Youth Ministers did not answer the call to ministry because they are gifted in accounting, organizational management or event planning. Still, that is not an excuse to avoid learning and developing organization skills. Organization matters.
This may seem obvious, but if you do not plan for planning it will not happen. Especially in today’s culture, when family calendars fill up fast, there is little patience for an activity that is “thrown together” at the last minute (or feels like it has been). There are three seasons in a youth minister’s year. Winter-Spring (January-May), Summer (June-August) and Fall (September-December). Planning happens in various “seasons” of the youth ministry year. Break your planning into categories.
Year. Some programming is planned at least a year in advance. A standing camp, retreat or mission trip, an out of country program, a standing church “weekend” assembly and conference attendance are examples of a year ahead planned activity. It is also a great idea to plan your planning meetings a year in advance (at least know the month these events will occur). Each church and corresponding youth ministry, large or small, typically a month in which the “yearly” calendar items are expected to be coordinated. This often corresponds to budget formation. For budgeting purposes, you do not have to have the details planned, but you have to have a solid understanding of all the “programming” you will be executing so you can budget accordingly.
Six Months. Curriculum, Special Events (concerts, family worships, movie night, trampoline park, game days, etc.) worship nights, small group nights, parent meetings, preparation meetings are all examples of six months out planning. In my experience, it works well to have two intensive planning meetings a year in your student ministry. A meeting in August, that covers the Fall Season and a meeting in November that covers the Winter-Spring, Summer and Year. Each youth minister will know what month works best in their context. With that said, a word of warning, if you wait till May to plan and communicate the Summer schedule of programming, you will be beat down with backlash from parents and students. All families, suburban, city or rural need at least a six-month cushion to plan their calendars. Remember, our families and students are busy.
Month. After your year and six-month calendars have been organized, the youth minister’s month is organized to execute the plan. In other words, your month organization is determined by the details involved in conducting each program with excellence. Monthly organization provides a macro view of the upcoming workload a youth minister can expect in the coming weeks.
Week. The week is organized so that the youth minister can complete program execution. Weekly organization is a micro view that provides the greatest source of “to do” items that help the youth minister manage and balance their work schedule. The youth minister’s “week” is filled with work that impacts a program that is happening in that week or is going to happen three weeks away. For example, you will, or should, take time to study for a lesson you will be giving that week. You may also be making shopping runs to gather supplies for an upcoming retreat as well. One of the blessings of youth ministry is that each week is uniquely different.
One more word on organization. It is a great leadership practice to surround yourself and partner with good and talented people. People that are better than you in various areas. Even in smaller youth groups, you are not a self-sustained island. We all need help. It has been my experience that all youth ministries have at least a few individuals that are gifted in organization. They just need to be asked to help. Do you need help with budgeting, file organization, trip planning, registration, food preparation, technology, leadership development…? Look around you. There may be someone in your church that is waiting to be asked and is a gold mine of talent.
This is an adapted post from David Fraze’s Practical Wisdom For Youth Ministry. Check out David’s book here for timeless wisdom and helpful next steps to establish and grow your youth ministry!