Our current poll (which changes weekly and can be found at the top our homepage) looks at how we go about planning "programming" for the start of the fall. It occured to me that many of us likely go at this in very different ways. Some of us, out of necessity, do all the major planning ourselves, setting up a calendar of events for each month. Others work with adult volunteers and youth to jointly lay out a schedule of activities. Certainly, one size does not fit all. Each ministry does what works best given its size and make-up of youth and adults. I thought I'd share the basics of how we lay out the schedule in my program.
We strive to have a rotation of meetings each month that looks like this:
Week one: Fellowship activity
Week two: Study/Discussion
Week three: Mission Project
Week four: Creative Worship
With good planning, and a little help from the Spirit, these activities each month are connected by a theme and each helps the youth to experience and think through the theme. Thus, if we are doing a study on "Where is God in your world?" we might start with a Polaroid scavenger hunt for fun, inviting the youth to find images of God out in the community. The next week we dig into scripture, studying images of God in the various texts. The next week, we share in a mission project which helps us to be part of God's work in the world. And the final week we plan and lead a creative worship experience that draws together our month-long focus.
Now, I know that some youth ministers already have their entire school year planned out. They know what they are doing on the second Sunday of January 2008 and they already have a deposit down on a campgrounds for the spring retreat and they know where they are going for a mission trip next summer! We tend to be a little more spontaneous. I used to do a lot more advance planning, but I now take a more laid-back approach. I know where I think the group is heading between now and Christmas, but we allow a lot of space to change and adapt based on what happens with the "new" group that comes together each fall. We really take a less "programmatic" approach and allow the group to be "organic," letting the focus be less on activities and more on the growing of a caring community.
I'd be interested to know how others pastors promote the planning process in their programs (how's that for alliteration!).