Just to catch you up if you haven’t been keeping track, I’ve been walking through the 5 phases of planning my staff and I go through to ensure we have an effective, successful Student Ministry. While we all want to have a move of the Holy Ghost and ultimately allow the Spirit to guide what goes on in our services, planning for these “God moments” allows everything we do to be intentional, so that we don’t waste important opportunities to connect our students to God, each other, and a sense of purpose. In my last two posts, I talked about the importance of a 5-year plan and a 1-3 year plan. If those steps have been well-documented, the next phase becomes relatively easy.
Phase 3: The Annual Planning Session
As you saw in the previous posts, most of the 5-year plan and 1-3 year plan is strategic; that is, it talks about where we want to go. The question then becomes, “How do we get there?” At the end of the day, as great as it is to dream, we have to put boots on the ground and execute in order to achieve those dreams. That takes translating the strategic ideas into tactical initiatives that bring us closer to reaching these goals.
The annual planning session accomplishes this. The goal of the annual planning session is to review the strategic plans of the ministry and ask:
- What can we accomplish this year?
- What events/special services/training sessions, etc. would support this?
- Where on the calendar do these items makes sense?
I’m going to throw a few things out here as we discuss this that we have done with some success. The first thing I recommend is…make this meeting a big deal. Depending on the size of your Youth Group (we have 60), you may have a large team, or your team may be just you and your spouse. Regardless, this meeting is important. We have a staff of about a dozen. We put it on the calendar a couple of months in advance so everyone can plan around it and make sure they are there. As we draw closer to this planning session, we all spend time in prayer and fasting to bring us into a spirit of unity.
When the planning meeting starts, we begin by celebrating our successes (something none of us in Student Ministry do as often as we should!) as well as talking about the things that could have gone better. We make plans for how we can do things better going forward, and then we dive into the meat of the meeting.
Again, depending on the size of your Youth Group, this meeting could take an hour, or like us, it could take 2 days. Some larger Student Ministries stay in a hotel together and do an entire retreat. It’s up to you. The point is to focus your time on making your Student Ministry excellent in the coming year.
We first plot out on the calendar all the things we KNOW will happen – NAYC, Bible Quizzing dates, Sectional and District Youth events, etc. This will ensure we don’t create any scheduling conflicts. Next, we break into teams around certain topics. These topics tie into our Student Ministry mission. One group focuses on “Outreach” initiatives, another group focuses on “Fellowship” initiatives, another focuses on “Community Service/Ministry” initiatives, and another group focuses specifically on our annual Youth Week and bi-monthly Youth Sundays, as these are big enough events for us to warrant their own separate group.
Once these groups have finished, we reconvene and come to a consensus on what we feel is feasible for the following year, and what we feel is not. We try very hard to come to a consensus as opposed to “majority rules,” since we all have to live with the decision, not just the majority. Upon making those final decisions, we get them on the calendar.
The meeting’s over now, right? WRONG! Another piece of advice: take your Student Ministry team and go have fun! We’re Youth Workers! We like to have fun! It’s going to take a great deal of work to accomplish what you have planned. Take some time and have some fun, because the work is going to come fast and furious come January!
One last piece of advice: we hold this meeting in September. This gives us plenty of time to get the Pastor’s sign-off and get plans in motion for the things that will be happening in the first quarter. We hold a “Kick-Off” service in January to introduce all of our plans to the students, and it’s a great momentum-booster. If you don’t grab the momentum in January, it becomes harder to build it as you get into the year.
So with all of these great plans for the year, how do you stay on track? We’ll talk about that next time. In the meantime…do you do an annual planning meeting? If so, how does yours differ from mine? I’d love to hear about it!