Long-Range Planning The Right Way

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Have you ever tried to do long-range planning, only to discover you get too busy to put that plan into place? Or you worked on a plan, but no one seems to get excited about that plan?

Long-range planning is important – you know this. Many of us can come up with a long-range plan but struggle with actually making that plan happen.

Let’s talk about why, and how you might be able to finally make that plan happen.

Long-Range Planning

Last year was different in that it contained several months where we were kept cloistered inside due to the pandemic – at least that was my situation in the State of Maryland. When restrictions relaxed a bit during the summer, I decided to take my wife and three young-adult children on a mini road trip. 

Nothing big, we didn’t even leave the state. The trip involved driving to all my childhood homes and schools. I wanted them to see some of the actual places from the many stories they had heard over the years. There wasn’t much of an itinerary, so we just started driving.

The long-range plan was to hit about five or six stops along the way and end up back at home. The trip took about three hours. I honestly didn’t think they would enjoy this venture nearly as much as they did, and they genuinely thanked me for planning the day.

What Is A Long-Range Plan?

That’s a very simplistic example of long-range planning. A long-range plan says, “We are here, at ‘X’, and we want to get there, to ‘Y’.”

My plan was, “We’re starting from our house, we’ll stop at five or six spots, and we’ll end up back home.” A long-range plan is very different from a vision or strategic plan.

A strategic plan is an action plan that leads an organization towards a preferable future.

It asks the journalistic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how?

Most youth ministries create long-range plans – “We’re here, and we want to get there.” Few have really thought out or worked through a strategic plan. I highly recommend that such a plan be prioritized.

Join a 3 month cohort.

However, the task of creating a vision or strategic plan is no easy undertaking, and it certainly shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. Since the goal of such a plan is to point toward a preferable future, creating a vision or strategic plan should involve a number of people with and for whom the journey toward the future will involve.

So, just who should be involved?

Who To Involve In Planning


The classic church answer to every question, right?  However, pointing toward a future that doesn’t take into consideration the guidance of the Holy Spirit isn’t one worth pursuing. 

Proverbs 19:21 informs us, “People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will happen.”

So, before you start any type of vision or strategic plan, begin with prayer, and continue to hold your plans with open hands as the Lord leads and guides.

Church Leadership

Every church has a biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). However, the way each church expresses that biblical mandate can (and probably should) be expressed differently.

A wise youth minister will take into consideration their church’s unique expression of that biblical mandate as they seek to create a vision or strategic plan.

A foolish youth minister will attempt to create a preferable future without ever considering the overall goals, objectives, and strategies of their church leadership.

Involve your leadership!


Youth ministry is a team sport (think football), not a solo sport (think golf). It truly takes a team mentality and approach to create and maintain a healthy and fruitful youth ministry.

Any attempt to approach a vision or strategic plan with a golf mentality only makes the attempt more challenging – and ultimately less fruitful.

When approaching such a plan, it is wise to involve a number of your key volunteers. Include a variety of folks – different ages, backgrounds, years in service, and those with a variety of gifts. The goal is to get different perspectives that help minimize blind spots and generate new ideas.

As it says in Proverbs (15:22), “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”


The longer you are in youth ministry, the more you will realize that you are not just ministering to students, you are ministering to parents and families as well. With that in mind, it is wise to include parents in the planning process.

Parents can provide a unique perspective regarding a number of different areas of ministry. In addition to their perspective, when included, it creates a stronger parent-ministry partnership. 


This might seem silly, but don’t discount the value that students can add to the planning process.

Although limited in maturity and experience, students offer a valuable perspective. They can open a window into the thinking of the audience the youth ministry is attempting to reach.

Not only is their perspective potentially valuable but being part of the planning process can be a tremendous inspiration to them to get more involved in the ministry once the plan is initiated.

As a bonus, you might just be including your future youth ministry volunteers in the process.

There are certainly others that you might want to consider involving in the planning process (former students, someone from outside of your church context), but these five are “musts” for including in your youth ministry vision or strategic planning process.

If the process seems overwhelming, or daunting, it may be beneficial for you to join Youth Ministry Institute’s upcoming cohort – where strategic planning will be part of the conversation. Or you may consider bringing in a YMI staff member to help you with the process – we will help you guide these audiences toward the results that you desire to see.

Whether you seek the support of us at YMI or you go it alone, the key is to get started today. Bring in these audiences and begin creating a strategic plan – you may just be surprised what you can accomplish!

Brent Squires - Author

Brent Squires has dedicated the last twenty-three years of his life to student ministry. As the Student Ministry Pastor at Bay Area Community Church in Annapolis, Maryland, Brent provides leadership and development for three campus student ministry directors. He oversees a staff of seven, as well as almost 100 volunteers at the broadcast campus. His ministry consists of over 300 middle, high, and college-age students representing 30 area schools. He has been married for twenty-nine years, has three young-adult children, and one pit bull. Brent is also the co-host of the How’d They Do That? podcast. Prior to full-time ministry, Brent oversaw luxury seating for the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins.

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