Do You Have a Map? Developing a Ministry Plan

When I was a kid, we used an “ancient” form of navigation called a map. I remember going with my parents before a vacation to the AAA office to pick up a TripTik – a flip map that outlined each stretch of a road trip from our starting point to our destination. The AAA agent would go over each page with us, highlighting the recommended route and marking any construction notes or road closures we needed to be aware of as we traveled. We relied on that map to get us where we were going. Without it, we might never have reached our destination.

That old-school map is a reminder about an important aspect of ministry–having a plan. Ministry to families isn’t a quick trip around the block; it’s cross-country and back. If we’re not intentional with everything we do, it’s easy to completely miss the destination. Let’s talk about some vital aspects of developing a road map.

Keep the Destination in Mind
The first thing you need to build a ministry to children, students, and parents is a destination. Do you know where you are heading? If you don’t, you’ll zig-zag all over the place trying to find the right road. When you know where you’re going, there is purpose and intentionality in everything you do.

  • Start with a mission statement. You might already have one for your ministry or your church has one. Look at everything on your calendar, and ask yourself if it will move families toward that mission.
  • Develop a scope and sequence. Scope is the content of what you’re teaching; sequence is the order in which you teach it. Having a scope and sequence helps you focus as you plan weekly lessons and special events. The very best way to create this is to sit down as a family ministry team – children’s, student, and family pastors and leaders. Start with the destination in mind; what do you want to see developed in the children, students, and families in your ministry? Determine the steps you’ll need to take along the way to see that accomplished.
  • Come up with a 12-month plan. Once you know where you’re going, sketch out a plan for the upcoming year. Be careful not to view this as an event calendar. This is your detailed map of what you’re going to teach, what resources you’re going to provide, what milestones you’re going to celebrate, and what events will lead people further in their faith journey.

Ask For Directions
Have you ever been in the car with someone who refuses to stop and ask for directions? Maybe you’re that person. Not asking for help with directions leads to unnecessary frustration. Many people look to you as an expert with all the answers, and it can be intimidating to try to fill that role. But those you minister to need your authentic self. No matter how long you’ve been in ministry, there’s always more to learn. As you build the ministry to children, students, and parents in your church, asking questions is not a step to skip. Spend time getting to know the parents of the children and students you teach. Ask questions and listen. These relationships will give you insight into what families really need.

In addition to relationships with parents, building connections with other ministry leaders is important. Sharing ideas, brainstorming, and asking questions with peers will help you have a more well-rounded approach to family ministry. Not only can you do this with staff at your own church, you can reach out to leaders in other churches in your community or in an online community. Having a place to go with questions is important for any ministry leader. (Ministry to Parents has a private Facebook group for its members that you can join to find encouragement and support from other ministry leaders. Request to join at

Schedule Rest Stops
Imagine being in the car for hours on end without stopping for anything–food, bathrooms, gas, etc. Eventually the driver and every passenger will be miserable, and the car will run out of gas. When your event schedule is bursting at the seams, you will exhaust the families at your church and you yourself will run out of gas. Everyone needs rest, and the families you serve are no exception.

Most parents are juggling extremely busy schedules for themselves and their kids. The last thing you want to do in supporting parents is to exhaust their schedules even more with too much going on. Pay attention to what’s happening in schools, sports, the community, and in your church. Hosting an important family event or ministry time for parents during the busiest seasons of the year doesn’t make the best sense. Look at slower times, away from any big holidays or overlapping sport schedules, as an opportunity to be very strategic in ministry. As long as you’re careful not to fill up the time with an endless array of church activities, these are better seasons to plan events. Helping the families in your church find rest is just as important as providing parents with resources to encourage them as spiritual leaders in their homes.

If you’re already a seasoned planner, hopefully these pointers will spark ideas for you as you look at your calendar for the upcoming school year. If this is the first time you are creating a ministry plan, don’t be overwhelmed in trying to do it all at once. Pick one thing you can start with now and select a time every few months to revisit your plan and incorporate more of these suggestions. We are here to support you and cheer you on as you minister to the children, students, and parents in your church.