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Do we really need more youth ministry resources?

Youth ministry resourcesAlmost every other week I get an email from someone who wants to show me their new youth ministry resource website. Two weeks ago I got an email that prompted me to ask this on Twitter and Facebook:

There’s a lot of people starting youth ministry resource websites, but is that what we still need? Are we really THAT under-resourced?

I had some good dialog both publicly and privately about that statement. My sentiments are that there are already several people and organizations who are doing a great job with resourcing while there are other needs youth workers have that are remaining largely unaddressed. Why don’t the new start-ups try to serve us in ways that no one else is doing rather than jumping into a market that’s already populated with very high-quality resource products and services? Like, what about soul care for youth workers, emotional support, and help with vision casting?

But I guess it probably depends on where you assume the needs are and how well that need can be monetized (which is important for sustainability and scaling). There have been several surveys conducted about “what are the greatest needs of youth leaders,” most of them pretty informal, and they all come back with different answers. Without naming the studies, one said the greatest need was that youth workers feel unsupported by their churches and sr pastors. Another study said they don’t know how to effectively lead others. And yet another said they are under-equipped.

I want to hear from you:

  • What do you feel a youth worker’s greatest needs are?
  • Do you feel that youth workers are under-resourced? (And don’t say “yes” just because you like having more stuff.)

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below and help me think through this. Thanks!


Posted on June 29, 2010

  • Oh man… hit a nerve. More tools won't help us if we don't know how to use them. Tools should be combined with training. Absolutely we need resources, but only so many as meet specific needs in our ministry.

  • Do you find it interesting that we mostly find this level of resourcing in youth ministry? Like, where are all the curriculum series for sr pastors to teach? Where are all the training notes for worship directors to use with their worship teams? YM seems to almost revolve around resources. I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing — just interesting to me.

  • No we do not need more resource sites. I only use 3 and they give me more then I need.

    2 things that we always need:

    1. Encouragement for those that are not fortunate to have a church with a supporting Sr. pastor. Personally I am blessed with a Sr. pastor that helped me so much through my first 2 years. Without him I would've quit after 2 months. From what I hear from other pastors/volunteers is that they are trying to make things happen, but stuff gets shot down or doesn't even get discussed by a Sr. pastor who is more concerned about the outward appearance of the church then whether or not a teen feels welcomed. Again, I think this is addressed constantly by this site here.

    2. A site that has tools and resources to help new or even insecure leaders learn about how to cast vision and build HEALTHY teams of both adult and student leaders. The Lone Ranger mentality in youth ministry is still going. It is so sad to hear about a youth leader burning out mainly because they didn't know how to build a supporting cast of volunteers, or how to encourage the teens they work with to be the team that helped the ministry grow. Boundaries and specific roles are a must for healthy teams. Many youth ministry leaders work under the assumption that if you love your volunteers or teens enough they will know what to do. Not true! Without vision for the ministry and purpose for the adults and teens, the ministry will usually run the leader into the ground and burn them out as they try to put out fires all the time instead of pushing God's vision forward for that ministry.

    My 2 cents….

  • Tim,

    You have no idea what thoughts this post has brought to mind, I think I own every "must have" resource from all the major publishing companies-talk outlines, sermon starters, games, etc., but they DO NOT help me find the energy, time, or commitment to plan an engaging youth service. My home and work offices are filled with "books" and my computer is chocked-full of downloads but they never translate to planning an engaging worship service for students. I have been working in youth ministry for about three or four years-and here's what I've been looking for–a template used by leaders to walk through the components of a service. I understand that there will be a wide range of needs, but I'm looking for some "practical" here's what it looks like start-to-finish deal. I've seen lots of resources on sermons, but I'm looking for a bigger picture template for planning weekly meetings.

    I don't think we need more resources-but It would be great to have a common workspace to share talk ideas, get feedback, etc.

    Thanks for this post-it has fanned into flame a desire to plan!

    • You're right — no resource can actually make you plan ahead, but they can definitely give you the false impression that it's not as necessary to plan ahead because you can just open a book instead. That's not the resource's fault — it's still ours. Good point.

