The end of Freebie Friday

The end of Freebie FridayOn December 15, 2006, I introduced a blog series here at LISM titled, “Freebie Friday.” Here I am, almost 6 years later, and I have yet to miss a Friday of offering a free downloadable youth ministry resource.

When I started the series I was working as a part-time youth worker in a small church with an even smaller youth ministry budget. I really couldn’t afford to spend a few hundred dollars on curriculum, training, nor tools. It was frustrating, even disheartening, to see so many valuable resources for my ministry locked behind a price tag I couldn’t unlock.

So I started Freebie Friday. I figured I probably wasn’t the only one in that situation and instead of complaining about it, I’d offer a solution. Since I couldn’t afford to buy resources, I had to develop all of them myself. Why not freely with others what I created?

But after a few years of doing so, I started to feel like something just wasn’t right. Sure, it was good for receiving praises of thanks from many people and for growing blog subscribers, but it felt like I was contributing to a sense of entitlement and consumerism among youth workers. It felt like the continual free resources were enabling youth workers to not think beyond the next freebie that came out. Instead of developing a vision for their ministry, they were jumping from one free lesson to the next.

I also felt like the skills I developed by creating youth ministry resources out of necessity were now not as important for others to learn. Why go through the learning process of developing a plan for your lock-in when you can just download one from here?

Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone who’s used one of my 300 weekly resources. Many youth workers only use free resources that help drive forward God’s vision for their ministry. Others use them as a reference point or a visual example for something else they’re working on. Free youth ministry resources can bless a lot of people and ministries.

However, I’m feeling more and more than I should end Freebie Friday. The kicker for me is that most of the resources I have to offer are ones that do not move youth ministry as a whole in a direction I think it should go. It perpetuates a trajectory that is based on ministry beliefs and strategy that I question today.

As much as it is difficult to end a series that I invested into for 5.75 years of consecutive Fridays, I feel like this is the right thing for me to do. This Thursday evening is going to feel very weird indeed when I don’t have a Freebie Friday post to sit down and draft.

The Lord has been doing a lot in my heart, especially the past few months. He has surrounded me with people who challenge me, who push me deeper into His Word, and who are helping me have a bigger-picture biblical understanding of family, ministry, and work. It’s been stretching. It’s prompted my wife and I to make changes in many areas of our lives, some of them easy, some of them not. (More about that coming on our blog. Subscribe there for some personal stuff I’m drafting.)

Whenever I come across free youth ministry resources that really does propel this essential area of ministry forward, I’ll definitely post it here, although I probably won’t wait for a Friday to do so. In the meantime, feel free to browse through 300 free youth ministry resources here. Maybe there’s a few that you missed over the past several years that could bless you and your ministry.

If there are any questions about this, please feel free to ask in the comments. I love our discussions there!

Posted on October 1, 2012

  • Larry Darnell

    Tim, first, let me say how much I appreciate the 300 some free resources you made available over the years. Had it not been for the Freebies I may never have found your blog back in the day. However, I am disappointed that you would choose to throw other youth ministers under the bus. You made the resources free and then you would choose to disparage those who chose to use them? That makes very little practical sense. I sincerely doubt there were youth ministers waiting for the precious Friday freebie to come so they had something to do for the weekend. Even if that was the case, most of those freebies were available elsewhere and now they will simply go elsewhere. I understand if you do not want to do them anymore. They are a drag on your time and your resources and begging others to provide something is draining but don’t blame those who chose to use them as a simple out. It is what it is. For 6 years it was a ministry you provided and you are moving on. I do not think you were contributing to a sense of entitlement or consumerism and I for one am disappointed in the rationale you provided for not continuing it.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Larry. I’m really glad you shared that you feel like I’m throwing youth leaders under the bus because that really isn’t my intention at all. Nor is it ultimately about the consumerism mentality. Maybe I should’ve communicated that more clearly in the post. While that’s a sense I’ve developed based on numerous emails and conversations for a few years, the kicker really wasn’t my time nor me no longer serving full-time in a church somewhere. I’ve been doing Freebie Friday for more than two years while working outside the church. It really is about the direction I think the resources continue to enable youth ministry to go. And if I feel like I really believe that, then my actions should complement that.

      I’ll be writing more about youth ministry and the direction I envision sometime soon.

      • Walt

        I tend to lean to Larry some on this but maybe from a slightly different angle. I am a bi-vocational pastor who even after seven years of turning a church around, I remain the youth pastor as well. So between working what is essentially 2 almost full-time jobs (I am a corporate chaplain in the other) your tool of Freebie Friday helped fill a vacuum of creativity that I could neither try to or was/am able to fill. I am exhausted by the prep for the church at large, the chaplaincy, and also am a father, grandfather, and husband – ashamedly but admittedly the teens get the last ounce of what I can do in leading them (I am almost 50 years of age too, so staying relevant is a struggle now). But it is my/our reality and Freebie Friday has been a Godsend.

        On the other hand, as Larry said, most of us still did not wait or depend on it. There are a lot of resources out there and I trove them continuously. Yours was mainly for the game and event ideas as I am least creative and most needy in that area. In the areas of teaching etc. I did my own or modified other things I found. So again, though I get your heart entirely, the assumptions you made might be slightly sweeping as to the dependency we “all” may have perceived to have had.

        Lastly, this isn’t a good or bad decision, but a decision of good, better or best. And also that yours was/is not the only resource (though it has been still the greatest of them all) I will miss it but not weep over it ;-) – things change and we all move on to what God has next. Now that we’ve said all that – can you give me some free resources for this Sunday? I’M KIDDING!!!!!!!!

  • Tim, I have known you for a number of years now and I greatly appreciate your heart and transparency in this post. It is great to see how God is moving you and challenging you to look at things differently.

    I agree that the craft of youth ministry cannot rely on free (or paid for) resources and lessons. It’s essential that youth workers are creating and owning what they are teaching and sharing. I would also agree that youth ministry has become too much of a ‘cookie cutter’ ministry and I can see how you do not want to contribute to assisting this progression. I agree, not all youth workers are sliding into this progression, and I have myself made good use of some of the freebies. However, I hear your message here and I commend you for being transparent with us.

    Before anyone gets defensive or misunderstands your reasons, they should read back through your post and take into consideration what you are trying to communicate.

    Thanks for challenging youth workers to consider their depth, motives, and direction in their ministries!

    Phil <

  • Tim, All I can say is “Thank You” for what you have done these past years with this ministry. I remember finding your blog after you posted a comment on my blog about a workshop I was presenting for youth ministry freebies. I also worked in a small church with a small budget and being bi-vocational, found “Freebie Friday” one of my regular spots for finding ideas when I was stuck in the creative process.

    I discontinued my annual “Youth Ministry on a Dime” workshop a few years ago for similar reasons. Youth ministry continues to change and as we, as current and former youth workers, (I too have left the vocation of Youth Ministry) have matured and experienced more and more our perspective shifts.

    Thanks for being willing to embrace where your heart (and ultimately where God) is leading you and making a change in what you do.

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