As a youth worker your options on lessons are to either spend money on curriculum and teach what you have purchased, or come up with and write your own lessons to talk about every single week. Either option is fine, it is totally your preference, and with whatever option you chose you still need to figure out WHAT you are going to teach. The burden of planning a teaching calendar still falls on you whether you are buying curriculum or writing it yourself. When it comes to figuring out what you are going to talk about it is very helpful to plan out your teaching calendar for months in advance. But, let’s be honest planning a sermon calendar can be difficult. It is hard to keep coming up with things to talk about, but I hope that these 5 tips make your planning a little bit easier.
1. Turn topics (or books) into series
Teaching in series makes it so much easier to plan your calendar. Once you have brain-(stormed your topics, or books of the Bible, or whatever it is that you want to cover over the next few months, semester, or year, turn them into series. When you have an established number of weeks in each series (I suggest somewhere in the range of 3-6 weeks for each series) you are able to lay out the 5 or 6 series that you have and fill the entire semester. You are able to plan ahead so much easier without having to come up with a week by week lesson and stress out each week when you don’t know what you are going to teach on.
2. Be relevant
Don’t pick topics that students are not dealing with. Too many churches are answering questions people are not asking and leaving the important ones unanswered. Students have real issues going on in their real lives and they are looking for real answers. The Bible has those real answers and God wants them to hear the answers, so we need to be teaching on what students are actually going through.
Okay, we get it, you are smart and you understand deep subjects about the Bible and while some students may enjoy talking about it, they need relevant practical answers on how to live their life pleasing God and leading others to Him. Am I saying water it down? No way, but think Is what you are teaching going to help your students find, follow, and share Jesus better this week. Too many students walk away from church after they graduate in part because they are not getting answers to what they are actually dealing with. Be relevant in what you teach.
3. Mix it up
Think about the topics you are covering and try not to teach the same thing, or even the same type of things back to back. For instance, if you do a series on controlling emotions where it’s very personal, practical and introspective, do your next series on outreach where they are shifting gears a bit and are able to focus on something different. If you do a series on Old Testament heroes and it’s really digging deep and giving some great Biblical knowledge maybe your next series is on relationships and how to practically navigate them in our crazy world. I think you get the point, I don’t know exactly what you are teaching, but mix it up!
4. Ride The Waves
As you are planning out your series realize the waves and teach accordingly. Let me explain. In my group the first couple weeks back from Christmas and New Years is pretty slow, we mostly have regulars so I teach something on our vision and goals and how we want to act in this coming year. Then as momentum builds through our February dating series and more students come I go into a series on outreach as they are all getting fired up about youth group anyway. As we end our outreach series with a big outreach event I know we will have a lot of new students so I immediately follow it up with a very, very practical series that anyone can relate to and will give practical advice. Over the next month or so I know it will remain well attended and we will see lots of new faces as well so we again do some practical messages covering different areas students may be dealing with. Then as the year begins to wind down and summer approaches my group generally thins out again and I am left with just the regulars so I usually end with pretty cerebral and deeper Biblical concepts because it is mostly my core students in attendance.
Identify the waves in your ministry and plan your teaching calendar accordingly.
5. Search For Inspiration
Don’t be afraid to look at other churches’ websites, browse titles of curriculum, dig into archives, and ask other youth workers what they are doing. I am not saying copy anyone, but use what you see as inspiration. You are right, coming up with new fresh ideas is extremely difficult! But getting inspiration from other sources is a great way to spark your thoughts and create something awesome.
I hope these 5 tips will help you in planning out a long term teaching calendar that will be effective in communicating God’s truths and teaching students.