  • I don't think we could ever have enough resources. The more resources YM has the better they become. I reflect on the business world. How many books and resources are there on just management alone. The amount of resource options have created a competitive environment which raised the bar of quality and developed the field. Yes we will have to dig through the options, but like everything in todays knowledge age, the best will rise to the top. I am grateful for websites like Tim's to help with this process and continually raise the bar in the YM field.

    • I tend to agree with this sentiment. We live in an individualistic culture… and one resource does not fit all. But a bunch of resources may just give you the idea you need.

    • I agree with Luke. I saw your tweet on this a while ago Tim, and I immediately disagreed, but was not exactly sure why at the time. A few of my initial thoughts are:
      -Many (though not all) of these YM's may be feeling the Lord leading them to resource others. If God is calling people to do this, obviously He sees a need for more than what is already here.
      -Most resource sites tend to be utilized within tribes or circles of influence. Someone once commented on a random blog I posted on making a good cup of coffee, saying so many people had already written about this. My response was that my circles (friends on facebook, etc) needed to know what I had found out. While you are arguably reaching a greater audience than any YM resource in world history, there are untapped circles that will only be reached through a friend's resource site – thus, we need more resources popping up constantly.

    • I think is true to a certain extent, but many of the sites I'm being referred to are offering pretty low-quality resources. It's like someone started a site on blogspot, posts two bible studies they wrote, and is trying to spread the word. I don't think this really sparks competition nor drives others to do better.

      However, it does seem to suggest that people perceive there's a need for more youth ministry resources, or that they're just not creative enough to think of something else to contribute to the online youth ministry community.

  • Youth Workers are not under-resourced, or at least they dont have to be. Many resources are very affordable and thanks to sites like this one and pastor2youth.com, many resources can be downloaded and accessed with great ease. However, resources are not the greatest need in youth ministry…
    As to what is, I really cant say with certainty. It really depends on certain youth ministers. One thing that would have been a great big help in my life was a coach or mentor to lead me on things like vision casting, adult worker recruitment and development, conflict management, etc.

    Now I did receive some of this in seminary and working as an intern in college, but I still can struggle with some of these issues. I always have to go back to my time in a mentor program in college though. That's where I learned the greatest amount about youth ministry. If I had not had anyone to walk through early youth ministry with me, who knows where I would be.

    2 resources to consider on this: My First 2 Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields (if you are new youth worker, this should be your first purchase) and the mentor project from this site.

    • Thanks for underscoring the importance of mentoring and relationships. Good motivation for me to make our mentorship better and a bigger focus of this site.

  • Troy Young

    Resources are a good tool to be more productive and efficient in administration with in the ministry. I feel that youth workers greatest need is the teaching of Biblical truth rather than personal opinion and public approval.

  • I rarely use developed resources (other than to give me a quick inspiration) as they never seem to scratch where my groups are itching. Resources are great, but certainly not the first thing a youth worker needs. I agree with Raydeck3 that we need more training – both professional education and more informal advice.

    I also think that connecting and spending time with other workers/pastors/ministers face to face is massively underrated. Most of my enthusiasm and energy comes from sharing ideas and stories with brilliant people whom God is using – usually over coffee! I often have to remind myself every couple months to make time to meet the youth pastor down the street, and never regret it.

  • I haven't used a bought resource for this last year, I found that by taking the time to translate what God has been teaching me into a youth lesson has had far greater impact. I think rather than teaching resources, we need better resources on how to grow adult leaders and how to get our leaders passionate about ministry. That said, I am using a bought resource as the backbone of a summer camp series, but I've extensively adapted it to fit our particular group of teens. That's one thing I love about Simply Youth Ministry, is that they want you to edit and adapt their materials.

    @bobweasel I definitely agree that more of us in youth ministry need to spend face to face time with other people in youth ministry, as well as people who aren't in ministry who can be mentors. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts is great, but none of them challenge me in the same way as sitting down with my mentor and spending some time, (also over coffee.)

  • If only lessons mattered as much as heart and time. We have plenty of resources, but all of the wrong kind. Many youth workers are stuck in the 80's mentality that a good sermon + a good time = a good Youth ministry. But this generation doesn't work like that–I'm not sure the last one did, either. Just ask yourself what the most life-impacting aspects of your church were growing up and I think you;ll find you remember the late nights at Denny's, the talks on long road trips, and the days when the youth service broke down and the Youth Pastor shrugged his shoulders and let it go it's own direction. You may find one or two "talks" that stick out, but the relationships are what stick out if you're anything like me.

