The world of youth ministry runs at a million miles an hour, making it extremely challenging to develop a strategic plan that looks a year or more down the road. Yet this is an essential key for building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Regardless of whether your students are pumped about sharing the gospel with their friends because you just came back from Dare 2 Share LIVE, or you’re struggling to get your students onboard with the idea of risking their popularity by sharing their faith, investing some time in strategic planning will make your ministry more effective in the long run. Trust us…it’s well worth the effort!
NOTE: If you’ve never crafted a vision statement for your ministry, or if you haven’t reevaluated that vision statement in a while, you may want to start there before you launch into the following strategic planning process. For help with building a vision statement, check out “A Practical Guide to Unpacking a Bold Vision.”
Step 1: Pray
It goes without saying that you’ll need the Spirit’s wisdom and counsel as you undertake this important effort, so lay a foundation of prayer and listen for God’s leading.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Carve out some time to brainstorm key events, retreats, activities and teaching/sermon series. Likely, you’ve already done some of this informally. But do it more intentionally, by writing out a list. Don’t be afraid to fill that list with things that you know have always worked, but also try to incorporate new ideas that you think just might be a hit.
Step 3: Lay Plans to Gather Input from Your Key Leaders
Set up a generous time block for an extended meeting with your key leaders. Don’t be afraid to choose just the leaders you want there, for example, the leader that has the most invested, the leader whose opinion you respect the most, the leader that connects the best with students. Most importantly, make sure that the leaders you invite have bought into the Gospel Advancing mission and vision of the ministry. Keep in mind the vocational status of those you invite, since this may require all of you to give up a chunk of your Saturday.
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Identify the adult leaders in your youth ministry whose opinions you value most. Then invite them to a strategic planning meeting to help you identify what events, retreats, activities and teaching series should be on your calendar during the next 10-12 months.
Invest plenty of prayer into this process—as you pick your leaders and prepare your agenda. And it often helps to lure leaders in with great food, so if you are able to set aside some ministry funds or recruit a great cook to provide amazing food, go for it!
Send out an agenda for the meeting 5-7 days in advance. Develop your agenda so that the leaders are able to come to the meeting with well-developed thoughts. The idea is that you want a lot of the brainstorming to happen before they come to the meeting. Make sure that you communicate this to them clearly. The purpose of this meeting is to establish the calendar for the next 10-12 months. Most youth programs run from September to May, and then there is some sort of a summer program that might look a little different. So really there are two basic seasons—school year and summer.
Since most of these leaders will be volunteers, it will be extremely helpful to them if you have already put some serious thought into your own answers to some key questions before the meeting. These questions could become the topic of conversation for the first part of your time together. Questions like:
- What are some of the biggest issues that teens are facing?
- What areas do we need to grow in as a ministry?
- Based upon our ministry vision statement and our commitment to relational evangelism, what kinds of measurable goals do we want to aim for this year? For example, the following are just a few key measurements that could be adopted…
- % of new conversion growth in our group
- # on-campus Bible studies
- # of baptisms
- % of students who can clearly share the gospel
- % of students who actively share the gospel
- Or others
- Is there something that the church is doing that we want to / need to be involved it?
- What are some things that are worth celebrating?
So as you send out the agenda it would be good to include your list of potential activities, retreats, camps, and teaching series, AND it would be good to include your own thoughts about these questions.
Then when it comes to the agenda for the meeting, you can have topics like:
- Camps and Retreats – How often and which ones?
- Teaching Series – What series to repeat and what new ideas to pursue? Bring specific curriculum options (for ideas, check out Dare 2 Share’s web store.)
- Activities – How much is too much, and which ones are strategic?
- Stop and Start – Of all the things we have done, which do we keep and which do we get rid of? Is there anything new that we should do?
- Coming Leadership Needs – Both paid staff AND volunteers should be empowered to recruit. (Luke 10:2 is an amazing verse to help cast vision for recruiting new leaders.)
During the weeks before your strategic planning meeting, you’ll want to research curriculum so you can bring recommendations for your group to consider for the coming year. Only bring the best to the meeting, understand how each can be used and make informed recommendations to your team. Be prepared to clearly articulate how a curriculum has the potential to accelerate your group towards the mission and vision of your ministry.
By doing this you, will be able to plan more than a year in advance. This doesn’t mean that on occasion, you can’t make a few changes if you are prompted by the Holy Spirit.
Step 4: Consult, Align and Build Your Annual Calendar
With this ground work laid, you are ready for your meeting, and hopefully your leaders will be too. You certainly want to allow for some fellowship, but make sure that you respect everyone’s time by staying focused. Working through the agenda will help you to put things on the calendar in a very strategic manner so that you can maximize your time and help your entire leadership team prioritize their time without getting burned out.
It’s way too easy to get busy doing good things. The point of strategic planning is to get focused on doing what’s best and most important.The point of strategic planning is to get focused on doing what’s best and most important. Click To Tweet
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on resource in your inbox!