6 Tips for Creating Your Ministry's Scope & Sequence
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Whether you’re a full-time, part-time, or volunteer youth worker, chances are high that teaching your students is a big part of your weekly responsibilities. And if you’re anything like me, teaching looks different depending on the day of the week. Sometimes it looks like preaching to a group of MS students, and other times, it looks more like preparing small group questions or a Bible study to push your HS leaders to go deeper. Regardless of what it looks like, how often you do it, or even how much you enjoy it, you teach quite a bit. So the big question is: how much thought are you putting into what you teach your students?
Suppose you’ve found that your teaching feels a little stale or that you always seem to keep coming back to the same stories, themes, or big ideas over and over again. In that case, you might not have taken the time to consider thinking through and planning out your teaching further than a couple of weeks at a time.
The goal of our ministries is that our students leave with a well-rounded understanding of who God is, what God has done for them, and how God is inviting them into what He is doing in them and the world. For that to happen, we have to put more thought into what we are teaching our students and when we are teaching it to them.
One of the best tools that has helped me in my ministry and become much more of a staple term in teaching circles is the importance of developing a scope & sequence. The “all-knowing” Google search engine officially defines a scope & sequence as a list of the concepts, topics, and material covered in a book, course, or the lesson plans of a particular curriculum. Essentially, a scope & sequence is your teaching plan or schedule from 10,000 feet.
A scope & sequence schedule is a tool that helps you look at your ministry calendar, identify which dates there will be an opportunity for you to teach, and begin planning out the material you will be taking your students through. Regardless of your preferred teaching philosophy or style (topical, exegetical, etc.), a scope & sequence will help you think through the important topics or portions of scripture you believe are essential for students to work through and provides the space to be able to plan out how you want to take them through it.
Creating a scope & sequence can feel daunting at first, especially if you’ve never made one before. You might not know how to start, so here are a couple of tips I’ve learned along the way that might be helpful for you as you consider creating one yourself.
- Bring God into Your Planning
Creating your scope & sequence should always be a discernment process between you and God. So invite the Holy Spirit to guide you into what your students need most as you plan what you’re going to teach. You can plan a whole year’s worth of material, but if God isn’t leading you to do it, then it wouldn’t be nearly as fruitful as what He would have you teach.
- Check with Your Curriculum Provider
There is a good chance that if you buy your curriculum from one of the many student curriculum options out there (check out the YM360 store for some amazing options), your curriculum already comes with a suggested scope & sequence you might be able to use. Work smarter, not harder, right? All jokes aside, your curriculum provider’s scope & sequence might provide you with a great starting point. You might need to tweak it or move some stuff around, but using the resource your curriculum provider gives you is a great starting point to creating your own ministry’s scope & sequence.
- Think Big Picture
When you’re creating your scope & sequence, put in the extra time and work upfront to plan out your entire year (even if you’re well into your ministry year). Planning out an entire year might seem like a lot, but it pays off as you get into it. You’ll inevitably become busy at certain points and won’t have time to sit down and plan, so already having your scope & sequence gives you the ability to stay on track and the extra margin you need. If you want to go the extra mile, you may want to consider planning out more than just one year. Think about the maximum number of years a student could potentially be a part of your ministry and think through what all you want to cover with them over the 2, 3, or 4 years you have them.
- Don’t Get Too Detailed
Once you start plotting some things out, you might be tempted to get super detailed and begin creating lesson plans and writing sermons and small group questions. Resist that temptation. Remember, your scope & sequence is your teaching plan from 10,000 feet, not detailed lesson plans. So stick to the date, the general topic you want to cover, the scripture passage(s) tied to the teaching, and the big idea or key takeaway you want your students to walk away with.
- Prioritize the Fall Semester
Everything you teach your students is important, but we can all admit that certain essential truths are more crucial for our students to understand than others at this point in their faith journey. If your ministry is anything like mine, it’s the largest and has the most excitement and energy at the start of the fall semester. So think through the topics you believe are most important for your students to know and plan to cover those during the fall semester when the majority of your students will be there.
- Plan to be Flexible
That might sound like an oxymoron, but leave some weeks throughout your scope & sequence to be flexible. Creating some gap weeks on your schedule will give you the space to take a vacation and not worry about if your guest speaker covers the material you expect them to cover. It allows you to spend an extra week on a topic or series you sense God wants your ministry to spend a little more time on. And it will enable you to break up your year at strategic points and do something unique like a worship night or an interactive experience.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- If you’ve created your own scope and sequence, how do you plan it out? What are some of the things you consider?
- If you were to add another tip for creating a scope and sequence for your ministry, what would it be?
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