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Why Not To Do What The "Other Guys" Are Doing


I love looking around at what other youth groups are doing . . . What games are they playing? What are they teaching? What great media illustrations are they using? What songs are they singing? I also like finding out what their youth space looks like . . . Basement, gym, Sunday school room, dedicated space, or someone's living room. How do they decorate? Do they have a stage, a cafe, a sound booth or a mixer on a wheeled cart? And I like to see what programs they're running . . . What do their small groups look like? What curriculum are they using? What do they do at their weekly group times? How much do the students do? How much do the volunteer leaders do?

It's fascinating to discover and see the diversity that makes up the youth ministry world. It's a great way to learn, expand, and enhance your own scope of youth ministry. But I've noticed some potentially harmful tendencies when this is taken to the extreme.

I fear the more we look to see what others are doing, the tendency is to look less at what God wants us to do.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the sharing and gleaning of what's done within our Youth Ministries. But when we stop pursuing God's lead and merely copy what we see others doing, we miss out on the great work that God wants to do in and through us.

What's the harm in constantly keeping up with the guys down the street, or the big national guys who share what they are doing? The danger is jealousy. The danger is discontentment. The danger is laziness. The danger is being a copy-cat. The danger is thinking less of who you are. The danger is not trusting God to use you in the ways He wants to use YOU. And I also worry about the new youth worker who sees what the "big" church is doing and thinks that that is what youth group should look like. So they copy the methods, materials, and strategies not fully understanding the dynamics, cultures, and personalities that are involved. Just because it worked for them, it doesn't mean it will work for you.

So, what attitude should we take in regards to how we handle what we see others doing? I think the important thing to remember is this: If God has called you to minister to students and serve a church family, He has also given you the talents, skills, and passion to serve and minister to those people. Your job is to seek what God is already doing and join Him there. When you do see something that looks like a great idea, take the time to pray about it. Work through it and try to process the potential impact the idea might have upon your group. There are a ton of ideas that I wish I could do with my students, but because of where we live, and what our culture is like, I can't. Once you have prayed about the idea, adapt it so it fits your context. Know your boundaries. And don't do what they're doing just because they're doing it. Do what God is doing.

About the Author

Jay Higham

Jay Higham is currently the pastor at Harvest Church. But even though he's serving as a "senior" pastor, student ministry and youth workers are still near and dear to his heart! You can visit Jay’s personal blog at

