Peeking Into The Future

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Danny Kwon

I am sure that like many other youth workers this time of year is busy. I noticed recently on social media that many of my youth worker friends are taking their teenagers on retreats this month. Thanksgiving is next week and I am wondering if that means some special youth group activities. Then there is December. That month isn’t easy. With Christmas, in our youth group, it means a Christmas party, practicing for a youth group choir that performs Christmas day for our church, and a winter retreat. Throw in all the personal stuff that we all have to tend to, and December will be a busy month.

Whether your next few weeks will be extremely packed or not, I believe it is worth it at this time of the year to take a peek into your youth ministry calendar for next year. Perhaps that may be an overwhelming task and a huge burden, but I think it will be very beneficial. And when a year from now rolls around, you will be thankful. Ultimately, the most important reason I suggest you do this now, even for a few hours, is to assess your programs and activities, to consider their effectiveness and efficiency. In studies of effective organizations, the best organizations do this on a continual basis. For those of us in youth ministry, next year may be the last thing on your mind right now. However, doing it now can be proactive step so we don’t just head into next year, and as we get into busy times during certain times of the year, don’t get bogged down into our calendars, blindly do what we have done year to year, which may not be effective or efficient.

Here are three things I suggest you consider NOW, peeking into next year:

  1. What to Cut. I was reminded of some youth group activities I may cut out next year after reading the blog post about “Program Overload” from our 30 Hour Famine blog last week. Peeking into next year now, it can really be helpful to help solve “program overload.” For myself, in the years that I did not take even just a little time to look at next year’s youth group activities and evaluate different programs and activities we did in the past year, I have found that most of the things our youth group did the subsequent year just wound up creeping up on me during that year. And as the time approached for our youth group to do that program or activity, I just changed the date/year on the announcement, just doing whatever we did the prior year.

However, taking a peek now at next year’s schedule will help you prevent things such as “program overload.” Instead of just doing things because you did it the year before, you can take a little time now, to think about things that worked, didn’t work, activities that you no longer need to do, activities that your teenagers are no longer that excited about. If it is no longer needed, then perhaps it’s time to cut it out of your schedule. Doing things in your youth ministry out of tradition is fine, but sometimes, things are no longer effective, and it may be time to consider cutting them out now.

  1. What to Tweak. Taking a peek at next year’s schedule can also help you evaluate activities that you need to adjust. For our group, I know we always do a one day service activity on the Friday/Saturday before Easter Sunday, along with our 30 Hour Famine, when many of the local schools in our area have spring break. For many years, we just continually did a church clean-up day as part of our Famine weekend, which was good for many years. However, I realized that it was getting routine and boring in recent years. In addition, I thought some of the spiritual benefits of it were getting lost. A couple years ago, as I peeked into the next year’s plans, I intentionally made the decision to change this. It helped me (perhaps forced me), to begin to think about different locations and places we would serve the next year, because I made it part of my intentional plan to tweak our service location. In other words, it was put on my radar as something important, and eventually I found a ministry that our youth group could partner with during Easter weekend. I can tell you that if I wasn’t intentional about it the year before, about a month before Easter most likely, as our 30 Hour Famine materials were being distributed, I probably would have just set up a clean-up day at our church like we always did. The calendar would have just crept up on me, and I would have just settled for the most convenient thing, which was to do what we did last year.  Looking back, I am sure glad we made a switch. Moreover, the intentionality the year before, to tweak our day of service had enabled us to partner with some tremendous churches and organization to serve our communities, outside our church. Ultimately, it has made me realize the importance of program evaluation, as a means of new and greater opportunities, even if it is just a tweak that our youth group would have otherwise missed out upon.
  1. What to Keep. Of course there things in your youth ministry that you probably want to keep. For our group, one of those things is our fall girl’s powderpuff football game, where our guys do a cheerleading competition. It is a day of great fun for our youth group, where students have great fellowship, and where youth group unity is promoted. Of course, every year, it is a lot of work and takes a lot of help and volunteers. In fact, it has gotten so big, sometimes I don’t want to do it anymore. However, thinking about it at the end of each year, it gives me some time to evaluate the importance of this activity, its purpose, and the impact and joy it promotes in our youth ministry, and subsequently why we need to keep it as part of our youth group. Moreover, in considering why we keep this activity, while I do sometimes dread the hard work and hours it takes to pull it off, in evaluating why we keep this activity, it does help me as a youth worker see the greater purpose and rationale of why we do this every year.

In the end, I want to add that I am no “Lone Ranger.” Hence, taking time NOW to do some program evaluation can and should be something you do with your ministry team. If you can take one meeting, even for just an hour or two to sit with your ministry team and look over next year’s calendar and consider what to cut, what to tweak, and what to keep, I believe the time now, will be of great benefit now…and then.