I currently work on the High School Ministry team at Saddleback Church. My primary role on the team is that of "Event Coordinator". I love pretty much everything about this role. Much of the organization and big picture thinking of events comes naturally to me and so, even though I feel like I'm making it up most of the time, I thought I'd start sharing some of my learnings here.
So..what are the big 5 of Youth Ministry Event Planning:
1. Know the purpose of the event
Why are you doing what you are doing? You need to figure this out early on. It may be an event that you've come up with yourself or one that you're planning for another team member. If it's the latter, ask! If it's the former, check that there is a point and it isn't simply something that you will find fun (though hopefully that will play at least a part). Write a mission statement, one sentence that sums up the event that can come back to to help you stay on track.
Even for a simple parent reception ask yourself what the intended outcome is...do you hope to meet parents yourself, present something to them, help them connect to each other, honor them as ministry partners or just take a moment to pray.
Never put an event on the calendar simply because it was there last year.
2. Know WHO the event is for.
Parents, Students, Staff, Volunteers, Newcomers, well connected students, Christians, the whole youth group...
This is vital. If you plan a camp and invite non-Christians then your teaching must reflect that. If you want to run a discipleship retreat, figure out how to attract the specific demographic you're after and tailor the retreat for them.
3. Work out a budget
Do this early on. Don't fall into the mindset of "money doesn't govern my ministry" because in many situations (like on the paper report you present to your senior pastor) it does!
Start with the big costs like Venue, Transportation and catering and then add in the next level of costs like a guest speaker etc.
Remember to ask questions when booking all of these, never assume anything - your budget will hate you for it. Check what you should tip a bus driver (I always ask to have the tip included in the contract), factor in room tax, check to see what A/V equipment is available and whether there is an extra charge. Don't feel like you're asking too many questions, remember, you are the client!
Be strategic. If students don't know about it, then they wont come to it. Promotion is the first step to success, it takes time, effort, energy and enthusiasm. A good promotion campaign is effective and forgotten once the event is done. A poor one is disastrous. Be creative, be clear and once you've grabbed their attention make the next step as simple as possible. Consider online registration (but factor in a cost if there is one).
5. Get the team on board
You may have come up with an incredible idea for an event that you want to reveal at the last second. But if you keep your cards close to your chest you will struggle to pull it off. Share your ideas with your team (whoever that is: paid staff, volunteers, parents), get them excited about what your planning. Give them chunks of the event to own. Delegate as much as you can of the big events. Share the vision, don't assume the team is on board...nobody is as excited about your event as you are and it's your job to change that.