Programming is what no one sees you do,
but everyone notices if you didn’t.
Yeah, it doesn’t really capture it, does it? So what is programming? Well, it is represented by the stuff listed in the monthly youth calendar, like “Wednesday Night Fellowship,” and “Junior High Pie Night.” It is made up of the things you do with kids in groups, like “Shaving Cream Wars.” The events that attract kids to being involved in the youth ministry mission is what you program for. Simple, right? No.
Programming is a major component of youth ministry. It can easily become a harsh taskmaster, which is something you want to avoid. Programming is what you did when you planned ahead of time certain things to have happen when the kids arrived. Some people call these events activities. That works OK; you program for activities. What constitutes these activities can vary tremendously from youth ministry to youth ministry. But what informs that decision making process? Do you program for the activities that you get a kick out of, or that you are comfortable with? Or do you program for activities that the kids have been asking for (read: demanding) since last August? Or do you program for activities that you know—via surveys, conversations, the promptings of the Spirit, edicts from the council, etc.—are necessary for the spiritual formation and growth in the kids you have been charged with?
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