I am always faced with the challenge of how to prepare our student leaders and the students in our youth ministry to tackle the new year with a fresh vision from God instead of a meaningless list of resolutions. As leaders, a lot of times, we feel like casting vision and laying out a new direction for our ministries is all on our shoulders, but I think it is super important to let your leadership team share in that responsibility.
Our youth ministry is led by a group of 10 student leaders who, with my guidance, plan, prepare and lead everything we do. So, in my case, it’s essential that they are on board with whatever direction we are going to take in the new year. We have some steps that we go through to make that happen. These steps can apply to your leadership team, regardless of if your leaders are students or adults.
Step 1: Get Together
Every year in early December our leadership team gets together for a retreat, with the purpose of preparing for the coming year. Our retreat looks different every year, and we have held it at a variety of places including hotels, state park lodges, etc. It is a way to not only carve out the time we need for planning, but also a way to provide something special for the leaders who give so much time, energy and heart to our ministry. So, whatever it looks like for you, find a way to get together with your group, and I encourage you to make it something a little more exciting than the conference room at your church.
Step 2: Pray Together
The very first order of business at our retreat, after deciding where to order pizza, is to start praying. We spend time before God lifting up our ministry, the students we serve and each other and we are intentional about seeking His will and vision for where to go next.
Step 3: Seek Scripture Together
After spending time in prayer, we begin to search our Bibles for verses that will help us set the direction God wants us to follow for the coming year. This usually ends up with the student leaders sharing scripture that is speaking to them and everyone getting really excited about how God somehow manages to lay similar scriptures on our hearts. We then settle on one or two verses that we want to use as a platform to build our ministry on for the year ahead.
Step 4: Look Back Together
In order to know where we are going, we find it helpful to look back at where we have been. We spend a good deal of time going over each ministry within our student ministry to figure out what worked, what didn’t work, what we should cut and what we should continue to do. We look for areas that we feel we were weak in and spend time coming up with strategies and ideas for strengthening those areas.
Step 5: Plan Together
Now comes the time to pull out our calendars. Once we have looked back at the year before, we start to look more intently at the year ahead. We get out our calendars and go through each month make sure we get our big events and activities set for the year. We don’t spend a lot of time planning each detail or planning the details of our regular weekly youth worship and after party events, but we make sure all the major things are on there.
Step 6: Grow Together
One of the most beautiful things that we do during our leadership retreat is strive to find ways to grow together as a team. We do some of the typical team building games and activities, but we also look for ways to take it a little deeper.
We anoint and pray for one another and look for ways to affirm one another as leaders. At our last retreat we did a blessings cup activity where each student had a cup with their name on it and they each wrote a compliment and encouraging thought for each one of the other students and placed it in their cup. It was such a joy to watch the students read the anonymous compliments and hear about their strengths and value to the team. We are also intentional about incorporating fun down time as part of the retreat and usually end our time with a fun activity, such as bowling or laser tag.
Whatever your leadership team or ministry may look like, I encourage you to start the new year strong, as a team, with God in the lead.