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This past weekend I was in the midwest for a wedding. It was a great time filled with good food, dancing and new relationships. During the wedding I had the opportunity to meet a couple from overseas and engaged in a conversation regarding typical American wedding traditions. I found myself observing the rest of the wedding comparing what was similar to my own and what was different. It wasn’t to see who’s was better, just what was different.
In student ministry there is a fear to compare and contrast other youth ministries because of the “We’re All On The Same Side.” mindset. While this is true, it’s important that we don’t all become cookie cutters of one another or else we’ll miss out on a lot of students. And while keeping our own identity is important, it’s essential to learn from others. To form our identity while learning from others we should look at the other guys. During those times we should observe:
- How They Approach Students – Their demographic of teens might be different from yours; however, how they welcome, utilize and engage students may be something you can bring back to your ministry. What you are looking for in this case is transferable principles. What is it they are doing that you can do in your setting?
- What They Teach – Even if it’s a different denomination listen to their themes and topics. How do they approach sex? How do they address bullying? How is the Gospel a part of their message? How is this changing the way you teach?
- Their Priorities Vs. Yours – This isn’t to say who is better or who is right in what they do. Looking at their priorities and comparing them to your own can help you find your identity in ministry. Too many times we just do youth programming instead of committing to a style, format and culture that shows others what Christian values we find most important.
Comparing and contrasting other youth ministries can get dangerous when you are trying to make them all about who is better and who is more successful. In these situations jealousy can rise up and create a chasm between any collaboration in the future. We need other youth ministries, because let’s face it, there is no one way to do it. So invite others to view your youth ministry, go and see others and see what you find.
What have you learned from other youth ministries?