In youth ministry, we all have things we love to do that refuel our tanks or give us energy. Then there are those things that we must do that drain us. Unfortunately what refuels one leader doesn’t necessarily refuel every leader. For a lot of us in youth ministry, we enjoy dreaming about new things to do that will increase our effectiveness in reaching and disciplng teenagers. Others of us live for the opportunity to lay out a calendar of youth ministry programming then putting it all the details in place. Regardless on which side of the spectrum you find yourself, programming is a vital tool for local church youth ministry and must be done with purpose and excellence.
Here are some principles that will give you a solid foundation for the time you spend building the overall youth ministry program and each component.
The first principle is that we simply must spend time with God. Ministry is an overflow of our relationship with the Lord. As we get in the Word, God reveals who He is and who He has called us to be. This process gives us perspective, peace, and wisdom to lead the ministries God has set before us. It also gives a clearer vision for the people that he has given us to shepherd.
Second, never run ahead and neglect to build a strong foundation. Those who lead effective programs know the majority of work begins long before the actual program. The initial investments of establishing a Scope and Sequence and annual program calendar will provide huge long-term relief to the stresses of programming. Think of it like paying into your retirement in your early twenties. The dividends come in the future but are significant.
Next, overcome your fear of delegation. The bad news, youth leaders are not known as highly administrative. Not to excuse any laziness, but for many administratively challenged youth pastors, administrative excellence often eludes them. The good news, we are only one part in the body. God has blessed the church with many gifted administrators. Perhaps these leaders are not the same passionate small group leaders you hold dear, but equipping them to serve the administrative needs of the youth ministry not only offers them a place to serve (a direct command of Ephesians 4:11-13), but greatly aids the programming responsibilities of youth pastor.
One of the most difficult disciplines is to stay in your sweat spot. This means that you must program to your resources. In Acts 17 Paul observed the culture and used the opportunities it presented to reach as many as possible. Instead of trying force a program into a culture, study the culture and resources of your church and community to find the best opportunities available to you. Every church has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to resources. Know yours and program accordingly.
After that it is critical that you take time to appropriately prioritize. Quantify the programs according to purpose and effectiveness. By prioritizing the programs you will also be able to evaluate the pursuit of the ministry’s values. This exercise will allow the youth leader to cut that which is unprofitable, unnecessary, or simply of lesser significance. You may even find that your ministry is completely unbalanced.
After prioritizing the youth ministry’s programs, be willing to minimize. More is not always better. Minimizing does not always mean getting rid of an event / program altogether. It may mean simply reducing some draining components from within.
Finally, but not least in importance, don’t neglect to utilize families and small groups. God has charged us to individually disciple in and through our daily lives. For the teenage disciple, this is especially true within their family. It is also relevant outside our earthly families, since God has commissioned older believers to teach younger believers (Titus 2). A wise and biblically-based youth pastor will facilitate and equip these influencing relationships. Doing so will reduce the need for larger programs.
Keep these simple principles in my as you go about the task of programming the youth ministry in your church. Your effectiveness will be impacted.
 A “Scope” being the full information and competencies to be put forth. And a “Sequence” being the calculated order and method in which it is put forth. The Scope and Sequence should communicate the full ministry plan from the earliest point of entry to graduation.
 A detailed calendar of all major programmatic functions for the upcoming year.