My new youth ministry met for the first time last week.

By all assessments, we had a great first night. The room was full and teens were engaged in our conversation about vocation.

Afterwards, I was chatting with one of my adult leaders. When I asked him what he thought of the night, he responded, “It was definitely structured.”

This was not a comment that came as a surprise to me.

I am Type A. I’m super organized and very structured, something I’ve heard is different from my predecessor.

As a result, I went into our youth ministry’s first gathering with a clear plan for our time together. I knew what I wanted to discuss, what activities I wanted to lead, and what games I wanted to play long before the night began. I even knew what my desired outcomes were.

I planned these things intentionally because I wholeheartedly believe that structure is important to youth ministries for four reasons.

  1. Structure helps teens know what to expect. Knowing what to expect makes teens feel comfortable in a space.
  2. Structure helps create a culture of welcome. Without structure, inevitably a few teens (typically the cool ones) dominate a youth ministry’s space. They tend to control the conversation and make only certain teens (or types of teens) feel welcome. Structure, in contrast, levels the playing field so that all teens feel welcome and able to participate – in the activities, worship, and conversation.
  3. Structure allows you to maximize your time together. My youth ministry meets for an hour of content a week. That’s it. During that time, I consistently want to help teens grow in their relationship with Jesus and each other. Without structure – without a plan – it’d be far too easy to squander what little time we have together.
  4. Structure communicates value. Our teens are busy. There are hundreds of things they could be choosing to spend their time on. I want them to know that I appreciate them choosing to be at our youth ministry. Structure shows that we value teens’ time; That we’re dedicated to making our time together worth-while.

Often, those who don’t love structure defend their position by saying, “I don’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit working.”

I don’t either.

Structure doesn’t.

The Holy Spirit can guide your planning and preparation process just as much – if not more – than she can guide you in the moment.

What’s more, because structure helps teens feel welcome, you might even argue that it gives the Holy Spirit more opportunities to work… And your teens more opportunities to see her at work.