After your squad leaders have been trained, coached up, and have gotten to know as many students in the youth group as they could, then you are ready to have a Squad Draft. The draft is the best way to get students into squads because it prevents squad leaders from fighting over certain people and it also ensures all of your students can get placed on a squad. It may sound crazy but this approach works very similarly to a fantasy football draft with a few adjustments thrown in. This draft process works great for us, so make sure you follow these key tips in order to make sure your draft accomplishes the goals for our squads strategy. As with anything, you may need to make adjustments to fit your context and so feel free to do that.
Pre-Draft Prep Work
First thing you need to do is to categorize your students. This necessary step may seem uncomfortable and intensive, but it is vital. Before the draft I do the work of categorizing out students into 5 categories. On one sheet of paper that squad leaders use as a draft guide, we categorize students this way:
Priority 1: Students that we have not seen in a while and are at high risk of no longer being involved in youth group.
Priority 2: Students that need their connection to the student ministry strengthened ASAP or we run the risk of losing them.
Priority 3: The rookies. For us these are 7th graders in the student ministry who are brand new to youth group.
Priority 4: New people who began attending recently but are not 7th graders.
Priority 5: The core of your youth group. These are the students that are around a majority of the time and will be in the youth group for the upcoming year.
I do explain to the squad leaders what the different categories mean. I ask them to keep this information private so that no ones feelings get hurt. Our squad leaders have traditionally done a great job with honoring this request to keep this info private. Once you have your students categorized, then you can determine how to pair your squad leaders together.
Pairing Squad Leaders:
Our goal is to have 2 squad leaders (1 guy and 1 girl) for each squad. Our first year we did not end up with enough guys, so one squad needed up with two girl leaders. When pairing Squad Leaders together there are a few guidelines that we try to go by to make our squads as strong and strategic as possible.
We try to pair a guy and girl who are in different grades.
We try to make each person in the pair from different schools or at least different friend groups. (This keeps the squads from becoming cliques within the youth group.)
We try to have the pair combination be done in a way that strengths and weakness between the two students are compliments to each other. (Outspoken paired with quieter, experienced with in-experienced, take charge personality with and more laid back personality.)
Picking a Color
This is something we learned later in the process, but it would be best to implement it at the beginning of putting squads together. Choose some type of order in which they can pick, and then let the squad leader pairs choose a color for their squad. Try to keep them as close to the most primary/popular colors as possible. These colors will come in handy for everything from ordering colored lanyards for the different squad leader pairs, to giving students a color they can wear to squad nights that helps represent their squads. We even figured out that having paper wristbands in the different colors that are available on Amazon, gave us an easy way of distinguishing which squad a students is on when they come through the door on Squad Nights. I assigned the colors to our squad leaders later in the process, but they shared frequently with me that they wished they had the opportunity to pick their squad color.
Once leader pairs are made and colors have been chosen, you can now get your draft going. As with any draft, you have to determine the order and method that will be used to select the students. We recommend determining the draft order on your own instead of letting that be determined by random drawing. Being strategic with the draft order will help you make sure your squads are strong. We also recommend using what is called a Snake Draft order. A snake draft means that in the first round the pick order is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 for example. However, for round two the order reverses. This means that the squad that picked last in the first found actually picks again as the first pick of the second round (8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1). This pattern continues back and forth until the entire draft has been completed.
As for which squad drafts in which position, there needs to be some strategy put in place. Here is what we recommend for a draft order if you go with the snake draft order. This example is for 8 squads but can be adjusted to fit whatever number of squads you have.
Pick 1: Squad Leaders who are your least experienced leaders or who know very few students in the youth group
Pick 2: Squad Leaders with a little bit of experience and who know maybe a few more people
Pick 3: Squad Leaders with a bit more experience and know even more people in the youth group
Pick 4: Squad Leaders with the most experience and/or who know the most people in youth group
Pick 5: Squad Leaders with the most experience and/or who know the most people in youth group
Pick 6: Squad Leaders with a bit more experience and know even more people in the youth group
Pick 7: Squad Leaders with a little bit of experience and who know maybe a few more people
Pick 8: Squad Leaders who are your least experienced leaders or who know very few students in the youth group
Remember that the draft order reverses so that is why our squads leaders who are least experienced bookend the draft order to ensure that they get to pick the student that they most prefer.
Rig the Draft Selection for Each Round:
Once the draft order has been established the next thing you want to do is to ensure that the draft goes the way it needs to in order to make the squads as strong as possible. To make sure we do our best we actually apply rules to each round to make sure we get students onto squads in the best way we can. In the drafting process we encourage the guy squad leader to determine mostly what guys are picked and for the girl squad leader to do the same on the girls side. Having gender pick same gender makes staying in contact and communication easier once squads are forms. Here are the additional rules we have for each round of the draft:
Round 1: A guy who is younger than the male squad leader but is a guy the leaders think has potential to be a future squad leader.
Round 2: A girl who is younger than the girl squad leader but is a girl the leaders think has potential to be a future squad leader.
Having these types of students picked in the first two rounds will allow you to know who your students think might make a good future squad leader. It also gives them an apprentice to mentor throughout the upcoming year in an effort to help them improve their leadership skills too.
Rounds 3 & 4 (Can go more or less rounds if needed): Students that we have not seen in a while and are at high risk of no longer being involved in youth group. Getting these students drafted early raises the chances that they get picked by a Squad Leader who actually knows them.
Rounds 5 & 6 (Can go more or less rounds if needed): Students that need their connection to the student ministry strengthened ASAP or we run the risk of losing them.
Rounds 7 & 8 (Can go more or less rounds if needed): The new 7th graders and/or new students who just started coming regularly
All Remaining Rounds: The core of your youth group. These are the students that are around a majority of the time and will be in the youth group for the upcoming year.
When we get down to such a low number of students that we cannot make it through another round because we don’t have enough people, I stop the draft. This keeps a student from being a last pick while also allowing me to strategically place the students who have gone unselected for some reason.
Once the draft is completed we ask the squad leaders to keep who is one each squad a secret until our first squad night where we announce that information for the first time.
We take the time after the draft to organize important information on each student so that their squad leaders can begin to connect with them following the first squad night. Information we typically include at the beginning of the year is name, grade, school, and phone number for each person on the squad.
After all of these things take place you are ready for your first Squad Night!