Programs in Youth Ministry are a very common platform for providing fellowship, formation and overall growth in young people. Whether it’s a large group, discipleship group, or monthly small group they all have their place under the umbrella of ministry. Here are some tips for adding a new program and being successful with it.
Is it the right program?
I know this sounds like a ridiculous question, but it is one that is not asked enough. Consider the following: What is your method for discerning that the new program is the right one? Have parents asked for this? Have students asked for it? Has there been a conversation with parish staff, volunteer staff that has led to considering this as a possible new program? If any of these have happened then you should enter a discernment period to see if this is the right program for your group.
Discernment – it’s not just for Vocations
Yup, the ‘D’ word! Once you have a clear idea of what this program is, you should pause and pray. This next sentence I write with great charity, so don’t take it the wrong way. Just because you, or someone else in the church has a great idea, it doesn’t necessarily mean God wants it to happen. This is where discernment kicks in. If this program is something God desires for His people to grow, He will make it clear and bless it. However, you have to seek God’s desire in this first and not just assume He wants it. Can’t tell you how many times I have made this mistake.
Get the right people to implement and lead
If you are like most Youth Directors, you are super busy! The thought of starting a new program and running it might make you sick or land you in a psych ward. To avoid this, consider the gifts, talents, charisms, and personality that a person or groups of people would need to have to implement and lead this new program. Then, seek those folks. Provide the vision for the program and explain to them why you think they would be great for this. Consider the fact that some people are great for implementing (getting it started) and others will be better for leading it (the actual operation of the program).
Test first, then tweak
At our parish we are forming a half dozen affinity based small groupings that range in ages from 4 – 18 years old. Each of these groups will gather for a specific purpose and the formation that will take place will depend on the age of the students. Testing to see what this looks like has been incredibly helpful on various levels. Once we test a grouping and see that something works, we keep it and build on it. If something doesn’t work we tweak it, and test again. If a particular piece isn’t working then we either get rid of it or drastically change it. The point here is make sure that this program is going to be what it needs to be for the folks who join.
Once you have tested and tweaked the program with a few folks, spread the word so others can take part. Make sure you have your advertising and adult leaders set and everything else ready so that your launch is smooth and effective.
After a few sessions or weeks it is important to talk to all parties involved in the program: students, parents, volunteers, etc. [clickToTweet tweet=”Getting feedback on what is working or what needs to change will help make sure this program thrives.” quote=”Getting feedback on what is working, what needs to change, or be taken out will help you make sure this program thrives for a long time.”] Review often—this is so key!