    And yet we still put our best efforts into entertaining and interesting "talks" while ignoring just building friendships. Give me a resource like that any day, because as a teenager it's what mattered, and as a Youth leader now it's the only thing my kids care about.

    • I totally agree that many people think "a good sermon + a good time = a good Youth ministry." Unfortunately, that's what many of our church board members and sr pastors perceive, so many youth workers feel the need to perform that way in order to keep their jobs. So sad.

  • Eric

    Resources to me are really helpful but can become extremely dangerous. More youth ministries and now even entire churches look for the next big hook or the next big draw. Doesn't God equip the called? I wonder how many youth pastors and pastors spend more time looking for stuff than they do spending time in prayer and in the Word. I like what Paul said in 1 Cor. 2 when he said "when I came to you I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Resources can be great tools and God has blessed us mightily with the abundance of them, but we need to be careful that we don't make ministry into an imbalanced assortment of puzzle pieces from different boxes that don't fit, and focus more on the ministry God has led each of us into, choosing only specific resources that will build unification and edification within the scope of our ministry.

  • Great thoughts tim & I applaud you for continuing the conversation. You're a guy who is invested in resourcing youth pastors and it'd be tough to accept the "we don't need more resources" idea. SHows your heart.

    We need connection & support. When i grab lunch with a local youth pastor, that encouragement and comradry is worth about 2 months of resources. I think we're continually made to feel on our own.

    I think Youth Pastors NEED soul care. That may be in resources. But it may not. I think that is why Mike Yaconelli has such a HUGE impact. I think his message resonated so strongly with youth pastors.

    But here is the problem with that: YOUTH PASTORS don't seek that. They seek an easy, surface-level fix for being spiritually dry. They want a set of lessons and resources so they don't have to expose their lack of soul-care. The rise of resource sites is merely an indicator of our continual yearning for something which isn't easy or quick or cheap and doesn't project a message of "I'm successful!" that we want our congregations to affirm.

    • Thanks, Adam. This is what I'm sensing, as well. Your comment is causing me to think how I can do a better job at this besides the Time Out series and two rounds of mentoring each year. Hmmm….

  • I believe resources are important and very valuable. However, I think the most important thing that can be offered is relationship. We are losing 1200-1500 ministers each month because they do feel unsupported, and they don't have mentors and relationships that can carry them through tough times.

    I know my assignment on the planet is to help those who have no one. There is nothing better than helping someone who was going to quit the ministry, to find a new passion for it. We need each other. None of us can make it alone. That's why I started Cultivate (www.getcultivated.com) in 2007, so that men and women could find relationship, support, training, and encouragement. I believe those are what we need the most.

  • Yeah… Tim you are right– we are on resource overload. But I think this is just inherent thing in western culture. Every industry has tons of resources to make their company/business/organization better, faster, and more effective.

    My view is that there can be 1 million youth ministry resources, but ultimately the ones that stick around are the ones that work.

    – What do you feel a youth worker’s greatest needs are?
    Soul care, discipleship, and education

    – Do you feel that youth workers are under-resourced?
    I think youth workers don't have enough "pressure free" relationship in their life. These pressure free relationship are people who don't give a rip about your youth pastor call and what you are doing in and through the youth ministry.

  • Great thoughts. I'm not sure where I fall here.

    On one hand, I meet a bunch of youth pastors that don't even know there are resources available. So, I love to connect them to existing resources (and watching their face light up).

    Then again, I feel like sometimes we can be so bogged down by accessing someone else's work, that we don't allow God to use us the way we were meant to be used (especially creatively).

    All that to say…I don't know. But thanks for getting the conversation started!

    • I hear your struggle here, markhcox. I'm trying to think through this, too. My experience has been that more youth workers use resources to enable a lack of creativity and ownership than don't know that resources exist, but that may be because I'm more ingrained in different circles than you.

