The Importance of Planning Flexibility


By Aaron Wolgamott

Summer… the time when every Youth Leader is stretched to their limit with activities, events, trips, and seeking to take advantage of students’ free time as much as possible. It can easily become a 2-month whirlwind of sheer craziness with all that goes on. Thank goodness for coffee!

If your summer has ever been anything like mine, then you look forward to the Fall season as much as I do; because that means school is back in session, and some sense of normalcy returns. When school is back in, things slow down (at least for a bit) as everyone’s schedules become more organized. It is often easier to make plans during the school year because we know what to expect, and we as youth workers like to take this opportunity to create a well-organized plan and schedule for our youth ministry for this school year.

We plan trips and events for the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. We organize the curriculum for that year, figuring out how to make all of the lessons that we want to teach fit into the school year before next summer arrives. Of course, we schedule our 30 Hour Famine event! We create a calendar, begin to contact and organize who will teach which lessons or who will run which events, and we make sure that our team of volunteer leaders are all fully aware of and on board with the plan for the year. Then when all is set, we share it with parents and students.

I love that feeling of accomplishment, when the youth ministry schedule is organized and planned well, and everyone is aware of what to expect that year. It takes a lot of work to put it all together, and to see it all come together just feels good.

Planning Flexibility

Several years back, I learned a valuable lesson that changed the way I planned the schedule. It happened when, the day before our youth group meeting, a tragic event took place at the local high school where many of my students attended. The students had questions, the parents had questions, and everyone was trying to process and think through what had happened. I spent a good amount of time talking with and listening to students and parents as they tried to work through their questions and pain.

I knew this was something we needed to talk about in youth group. It wasn’t the planned topic for the night, but it was definitely the right topic to discuss that evening. So, I changed the plan and didn’t do the originally scheduled lesson that night.

Sometimes, we have to allow our schedule to change. We have to be flexible. And not necessarily just for major tragic events either. I’ve had parents ask me if we can talk about a specific issue in youth group because their student is struggling with it, but it wasn’t a planned lesson. I’ve felt led to share something…or had another leader feel led to share something, but it wasn’t a planned lesson.

Plans and schedules are awesome! They keep everything on track, and they help everyone know what to expect and prepare for. However, we must also learn to make room for flexibility in our plans and schedules.

The next Fall, I began to create my schedule differently. I still planned events and trips, still organized the curriculum and lessons for the year, and even still made everyone aware of the schedule once it was completed. But I began adding something new to the schedule…planned flexibility. I intentionally left some youth group dates open. I referred to those nights as “Flex Nights”. The purpose of those nights was to allow for more flexibility in our schedule to make changes as I and the other leaders saw fit.

If the plan for a particular night needed to be changed, then I could simply readjust the schedule by moving things around a bit and filling in one of those “Flex Dates”. This gave myself and the other leaders both the comfort of a well-organized schedule for the year as well as the ability to be flexible and make changes when necessary, without having to throw out something we had already felt the importance of planning.

It also gave us as leaders the ability and freedom to allow the Spirit to lead. I must admit that sometimes I am so good at making an airtight plan that I can easily miss the Spirit leading in a direction that might be different than what I had planned. The ministry that we oversee should not be our own, but rather the Lord’s that we are managing. He gives us the gifts and abilities to make good plans, but we also need to make sure we are continually seeking him and the direction he wants to take the ministry in, even after our schedules have been set for the year. We never know when God will lead us to share something we had not planned for, or to allow something big to happen in the lives of the students that we need to make sure to talk about.

Having a plan makes for a well-organized and well-run youth ministry. Having the ability to be flexible makes for a ministry that can reach out to and speak to students where they may be at in that particular moment. Having a plan that builds in room for flexibility makes for a Student Ministry that can accomplish both.

So, as you begin to nail down schedules for this coming school year, I want to encourage you to make sure to plan some flexibility into your schedule.