By Andy McGowan
Do you own a calendar, or does it own you? In the last decade of youth ministry, I have seen so many pastors burn out, miss opportunities and get involved with the wrong events and activities simply because they did not calendar their youth ministry with a gospel advancing purpose.
I remember sitting down with a new youth pastor who was only in his third week in the ministry. He was overwhelmed as he stared at his blank calendar and the stack of conferences, camps, and training seminar fliers that lay on his desk. All too often, people say “yes” to an event without thinking of the bigger gospel advancing picture. When you set up a calendar, think of these three things.
Try This! ❯
Draw up a “What to STOP DOING” list in order to mitigate youth group calendar clutter and create space for your REAL priorities.
When I first started youth ministry, I noticed there were a good handful of students that would show up for events, but not weekly youth group meetings. No youth worker likes seeing students become event junkies where there is no evidence of a Christian life beyond the weekend event.
Whatever event, conference, or camp your ministry attends, you must look at the fruit that comes from each event and how the youth staff can shepherd and train in the aftermath. All too often, leaders send students to camps or winter retreats with no vision of how to apply the teaching after the event.
Don’t choose events simply to entertain students and make your ministry look busy. Be strategic in how your event will motivate and equip students to live as followers of Jesus who share their faith in their everyday lives. As my friend Doug Holliday said, “Discipleship begins and ends with evangelism.” Do your research and say “yes” to what is gospel advancing, and “no” to what prevents you from being so.
Events are a great way to anchor your students into your calendar year. Our student ministry calendar starts in September and ends in May. Instead of shutting down for the summer, we ramp up by having different themed nights and a training trip to Lead THE Cause. When choosing events or conferences, make sure you plan your event with the big picture in mind. Every event should flow into, instead of conspire against, each other.
For example, as hundreds of unchurched students come to our church for our fall outreach, we begin signups for our January winter retreats. At our winter retreats, we sign students up for our spring training conference, and in the spring we begin our big summer missions push. Make no mistake—events are not discipleship. They are strategic moments for the ongoing discipleship and evangelism training that occurs in between. Your weekly message and your structure must reflect a gospel advancing mindset, lest you risk becoming an event driven ministry.
Continually tell your core students that the ministry calendar is not for them, but for their friends. In planning our outreaches, retreats, and even training events, we encourage our students to invite an unchurched friend. We ask adults—and even students—to donate half the ticket price for an unchurched friend’s ticket. These friend tickets are a huge factor in helping us see so many outside students connect to a special event. Covering the price of a ticket shows that we value advancing the gospel and value the person as our guest.
So how has your calendar been treating you? Is it adding value to your ministry? Are you seeing the kingdom increase, or is it sucking the life out of the momentum of what you could be? Go ahead and fill your calendar, but only with things that advance the kingdom. This will insure you will not be busy without a purpose…because nobody’s got time for that.
This content was taken from the book Gospelize Your Youth Ministry by Greg Stier.
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