Make Your Own 3 Year Scope & Sequence

Friday, March 13, 2020

Sometimes as youth leaders, we get caught in a week to week cycle. We look to the next event, the next Bible study, the next sermon and don't spend time planning what we are teaching the young people in the long term. If we are serious about discipling young people into life-long disciples, then we need to take the time to plan what we are teaching them. Whether preaching to a large group or in a small group discussion, we should be intentional.

The new language around this having a scope and sequence. The scope is the overview of what to teach. The sequence is the order to teach it in. Below is a summary of steps to take, for you to develop your own 3 year scope and sequence. I suggest a 3 year period for your scope. Realistically you won't cover everything in one year odds are you won't have most of your youth for the 5 potential years of High School.

I have no issues with purchased curriculums either. If you can find one that is suitable for your group and that you can afford, then by all means make use of their resources. There are a few out there. Orange has XP3 Curriculum, Stuff You Can Use developed Grow Curriculum, YM360 has the Formation Series, lots of other places have one-off studies or series that you can use. I just find that sometimes it takes a significant effort to crowbar the studies to fit the context of our youth.

Take the time to think through how you are teaching and guiding your young people through their faith and its application to their life. Find the right fit for you.

If you want or need to write your own scope and sequence, then below are some steps to help you on this journey.

I have not included it as a step, but it is worth noting that this process should be bathed in prayer. God cares about these young people and his input, inspiration and wisdom are invaluable.

1. Assemble a diverse team

It is a big undertaking and to try this on your own is a mammoth task, especially when you have topics that you naturally lean into and some you don't. So you need the balance. Don't overload the table, but a mix of guys & girls, ages and stages, and giftings. Have a couple of youth and a couple of parents, some young adults and older people. The main qualification is that they love God and young people.

2. Research

I have already given some examples of purchased curriculums, but look at their scope and sequences. See if you can find other churches or websites who have something already in place and see what they cover.

3. Context & Parameters

Understanding your current context is important, because it gives you the current framework. This covers things like:

  • Where will the topics be used? Small groups, preaching to large group, both?
  • What are your current structures and rhythms? Do your small groups do a monthly social event or community initiatives every term? Do you preach once a month, once a week? Do programs run during holidays?
  • From that, how many weeks a year of content do we need to be thinking about?
  • Will small groups be doing the same studies at the same time? Or will they only do the same studies at key strategic moments and the rest of the time will be group dependent?
  • If running a flexible small group topic system, how will the groups be tracked to ensure that they cover all the required topics?
  • Who decides on the topics and when?
  • What else do we need to consider?

4. Brainstorm

Get ideas written down. I would suggest that if you can, doing this using post-it notes can be helpful. Later on, you can move and group similar topics into possible series far easier using post-its. The question here is, what do young people need to learn and know in order to become more mature and grounded in their faith?

I would set aside a solid 2-3 hours for the first initial brainstorming and sorting. Set up the environment for good creative thinking and processing. Post-its, white boards, scribble paper, drinks, snacks, breaks, stress balls etc. Find ways to help stimulate discussion and ideas.

5. Sorting

Group similar topics together. Identify topics that should be covered every year vs topics that can be covered once over the 3 years. I know we used to have a relationship series and evangelism studies every year. You may have others.

Also determine which ones should be a series, and how long a series should last. Which ones can stand alone? I find it is good to have a mixture. It can sometimes be good to mix up the rhythm. Have a couple of stand alone topics after a series, and the timing around exams and holidays can be a factor too.

6. Review against parameters

Do you have the right number of topics to cover the required number of weeks that you need to fill? Do you need more topics or less? Work to get these numbers to match. If you need to cull topics, then see if you can find the base principles and see what can dovetail into that principle. A relationship series doesn't just have to be about dating, it can also be used to speak about parents, siblings, bullying, authority, forgiveness, trust etc.

If you need more ideas, then go back to step 2 and see what they have that you might be missing.

7. Consider timing

When you start putting topics and themes into the calendar, if you are planning at that level, then consider the timing. There are some things that fit more naturally into the rhythm of your year, both with local events, seasons and school cycles. Be aware that there will likely be a drop off around study and exam times. Use the Easter for related topics. Some of this is can be trial and error, so be patient and take the long view.

8. Gather materials

As a team, gather materials over time to help with topics. If there is a new movie that has a scene that would fit for a certain topic, then note it. Empower the team to keep an eye out as well. Even if you have just done the talk and someone comes to you with a resource that could have been helpful, don't be frustrated, note it down for next time. In 2-3 years time, it might not be the most up-to-date, but it might be more current than your original idea. Always be on the look out for articles, clips etc.

If you don't have an idea gathering system, somewhere you can find an store ideas and resources, then start this. I like Evernote. It has free option and you can store text, links, photos etc. You can tag and file notes for easy searching. It can even find words in photos. But there are other tools, so find what works for you.

9. Review and reset

Each quarter, look back over what was achieved and look ahead to the coming months. This is good to do with key leaders and the team that is helping you. You can adjust the coming months based on what is happening and what your youth need. Be flexible. Things can happen that we didn't plan for, but need to be considered.


You may go through all the early planning phases determining what topics need to be covered and realize that there is a curriculum already available that suits you. That is great, because you can focus on other areas. But don't try to wing it from week to week and expect well rounded followers of Christ. Our natural tendency is to focus on our strengths and personal preferences, which means there are some topics that you may never cover.

If you ever need assistance in this process, then we are more than happy to have a conversation and offer our assistance.

Do you have any resources that can help with this? Share them in the comments.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.