My Year Long Teaching Plan for Youth Ministry

Youth Specialties
August 10th, 2016

The benefits of having a year-long teaching plan are worth it!

A professor of mine once said, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing in college would get done. I couldn’t tell you how many ten-page research papers I started at midnight, the night before they were due. While I got them done, they sometimes were not best efforts, but rather, something that was just thrown together so I could get a grade and move on. How often do we take this approach to putting together our lessons and sermons that we are going to deliver to our students?  We can easily find ourselves on Saturday struggling to put something together to teach the next morning. If we haven’t taken the time to chart out and plan what we are teaching, it becomes a struggle and scramble to put anything together. And yet, when we do that, are we really giving our best teaching? We have the privilege of teaching those students that God has brought into our ministries about God and His revealed Word. Now I’m not writing this to lay a guilt trip, but we have a high calling and I believe it deserves our best effort.


Taking the time to pray through and develop a year-long (or even multiyear long) teaching plan and strategy provides quite a few benefits for student ministry:

  • It eliminates stress – Imagine not last minute struggling to come up with a topic to teach, find scripture to support it, etc. Having the plan makes the prep process much easier.
  • Guest speakers – If you have someone come in and guest teach, having allows you to give them a topic that will focus their study and provides continuity to what you’re trying to teach your students.
  • It helps the creative process – I don’t know about you, but I’m not the most creative person. The creative process takes time. Coming up with the illustrations, videos and stories that help to drive a point home and providing parts of a lesson that students will latch on to and remember is not the easiest thing for me to do. However, when I know that I’ll be teaching on a certain topic, it allows me to be thinking about that weeks ahead of time. When I find an appropriate video or story I can tuck them away until I teach on the topic.
  • It provides a road map for parents – Part of our job as youth pastors is to partner with parents. I’ve been asked by parents what my plan for teaching is and being able to not only tell them the topics we will be covering, but when we will be covering them helps them to see the overall plans for the ministry and can help them become more involved and connected to the ministry.


There are probably many different processes for coming up with a teaching plan, but they all should start in the same place. You need to ask the question ‘what is my goal?’ What do I want my students, when they graduate, to have learned while in this student ministry? This is the starting point. Just in case you were wondering, I have 5 goals for my graduating students. These goals were influenced by Andy Stanley’s book The Seven Check Points: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know. The 5 goals are for my students have to an Authentic Faith, to have developed Spiritual Disciplines, to understand what Healthy Relationships look like, to apply Biblical Wisdom to their choices in life and to put Others First.

Next comes the fun part, putting topics together that will achieve these goals. To approach this, I’ll take some time and get away from the office for a couple of hours, usually at a coffee shop. I’ll put these five topics on a spread sheet and start brain storming different stories and passages of scripture that support the goal. For example, if I’m going to be hitting the goal of Authentic Faith, I would be putting down passages on faith (Hebrews 11), and stories that deal with different characters who lived out their faith (Abraham, Joshua, Moses, David, etc.). As I work through each goal, I’m probably going to come up with more topics and passages that support that goal than I will use in the year. That’s ok. Even if I don’t use all my thoughts this time, when I come back to brain storming for another year, I’ve already got a list of possible topics started.

Also I need to figure out exactly how many times I will be teaching over the coming year. It’s important to know if its going to be all 52 weeks of the year, or I will take summers off and only teach between 38 and 40 weeks of the year. I’ll look at a calendar and put all the dates that I will be teaching into the spreadsheet that contains all my ideas for teaching. I know that I want to spend about one fifth of my time focusing on each teaching goal. So if I’m working through the Authentic Faith goal, and I know that I’ll be teaching all 52 weeks, I know that I’ll want to spend about 10 weeks of the year focusing on that goal. I’ll take the list of brainstormed topics and assign them to different dates on the calendar, until I get near that number of weeks that I want to spend on that topic. I’ll do this for all the different teaching goals I have. I’ll keep a couple of weeks open for lessons that are seasonal specific, such as Easter and Christmas. Following this process over the course of a couple of hours will translate into a year-long teaching plan. Once I have the basic plan, I’ll have some of my volunteers look over them and offer input and advice. I’ll run the different ideas through my student leaders and get their input. By including others in the collaborative process, it helps to refine the plan and also allows others to present ideas that I may not have thought of.


It takes little bit of work and requires some intentionality, but the benefits of having a year-long teaching plan are worth it!

Scott nichols

Scott Nichols serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Canyon Del Oro Baptist Church. He received his B.S. from Portland State, and both his Grad Certificate in Bible and M.Div from Multnomah Seminary. Scott is married to Sarah and enjoys spending his free time with her and their three children–Nathan, Asher and Emsley.

Youth Specialties

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