why next semester still needs some planning

I know I’ve been “returning to the well” a lot recently, to re-emphasize some posts from the past. But they’re still applicable. Today, I combine a couple of posts to flesh out something I said last week!

On Monday, I wrote,

As I’ve often bemoaned here on the blog, it seems many college ministries plan nearly entirely by the year, rather than by the semester. Not even our college students do that! So another reason the question above is tricky is that it makes us reconsider our plans in light of what God has revealed and/or done in the past few months.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much college ministers can plan for next week – let alone nine months from now. But if we planned for March 2015 in August 2014, we made the assumption that things wouldn’t change all that much.

New students come through semester-by-semester, ideas pop up that we need to run with, new issues must be dealt with directly, changes take place on campus, and even whole ministry identity-shifts occur (unplanned) every once in a while.

The truth is, I believe your ministry and your campus are both too exciting to plan a whole year at a time.

But it’s not too late! If you did attempt to “master plan” things back in the summer, let me encourage you to evaluate what (or whom) should be added, subtracted, tweaked, spun off, reined in, increased, decreased, encouraged, discouraged, confronted, or otherwise changed for the semester to come.

The key here is to doubt what should be doubted. In this case, we should really doubt that we had enough foresight several months ago to determine all our steps for the upcoming semester. It’s not a question of whether you planned good things – I’m sure you did! The question is, Were your plans then as strong as they would be now? Is the ministry planning you did last summer really just as effective as it would be if you were forced to plan now?

(This even brings up theological questions about how God wants us to follow Him in preparing our ministries – how sure are we that His plans eternally come in yearlong batches?)

Need some additional convincing, or some places to start? Here are some areas that might grow a little stale when planned or organized too far in advance:

Raising up student leaders: Depending on how you do student leadership, it’s likely some new potential leaders have arisen since August. Have you considered re-establishing your commitment to student involvement by opening the leadership application process in January?

Opening your small groups: If small groups are supposed to be part of the “DNA” of your campus ministry, why oh why would you only have a “push” at the beginning of the school year? Some students have matured, others have become intrigued by hearing about the groups, and some are simply new to your ministry. Re-up your commitment to small group discipleship by opening present groups – or forming new ones – for January.

Sharing your vision and values: Students have short attention spans, and a good chunk of next semester’s group probably wasn’t around when you shared your vision and values last semester. Recast the vision, re-espouse your foundational values.

Recruiting: It’s crazy to think that students are only going to join ministries in the first few weeks of the school year. And besides, there are students out there who have wandered from your college ministry or from other ministries… and they need to find a new community LONG before next August. Are you going to recruit those students – and others – in January?

Your programs or teams: There’s no way every good service idea, ministry team, or other ongoing program needs to wait until August to be started. Are there some “new institutions” you can start in January?

Your programs or teams, part two: Likewise, some stuff should be stopped. Not this summer. Now.

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