Planning Events: The Intentionality of our Programming

The following series of articles are part of a partnership between the Next Institute and CDM, the PCA’s Committee on Discipleship Ministries. You can visit CDM’s Youth Ministry Toolbox here!

‘Why are we doing this again?’ I hate it when I have this thought in the middle of an event. While sometimes it’s simply the fatigue of staying up until 3 AM with middle school boys to blame, it also comes from having an ill-defined purpose for putting on an event in the first place. But nobody starts off wanting to hold an ineffective event. Why might we do this?


·      Maybe the event is a hold-over from a previous year’s plan, or even a previous ministry leader. Sometimes we can hold events simply because ‘we’ve always done them this way/at this time.

·      Maybe the event is reactionary, a quick knee-jerk to a particular problem. While there’s definitely intention here, it is short-sighted and motivated by immediate gains at the cost of long-term vision.

·      Maybe the event is the result of unplanned circumstances – even beneficial ones. These events likewise can have unexpected consequences on future plans.

·      Maybe the issue is a lack of definition and vision at the larger ministry level. What are the goals and purposes of your ministry in the first place?

The aim of healthy event planning is to connect the purpose/intended results of a particular event with the wider vision of a ministry. This involves both making the aim of each individual event serve the wider purpose of the ministry and making sure the various events a ministry puts on fit together.

For example, imagine you receive a call from a church member who is passionate about Jesus and basketball. He has just read about outreach-oriented basketball leagues, and wants the youth ministry to start one. There is nothing wrong (and lots right!) about desiring outreach. Yet if your ministry goals for the year involve developing effective discipleship spaces and sponsoring outreach to artistic students at the local high school, this might not be the best opportunity regardless of this member’s passion.  

But what if you were hoping to reach middle school neighborhood students, and your church had free access weekly to a local gym? Then the event might be just what you need! Or not. Even if the event serves your larger goals, it may affect the ability for other events to also serve your goals. In this case, hosting the basketball league was effective – but time consuming. In this case, committing to a 16-game season required many volunteers, and limited the ability to recruit volunteers for discipleship classes and the annual mission trip. The individual event affected the wider plans of the group.


Things to Consider:

1.     Spend time at least annually on defining vision and goals for your ministry. Make sure these are not in conflict with the larger mission and vision of your church as a whole. Don’t rush this – get away for a day or more! Pray, fill whiteboards, invite the input of fellow youth workers – this step is important.

2.     Evaluate (see below) regular/annual programming in light of this ministry purpose. Consider how annual events can be shaped to serve these goals – or if something needs to be cut.

3.     Repeat this evaluative step every time you come to the planning table, to focus your planning around your ministry’s goals.

ArticlesStephen Yates