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5 Starting Points for Reprogramming Your Youth Ministry

tumblr_m6juhqwYUT1ruvd9eo1_400Let’s hang some meat on yesterday’s post, Making Youth Ministry More Programmatic, Again

Before you start going through old clip art files and reprinting Run the Bases to post on the wall in your youth room, let’s get a quick rundown of things that’ll get you going the right direction. (That’s a Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry reference for readers under 30.)

  1. Start with ethnography. I’ve got no problem with a felt needs assessment. But don’t forget that spending a couple weeks digging into the actual needs of your community will help you lead programs people actually need versus just starting stuff you think will work. Let’s not get all excited and go buy something at Wal-Mart. Instead, do things the right way.
  2. Do a resource assessment. Any MBA in your church can help you create a template for doing this. You need to know what you actually have available before you start creating programs. Human resources, physical plant, volunteer capacity, political climate, financial capacity.
  3. Do a skills and/or strength evaluation. I don’t think these things are end all, be all of life. But  if you start a program and no one in your ministry is passionate and/or has the skills to make it happen, you aren’t going to win. These are a dime a dozen and are all about the same, pick one and get your team evaluated. If nothing else they help give you some language to talk.
  4. Get outside input. Don’t be a dummy. Your church needs outside help. Have legit conversations with area ministries so that you’re complimenting and completing and not competing. Don’t be shy about hiring a consultant. Spending a few thousand dollars not making a mistake is well worth it if you consider the tens or hundreds of thousands you are about to spend. You wouldn’t add a wing to your building without an architect, so bring in a consultant to help you build a program that’ll last.
  5. Set a timeline to act. All of this planning and evaluating attracts a certain type of personality. These are typically people who love this sort of thing and are happy to let it go on for a long time. Set a realistic timeline to get all this done as well as a firm deadline for when this new stuff will begin. (Starting in January for stuff that’ll start in September is a great timeline.)

Tomorrow, I’ll share a few program ideas I’ve got kicking around this old brain of mine. Hopefully, that’ll start crowd-sourcing a bunch of ideas that’ll make a big difference. 

Youth ministry experts! What’s missing from my getting started reprograming plan? 

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

14 replies on “5 Starting Points for Reprogramming Your Youth Ministry”

I think the underlying tone that has to be present in all of these is a humble posture of listening to the Spirit. That step permeates the entire process as we invite the Holy Spirit to guide and convict and inspire and stimulate and transform. I’d like to think that inviting the Holy Spirit into a continual prayerful dialogue is assumed, but to be frank, it often isn’t in these program-shaping processes. It’s not even really a step, per se; it’s more like a way of being as the program is being shaped.

I’m intrigued that readers have introduced the word “change” into this discussion in a negative way. My experience is that change isn’t that big of a deal when you’ve done the stuff above well. (And not in a vacuum.)

Tens or hundreds of thousands for a program? I have $2020 for my entire year for everything that we do. Surely if I can start a program with little to no cost with our current facilities, churches with that large of a budget could so something similar. Then again, I could be missing the point. I’m good at that.

If you consider all of the finances put into a program, including what students/families pay for themselves beyond your own youth ministry budget, volunteers’ time/money spent with students, vehicle and building maintenance, equipment and resources, etc. I bet the final number is far greater than $2020.

Adam, I might be reading this wrong but it sounds like you are starting with the “WHAT?” instead of the “WHY?”. Programs are a “WHAT”…and serve to facilitate the “WHY?” questions. This may be one of the bigger reasons we ran away from programs as a community…because they somehow became, or became perceived as, the actual reason we do ministry instead of just a tool that helps accomplish the actual reason we do ministry.

In essence, programs are just a means to an end….but you have to start with defining or pinpointing what the “end” is in your ministry, and then build programs that help make that (or those) a reality.

Start with a strategy…then build your programs. Don’t start with programs and hope it looks strategic. I think enthrography is part of that initial process…but not entirely.

And, BTW, I’ve been at Saddleback for 16 years and I’ve NEVER seen a baseball diamond pasted on a wall anywhere near our youth area! 🙂

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