We’ve been going through a bit of transition with YouthMin.org the last two months as some of the most active contributors have moved to new ministries, had babies, etc. etc. But we’ve also been going through a time of reflecting on what we hope this site does, why it continues to exist, and one of the things we’ve tried to do is figure out our main foundational purposes, things we believe to be fundamentally true about Youth Ministry that we want to champion. One of those things is Biblical Preaching/Teaching.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere, it seems like the last few months have brought about a stream of posts along the lines of “It’s ok to buy curriculum.” And we agree, there is nothing wrong with that. When we were a younger site, and younger/dumber Youth Pastors, I know I personally used to be super vocal that a Full Time Youth Pastor shouldn’t buy curriculum.
But I disagree with the reasoning being given. What it often boils down to is the idea that you have limited time, you should be spending it with students, not at a desk. Some have even brought back the line that if you’re spending more than 10 hours a week in the office, you’re doing it wrong.
I still don’t understand where some Youth Pastors live that their students are never in school, maybe I’m just that terrible of a Youth Pastor that I don’t understand how its possible to only spend 10 hours in an office. But I think that fundamentally, this viewpoint of the role of a Youth Pastor is flawed. This way of looking at our roles places nearly the entirety of ministry on our shoulders, which don’t get me wrong, especially in churches where we are the only paid youth staff, we should have a full plate. But I believe our role has to be one in which we are cultivating leaders and enabling them to do ministry in a more profound way.
We would all agree that our role is to minister to teenagers, but we alone can only do so much. I believe that Jesus laid out a model for ministry with his choosing of the 12 disciples, and thats echoed in Exodus with Jethro’s advice to Moses, to establish the leaders of tens, and the leaders of hundreds, and so on and so on. How easy is it to think “none of my volunteers have time to minister, have the training to minister, they can’t do it the way I can do it.” But ultimately, I believe thats what we’re called to do.
So I write my own curriculum. I’ve bought plenty in the past, I still look at whats out there, but I write my own, not just because I think I can do a better job (because I know its not always the best lesson ever) but because it helps cultivate a greater ministry to teens. Here’s what I mean:
My students don’t need a best friend Youth Pastor
When did Youth Ministry get this idea? Yes, students need to be around adults more, students need Youth workers who care about them, show up at their games, invest in them both relationally and spiritually. But I also spent a significant amount of time recruiting adults who would pour into students, and they are just as capable of pouring into students as I am. I heard this statement once and I’ve owned it in our ministry since, that when a student brings a friend to Youth Group for the first time, I know we have a healthy ministry if they can’t wait to introduce their small group leader to their friend rather than to introduce them to me.
As a quick side note, no Youth Pastor ever accepts a ministry position knowing he is leaving soon, but there is still truth that the average Youth Pastor tenure is 18 months. This idea that we need to be spending all of our time with our students is, in my mind, devastating for those youth ministries that lose their pastor after 18 months, because more often than not you’ve gotten students more connected to you than to the church.
It’s not what we expect of Sr. Pastor’s
When us Youth Pastors think we have it tough, we fail to remember all that the Sr. Pastor does in the church to keep it moving forward. A Sr. Pastor has just as much expectation to be relationally investing in his congregation as a Youth Pastor, but we’ve somehow got this idea that in Youth Ministry that makes it ok to just plug in curriculum. Again, curriculum can be extremely valuable. But would you have anything to do with a church if you found out the Sr. Pastor was just preaching sermons he bought online? Think about this honestly for a second, if the Sr. Pastor’s primary focus was on spending time with members of the congregation, would that be a healthy church? I honestly don’t think it would be, there has to be time for elders meeting, for the administration, for the planning, for the vision, for again, cultivating leaders who do ministry. If it wouldn’t provide a healthy Church, why do we think it would provide a healthy Youth Ministry?
It keeps me wrestling with the word of God
Now I’m not saying that if you buy curriculum you don’t wrestle with the word of God, and I’m also not saying that you should only teach what you read and learn during your personal quiet time. What I do mean is that when I prepare my sermons, my small groups, it forces me to really think through how to teach it to a middle schooler, how to process the passage abstractly and concretely, whether its pure application or how it changes our thinking. I grow in my understanding of God and my understanding of teenagers every week from writing my own curriculum. This in turn helps me minister to students better through a number of outlets, namely the relational time I spend with them, as well as in how we train and equip our leaders.
I could continue to go on and on, because I do believe there are a plethora of benefits to writing your own curriculum, but this post is double the length I try to aim for. So here’s the bottom line:
Buying curriculum is not wrong.
Writing curriculum does not make you arrogant.
Operating in youth ministry that you have to do it all yourself is dangerous.