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7 Steps for Planning a Youth Service

7 Steps for Planning a Youth Service

I met this week with the weekend program team to talk through the process of planning a youth service. For us, our main visible program is on the weekend, so here is what we’re now calling The Weekend Tornado. Some weeks it is an F5, others not much more than some whipping wind, but never just a gentle breeze.

Here’s how the process works for us each week for planning a youth service:

This is the brainstorming stage, where ideas are thrown up on a whiteboard and randomly bantered and tossed around. There are no bad ideas. Some of the best ideas each week come from students who gather every Tuesday in my office to do just this. Don’t worry if they are possible, and don’t worry about the size of the idea. Seth Godin says, “Big ideas are little ideas that no one killed to soon.” If we were really good, we could be doing this several weeks in advance.

This is where we turn the ideas into an order of service called a program sheet. The program sheet gives a framework from which to work for the week and proposed idea of the emotional arc/tone of the service.

After planning a youth service, use the program sheet as a guide to assign tasks and projects to various volunteers or students, i.e., who is making the bumper video, creating announcement slides, etc. You can also begin asking people to help on stage as well, figuring out who is giving announcements or running the game, too.

If you’re going to survive the weekend tornado, you have to follow-up on the projects that have been assigned. Talk to the students or volunteers who own tasks, help them fight through roadblocks or adjust the idea so that it can be accomplished by the service time. You might have to cut bits at this stage, but it is better than being surprised/disappointed a few hours before the service starts.

This is the step of actually holding services. We do four student services a 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 seen/given the message, songs or game three times already.

After the first 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 order (like last week). There is also a weekly debrief focusing on big picture thoughts and major changes, and adding to the list of things we’ll never do again.

At the end of a series, everything gets archived. 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.

When it’s all done, get ready for the next weekend tornado to hit—it’ll be here in days!

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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!