PLAN YOUR ENTIRE YEAR OF YOUTH EVENTS IN ONE NIGHT AND VOLUNTEERS IN PLACE

Include your youth and turn a boring planning meeting into the most productive Pizza Party you’ve ever seen. End with a calendar year of events your youth actually want to come to, and volunteers signed up to lead.

  • Plan a full year of monthly events with extra ideas to last for years to come
  • Inspire & recruit more volunteers
  • Build stronger relationships with students, parents, and volunteers

Does it sound too good to be true?

It DOES sound TOO GOOD! (and you can totally do it!)

Planning Events for Success

A YOUTH EVENT CALENDAR THAT WORKS FOR YOUR SMALL CHURCH

Kids’ Ministry in small churches has heaps of challenges.

Without the budget to pay a full-time youth director, many small churches end up with:

  • Vision and momentum that ebb & flow
  • Inconsistent leadership
  • Lots of volunteer turnover

With lack of critical mass for big youth events, many small churches end up with:

  • Boring events
  • The same 6 kids attending from the same 2 families
  • Cool events getting cancelled

But the reality is, you can have cool events that the kids want to come to AND grow your volunteer team at the same time!

This Kick-off meeting is a great way to bring everyone together.

Your supporters who are on the fringe. People flirting with volunteering who haven’t quite stepped up. Your adults who love the kiddos but aren’t sure what to do. PLUS your student leaders who always WANT MORE!

  • Parents & volunteers bring their calendars … so dates you choose actually stick
  • Youth are involved in the planning … so you plan events they actually want to come to
  • People get excited … and actually sign up to volunteer the same evening

WHY CONSISTENT EVENTS MATTER IN A SMALL CHURCH MATTER 

I’m a huge believer that youth ministry is 100 percent relational.

Many churches put way too much emphasis on events, and relational ministry is haphazard at best. Some youth are missed, misunderstood, or just remain on the fringes.

However, while relational ministry is foundational, events are still a piece of the puzzle.

Events are a “place” where relationships can happen. If they are implemented with intentionality, inclusion, and consistent values. 

So, while you explore this planning kick-off event, please consider your foundation before your throw a bunch of events on the calendar. Take the time to clarify your Core Beliefs. Policies that Protect. A Strategy. And Develop a Team. 

Events are PART of the strategy

Events are one of the great catalysts to the all-important relationships of a kids’ ministry.

Most kids and parents at small churches crave consistent, effective events we can count on.

But the reality of our busy muti-tasking lives get in the way! Small churches may have more dreams than plans. And delegating and coordinating seem to take more time than we can muster.

How do we keep a consistent calendar of events that work with small numbers, without stretching our budget or our time behind what it can handle?

THIS YOUTH MINISTRY KICK-OFF PLANNING PARTY BREAKS THE MOLD

  • It builds youth leadership
  • It fosters team vision
  • It widens your reach

This Planning Party takes the best of all worlds and rolls it into one 3-hour block. And it will be the most effective 3 hour block you’ve ever experienced.

It includes brainstorming, sharing, decision-making, a year calendar, and food, of course!

3 NO-COMPROMISE INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS 

For this Kick-Off Planning Party to work, there must be no compromise on the following:

1) The Facilitator MUST be fun, positive, and energetic

2) The Meeting needs to move fast and stay on track

3) The Environment needs to stay positive, safe, and affirming

FACILITATOR AND EMCEE: FUN & FAST

The leader of this meeting functions as an Emcee and a Facilitator.

Think of a DJ who keeps the fun going at a wedding reception. She knows when to play the Chicken Song! And when to start the conga line! Too many slow songs and everyone takes a snooze.

The trick is to keep it moving and keep it productive. Always quit while they are having fun. Leave them wanting more.

This Kick-Off is a Vision Meeting, a Planning Meeting, and a Team Building Meeting rolled into one exciting, fun, greasy-pizza night.

PLANNING PARTY GOALS:

  • Have fun
  • Build relationships
  • Value and utilize input from students, parents, and volunteers
  • Plan a year of events that kids actually want to come to
  • Leave the meeting with volunteers in place for the year

5 STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL KICK-OFF PLANNING PARTY

(1) Choose the right time & date

I know realtors always say location, location, location … but TIMING is everything for this one!

Survey your key families ahead of time to choose a date they can attend. For us, late in the summer or the beginning of the school year works.

A weekend evening works great. Because of the length of the meeting and energy needed, I suggest NOT directly after church. (We did that one year, and the energy level was just low.)

(2) Find the RIGHT facilitator and helpers

As mentioned above, do not compromise on this.

This type of meeting must be led with energy, laughter, and inclusion. But also quick, fast, and productive. 

People will sit in small table groups (4-6) and each group needs a table leader. Before the meeting, let your table leaders know it is their job to make sure everyone is loved, affirmed, included, and stays positive. 

