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Why I make youth ministry resources available for free

It seems odd to me that I find myself more and more having to defend why I give away all the youth ministry resources and services on this site for free. Wouldn’t you rather get something for free than have to pay for it? I’m a little tired of giving the same speech over and over, especially as I work with organizations toward the official launch of the Youth Ministry Mentorship Program (only a week or two away!) and work on another ebook. Free doesn’t mean it’s less valuable — free just means I have to be creative in finding other ways to cover my expenses. Here’s why I give everything away for free.

1. Free ideas travel faster and farther than non-free ideas.
None of my ideas or resources are really my own — they all belong to the Lord. He freely blessed me with them, so I have no problem freely sharing them with others. The best way for me to share the blessings He’s poured on me is to make the ideas, resources and services on this site available for free. They’ll go much further and bless more people if they’re not restricted by dollar signs.

2. I benefit from open source material all the time.
The very backbone of this website is powered by WordPress, free software made available by a team of developers. Much of what I do and create is made on open source software, web services, programs and ideas of others. I’ve been the recipient of so many free things that the least I can do is return the favor for others.

3. I already have a full-time job.
Some ministries have to charge for their products because they have families to feed and support. They should charge for their services because invest their lives into creating outstanding youth ministry materials to support youth workers. However, I’m in a different boat because I earn a living as a full-time youth pastor. The Lord has already supplied an income for me and my family, so I don’t need to charge you for anything.

4. I know what it’s like to have no money and no youth ministry budget.
Perhaps the biggest reason, though, is because I remember what it’s like to be the part-time youth worker with no ministry budget, a secular job to make ends meet, and a burning passion to reach teenagers for Christ. I remember seeing so many resources that could enhance my ministry, only to be disappointed by a price that neither I nor my ministry could afford. There are so many of you who volunteer your time and love God’s kids, with no finances to equip or train yourself. I remember what that struggle feels like and want to serve you however I can. One way I can serve you is to give you everything I can for free.

I pray I can freely bless you all for your investment into teenagers just as the Lord has so richly and freely blessed me. Keep up the great work!


Posted on August 20, 2008

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  • And thank you for everything. I am in boat #4.
    I do have my ‘best friend’ in youth ministry who seems
    to do everything he can to make money even when it is questionable.
    I dont think he intends it this way, but thats just the way it seems.
    I was raised with the “bless others all that you can” stance

  • Hi Tim. Good points. I appreciate the fact that you make resources available for free. Keep going. If I may, I’d just like to add a quick comment to #4.
    Youth leaders from around the world will read LISM. It’s important to remember that many may be volunteers, many have very limited resources or no resources, ministry training may be minimal or non-existant! Free resources, creative ideas, ebooks and encouragement are critical for these folks, sometimes working in difficult or pioneer contexts. Where else do they get help? I know I’m always blessed when some guy from Vietnam or India writes to me (as they did this week) and says thanks for an article or ebook that’s helped them. Blogging free resources is a way we can bless the global church. More can do it, more should do it. I’m glad you do. Blessings.

  • Tim, you don’t know how helpful your website and resources have been for us who have no budget. I also appreciate the Q&A and find this very helpful for preparation with our ministries. Thanks so much for all you do and give!

  • you the man tim, you the man. thanks for all you do.

    check out my “relaunched” blog at http://geppapa.wordpress.com

  • bruce jennings

    Hey Tim
    WOW! What a tremendous help you and your ministry has been, and is still. The free stuff you and others provide is awesome, and it is such a GREAT help to those of us the fall into category #4, and all other youth workers around the world. Thanks for being obedient man :P

  • Don’t worry about defending yourself from naysayers. They will ALWAYS be around. Just politely ask them to give you Biblical reasons why you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing. They always seem to disappear when you ask for that….

    Keep up the good work! I’ve been in Youth Ministry as a Volunteer in a small church for close to 20 years. I’m still always looking for new ideas and free is a bonus to my non-existent budget.

  • Cindy

    Thank You Tim for the blessing you have been to my life and by extension, the lives of our students and youth leaders. Keep giving!

  • Casey

    Tim,

    I have come to understand that in the ministry, many cant seem to deal with the concept of “FREE”. Why is that? Well, it seems that in our “get what you can” and “make what you can” world, everyone has to charge something, right? And don’t get me wrong, I understand this to a point, but I applaud what you said and your approach and I KNOW full well the Lord will bless you for that, bless your attitude, and your giving.

    You have helped me along with many others and I thank you for the time and the energy you devote to this ministry. If you ever need any help, I would be glad to lend some assistance!

    Take care my friend

  • @ TimJ: Yeah, I have no problem with people making a living, but sometimes you can tell when someone is just consumed with making money.

    @ Grahame: Once again your wisdom shines! You’re absolutely correct. I don’t get a whole lot of emails from people overseas, but I do see it reflected in my site’s traffic logs.

    @ Chuck Mullis: You’re welcome! Q&A actually rated pretty low on my blog survey a couple weeks ago. Glad you find them helpful!

    @ Chris G: Glad to see you’re on WordPress now! I love it!

    @ bruce jennings: You’re welcome!

    @ Bill A: Yeah, I don’t worry about having to give my defense anymore. I’ll just send them to this post. Makes my life easier. Unfortunately, my stance on being free means that I pass up a lot of cool opportunities to partner with other organizations, mostly when they seem more focused on selling a product than serving you.

    @ Cindy: You’re welcome! I’m pretty sure the rewards in heaven will be better than whatever extra income I earn here.

    @ Casey: Any way you want to help is greatly appreciated! If you have ideas, contact me (link is at the top of this site).

  • I am totally in boat #4, and I LOVE your emails with freebies. Thank you so much for all you do. I have passed this website on to many since I started in 2007. You rock Tim!

  • Rhett

    Thank you Tim! Not only for the free stuff, but just your work in general. I have the privilege of working in full time youth ministry (unpayed) and I work a full time secular job (underpayed). The free resources are great and I don’t think that I could do my YM job without them. But, the emails that I recieve from you daily, help me get through. My heart and passion are in Youth Ministry, and sometimes it gets difficult to put everything in to my “money making job.” LISM helps me make it. Your awesome!!!!!

  • brandon

    “Much of what I do and create is made on open source software, web services, programs”…

    Can you give us a list?

  • @ Brandon: Sure! One list can be found here. Of course, add WordPress to that list, phpbb3, and Linux services that run on the server that make this website (and most others) function.

  • Anna

    I have been blessed with the material you have posted. I am a farily new youth director, and it has been encouraging to read and use things you have posted. Thank you!

  • Hey Tim:

    I just want to add to all the comments. I am also a #4’er and want to tell you how valuable your ministry to us has been. I don’t know if you envisioned yourself as a youth leader mentor back when you started youth ministry alongside the dinosaurs, but thank you.

    One of the biggest things I have learned over the past 1 1/2 years of “official” youth ministry is the value of learning. Not teaching, but learning. Your posts have encouraged me to not only learn from more seasoned youth workers, but also from the teens that make up my group.

    I appreciate the concern that people might have with freebies, but what you’re doing is much more valuable than money and as you’ve said in this post, it will go much farther than items purchased. Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

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