is about God, and declaring that he has come, and is with us through his Son and his Spirit. He will lead and hold us, as the Psalmist has written.

Second, we need grit. 

Generally sand is quite gritty. On some beaches it really does give your feet a good workout.

Youth ministry is the same. It is a hard work. It is constant work. It requires grit. It is the type of work that will give you a good workout, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Paul knows this from experience and writes in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10:

“We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed. Instead, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardships, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; regarded as deceivers, yet true; as unknown, yet recognized; as dying, yet see—we live; as being disciplined, yet not killed; as grieving, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

It might be a different context but Paul’s words speak of the kind of grit needed for ministry. The physical persecution is not generally associated with Western youth ministry, but that doesn’t discount the challenges it brings.

All this requires grit. It’s goes without saying that this grit will come more easily when we are walking closely with Jesus. As we work with students and their families we seek to serve them and the church out of our enjoyment of God.

Third, we need to be fluid. 

At the beach you can sit on the sand and watch the waves come time and time again. You can also go for a swim and enjoy the cool water on a hot day. Stating the obvious, the water is fluid and can cope with what is going on in it and around it.

When working with students (and adults too) we need to be flexible, fluid. Often things won’t go to plan, people won’t turn up, or the weather might not be what we’d hoped for our program. In working with people, and in youth ministry, we need to be flexible in our plans and ideas. It’s helpful to know and be sure in what we think is the best way to operate, but sometimes others might actually provide better ways.

So whether it’s events or people, holding things losely, having planned to our best ability is something worth evaluating for ourselves coming into the new youthmin year.

At any time, not just at the start of the year, it is worth taking a few moments to gain perspective, grow in grit, and assess what we hold tightly. I can recommend the beach as a good place to do that.

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading?

I suspect, every year, thousands of people give up on their attempted bible reading plan because they’ve fallen so far behind they don’t believe they’ll ever catch up, and they feel guilty about it.

You know the situation, I’m sure. You start off the new year with a plan to follow. You’re aiming to achieve what seems like the impossible–finish the whole bible in one year. But by the time the third week of January comes to a close you find yourself three days behind, the equivalent of 12-15 chapters to catch up on. The doubt about actually doing this in the first place creeps in. The guilt of not doing what you said you’d do piles up. And suddenly you find yourself questioning whether your relationship with God is actually where you thought it was.

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading_

From a young age, in church or in a Christian home, we are taught that reading the bible and praying are simply parts of the Christian identity and rhythm. I’m not going to disagree with that. I think the bible itself speaks of the need to read God’s words and be active in prayer with him. This is vital to any relationship with God.

When God gives Moses his words in Exodus 24 there is the understanding that his people are to respond and obey it. Then as part of the words God gives Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, there is the command to have them on repeat.

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”

A bible reading habit is about having God’s words on repeat.

Yet, while this is vital, helpful, and beneficial for us as believers we often feel guilty if we skip a day or fall too far back on a bible reading plan.

The point of a bible reading plan is not to make us feel guilty.

It’s to help us in our worship of God. It is to help us hear from him.

It is to help us understand the story we are part of.

It is to help us know more of our identity as the people of God.

When we do fall behind in our bible reading our response doesn’t need to be guilt. We aren’t saved or made right with God because of our bible reading. We are made right with God because of what Jesus has done. The Good News. Instead, when we do fall behind, we just continue reading where we were up to.

You see, there are no explicit rules around reading the bible. No one is restricting or demanding or making it a law to read a certain part or certain amount of the bible. The important thing is to read it. If you read a verse or read a whole book, whatever it is, the aim is to read it.

I was talking with someone a month or two ago who had a 100-day streak in their bible reading. Things then came up and they didn’t do it for about a week. Instead of just picking it up from where they left off, they gave up. They felt they were too far behind that they couldn’t catch up. Therefore, they didn’t see much of a point to continue reading.

But that’s not the point!

It’s an awesome achievement to read 100 days in a row, but the point isn’t how many days in a row you can read your bible. There’s no competition going on (unless it’s self-imposed, and that’ll probably raise questions around ‘heart’). It’s about connecting and engaging with God through his words. The point is that reading the bible is helpful for our relationship and understanding and worship of God. It’s vital.

I like bible reading plans because they actual help me work through scripture systematically. They help me have a goal and show me where I’m going. But at the end of the day they are just that, a plan. If I didn’t have a plan then I reckon I’d be flip-flopping through the bible and never really achieve anything in my reading. Instead, a plan gives structure in my bible reading and shows me what I have actually read.

I’d always encourage a bible reading plan to anyone (this one is a good one). What I wouldn’t encourage is feeling guilty about not meeting someone else’s bible reading requirements. Read what you can, work through a plan at your own pace, and worship God in the process.

A DIY Discipleship Plan

We are in the fortunate position of living in a Christian resource-rich period of time. No other generation has had such access to the teaching of the Bible and other resources that come with it. Only a few years ago it was impossible to hear any sermon other than the one you heard while attending your local church. Now, I can listen to one sermon on the way to work and another on the way home. That’s crazy.

The amount of books, podcasts, music, articles and blog posts, devotionals, and different versions of the Bible give a plethora of options in helping us to understand and know God better. But, it can also cause a tremendous amount of confusion because there is so much choice.

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Therefore, I find it helpful to think about how I’m going to grow in my understanding of God and develop as a follower of Jesus by having a plan. In previous years I’ve attempted to read the Bible through in a year. There are many good plans to help with this and I find committing to reading four chapters a day the most consistent method. Having said this, I haven’t been overly successful lately.

Because I enjoy learning, particularly through reading and listening, I’ve decided to approach my discipleship development in a different way for 2015. Rather than have broad goals of reading the Bible through in a year and praying regularly I’ve sought to make them a bit more specific.

In structuring this plan I’ve broken my development into four areas; biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. Within these four areas I then have specific resources I’d like to read or listen to at different times throughout the year. See below as an example:

Biblical Theology

  • Read the book of Jeremiah 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Jeremiah
  • Reach the book of Hebrews 5 times
  • Read a commentary on Hebrews

Historical Theology

Systematic Theology

  • Read 3-4 books on the topic of ‘Salvation’ (Do you have anything to recommend in this area?)

Practical Theology

There are many resources to read, watch, and listen to. There are conferences to go to and church to attend. There are small groups to join and other community activities to be part of. There is no doubt that discipleship is communal. I don’t want to negate this. But on a personal level I also want to continue to grow in my knowledge of God through his Word, what He’s done in history, through the teaching of others and then seek to apply it.

It’s at least a plan, and I like plans, even if they don’t always get achieved the way I think they should be. So next year I’m going in with a plan to develop as a disciple. What about you?