In my previous post we introduced the importance of good strategic planning in youth ministry. Even though good planning is not in the DNA of many youth workers, it is a necessity if we want to have greater effectiveness as well as being able to hang in for the long haul.
Today, we’re going to take a look at what we should consider when creating a long-term teaching plan.
1) Consider Your Audience: Depending on whether your students are seekers, strugglers, or sold-out in their faith, will depend on what you plan to teach. It’s good to have different times or programs to focus on these types of students.
For example, our midweek outreach program is aimed at seekers and strugglers. Therefore, we are intentional about hitting topics and issues that are palatable for every kind of student, whether churched or unchurched. Here we address issues like: Dealing with fears, conflict, regret, relationships, making decisions, identity, self-image, life purpose, etc etc. You get the idea.
In contrast, our Sunday discipleship program is focused on struggling and sold-out students, (usually churched), where we teach deeper areas such theology, apologetics, spiritual habits, evangelism, etc etc.
Bottom line: Your audience will determine your content.
2) Ask Your Students What They Need: This is particularly helpful when teaching many of the felt need topics. Subjects like relationships are always going to be at the top of the list, but you will also glean much about what your students need by asking them. This might seem too simple, but so many of us negate to ask students.
One BIG way to ask students is to do a yearly survey asking them what areas of their lives they need help with. We do a survey like this every May and it allows us to develop some specific message series for the Fall and Winter months. For outreach and large group programs you will discover that you will ‘hit’ many of the same felt needs areas year after year. This is not a bad thing since our students are constantly battling through the same challenges year after year.
Bottom line: Don’t guess what students need, ask them!
3) Work With A Team To Create A Plan: I try to surround myself with sharp youth leaders who are as passionate about students. When I pray through a plan of teaching I also ask some of my key leaders to pray and consider the plan too. I often find that they will give me ideas and thoughts I had not considered.
Bottom line: Make sure you are not planning in a vacuum… Suck others into the plan.
4) Create A Long-Term Plan That Incorporates The ‘Essentials’: This is very important when creating a discipleship plan. Our high school program has a 4 year discipleship plan that has been created and tweaked over the last couple of years. Myself and a small team of volunteers have developed a plan that looks to ensure that by the time students graduate from our ministry, they have walked through the ‘essentials.’ By ‘essentials’ we mean: What is it that students absolutely must own in their faith walk by the time they graduate from high school?
But, if you are like me, you might ask, “but where do we start with this? What should be the essentials that students need to know and own?”
Great question… keep reading…
For us, we use LIVE curriculum from Group Publishing that incorporates a well thought-out discipleship plan that builds each year. Since LIVE provides 36 weeks for a year, we have added some additional components that we feel we need to add into our plan for the rest of the year. Here are some of the our own ‘essentials’ that supplement or duplicate in the LIVE curriculum:
- Spiritual habits
- Faith foundations / Christian basics
Keep in mind that what I consider an essential element might not be essential for your students in your ministry. When using curriculum and developing a plan, do not feel bad if you do not choose to use all of the curriculum. YOU know what your students need the most, be confident in your teaching plan.
5) Create A Plan And Stick To It: It’s easy to get swayed by the latest issues or happenings in student culture and therefore continuously keeping changing our plans. Over time, this can mean that we end up ‘fire fighting’ the issues, rather than ‘fire preventing’ what students are most certainly going to face in their faith walk. At some point we need to be confident that over time, our teaching plan will create a solid foundation for faith development in our students lives. With all this said, there will be times when we must adjust our plan and hit certain issues or areas that students are walking through.
Finally, a solid teaching plan can take time to develop and it’s important that you allow time for the essentials to percolate through…
Well, there’s a start for you. I wish I could cover everything! What would you add to this list? What questions do you still have? Feel free to comment!