  • I'm of two minds about this: 1) As a progressive Christian, almost nothing out there in the world of youth ministry resources is written from a progressive/mainline theological point of view, which means that those of my ilk have to do a lot of translating in order to use stuff already on the market or, as I do, write it ourselves. I'd welcome more progressive/mainline youth ministry resources like what we try to do at our website. 2) I also agree that we are already inundated with tons of YM resources, all of which leaves the impression that youth ministry is all about programs/games/activities. I truly believe that you could toss all that stuff out and still have a great ministry if it was just solely based on relationship building, study of the gospels, and mission. The rest is just icing on the cake.

    • Yeah, I'm with you that the mainline doesn't have a lot of quality resources available. But, as many have already pointed out, resources are not the be-all-end-all.

  • Great thoughts Tim. I wondered what you were meaning when you tweeted that the other day. I don't necessarily think that having too many resources is a bad thing, but I do question the wisdom of trying to monetize resources and make another SYM or Youth Specialties. I also agree with Mark that a lot of youth ministers don't know the resources that are already out there.

    As for the biggest need, I think its a mix between training and encouragement. There are a lot of training resources out there, but they are defused and sometimes hard to find (many times I stumble across great stuff by word of mouth but its so hidden that few people have seen it). As for encouragement, I don't know how you can do that with an online resource. I get encouragement from the friendships I have in online youth ministry communities, but those are generally small in nature (15-20 people as opposed to the thousands of YMs out there). It would be great if those communities could grow but I don't know how that could happen.

    • I'm thinking I should do a blog post highlighting the National Network of Youth Ministries (NNYM) that intentionally tries to connect youth workers together with other youth workers in their community. I agree that face-to-face is the the way to connect for training and encouragement. They're already doing a great job of that.

      • NNYM is a great resource, but again its an issue of not a whole lot of people knowing about it. I've checked out my local "network" and there are maybe 10 YMs in the area. I know I've blogged about NNYM before, but I think the word needs to get out even more. Ironically, though, the people that most need that resource probably aren't going to be reading your blog (or any other blog).

  • A youth worker's greatest needs are mentoring, training, and education. This is true for both veterans and new youth workers.

    I don't think youth workers are under-resourced. At least I don't feel under-resourced. As I stay longer in youth ministry, I actually utilize published resources more and more. But I also spend a lot more time scrutinizing them before I use them as well. I love it when I find a tool that's useful, because usually that means it aids our ministry better than something I would have created.

    Sometimes, resources can short circuit what I've already mentioned are the most important things we need: mentoring, training, and education. Unfortunately, we can see a particular resource or event as The Thing Our Ministry Really Needs (some resources unabashedly advertise themselves as such), when The Thing Our Ministry Really Needs is actually a bit more theological training for the person in charge, or as Tim has advocated, soul care.

  • Hmm. You continue to overturn the apple cart.

    The question that I've been turning over and over in my head for 4 years is "What does this "look" like?". For example, I read about a resource, and then try to figure out practically how I would do it. Some things sound great, but I need to see them practically in use. Not necessarily from a nuts and bolts standpoint, but more of a side view. One of the things that God's ministry at Eastview is missing is a scope and sequence. So for me, I'm trying to think on that…in the midst of 2 camps and a Mexico trip, oh, and grad school. And as a father of 3 and husband. With the understanding that it is not the resource that will help me, but the relationships with students that will grow the ministry.

    Simple answer? No. We do not need more resources. We need hearts, minds, souls and strengths sold out to God.

  • We've tried what I think is a totally different take on youth ministry resources – we've put together a website – http://www.youthministrybulletinboard.com – to help youth pastors in western Pennsylvania find events, resources, and activities that are LOCAL to our area. We figure that new guys coming to our area in particular, could use some help with knowing what our geographic region has to offer youth ministries.

  • dave

    I worked with a guy who studied Hapkido for over 20 years. We were talking about joint locks and pressure points and I'll never forget what he said: "Almost everything doesn't work on everybody". Each person has a different makeup. i see that with my group- what worked for a pastor i know doesnt really work with my group. The material and resource is great- great stuff- its just not where my kids are at. I am grateful for the thousands of resources available! I feel the greatest resource we have is the Holy Spirit who can make unknown things known- whether its about an area of a kids life or receiving guidance and wisdom to handle situations, whatever it is! But then again thats the life we should live- dependant upon the Holy Spirit. Sometimes i think there are too many resources- you can mindlessly go from one to another. But nothing takes the place of prayer and asking God to be the Lord of the ministry.