(3) Promote it with Energy & Invite the Right People

You are inviting youth, parents, and volunteers to the most productive Pizza Party they have ever experienced! Promote Pizza. Promote Fun. Promote that you want THEIR ideas. 

Who SHOULD BE at this Planning Party:

  • The youth – preferably all the youth – but most definitely your core
  • Parents – preferably all parents
  • Core Leaders in your church – an elder, your pastor
  • Volunteers – preferably all your volunteers and their friends
  • Supporters of the youth – givers, grandparents, former volunteers
  • Future Volunteers!

Who SHOULD NOT BE at this meeting:

  • Younger siblings. Younger siblings are distracting & hard to keep on track.
  • Older youth who are no longer part of the program and are not volunteers. (We’ve seen older youth sap the voices of current kids in the youth group. While they have valuable input, you really want to develop your current youth. Recent grads and young adults pull attention from your core.)
  • People who don’t like teenagers. It wrecks the fun vibe.

PRIORITIZE REMINDER CALLS

It makes me so sad when ministry leaders say,  “I’m not making calls. I put it in the bulletin. If they want to come, they will be there.”

The reality is People are busy. They don’t just show up. There are lots of options of valuable things they can do with their time.

You are the only one who knows how important this meeting is. You are the only one who knows the value. YOU WANT THEM THERE. Let them know how much!

Calls, reminder texts…that’s what makes a difference. How badly do you want this? How successful do YOU want this to be?

It is well-worth the 10 minutes to send 10 texts. It is worth the 10 minutes for reminder phone calls.

This step actually increases the likelihood of success! And people you called will feel valued.

(4) Set up your environment

  • Music
  • Food
  • Tables for 4-6 people each
  • Post-it notes (1 pad per person, distributed by each seat)
  • Colored pens (on each table)
  • 3 types of stickers. (1 for students, 1 for all adults, and 1 additional set for people volunteering)
  • 8 1/2 x 11 signs: CRAZY FUN EVENTS, RELATIONSHIP EVENTS, TRIPS TO TAKE, SERVICE IDEAS (and any other categories you choose)
  • A Timer
  • Separate Calendar Months posted on the walls (we buy a large desk calendar, rip the pages off, and hang on walls)
  • Pre-mark your calendar with any standing church events, school breaks, and holidays

Prepare well ahead of time. Instead of running around finding pens, you need to be greeting, welcoming, and pouring drinks as people arrive! 

(5) Lead with purpose

Stay on your agenda and keep on track. If side discussions come up, table them for another time. You have specific goals for this night. And you can do it! You will be so glad to have a working calendar in place for the year. 

SAMPLE YOUTH MINISTRY KICK-OFF PLANNING PARTY AGENDA

Here is a sample agenda for your 3-hour time block. It is adjustable because you have an EMCEE. The main point is to keep it moving. Remember your goals. Keep on track. Don’t let the air deflate out of the balloon!

Welcome and Introductions (15 minutes)

Keep it fun and happy. Make sure everyone knows everyone present. Have each person share one thing they are excited about in the coming year.

Share your Vision and Goals for the Evening (5 minutes)

  • Your goal is to walk out of here in 2-3 hours with an entire year of events that the kids are excited to come to.
  • To do that you will be brainstorming for a crazy amount of ideas.
  • Then the group will narrow down the ideas.
  • You will choose the top 12 events (1 per month).
  • And 1-2 Volunteers will sign up as Point Persons for each event.

Individual Brainstorming Session (7 minutes)

Give everyone a stack of post-it notes.

To start out, I’m going to set the timer for 7 minutes. Everyone has their own post-it note pad. Take one now and grab a pen. By yourself, with no discussion, write one idea on a post-it note for a youth event that you think would be fun. Everyone do that now. Just one. (give them a few seconds) … great!

Pull it off your pad and stick in in the center of the table! That was a great start. Now here are the rules: Every idea is fine and good. No making fun. No negative comments.

We are looking for a TON of ideas. Don’t worry about the money right now. The timing. Or the planning. This is simply fun, crazy idea time. And we want specific. Don’t just say a trip – where do you want to go? Mission trip – sure, but how about a mission trip to the inner city or South America? Have fun and get going. We want a MILLION ideas. Write one idea per post-it note. Just one on each sticky paper. And more on to the next. Ready? Okay… GO!

Remember, no discussion, no talking, this is just individual!

Throughout this time, you should be walking around. Encouraging. Great idea! Keep going! No talking! We’ll discuss after!

Keep the energy positive. If someone is told even one time that their idea is stupid, you have lost. They will stop sharing. And they will leave defeated. So if you hear negativity, you need to cut that off immediately. 

Your 7 minute timer is a suggestion to start. If it’s slowing down, make it shorter. If everyone is super engaged, add another minute.

