Message Planning

It’s been a couple of weeks away from the blogosphere for me since the summer break began. In ministry I have slowed my pace a little,  I am getting some extra time with my family, and getting jobs around the house done before the birth of our second in a couple of weeks.

Today I got together with one of my key leaders to finalize our Fall message plans and talked about some changes in the way we do our messages in our large group environments. Here’s what we do:

1) What we Teach for the Year: As I look at the year I have found that I need to consider which foundational areas students need to know and apply by the time they get to end of the school year. I wish I could say that I have developed my own system to ensure we have balance and foundation to what we teach, but I have not. Instead, I have found that ‘The Seven Checkpoints’ by Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall is a great start to ensuring that what we teach throughout the year. The premise of Checkpoints is this: We are likely to get about 32 hours of teaching time per year in our large group environments. However, we cannot teach students everything that is in the Bible in that short time. Also, everything in the Bible, while being true, is not relevant to students.  Checkpoints helps us to ‘narrow our focus’ (an Andy Stanley term), and ensure that we are teaching students the most important and relevant topics. Through a typical year we hit 7 areas that we feel every student needs to know.

2) Team Teaching: Although I lead my ministry, I have found it to be important and neccesary to incorporate good communicators to teach God’s Word to students. I have to be able to admit that different students need to hear different personalities and perspectives. It is easy for students to tune out the guy who is on stage every week. I am very blessed to have one leader who has her own ministry as a speaker to teens, and I have two other leaders who I utilize often who do a great job too. Even though team teaching requires a lot time, meetings, and investment on my part, it is so worth it to see students being blessed. Even if you are a volunteer, consider who at your church might do a good job coming in to speak or lead one evening?

3) Planning Well in Advance: Planning well in advance is imperative since it allows me to ‘perculate’ ideas and themes over weeks and months. It also allows the other speakers to prepare well and be creative. They get the opportunities to draw in students and leaders into the creative process.

4) Leave Some Gaps: My experience has taught me to leave at least 4-8 weeks of teaching unplanned for the year. In other words, every Fall and Spring I try to leave an intentional gap in my series teaching so that as a ‘current need’ or topic with greater relevancy comes up, we can be flexible to teach about it.

5) Be Flexible: As well as having gaps, it’s important to be flexible. No matter how detailed we try to be, there are always variables and last minute changes to consider. Whether it is a change in the large church schedule that requires me to change, or a leader who cannot speak for me, there are always changes to be made. I have found it is important to create a great teaching plan, but remain flexible with it.

6) Pray: Finally, but most importantly, I am always trying to seek God’s Leading as I plan for the Fall and the rest of year. I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit works just as effectively a few months before as well as a few weeks before. Therefore, it’s imperative to be praying carefully before I start planning.

That’s what I do, hopefully this is some help to you as you plan what you teach. Feel free to comment or send me a message if you have any questions.

Phil <><

2 Responses to Message Planning

  1. Josh June 24, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Great post, I think this is a great plan and I think that they “leaving gaps” point is excellent. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Sara G June 24, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    Well done and well put Phil! One of Phil’s greatest assets as a leader is his dedication and determination to plan in advance with an openness to have to change or fly by the seat of his pants if needed. As a volunteer, I cannot tell you what a blessing this is! I am not constantly given last minute projects, spontaneous times to teach, whirlwind ideas and unnecessary crises that could have been avoided if there was good advanced planning. In Youth ministry and in any ministry frankly, we have to throw down often enough for crises, last minute emergencies or changes and there are always fun, spontaneous moments. But, to be following a leader who doesn’t plan in advance eventually becomes draining, exhausting, frustrating and frankly a complete drag since their last minute plans now become your problem when everyone is expected to drop everything in their life to make it happen. People and families get burnt. Phil leads a great example in this area and guess what one of his biggest problems is? He has more leaders than he needs! People are drawn to those who are respectful of their time, talents and families! Well done Phil Bell!

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