  • I have a couple thoughts, that at first will appear contradictory.

    1. we need more people developing resources and pages for others to share and support others. I like to see people attempt to love their neighbor in this way.

    2. I think that the youth ministry tribe is hurt by the constant need for practical ministry resources from experts.

    We are addicted to practical resources as a tribe.
    I once hear that the very skills it takes to break an addiction are the very skills prolonged addiction destroys. In other words, the youth pastor who needs 5 questions to ask a group that is hurting. or 4 things to encourage your youth workers. or 5 essential values for youth ministry. or 5 purposes of ministry. or 26 laws (however irrefutable) are not just unhelpful in the long run, nor are they just addictive, but they also destroy the skill that make us someone a great pastor.

    Over time, practical resources from experts only become barriers to us digging into the unique culture of our city, neighborhood, street and community. It keeps us from seeing who's present among us and what they can contribute. This addiction keeps us from developing the highly nuanced skills it takes to listen to the rhythm of a life giving community, in all it's uniqueness and be present to it's reality.

    so there will be more of these sites. and in some ways I can't wait for there to be more. Because the sooner they get here, the sooner they will leave.

    AND – I'm all for people who want to support others find ways to do that.

    just some thoughts.

  • Pingback: The Grove Is On Fire: Do We Really Need More Youth Ministry Resources?()

  • Good questions Tim.

    – What do you feel a youth worker’s greatest needs are?
    Discipleship, mentorship (to survive being thrown the wolves, expected to figure things out on our own without real guidance), team mentality (or Kingdom mentality – not my kids but the Lord's so how can we work together and for each other rather than compete)

    – Do you feel that youth workers are under-resourced?
    Yes and No. We over over resourced on the game ideas and recycled ideas. We need NEW resources on FRESH ideas and NICHE ideas. For instance, I started my blog (www.notamegachurch.com) centered around helping small to medium sized youth programs build ministries that last without the benefits of big budgets, lots of families involved and limited resources. We need more CONVERSATIONS amongst each other. We need more of these and less on games.

  • Would this include Studentministry.org?

    • Yeah, that's a good question.

      If it does, then I'm going a direction I didn't originally intend to go. While I post Freebie Friday (and have honestly struggled with the implications of the series for a long time now), I hope it's not primarily a resource site as much as it is a "discussion site." The subtitle is "conversations among youth workers," hence LIVE YM Talk, the mentorships, publishing other people's submitted material, engaging in comments below posts, etc. I want this site to primarily be a place that facilitates discussion and thinking more than resources.

      Do you think that offering Freebie Friday contradicts this? Is it something I should stop?

  • Wow, what a question! The explosion of resource sites I see as a great thing. Just check out Seth Godin's blog today. Competition is good the consumer.
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/06/t

    Having said that, I haven't bought a youth resource or used a free one in maybe a decade. People who have been in youth ministry for a while probably don't need any. However, there are a lot of church plants out there who have part time, under experienced people who depend on these kinds of resources to do weekly ministry.

    I wouldn't say that most youth ministers are under-resourced. Most have more than enough to do ministry. What I would say is that many of us hide behind resources so that we don't have to take responsibility for what we are doing and/or teaching. Call it insecurity or avoidance, but it is really easy to hide behind a great game, power point, worship band and the latest quips than to expose ourselves and be transparent.

  • BLJ

    I think what we are really talking about is lack of disciplship. If you are discpiled in your church and as most of us through school, and continued to be discipled resources should not matter. I think we have become too attached to all the resources and not enough attached to the Holy Spirit and the discipleship that can happen in the local church. I am not totally against resources, there are some good ones, but I feel it limits the Holy Spirit working through you. When we spend time studying the word and listening to what God wants us to share in our setting, this is what needs to happen. I think time management is essential, especially when it comes to spending time in the word and listening to what God is doing, this is the greatest resource, all others are a dime a dozen.

    • I agree — many youth workers are definitely too attached to resources and moving from one game idea to the next, one curriculum series to another, without thinking about where they're going with the ministry or why they're doing things the way they are other than, "Oh, this looks good. Let's do that."

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