Table Team Groups Ideas (5-7 minutes)

Okay, now we are going to work together in our small table groups. But this is not the time to evaluate yet. Please don’t judge ideas or share opinions or start planning! Your only goal now is to group all these post-its for duplicate ideas. If there are 3 post its that say “lock-in”, stack them on top of each other. Go!

Table Sharing with Large Group (5-10 minutes)

Pick one person at each table to read all your ideas to the whole group. Each table will share their whole list!

After each table shares make sure to applaud and affirm them. Enjoy this with laughter and all good ideas! (Do not evaluate yet – we are still brainstorming.)

Organize Post-its on Wall in Categories (10 minutes)

Have everyone come up to the wall where you hung the category signs. Each post-it needs to fit in a category. They won’t all feel ideal. Have people choose the best fit. As they go into categories, you many want to start sub-groups (like sports events, outdoor events, events with food, travel locations)  – the more you can group like things together, the better!

Keep accepting and celebrating ideas. 

I cannot emphasize enough that this needs to remain positive and accepting!

STICKER TIME! Choose Top Events (10 minutes)

This is where you get to see where the energy is. If you have 100s of ideas (which you should)… give each person 20 stickers. Make sure students have different stickers than adults. You will want to be able to see at a glance which events have energy around them by students. And which ones are adult choices. 

Tell everyone they get to “vote” for their top events. We won’t be picking 20 of course, but you want them to vote for 20. We allowed students to place up to 3 stickers on the same event. So, if they really want a “Movie Marathon” they can put 3 of their stickers (of their 20) on that one.

This stickers let you see which events have the most energy around them. We told our group they had to vote for at least 3 service events, because that is a big part of our core beliefs. 

Wrap Up the Idea Time (5 minutes)

You guys are so awesome! We have so many great ideas. We obviously can’t do them all but we are going to do some! We have to do the hard work now of figuring out what we can do this year, and what we need some more time to think about.

Some of these will cost a lot of money. And some of these we might be able to look at for the future. But we want to have a calendar this year that you are all excited about! So we’re not done yet, but we are ready for a little break!

PIZZA TIME! (20 minutes)

You are probably at least 1 hour into your meeting. Which means the kids need a fun break.

But you need a few minutes now with your core leaders. So this is a great time for pizza!

While kids are getting started on their pizza, give all your volunteers a set of distinctive larger stickers. As you look at the post-its with the most kid & adult stickers, have your volunteers evaluate (with their new larger stickers) which events they would be happy to help with.

This is important, because if all your kids want to go camping and you have no adults who want to help with that, you need to know! You may not want to choose that event for this year.

*To clarify: this is a SECOND time for adults to be involved. If they are not willing to volunteer, do not involve them in this step. This is for your leaders who are part of your team or are willing to help, come, attend, plan, chaperone, etc.

All adults voted earlier with small stickers on which events they like. NOW they are voting (with LARGE stickers) on what they would actually be willing to help with and attend as leaders. 

What you now have is a list of not just ideas people are excited about, but also where you have leadership energy!

CHOOSE 12 EVENTS and GET THEM ON THE CALENDAR (20 minutes)

At this point a lot of your kids will be bored so have a game of twister or uno ready to keep them busy while you do the work of calendarizing! But some of your students may want to help in the planning. Play this by ear. But this part of the meeting is all about initial buy-in and planning.

Have adults take out their calendars and really look at dates for the year.

Be sure to include ALL PARENTS, not just your volunteers. Discuss and plan what is realistic. 

Choose specific dates and make sure people are on board. Consider costs. Transportation. And how much planning events take.

Whittle those events down to 12 and start sticking them on the calendar months on the wall.

Play around with the post-its until you have logical dates, leaders willing to take the lead, and one event per month. 

If you have a great event and no one willing to take the lead, then table it for the future.

Have someone compile all your post-it ideas (even the ones you did not choose) into one long computer document for future reference.

CONSIDER PERSONAL FAMILY COMMITMENTS AND PREFERENCES

If you are in a small church, consider family schedules carefully and get commitments.

While large churches don’t need to consider when the Wilson Family takes a vacation, small churches do.

Most small churches have a few key families that make up the bulk of your attendance. If your dates fall when your core families can’t come, your energy level will drop drastically.

This is why choosing the right dates TOGETHER in small churches is so important. 

AFTER THE KICK-OFF MEETING

It would be so beautiful if you were done now! But after the meeting comes the follow through.

This Planning Pizza Party is not fail-proof. But it is a very effective Kick-Off.

You (or someone) will absolutely need to make sure people are following through. But it has helped our church in mega proportions!

Within one week of the meeting, start with an email/instagram/facebook about your amazing meeting. Get your year calendar published. And make sure it stays on track.

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER POSTS ON YOUTH MINISTRY

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