Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How to Plan a Church Youth Program in 7 Easy Steps

How to Plan a Church Youth Program in 7 Easy Steps

how to plan a church youth program

Planning a youth worship service goes much more smoothly when you stick to a routine. So I’ve assembled 7 easy steps to help you master how to plan a church youth program.

For our ministry, the main program is on the weekend. So I regularly meet with our youth service team to keep everything organized and on track.

We’ve settled on the name The Weekend Tornado for our youth service. Some weeks it’s an F5, while others it’s not much more than a whipping wind. But it’s never just a gentle breeze!

Adapt these 7 procedures on how to plan a church youth program. Tailor them to meet the needs of your own church and youth ministry.

7 Steps for How to Plan a Church Youth Program

1. Collect

During this brainstorming stage, people randomly banter and toss around ideas. Write all of these on a whiteboard. Remember: There are no bad ideas. Some of the best ideas each week come from students who gather every Tuesday in my office to throw around thoughts. At first, don’t worry if an idea is possible or not. And don’t worry about the size of the idea. Seth Godin says, “Big ideas are little ideas that no one killed too soon.” If we were really on the ball, we’d be doing this brainstorming step several weeks in advance.

2. Compile

This is where we turn the ideas for a youth service into an order of worship called a program sheet. Then that provides a general framework from which to work for the week. It also captures the proposed idea of the service’s emotional arc or tone.

3. Assign

Use the program sheet as a guide to assign tasks and projects to various volunteers and students. For example, decide who is making the bumper video, who is creating announcement slides, and so on. You can also begin asking people to help on stage, figure out who will make announcements and run the games, etc.

4. Manage

To survive the youth service “tornado” each week, you must follow up on the projects that have been assigned. Talk to the students or volunteers who own each of the tasks. Help them fight through roadblocks or adjust the idea so it can be accomplished by the service time. You might have to cut certain bits at this point. But that’s better than being surprised or disappointed a few hours before the youth service starts.

5. Execute

This is the step of actually holding a youth service. We conduct four student services every weekend, so execution actually takes two days. Making sure each service improves and is as good as or better than the last is always a challenge. Execution with excellence is tough, especially when you’ve already seen or given the message, songs, and games three times.

6. Debrief

After the first youth service, we gather the main players together and talk through what happened. We make tons of adjustments and tweaks to the next service. Sometimes these are small; sometimes we almost start over with the entire order. We also hold a weekly debrief that focuses on big-picture thoughts and major changes. Plus, just as importantly, we add to a list of things we’ll never do again.

7. Archive

At the end of a series, archive everything. MP3s of the talk, outlines, handouts, videos—everything ends up on the team network drive to be stored permanently. We post a ton of elements online as well.

Then it’s time to start planning your next youth service. After all, it’ll be here in just a few days!

What’s the best advice you recommend for how to plan a church youth program? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments section.

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jgriffin@churchleaders.com'
Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!