First off, I’m sorry it’s been a while on my end in regards to posting. Things have been a little crazy. Just recently I have taken on overseeing our kids teams across all our campuses as long with youth and I have been been getting caught up with all of that. Excited for the fun and challenges moving forward in this new role. With that said…

One of the things I have been working through with both kids and youth teams is what I am calling our “Master Class of Programming”. So this will be a series of posts.

I wanted our teams to think about their weekend or midweek experiences and what are the things we should be thinking through to create the best experience for our kids and youth. This first section will be talking in general to get us thinking through the program overall, then we will walk into the actual service break downs and then move to outside atmosphere and events.

The way I like to think of your service is like being on a ride. You get on and you get off. There is a beginning and an end. Going with a Disney theme, sometimes I feel like I am on Indiana Jones but our goal should be to make it feel like Space mountain. 

  • Indiana Jones is bumpy. It’s choppy. It’s awkward at times. 
  • Space mountain is so smooth. 
  • Both get you where you need to go, both serve it’s purpose but the experience is way different. 

It comes down to intentionality. Are we thinking through our experience from “street to seat”, from the time they get out of their car on campus to sitting in service, to leaving to go home, are we being intentional?

Regardless if you have 10 students or 400 students, thinking internally about your services make a difference.

So I ask 8 questions to get us in the right mind frame to think about our services:

1. Why is it important to think through your program?

This is more of a rhetorical question to get us thinking through, “Am I being intentional or am I pretty loose and kind of wing it”.

I think it’s critically important. Why? When it’s clunky, it can be distracting. When is the only time anyone ever looks back at the audio booth during service? When something goes wrong. Students might not physically tell you they like a smooth service but they notice when you have not thought through it. Clunky can distract and it’s our jobs to do our best to remove all distractions (as best as we can and in our control) that we can. When we are intentional it can set someone up really well to have a real encounter with Jesus. You can have the best content in the world and have a clunky, distracting, winging it service and it can take away from the content we have.

I know this is bold, but that is fine, but I’ll go as far as to say:

A lazy program = lazy leadership.

I know but listen. Even though you might not think programmatically, that is no excuse to have a not intentional program. Notice I didn’t say you need to have lights, the cool stage design, or upgraded things. I am saying that if we have not thought through our program, getting others involved, and walking through how we intentionally go through service to set up the best experience, we have not done our part in setting up students well.

2. On a scale of 1-10, how much time do you spend on thinking through your service?

3. On a scale from 1-10, how is your experience from the moment kids step on campus to when they leave? Have you thought through every single aspect or does it “just happen”?

These two questions kind of go hand in hand. I am not saying you have to spend a ton of time, I am just asking to see if you spend ANY time thinking through what your people experience from the moment they show up to the moment they leave. Have you walked through with the perspective with a new student or new family and ask “why we do this” or “why we do that”? Program is more than just what happens “in service”.

4. Do your leaders know what is happening or are they experiencing service for the first time just like the kids?

If the answer is yes, they experience the service for the first time with the kids, then we need to work through that. One of our main jobs is to train, recruit and care for leaders. If our leaders don’t know what to expect or what is expected of them that week then we are not intentional about setting up our leaders. How can we ask our leaders to win, hold them up to those standards when we are not intentional with them and let them know what is coming? If they know they can help carry out the vision of the night so much better and more effective AND they feel like they are A PART of the service rather than just sitting through it. 

5. Have you put in your due diligence in regards to planning?

This is a big one. This is one of two questions that should haunt us and plague us in regards to our programming. Services are the never full beast that is always coming and we need to feed it weekly. It happens every week and just like life, things get crazy. I have been pushing our teams to be 2 weeks ahead in their planning. If we can be intentional and have some heads up time to think ahead, it will set us up well to make sure we have put in a good amount of time thinking through services to make sure we have covered all the areas we would need to be intentional about.

A couple of questions in regards to this section and planning are:

  • Do you have an element of fun? Have you thought through the game, prizes, transitions, message and worship?
  • Do you know what you are doing with new families or new students? How are you setting them up when they come on campus?
  • Are you the only one planning things or setting things up? Or are you building teams to help you run services?

6. Is your service worth being invited to?

This is the second question that should haunt us as we keep asking. This question is huge in regards to planning and being intentional. If we are asking our students to spend relational capital on asking non-church friends to come to service or an event, we have to ask the question, “Is this even worth being invited to?” If you spend time on question #5, most likely the answer to this question will be “yes”. If you don’t put in your time, the answer will be “no”.

7. Do we just plan out service in our heads or do we write it down and lay it out?

Are you the only one who knows what is happening in regards to how service runs and what is coming? Writing it out and seeing it will help you with the flow and make it feel good. When you see it on paper you can get a better feel for what is coming. It sets up those who are helping you run the service when you have notes and a plan. Our church uses Planning Center and whether you have 10 students or 100 students, it allows you to write out service, put in notes, thinking through flow and timing and is an awesome tool to be intentional with. 

8. Is the first time you fully run through the ENTIRE service with a full room of students?

If the answer is yes, I would begin to rethink through that. I believe that service run throughs need to be standard for anyone is putting on services. If we are to make sure we are taking out the distractions in service, service run throughs are the single best way to work through and take out those distraction to work on having a smooth, intentional, thought out service. 

Now I will preface again…

I am not saying that we need to have all the bells and whistles to make service super high tech. What I am saying is we need to be intentional about one of the biggest front doors of our ministries to make sure we can put forth the best foot we have for students to experience Jesus. My hope is that these questions can help you think though your own services to work on making them better and better.

I know we have been working through them with our team and they have been helpful.

@justinknowles3