I had a youth ministry friend ask me the other day what I thought being a youth ministry innovator meant. Apparently he thought I was fairly innovative and wanted to know what made me so creative.
The first thing that crossed my mind is that I'm not that creative. However, when I thought about it I guess I am creative to a point. If you are a youth pastor, please don't think you have to have this huge platform to be innovative. Josh Griffin, from Saddleback Church in Lakewood CA, is this super creative guy. God has blessed him with a huge platform from which to push the youth ministry innovative envelope. His resources he puts out are cutting edge and great stuff. I have this great suspicion that if Griff was to take over in Dawson Springs KY at my church, he would be just as innovative, his distribution platform may be limited but that does not mean he wouldn't be able to be just as creative. All that to say, don't let your current platform be a crutch, let it be a launching pad!
So what are three things I do to be innovative?
1: Look to the past.
What has worked for me in the past? We always have a really good turn out for our Nerf Wars. When I need a instant shot of life in our Midweek, I insert a Nerf War. But don't limit yourself to what has worked for you. What has worked for past youth ministers at your church? I have a great rapport with the younger adults in our church, I constantly ask them, Hey what did you enjoy about youth group under So and So? I may not use the exact idea but I'll examine the principle and adapt it.
2: Look to the present.
What do you currently do thats working really well? What are ways you can improve on it or adapt the principle into a new idea? Our Sex series is always a big hit, but I don't do the same talk every year, I take the principle (the sex talk) and then breath new life in it by putting in new content. Also evaluate whats not working. Whats an idea, program, or event that needs the axe? I attempted to institute a HABITS program from PDYM at our church, what I didn't see was that our students lacked the spiritual maturity for a self driven discipleship program to work. I noticed it wasn't working, no harm no foul, so I axed it after a half year run. It's okay to fail, it you never try anything you'll never accomplish anything.
3: Look to the future.
Ahh the old think outside the box! What is something brand new that has never been done in your ministry? When I took over at our church the Midweek program was like most Midweek programs in our area. Small devotional or lesson, fellowship time, and games. I envisioned more, a big production with music, a stage, sound system, games, and a larger lesson/sermonette done by series. Sounds like most larger churches right? We're a little smaller, but why couldn't we pull it off? All I heard from people was, it'll never work, we're to small to do it, the students won't like it. Guess what? It worked for us! Because no one in our town was doing a big production like that it took off. The students love it, have a blast inviting their friends and know they are part of something special. Was I scared it will fail, yeah. Did the voices tell me it could fail, absolutely! So what if it failed! I learn and I move on, but what if it doesn't fail? What if this idea is God's will for your ministry and all it is waiting on is for you to act on it?
Being creative and innovative in youth ministry is something anyone can do, it's not something thats for a select few 'gifted' youth ministers. Just don't be scared to fail and follow where God is leading you. Until next time!
Just Keep Swimming!