There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every single time you need an idea for a game, a topic for a youth sermon, a creative small group study etc. You can find many resources with a simple click of your mouse because there’s tons of good stuff on the Internet. Just see what Pinterest has done for accumulating great ideas to use in youth ministry! You probably also have a lot of resources from your own youth ministry or a previous youth ministry you could recycle.
But recycling your own resources or those of others should be done with careful consideration. What works in someone else’s youth ministry and circumstances may not work in yours. Also, there are lots of ideas floating around the cyberspace that are just plain dumb, despite them maybe being popular. So before you using resources, ask yourself these three questions to see if you should use them in your youth ministry:
Is it really a good idea?
Some games may look spectacular, but are an almost guarantee for someone getting hurt. Or they result in awkward boys-girls encounters. Or they are ethically wrong (personally, I really have a problem with wasting food in games for instance when I know people in my town are going to bed hungry). And it’s not just games, there’s lots of plain dumb stuff out there for youth ministry in general.
Before using an idea, take a few minutes too look at it from different sides to see if there are no hidden dangers, risks, etc. When in doubt, ask someone else for their opinion. This is one of those famous cases where two pair of eyes see more than one!
Is it theologically right?
You may think that you’re only communicating your theology when you’re preaching or doing small group, but you’re wrong. Everything you do in your youth ministry communicates your theology, from your worship, to your games, to the materials you use and the activities you organize.
If you say everyone is equal in your youth ministry, yet you use a racially biased sermon illustration, you’re proving the opposite. If you say you believe in equality of leadership between men and women, yet you use a leadership training with only male teachers, you’re not practicing what you preach. Just two examples of how your actions, the ideas you borrow from others, can undermine your own theological message.
That’s why you need to check the theological message of each and every resource that you use. What is it communicating theologically? Does this agree with the convictions of your church, your youth ministry? Is there anything in it that could be misconstrued, misinterpreted? Do you need to change certain things to make it better fit your theology?
Does it fit your youth ministry?
This is a really important question to ask. There will be many really cool resources that you could use in your youth ministry, but the question is: why should you?
A first consideration here is that you should only use stuff that fits the mission and vision of your youth ministry. Otherwise it wouldn’t help you get any closer to reaching your goals and why would you do it then? Resist the temptation to use ideas just because they’re cool or because everyone else is doing them.
A few years ago the 24-hour prayer events were big. We decided to do one as well, but only because it was part of our vision to teach creative ways to pray as a means of getting youth enthusiastic about prayer in general. If that hadn’t been the case, we would not have done it. And even when we did, we completely did it ‘our way’ and made it fir our youth ministry.
A second thing to think about is that it needs to fit in the culture of your youth ministry. In my experience, this is especially true for materials, like small group curricula or sermon outlines. You have to either adapt these to your specific circumstances or you shouldn’t use them at all.
In a youth group I was a leader, they tried to use purpose driven small group studies translated into Dutch, but they didn’t work at all. The humor fell flat, the discussion starters didn’t work and the key messages got lost. Our context was so fundamentally different from the American big-church context of these studies that we couldn’t use them.
How do you determine whether or not to use a resource from someone else or to recycle one from yourself?