A friend of ours in youth ministry asked me a few weeks back if I could name the process I try to follow as I plan events.
Before I go down that road, it seems uber-important to speak to why I do events.
1. Events can easily allow students to invite friends which in turn builds bridges to more meaningful opportunities
2. Events can be fun and safe places for students to gather together and that is so needed as we build community
3. Events can offer team building elements and they can foster Intergenerational friendships
4. Events can be blended into learning experiences and often offer opportunities for the gospel to be presented
I felt the need to name those reasons because from time to time, youth ministries have been critiqued for being event only and lacking substance. For me, I hope events create opportunities for discipleship.
Having said that, here is my process.
My process works well for me and it may for you. At the same time, someone else might have a totally different process that works for them and I’d love to hear about that.
And by the way, I didn’t realize I had a process until our friend asked what my process or practice was so I went and thought about it and here is what I came up with.
Step 1. I print off a copy of 12 months of calendar so I can look at the big picture, name holidays, special life events, and anything I know I need to build around
Step 2. I take any feedback from my church office that can help me know the life cycle of my church so I don’t double book or create too much additional stress on the facilities, the budget and people power.
Step 3. I look for local events to either build around or community events to avoid conflicting with.
For example, if I know of a good community youth ministry event sponsored by a local youth ministry partnership that I can utilize I will definitely consider those. Every year one hour away there is a dynamic two day youth ministry conference that I take my group to. It’s well done and for me requires minimal prep in addition to the time I put into it during it.
Another example to the flip side of this is looking at the sporting events of your school system and seeing how they impact your calendar.
Step 4. Research events that students thrive off of. When I arrived at our current church, I would say this took over a year to understand. I began to learn about events that were working, I learned about events I was not impressed with. I toyed around with importing events I had done in previous settings that I thought would work and began to establish a template for future years.
This might be a good place to name looking for when your summer camps, winter camps, conventions and mission trips are going to be held so you can make them priorities.
Step 5. Depending on your role, hours allotted for your position, family prioritization, a very important part of my process is choosing a frequency for your events. In my current context, one event per month during the school year in addition to bonus meetings, fundraisers and other extra events seems to be a good pattern for my family and my ministry.
One thing worth considering at this point is does the frequency of your events cost too much in money, time and any other assets at your disposal, that because of a frequency that is faster-paced than your ministry needs, that you’re actually working against yourself.
Step 6. As you plan your events, I recommend planning far enough out so you can recruit chaperones, advertise and fine tune the details of the event. It’s pretty hard to plan a successful event on just a few days or even a few weeks notice.
Step 7. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s the moment of the actual event you’re leading. Go for it.
Step 8. After I host an event I solicit feedback from students and adults who chaperone to decide if it was worth doing, and if so, how to do it better a year from now. Evaluation and taking seriously the suggestions you hear can make next year’s version of the event that much better.
Having offered all of that, let me make some closing comments
First – While I seek to build a yearly template, I am quite often mixing in and out events so that things don’t get stale
Second – I plot out a 12-month plan and my larger events like missions trips, youth conventions and camps get priority and can be named a year out; the rest of my events operate on more of a 4-month calendar. The cycle is June thru August, September through December, and January through May. This affords me the ability to plan at a pace that works ideally for me.
Third – No matter how hard you plan to have a great calendar, you will not create a conflict-free calendar. You will plan and find out later that there is a conflict or that you need to cancel or postpone something you worked on.
Fourth – I find that this process helps me to guard my own pace and sanity.
Blessings as you use the events in the life cycle of your ministry to teach, equip and create community for your students.
Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.