In the end it boiled down to finances, recruitment and the strength of the network. These were the results of a six week strategic planning process conducted by the Haralson Group. The excitement exists in the details of those three generalized topics.
Nearly 150 people responded to the initial short survey representing an incredible 40% response rate. As Jerry Haralson stated, “There are quite a few gems in these responses.” Respondents included donors (51%), YMI staff (23%), past and present board members (25%), past and present YMI students (24%), and past and present supervisors of a YMI student (14%). Some qualify for more than one category. One-third affiliated with YMI Midwest, who began in 2014, while the remaining two-thirds were affiliated with the Florida group. The answers to this Strengths, Issues and Dreams survey framed the talking points of the three 90 minute sessions where people could attend in person or via webinar.
58 people participated in some way in these longer, more in depth sessions accompanied by a discerning survey. It is here where people’s opinions from the first survey were pitted against one another to distill the most important issues facing YMI. What quickly became apparent are the practices where YMI receives the most praise.
The product is the strength. Whew. People resounded with the curriculum. The coaching and attention to local church needs were given consistent high marks. Leadership was appreciated. There wasn’t one negative comment or suggestion for growth in these areas. Remarkable, when one considers the high level of participation.
Finances are the number one issue facing the Youth Ministry Institute. It is a multi-faceted issue, however.
In an era of declining church budgets, churches desire to have effective youth ministries, but often times, can’t afford the investment. What once may have been a priority decision is now becoming more of a decision based on financial necessity. Entirely related to this, YMI already offers its two-year training and coaching program at a subsidized rate (65% of the cost). Therefore YMI needs to discover diverse revenue to make up the other 35%. Revenue can come in the form of additional funding from foundations, the creation of one-day training opportunities or other new program development. One goal might be to create a scholarship fund to further enhance the subsidy.
Recruiting new students to the Youth Ministry Institute is the second issue YMI will address. Utilizing alumni and relationships with clergy will create effective growth according to the participants in the listening sessions. Detailing an overall marketing plan will help YMI use available resources completely.
Analyzing the strength of the YMI network of partners and collaborators is the third issue YMI will consider. How well does YMI foster relationships with multiple denominations and other organizations serving youth and local church youth ministry?
What are the next steps? None of this is in stone, yet. These are just the results. The YMI boards of directors and managers will consider the results and determine some quantifiable objectives. And, most importantly, they will prioritize what needs to be done first, second and so on. Stay tuned for initiatives involving the findings of this process.
Many thanks to the Haralson Group, Jerry and Susie, for their services in conducting this strategic planning process.