Smash Mouth, the great theologians, once said:
Well, the years start coming
And they don’t stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart, but your head gets dumb
So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow
Student ministry often feels like the days come and go – and don’t stop coming. You finish one event or small group, and it is already time for the next one. Planning a yearly calendar is one of the most beneficial ways to be prepared and to stay organized. It allows your student ministry to operate in the best way possible. However, I do need to state that you always need to be open to what God might be calling you to do or not to do in regard to the events on your calendar. We must always be attentive to the Holy Spirit when we work on our calendars.
It is easy for us as student pastors to do the same events over and over. It’s also easy for us to add more and more to the calendar. When I started in student ministry, I felt the need to fill every open date with some type of event, small group meeting, football game, Taco Bell hangout, etc. I have found, over the past years (thanks to friends, mentors and co-workers), that you can’t define the success of your ministry based upon how busy you are and how many things are on you calendar. Just because you have a packed calendar does not mean you have a healthy student ministry.
All of that being said, here are some tips that our team has found helpful over the past few years.
1. Pray over the calendar.
We pray over many of the things we do as pastors, but have you taken the time to pray over the events on your calendar? Have you prayed to ask God for guidance in how the event should look, if He wants you to do that event and for His presence to be felt at the event? We can so easily become event planners and trip coordinators and not once ask God to guide us.
2. Ask the purpose of the event.
Ask yourself why this event is on the calendar. Does it serve a purpose to help you accomplish the vision of your student ministry? It is okay to delete an event from your yearly calendar, even if it has been done the same way for years. You have to be careful with this one because it is easy to make every event you do somehow fit into your vision. Be careful. For example, we started a breakfast before school that we hosted at our church once a month. We rotated students who led the devotional and led the music. We had a huge crowd attending each week. From the outside, it looked fantastic. The problem was it was not helping us accomplish our vision. There was nothing bad about it, but it was another thing fighting for calendar space.
3. Plan as far out as you feel comfortable.
Some people enjoy planning, and some can’t stand it. I am a planner and love to plan way ahead – sometimes too far ahead. One of the main reasons it is important to plan ahead is that it allows for creative freedom and time to think about the events you have coming up. For example, if you know who your band, speaker and leaders are going to be for Disciple Now months out, it allows for you to think outside the box on how to make things even better.
The second big reason it’s important to plan ahead is that it shows parents that you have a plan and that you care enough to think ahead. As we know, parents love to know what is coming up and what they should plan for.
Planning a yearly calendar can be a daunting task. Don’t be overwhelmed. Plan ahead. Set aside a few days and focus on what God is wanting you to calendar for your students. Remember that God has placed you where you are to lead the people that you are leading. Lead them well!
Spencer Jones serves as minister to high school students at First Baptist Trussville.