I am often asked “how do you create a schedule?” And usually that is framed by questions like, “what exactly do you do” or “what should I do for my students” or “I think your schedule would work for my ministry.”

Finding and building a schedule for your youth ministry can seem overwhelming and difficult, but honestly it really isn’t. When you are building a youth ministry or reshaping how it functions, the reality of a schedule is rooted in the heart and passions of the ministry leader and the ministry participants.

Each ministry is going to be different, and their function and flow will be unique to their venue. Even within churches that have multiple campuses the flow will look different at each venue. No one church has the best schedule or philosophy for all the other ones. No single structural model can be replicated. And no one pastor is the right fit for every church or ministry. What I mean is this: don’t place other missions, visions, schedules, or leaders as the end-all, be-all for you and your ministry. Remember that you, your students and families, your location, and your ministry are all unique. Don’t try to replicate; rather, utilize resources, know your program and participants, and leverage your knowledge and vision to make the program a success.

So how do you actually do this? Let me give you a few suggestions that I believe help to achieve a proactive schedule.

Identify your priorities and vision

As the ministry leader, you must know what your priorities and vision are for your people. For instance, my priorities are discipleship, community, and the Gospel. For others maybe it is evangelism, games, music, or student leadership. The reality is that you must know your priorities and vision for your students so you can shape the ministry around them. When you know your passion and heart, then you can begin to shape the ministry in the appropriate way. This will show what the value and heartbeat of the ministry is to students and families.

Identify your philosophy of ministry

Your philosophy of ministry will identify your long-term goals and how you look to achieve them. In essence, you are stating how you are looking to accomplish your priorities and vision in a clear way for others to understand. Mine is designed to cultivate students, leaders, and families who can lead out and do what Jesus has shaped them to do–make disciples.

Identify the priorities and passions of your students 

I say this with a grain of salt, because we all know there are those students whose priorities aren’t the best or won’t match up. For instance, if they want to just play video games for all of youth group, that isn’t a good priority. But you can leverage that if your priority is community and encourage them to host a community gathering for their friends at church to come and play video games together. Perhaps they can even turn it into an evangelism tool. But in allowing students to share their passions and heart for the ministry, you are creating buy-in and people who will work with you as you bring them alongside.

Know and honor your time

So many student ministries communicate a start and stop time that is anything but solidified. We say we will end at 8 p.m., but really that means 8:30 because we talk too long. We say we start at 10:30 a.m. but that’s not true because we have told students to come earlier to hang out, or we show up late. By honoring your time and keeping it consistent, you will help parents and students to catch on to your vision, and they will know it is something they can rely on and trust. And by having a set time, you can now build a schedule that is clear, continual, and reliable.

Below is a copy of my vision, purpose for programming, philosophy of ministry, and a schedule for both a Sunday morning program and a Wednesday evening program. I hope they serve as a resource and framework to help you craft you own, and I would love to talk through your questions or schedules.

Vision: To embody the “Live, Love, Lead” mission of our church by cultivating disciples who make disciples and reach their spheres of influence.

  • Purpose of Sunday: Community, discipleship, and fun. This is our Christian education piece.
  • Purpose of Wednesday: Fun, outreach, community. This is the part of our program where anyone, regardless of spiritual understanding, can come and participate.

Philosophy of Ministry:

  • Revolves around student leadership and ownership
  • Developing of leaders
  • Developing of parents and families
  • The Gospel is the key to all we do

Sunday morning schedule (1.25 hours):

10 minutes of community and fellowship

5 minutes of announcements

10 minutes of game time

20-25 minutes of teaching

15-25 minutes of round table discussion

Wednesday evening schedule (2 hours):

15 minutes before the evening for a leader meeting

15 minutes of community and fellowship

20 minutes of game time

5 minutes to move to teaching location

5 minutes of announcements

20-30 minutes of teaching

40-45  minutes of small group time

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