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Youth Service Planning in 7 Steps

Youth Service

Planning a youth service goes much more smoothly when you stick to a routine. For our ministry, the main visible 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 some whipping wind. But it’s never just a gentle breeze!

You can adapt our procedures to meet your own ministry’s needs.

7 Steps To Plan a Youth Service:

1. Collect

During this brainstorming stage, people randomly banter and toss around ideas, which are then written on a whiteboard. There are no bad ideas. Some of the best ideas each week come from students who gather every Tuesday in my office to just 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. The program sheet provides a general framework from which to work for the week, as well as the proposed idea of the service’s emotional arc or tone.

3. Assign

After planning a youth service, 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 have to follow up on the projects that have been assigned. Talk to the students or volunteers who own each of the tasks, and 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 already.

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, and we add to a list of things we’ll never do again.

7. Archive

At the end of a series, everything should be 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.

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