I’m a big believer in goals. There are several reasons for this: without goals you can’t set priorities, you can’t plan effectively, it will be hard to allocate resources, you can’t evaluate and you’ll have a hard time getting people fired up for your youth ministry. So in any youth ministry, goals are key to getting things done. On the highest levels, these goals should be put into a mission statement. Then every two or three years or so, you’ll need a plan that distills lower level goals for your youth ministry and broadly describes how to achieve them: a strategic plan for your youth ministry.
Here’s how to write a strategic plan for your youth ministry:
Step 1: Pray
Any plan has to start with prayer and lots of it. Time and again we need to realize that we are merely humans, the clay in God’s hands and that He needs to direct our paths and lead us, lest we end up getting lost and taking lots of people with us. Before you start the process of writing a strategic plan for your youth ministry, take a weekend of dedicated prayer to focus on God.
Step 2: Gather information
A good strategic plan is based on numbers, statistics, hard data so to speak. That’s why you’ll need to gather as much information as you can get. This is where you are at now, it’s the ‘IS’ situation. Here’s a list of questions that will help you to get the info you need to see where you are right now:
- How many students are on your ‘contact sheet’?
- How many students are involved in the small groups?
- How many show up for youth services, retreats, events?
- Do you have students that are connected with the church (e.g. through their parents) but not with your youth ministry? How many are there?
- How many students live in your ‘area’ (the area you church focuses on, which can range from a city area to a whole town or even several smaller surrounding towns)? How many go to the middle schools and high schools in your area?
- Look at your students. Where are they in their spiritual journey? How many are committed to Christ? How many are actively sharing their faith? Do you have many seekers or students who are indifferent?
- How many students have come to Christ in the last year? How many baptisms were there?
Step 3: Analyze
The most time consuming step is to analyze all the information you have. I strongly advice you to do this with several people in different groups. First, you’ll need to take the time to go over the questions yourself. Do this prayerfully and take your time to thoroughly think about each question.
Secondly, do it with your leadership team if you have one. Take a day or even two to really dig deep. Again, I advice you to take the time to pray together before and during these sessions. Then do the same with the rest of your leaders, like small group leaders or event leaders, and with your volunteers. Don’t forget to explain the concept of a strategic plan to them, so they know and understand what it is you’re making together.
I also advice you to ask your (senior) pastor for a couple of hours to get his input. You can even ask parents or board members for their insights. Remember, you want as much support as you can get for the resulting strategic plan so the more people you get involved, the bigger the chances are of the plan getting embraced by everyone.
Write down any insights or ideas you get when you do this phase. You’ll find that often when you focus on a problem or issue, your mind will start coming up with solutions. That’s great, but just write them down in this phase and don’t spend too much time on them yet. Study the good practices and successes, but also the challenges, issues and problems first before you focus on solutions and answers. Here’s some questions to ask when analyzing:
- What is your mission statement? Is it still up to date? How are you doing with regards to the goals in your mission statement?
- Where do you see God at work? How can you facilitate this?
- What are your strengths? How can you use these? (think of practical things like a strong worship team, good small group leaders or a effective sports ministry)
- What are your weaknesses? (again, make it practical like leadership shortage, low parent involvement, etc)
- Are there any new opportunities that you can identify, such as a new area being built, a big event taking place (think of the Olympics for instance) or a need that your youth ministry can address (think of a basketball court or help with homework)?
- Are there any threats, such as a new church coming to town, a false theology taking root, or problems in your church that affect attendance?
- What have been events that were well attended? Can you think of a reason why?
- Which events were poorly attended? Do you know why?
- What are the three biggest successes of the last five years? What were the main contributing factors?
- And the five biggest failures? Can you identify the causes?
- What are the biggest needs among your youth?
- Are there any ‘big’ pastoral issues currently? What causes these?
This list is by far not exhaustive, I’m sure you can think of more and better questions to ask yourself and your team to analyze your youth ministry. The point is to just spend time analyzing your current situation and changes that may be coming your way.
If you have done these two steps, you basically have all the information you need to start building your strategic plan. Tomorrow we will continue this post on how to make a strategic plan for your youth ministry and show what the next steps are.
Have you ever taking the time to analyze your youth ministry? What new insights did you gain? Was it a valuable exercise? Share your experiences in the comments!