I find that as the school year beings to wind down (thank God!) is the best time to start planning for the fall. Planning for fall now??? Yes! Consider this a gift to yourself.
Here’s how I do it:
April/May: First, I set out a master calendar and block off main church dates (such as, say, Easter, but also things like major congregational meetings, retreats, diocesan events, etc. Things that are already fixed).
Then I make a calendar that shows where the holes are, which is where the youth can get involved in the planning. The Youth often want to walk into the youth group meeting waiting for me to lead them. Yet I want them to lead some of the meetings too. So I make it clear where they have room for input.
May/June: I present this calendar to the youth group at a few meetings before school gets out for a group planning meeting. (Most of my kids are gone for most of the summer so we do not meet regularly, which is why I get started so early.) In our planning meetings we brain storm - really try to get them to think of the box.
To do this, I bring a lot of items like bike helmets, bottle of wine, gummy worms, school books, baby dolls, deck of cards, hairbrush, flowers, box of cereal, sports equipment, some magazines. Plus add your own ideas. Hand one item at a time to each kid Have each kid say the first word that comes to mind. Write a list on the wall.
After you have a huge list, have the kids start creating ideas for their meetings and or events. Again make a list on the wall. Then talk each of them out, so the kids have an opportunity to explain more about what they mean, or think it through. Then give them a chance to vote. You can do it by hand vote, voice vote, or give people a few stickers so they can mark their choices, depending on the kids you have in your group. Sometimes one way works better than others.
Once you’ve voted, ask the group who would like to be on a team to offer one of the meeting or events. Tell then you will help them lead it. I find that their enthusiasm and ownership really helps them step into the co-leadership roles. During the year, I meet with the kids for planning the topic they wanted to plan. I love to spend this time with a few kids at a time, plus helping them gain to leadership skills.
Along with the topics they’ve picked, I will save some of their ideas for future times. Or I might lead a few if no teens step up to up to lead. I will fill out the other meetings with fun and current events topics.
June/July: During the summer, I put the final touches on the fall schedule. I then snail mail and email it to everyone in mid-August. It’s never to soon to get it in the youth/families hands. Lots of other groups send out their schedules too, so get your church dates on the family calendar! [See Getting on everyone’s busy fall calendar.]
I know it seems really early, but believe me, you’ll thank me later. Just think: in August when everyone is scrambling to pull their fall schedules, you and your youth will be ready to roll!