3 reasons to plan downtime into your ministry

Ben Marshall
February 4th, 2021

I like to plan. I like to make plans. And I like it when things go according to plan.

But I’m also a youth pastor. Which, honestly, means that no matter how good the plan, things often don’t go according to plan. 

Whether it’s a computer update that made Pro Presenter go crazy, a power outage earlier in the day that took out half the lights, a global pandemic that changed our in-person opportunities, or a student passing out in the middle of a lesson, plans change. 

However, there is one element that I think needs to make it into every youth group plan. This one element is non-negotiable for me. And honestly, as they often do, provides space for plans to change.

I think it is essential to plan for downtime in your youth program.

It doesn’t matter if you have 60 minutes, 75 minutes, 90 minutes, or 120 minutes. I believe downtime is a necessity. There are more than three reasons why I believe that, but I will share three of those reasons below.

First, downtime during the program gives space to be present.

When we plan for every minute of the night, I think we spend too much time worrying about the time. As one activity is going on, we’re thinking about what is coming next, and how soon this current activity needs to finish so the next activity can start, so we don’t get behind in the schedule. 

Again, I like to plan. I think we should always have a plan.  However, I think downtime should always be a part of that plan.  Downtime allows us to be more present in the moment. Why? We aren’t as worried about the time because we know we’ve got a little wiggle room with things. It makes us more flexible and more present.  Especially if there is downtime on the front end, we gain an opportunity to spend more time engaging with students in a less formal setting, which brings us to the second reason.

Second, downtime during the program gives space to dig deeper.

During downtime, there isn’t really anything we need to be doing other than talking, hanging out, and playing games with students. We are able to slow down, to be present, and to look into the eyes of students instead of the clock on the wall. 

There are some wonderful conversations that happen before the program and in those in-between moments. If we are able to plan for those, I think we can cultivate even more depth in our relationships with students. Why? Because we’re able to take the time to keep talking, ask more questions, and to not be concerned about moving forward with the evening’s agenda, which brings us to the third reason.

Third, downtime during the program gives space to go off-script

There will always be those moments we don’t plan for, some of them referenced above. When those events happen, and we need some extra time to adapt or change or move in a different direction, we have the freedom to do so when downtime is planned into the evening. There is space on the agenda for pivoting to a different plan, extending a worship time, spending more time in small groups, having a little more time in the teaching because of a question asked or a point being made. 

We are able to go off-script when we have the wiggle room of downtime scheduled into the evening. 

How much time you schedule for this depends on how much time you begin with and your specific context of ministry, but I think we should all consider the benefits that come when we schedule downtime into our ministry nights. 

How have you seen these unscheduled times used with success in your ministry? How do you think you might be able to be more intentional in your program if you schedule in-between moments of downtime? 

Ben Marshall

Ben Marshall is a Pastor at Pathway Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He works with middle and high school students. He is passionate about leadership and raising up the next generation of Jesus-followers. He is a blogger, woodworking hobbyist, guitar player and sports enthusiast. Ben currently resides in Beaver Falls with his wife Connie and their two daughters, Aliya and Sophie.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.