Being pulled in a million different directions; youth needs, important issues to cover, church agenda, parent agendas, etc... oh yeah and breathing.
Sooooo in planning your yearly curriculum (if it's even possible to plan a year in advance... and then stick to it), how much focus do you put on trying to aline youth agenda/topics with the pastors speaking topics as well as church events and church holidays? It seems like I get a few months planned out and then events come up like baptism parties and I panic because I didn't plan on addressing that until later in the year. How can I get it all covered and still meet the students hearts where they're at?
My name is David Smith and I work with The Source for YM, and I’ll take a few moments and share some thoughts, hopefully, and ideas that will help you do the important work you currently do.
Let me break your question apart a little, to simplify the mess we often call youth ministry.
Concerning planning one year out... yes, it is possible, but requires LOTS of work! However--IT IS WORTH IT!!! I run my years from August 1 to July 31. That is how students’ years work, why not make mine congruent? I take one week per year and get ALL alone in a secluded place and plot out the big points of the year. Message series, summer camps, winter retreats, adult leader training, Bible study topics, monthly fun activities, etc. I throw them on the calendar in a way that makes sense to me. Then I run it past a couple of adult leaders to see what they think.
If you adopt my idea of planning, then take a week in June and plot out the following year. During that time, plan out the TOPIC of every Bible study, Sunday School, and/or message you will give from August 1 to December 31. You do NOT have to have 3 points and a poem for every one of these, just know what you are going to be addressing on each of these occasions. This will be a huge help to you! Then, in about October somewhere, pull away for a few days and plan January 1 to July 31. Do the same thing; address your teaching moments.
If these dates/time frames do not work for you, make your own. The major point is: DO IT! But I have always found that in the first few days of planning for the next year, I can do all of my big event days FOR THE YEAR and the teaching points for 6 MONTHS. (By the way, you might catch a little slack about, “Why do you have to take time away to plan all this out?” Answer by lovingly stating, “Every teacher in America gets planning DAYS every quarter, and most get planning periods DAILY!” It is just an absolute necessity.)
Concerning planning according to the pastor. To be honest, my church has tried the whole “make your schedule fit the preaching schedule of the Senior Pastor” and it has NEVER worked. Not once! As a matter of fact, they are currently trying to do that now.
Lots of reasons why this doesn't seem to work, but mainly because the Sr. Pastor changes his schedule/topics/purposes. I am not advocating that you are disobedient, just be knowledgeable about the subject and present it to your superiors. Does it make sense for you to be addressing “The Greatest 4 Weeks of Your Marriage” to your 7th graders? (By the way, if you have married 7th graders, you are beyond my help!)
Jess, I hope this helps a little. My prayer for you will be that you can manage all there is to manage within youth ministry and also enjoy what you are doing.
By the way, I have an article coming out in the next week or so (on the site) that addresses what the average youth pastor’s schedule should/could look like.
Blessings, David R. Smith
The Source for Youth Ministry