Parenting my own children has helped me become a much better youth leader. Young, single, fun and crazy youth workers have the TIME to invest in teenagers, the ENERGY to go the distance with them, and the FRESH EYES to change things up. But they are not parents. And until you’re a parent, you don’t think like a parent.
When I was a young youth pastor, I loved planning events and retreats. I knew they were powerful community-builders. But I planned without regard for a typical family’s calendar and budget. I got used to hearing parents’ common complaints: exorbitant costs for multiple children, financial hardships tied to costly events that were scheduled before or after an expensive retreat, and late notice for parents who planned their calendars six months in advance. I honestly didn’t really understand the context for their complaints.
And then I became a parent.
Once I had my own kids to take care of, our personal calendar filled up months in advance. I had to plan my ministry calendar well in advance just to make sure it worked with the rhythms of family life. And that’s when Jesus led me into a game-changer strategy—a 13-month plan that helped balance our ministry calendar with the typical home calendar. This strategy has helped us build a reliable leadership team, invited loyalty from our kids’ parents, and created magnetic anticipation among the teenagers in our ministry.
1. Plan around the school year. This seems like a “no brainer,” but it’s easy to forget that the school calendar drives everything in a typical family. The more sensitive you are to this reality, the more buy-in to your ministry you’ll get.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”] Jesus led me into a game-changer strategy—a 13-month plan that helped balance our ministry calendar with the typical home calendar. This strategy has helped us build a reliable leadership team, and created magnetic anticipation among the teenagers in our ministry.[/tweet_box]
2. Have next year’s ministry calendar cast in stone before the end of the current school year. Each April, my team and I sit down and plan the calendar for the following school year. This gives us time to reserve facilities for events, order needed supplies, and visualize the flow of the following year. Your co-workers will also be grateful as you share calendar and facility space for a common ministry.
3. Plan just one event per month. ONLY ONE. This includes retreats, mission trips, service days, game nights, and outreach events. In addition to the obvious financial and calendar reasons, this keeps your leaders from burning out.
4. Consider the flow of your calendar year. Where do you place your retreats and service days and outreach events? At the bottom of this blog I’ve given you the example of our annual calendar—we’ve found this gives us an outstanding rhythm for the year.
5. Plan your curriculum for the entire school year. Share your plan and your resources with your leadership team. Ask them to help you find cool videos and additional experiences. In our ministry, Wednesday nights are topical (prayer, how to share the gospel, goals, worship) and Sunday mornings are dedicated to studying the Bible book by book from 6th-12th grade.
6. Create a brochure. Take the summer to create a comprehensive printed piece that you will hand to the parents in the fall. It will include the title, description, and cost of EVERY SINGLE event, retreat, and weekly meeting. Also, include all topics and books you will be studying. Your parents will know exactly what to expect from your ministry during the year. They will know what you’re teaching, and the thoughtful way you’ve laid out the year—they’ll be excited to talk about this information with their kids.
7. Update your website. Make sure that all the information in your brochure is on your website. Have all online registrations up and running before your parent meeting. Whenever possible, direct teenagers and parents to the website.
8. Hold a Fall Parent Meeting. Plan a parent meeting to kick off the new year. Hand out your brochure and share your vision for the year. Introduce key leaders. Gather them in the same room their kids will meet in so they get a feel of what they’ll experience. Emphasize that you understand how difficult it is to balance their school budget and their extra-curricular budget and their vacation budget. Promise that you intend to help them plan ahead and, if possible, help them plan family vacations around key ministry events. Tell them to consider giving part of a retreat or event registration fee as a Christmas gift to their teenager, or encourage their kids to save up to contribute to the cost.
Here’s the bottom line: PARENTS WILL LOVE YOU. They will sing your praises. They will tell their friends who will then send their kids to your ministry. This simple change in mindset can revolutionize a ministry.
Want to see a sample on how to plan your year in ministry? Download Kristin’s Annual Calendar HERE.