Making an operational year plan for your youth ministry

So, you’ve created a mission and a vision statement and you’ve translated this into a strategic plan. Now what? Now you make an operational plan, also known as a year plan. It’s the concrete plan of what you want to do in the upcoming year or season.

An example of an operational plan

Let’s say your mission is this:

“Making students into devoted disciples of Jesus”

You’ve made a vision statement in which you describe your dream of making at least 50% of your young people into devoted followers of Jesus, meaning that they attend church, read their Bible by themselves, pray daily and show in their daily life that they are becoming more and more like Jesus by bearing fruit both in character and in evangelism.

You’ve translated this into several strategic goals, one of which is to promote daily prayer amongst your students. You want to change the percentage of students who daily talk to God from 10 to 25% in the next three years. For that to happen, you need to make them enthusiastic about prayer. You think that introducing different ways of creative prayer is a good tool, because students have said they find praying out loud boring.

How do you translate this into an operational goal? Your task is to find actions that will lead to your goal of making students enthusiastic about prayer by introducing creative ways to pray. Here are some things you could put into your operational plan:

  • Each small group session has to have the element of prayer, so you need about 20 different examples or practices of creative prayer
  • Your small group leaders may not know much about creative prayer themselves so you need to incorporate this in your youth ministry training plan
  • The retreat should be about creative prayer, you could do workshops here to teach new ways to pray
  • You organize a 24-hours prayer marathon
  • You teach in at least one youth service on prayer, not just the how but also the why
  • You change a small room in the building that no one uses anyway into a permanent prayer room
  • Because you want to know how you’re doing, you list a few questions on the youth’s personal prayer habits in your yearly youth ministry evaluation

These are just examples of translating a goal into specific activities for your operational plan.

Your operational year plan for your youth ministry is your action plan, the plan of what you actually want to do in the upcoming year or season.

Our operational plan

The yearly operational plan in my former youth ministry actually consisted of several plans:

  • Teaching plan for both the youth services and the small groups
  • Budget, including a list of all planned activities
  • Activity calendar with all dates
  • Analysis of each activity and the targeted group
  • Youth ministry training plan

Teaching plan

Because our goals are spiritual, a teaching plan for me was a very important part of our operational plan. I listed all dates for youth services and small group sessions and planned the topics. Yep, you heard that right: the topics for our youth services were all planned ahead. Mind you, these were general topics, not specific passages or verses. We also kept this part fairly flexible to allow for changes because of important events, changes in our plans or very simply because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Budget

The budget was due each year around June or so for the upcoming year. In our church that meant you had to explain what you wanted to do, why you wanted to do it and what it would cost. That’s where our mission and vision were needed, they were the basis for out strategic plan which led to our operational plan. We never had any trouble explaining the why of what we wanted to do.

Activity calendar

Before the season started, I created an activity calendar with all youth ministry activities on it. This calendar was discussed with relating ministries like the young adult ministry (many of the teen leaders were young adults) and the kid ministry (many of our youth served there). We made sure teens and youth had small group in the same weekend to accommodate for kids spending the weekend with a divorced parent. We set dates for youth services in close contact with the church service ministry team and the pastors, so the two youth services on Sunday morning would fit well into the schedule.

It was always a lot of communicating, but once it was set it was great to know exactly what was coming. We made reservations for certain rooms in our church building at the beginning of the season, we could inform youth and parents of important dates like retreats far ahead and all our activities were put onto the general church activity calendar.

Analysis

Because we worked with the purpose driven inspired thought of targeting certain groups of youth with each activity (like the devoted youth, regular visitors, guests, etc), we always made an analysis after planning all activities to see if we had given each group enough attention.

Youth ministry training plan

Because each year, the training needs are different because of the specific activities or goals for that year, the training plan is also linked to the operational plan. I‘ve explained the process of creating a youth ministry training plan in another post.

I hope this post has helped you to get a clear vision for the process of doing the whole vision casting route from mission to operational plan. Remember: it’s just a plan, it’s not set in stone and you can always adapt it to changed circumstances. But I’ve found that it does reduce your stress levels big time to have everything planned and thought out before the season starts…

Do you make a yearly operational plan? What does this look like for you? 

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