Programming Strategy for Your Ministry

HOW TO STRATEGIZE YOUR WEEKLY PROGRAM

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN

  • How to strategize a year of weekly programming for kids ministry.
  • How to strategize a year of weekly programming for youth ministry.
  • PLUS: What’s included in Grow Curriculum and Strategy to help you make your weekly program more awesome.

We all want to teach kids and students about Jesus more effectively, but let’s be honest — it’s not always easy. It’s challenging enough to teach adults, but to teach kids and teenagers whose brains are in different stages of development than our own is a challenge most of us were never really trained to do.

When we think about how to teach kids and teenagers effectively, we probably jump immediately to thinking about our sermons or lessons. The truth is, the process of learning should begin the moment kids and teenagers walk through our doors. But this can only happen when we get strategic about the structure of our weekly program.

So how can our weekly program be structured in a way that helps kids and teenagers learn more effectively? Well, the answer to that is a little different for kids than it is for teenagers, so let’s talk about those two environments separately.

FOR KIDS MINISTRY

Preschoolers and elementary-aged kids don’t learn by sitting quietly and listening to a lesson — but you already know that. They learn best by using all of their senses to engage with what you’re trying to teach them. And because they’re such concrete thinkers, they benefit from concrete visuals, sounds, and experienced that make abstract ideas easier to grasp.

So when you’re thinking about your weekly programming strategy for kids, don’t underestimate the power of a strong theme. By “theme,” we mean the fun stuff that ties all of your teaching, activities, visuals, and experiences together and that complements the Bible stories you’re sharing, like…

  • nature theme to go with your series on creation.
  • rocket ship theme to talk about “launching” your faith to new heights.
  • medieval knight theme to complement your series on the armor of God.
  • An underwater theme to symbolize going deeper in your faith.
  • party theme to go with a series about praise and worship.

The themes you choose for your teaching shouldn’t be random (like video games and Noah’s ark, or emojis and the Gospels). Instead, the themes you choose should directly complement your teaching in a way that makes the stories come alive and the principles take root.

So if you want to get more strategic with your weekly program, here’s what we suggest:

#1. PLAN YOUR TEACHING CALENDAR. 

Decide which Bible stories you’ll cover, and when you’ll cover them, for the entire year (preferably in month-long teaching series). You can learn more about how to do this well in this article about developing an annual teaching strategy.

#2. CHOOSE THEMES FOR EACH SERIES. 

When you know which teaching series you’d like to do and when you’d like to teach them, brainstorm some fun themes that tie in to the stories or themes you’d like to cover each month. If you do this monthly, you’ll need a total of 12 fun monthly themes each year. You can learn more about how to do this well in this article about planning your annual ministry calendar.

#3. BUILD YOUR THEME!

Once you know your theme, you can build it with all sorts of fun programming elements — things kids will experience from the time your program begins until they go home.

When building a monthly theme, here are a few elements you should consider tying into that theme:

  • Graphics
  • Videos
  • Decorations
  • Snacks
  • Sketches and characters
  • Music
  • Coloring pages
  • Activities
  • Object lessons

That’s a lot to think about, we know — but if these monthly themes help kids remember and apply the stories and principles you’re teaching (and they will), then it’s so worth it! 

And hey, if you’re using Grow Kids Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For every month of curriculum, we provide a monthly theme that complements the teaching content and includes everything you need to theme your program — decor ideas, editable graphics, music suggestions, games, funny characters and sketches, take-homes, coloring pages, and more.

FOR YOUTH MINISTRY

Teenagers are a bit different from kids in a lot of ways, including this one: they probably think a lot of your ideas are cheesy. While tons of themed decorations, skits, and silly characters work really well for kids, there are more important things to think about when it comes to your students.

For teenagers, the biggest barriers to learning aren’t necessarily your teaching methods (although experiential and engaging learning is still really important). For many teenagers, the biggest barrier keeping them from learning isn’t cognitive — it’s emotional.

When a teenager walks into your program, they’re probably not asking, “What am I going to learn today?” They’re probably asking…

  • Am I welcome here?
  • Do these people like me?
  • Do they really know or care about me?

With that in mind, a strategic weekly program helps teenagers learn by working to break down emotional barriers from the moment they walk through the doors. There are a lot of ways we can do this as youth workers, but here’s one simple way: have some fun.

Having fun with a teenager can help break down many of the walls that prevent them from being receptive to what we have to share. Fun can also connect them with their peers and with the adults who lead them, which makes it even more likely that they will engage in conversations that help them discover and apply truth together. While there are a lot of ways you can have fun in your ministry, we suggest making time each week to play at least one group game together — bonus points if that game somehow ties into what you’ll be teaching. (But don’t forget, teenagers hate cheesy things, so be careful!)

So if you want to get more strategic with your weekly program, here’s what we suggest:

#1. PLAN YOUR TEACHING CALENDAR.

Decide which teaching series you plan to do throughout the year, including their titles, primary passages of Scripture, and any recurring phrases, visuals, metaphors, or themes that will tie each series together. You can learn more about how to do this well in this article about developing an annual teaching strategy.

#2. CHOOSE GAMES FOR EACH SERIES. 

When you know which teaching series you’d like to do and when you’d like to teach them, brainstorm some fun games you can play each week. You may find a way to tie the games into your teaching, but it’s not always necessary. You’re allowed to have fun without a reason sometimes. Depending on how many weeks you meet each year, you’ll need up to 50 games on your calendar — but you can always repeat some of your favorites! If you need game ideas, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with our free archive of more than 500 amazing ministry games. You can learn more about how to strategize this well in this article about planning your annual ministry calendar.

#3. PLAY (AND REPLAY) YOUR GAMES!

Each time you play a game, take note of what you liked and what you didn’t like, or what you’d do differently next time. If your students really enjoyed a particular game, give it a couple of weeks and play it again! You don’t need to come up with a new idea every week — the point, remember, is for your students to have fun. So do whatever’s fun!

And hey, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For every week of curriculum, we provide at least one game that complements the teaching content and includes everything you need to make it happen — supply lists (with handy links to purchase the supplies), instructions, and game graphics.

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN GROW CURRICULUM

If you’re looking for resources to help you strategize your weekly programming, here’s what’s included in every volume of Grow Curriculum and Strategy.

GROW KIDS:

  • 12 editable series graphics, bumper videos, and countdown videos
  • 12 monthly theme ideas (with Pinterest boards, shopping lists, Amazon links, and decorating ideas, tips, and tutorials for every series)
  • 12 sets of memory verse images
  • 12 sets of printable series posters
  • Spotify playlists
  • Shopping and prep lists

GROW STUDENTS:

  • 50 games 
  • Game instructions
  • Game supply lists
  • Editable graphics for every game
  • Title and background slides for every game
  • Additional graphics and videos for screen games
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About The Author

Kenny Campbell

Kenny Campbell

Founders of Stuff You Can Use and Grow Curriculum

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