Christmas is approaching fast. You’ve just completed your annual, well-loved Youth Christmas Progressive Dinner. You’re thinking about that last Christmas present that is yet to be bought, when a concerned parent walks up to you and asks, “Hey, when are registration materials for the February retreat going to be available?”.All of a sudden it occurs to you – I hardly know ANYTHING about what we’re going to do next year!

Maybe that’s a little extreme. At least for your sake, I certainly hope so. (Yikes!) But let’s just suppose that in your youth ministry situation, it applies. You didn’t really mean to forget about planning. But what ARE you going to do in your youth ministry in the coming year?

And what can you do to keep from creating this kind of calendar emergency in the future?

Let’s Get a Couple of Things Out of the Way

As we at Ministry Architects look at thriving youth ministries around the country, they are typically working with an 18-month internal major event calendar and a 12-month external (or public) calendar. It is that far-reaching look that creates the space for effective ministry planning.

Having that calendar in place makes it possible to identify the resources that must be present and the logistics that must be in place in support of the various aspects and events of the ministry. Without that calendar, it becomes difficult to identify how many volunteers, how much money, what kind of publicity, what types of processes, and which facilities, etc., will be needed.

If you are working with an 18-month calendar, you know what a help it is. If you aren’t working with an 18-month calendar, you are going to be AMAZED at the difference it makes.

Check out the Ministry Architects Free Tools and Resources for Youth Ministry where you will find templates for building a Major Event Calendar and much more!

So How Do You Make It Happen?

Start By Opening a New Document on Your Computer (or Pull Out a Piece of Paper… whatever works for you)… and Get to Work!

  • EVALUATE THE CURRENT VISION – This is best done with your ministry’s leadership team. The turn of the year is a good time for testing the vision. Maybe you decide that you really like your ministry’s vision. If that is the case, well, that’s great. One less thing. But if you decide that vision needs some work, this is the time to do it, maybe through a weekend summit to review and reconstruct the mission statement, values, and goals of the ministry. (Look for Sample Mission Statements on the Free Tools and Resources for Youth Ministry page on the Ministry Architects website.)
  • THROW OUT THE THINGS THAT ARE BROKEN – Yep, sometimes things get broken. And that is plenty reason in itself to ditch an event or part of your ministry. It can be a tradition that no longer works or an event that is just hanging on for dear life. If it’s broken, let it go.
  • PLUG INTO THE CALENDAR THE TRADITIONS THAT ARE WORKING IN CONCERT WITH THE VISION. No doubt there are some of those “keepers” that your ministry is just not complete without. You just want to make sure that they are really doing what your ministry is all about. For example, if your ministry is all about the development of spiritual leadership amongst youth, you would never want to sponsor a retreat where young people are not integrally involved in planning, implementing, and leading.
  • EVALUATE THE PACE OF YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY. Is everybody exhausted? Is the pace of your ministry just rather frantic? The turn of the year is a good time to evaluate that. Think about some ways that you can create margin in your ministry, a little space between, to give you time to recover or enjoy the fruit of your labor. OR maybe you need to speed up a bit by adding some events, creating more excitement and enthusiasm in a ministry that is dragging.
  • IDENTIFY WHAT NEW MAJOR EVENTS (if any) WILL BE ADDED. You have space for only a limited number of major events, so make them great! And make sure that they reflect the character and desired flow of your ministry.
  • START THE PROCESS WITH JANUARY AND LAY OUT YOUR YEAR. Start by laying out 12 months, then keep going. Since youth ministries tend to function on an annual rhythm, you can roll right into the first six months of next year. That way you will get to your 18-month internal calendar goal. Remember, you don’t have to publicize 18 months worth, but working ahead this way will give you a tremendous head start on NEXT year!


It’s about PURPOSE and your mission. It’s about PACE in the midst of an annual rhythm. It’s about a PROCESS that you can renew every six months or so. Work 18 months out, and you’ll be well on your way!

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