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One size does not fit all. Great insights Jay. Youth ministry is kind of like a Christmas tree. We all need the tree but everyone has different decorations. Basic principles of youth ministry work everywhere but each church group is unique.
by: Richard Parker January 18, 2011 7:34 am
Good stuff! I learned after I had been in student ministry for a while that I need to just be me, and I need to do what God has called me to do in the church that I am at. Also, God called me to minister to the students at my church and not the students down the street at the church with the "cooler" youth room.
by: Adam January 18, 2011 7:44 am
Love the tree analogy, Richard!--Andy
by: andy@ym360 January 18, 2011 9:47 am
Yup . . . Well said, Adam.
by: andy@ym360 January 18, 2011 9:54 am
Jay, Great article, I think an important message for those who are new to ministry, it's hard to follow what others are doing to start the creative ideas flowing, but then it can be an addictive habit where we are constantly comparing and competing with one another. I've found what's helped me is to start honoring, blessing and praising other ministries for following the calling God has for them. I also try to ask myself the question, "What has God called me to do in (place I serve) to bring students to Christ? And how does He want me to do that today, this season, this year?" Thanks for the reminder to keeping us honest with ourselves.
by: Chris Wesley January 18, 2011 12:42 pm
Great post Jay. The phrase I hear so often is "why recreate the wheel" if someone else is doing it. Just do what they are doing (Pastors like to say that :)). That tendency, although accurate to some degree, can stifle what God wants your ministry to be all about. It is great to get ideas from others who are successful, but don't recreate the wheel to have your ministry be an exact replica of another's ministry. God has something unique for each ministry to reach all those who need to hear about Him. Let him give you the idea specific for your students.
by: Tom Pounder January 18, 2011 12:56 pm
Thanks for chiming in, Tom. I thought Jay did a great job with this one too. Glad it was meaningful for you. Take care!
by: andy@ym360 January 19, 2011 8:37 am
I loved your article, linked to it, and blogged a response that you might like. It's at Thanks for the encouragement!
by: Tucker January 18, 2011 1:33 pm
That's awesome, Tucker. So glad you liked the article. Jay did a great job with it. Thanks for linking us to your response. Stop back by any time!
by: andy@ym360 January 19, 2011 8:39 am
Thanks Tucker!
by: Jay Higham March 11, 2011 10:39 am
Thanks for all the comments today. Keep serving your students the way God created you to do. - jay
by: Jay Higham January 18, 2011 2:45 pm
Great article! I heard this quote at the National Youth Workers Conference (I think it was said by the Skit Guys) - "Don't take what you know about yourself and compare it to what you don't know about somebody else." You may see all these cool things someone else is doing but how do you know if they're working? And who's to say it's what's best for your ministry? Great reminder to keep our eyes on God and what He wants for our ministries!
by: Vickie January 18, 2011 5:17 pm
Great quote, Vickie! Thanks for stopping by. I'm excited about running your article on the blog next Tuesday! Take care!--Andy
by: andy@ym360 January 19, 2011 8:29 am
Well said, Chris. Thanks for stopping by!
by: andy@ym360 January 19, 2011 8:39 am
Thanks for all the responses. 15 years ago, this article would've really helped me as I looked at what the "big" guys were doing, wishing I could do the same. But copy-cat ministry is just that, "copy-cat." Ministry begins when we embrace the shape God gave us and do what He's called us to do. I love the Skit Guy quote, Vickie! - jay
by: Jay Higham January 19, 2011 4:35 pm
As a young youth minister this helps a ton. Reminders to go, do, and be what God wants in my context will save me time and heart ache. But do i really have to stop wanting other people's facilities and budgets... ugh you ask too much :)
by: Josh Pezold March 30, 2011 11:29 pm
Hahaha. Unfortunately . . . :)
by: andy@ym360 March 31, 2011 5:07 am
I post my lesson plans and pictures of facilities so others can get tips on what works (at least works for me). I had one visitor write and apologize for just using the Bible verses I had compiled on a certain subject and then making here own lesson. Wow, no apology necessary. Teach the lesson your teens needs in a way that reaches them. I'm honored to have had a little piece of that. You'll never be envious of me being a big-church success. My group have all been in small churches under thirty kids. But, I can tell you what has worked for me and maybe it will help you find what works for you. My website is: If the tips and free lessons don't help you, no problem. If they do -YEA!
by: Kevin Ophoff April 3, 2011 9:47 am
Great post. What a church of 10,000 ppl does will not necessarily fit a church of 150. With taking in the diversity of culture, it is certain one size does not fit all. Thanks for sharing, Jay.
by: David Kennedy April 4, 2011 3:06 pm
When I started out, I wanted to be Doug Fields and I want my youth group to be just like HSM out at Saddleback. I visited their campus twice, first when they were in the block building, then again after they moved into The Refinery. I wanted a ministry and an atmosphere just like they had. But I learned that things aren't always what they seemed and ministries aren't always as neat as they appear to be. I have great respect for Doug and the guys who now run the HSM ministry, but they have their difficulties, frustrations, hardships, disappointments, and failures just as I do. While what God was calling me to was similar to what they were doing, I wasn't called to minister to the students of Saddleback. I called to love the students where I am. Focus on what they need and what God is doing in and through you. - jay
by: Jay Higham April 7, 2011 10:34 pm
Love the post and love reading all the comments too! Brilliant! I have found that the greater our confidence in God and His desire to use us = Greater creativity to be used...
by: Phil Bell April 15, 2011 8:42 am
Amen, Phil! Well said. Thanks for stopping by, friend!
by: andy@ym360 April 15, 2011 9:22 am
Thanks for the comment, Phil. You are totally right. God is reworking our ministry now, and I suspect the end result will be less conventional then what most groups are doing now. Even after posting this article, I need to remind myself that God will shape and Reshape His ministries for His purpose and plan. What we are about to do is very new and very scary. And I don't know of many groups doing it this way. I can't wait to see how God uses our leadership team as we make this transition. - jay
by: Jay Higham April 20, 2011 6:20 am
This article is one that is very true, real, and honest. It is amazing to see how many people feel that ministry is a competion, and that its about 'showing up' the other church down the street. You have done a great job of showing us where your coming from, and giving us the dangers that come with that. The thing I like most about this is that you brought our focus back to OUR RELATIONSHIP with GOD. OUR CALLING, our PURPOSE, our reason for being in ministry in the first place. I appreciate and strongly feel your passion for living our lives as GOD created us to. Your whole piece is about BEING WHO YOU ARE! We find out who we are by letting God be the focus, and the source we draw from, for everything we do.
by: Derek Dix April 30, 2011 1:56 pm
Hey Derek, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the article. And thanks for the kind words of support. When we allow ourselves to be who God created us to be, everyone wins! - jay
by: Jay Higham May 5, 2011 1:21 pm
It is so timely that I came across this article. It is a confirmation that what I had recently encountered was filled with wisdom from God. Just recently I met with a couple teens from our youth ministry who attended other youth groups and came back to me with ideas and desires to see things change in our youth group at our home church. I told them that we would most definitely have to share these ideas with the ministry leaders as a whole and that I personally had no problem hearing what they liked that was different. We have to be open to growing and being flexible in a youth ministry is a must. I told our young teens, who had approached me, that it may be a good idea to check out what other youth groups are doing, we may gain fresh ideas but we have to always remember that what works for one group may not work for another. In the end, I think that every group can use breaths of fresh ideas. Let’s face it. In most youth groups we have the same kids for anywhere from 4-6 years. We want to keep them engaged and interested or we are going to lose them, so changing things up a little is key in keeping interest. I agree completely that we as youth ministry leaders that we have to stay true to the calling of our ministry as it was established in our particular church. If we stray from the call that God has put on our lives we will miss the mark and loose youth from our ministry. The other side of this is that if we do not evolve with our kids we will lose them to the wiles of the world. I love the balance we can strike in our Christian walk when we remember who we are ultimately working for and instead of youth ministry being a competition but a collaboration of great minds, great ideas, great hearts and brave souls who are willing to carry the mantle of the Youth Ministry. Thank you for your passion and wise advice to not let the “green eyed monster” to take hold of us. Your loving guidance is a blessing to all of us who have taken the call to speak into our future generations.
by: Cheryl Sperling May 8, 2012 1:47 pm
Cheryl, such great thoughts here! So glad you stopped by and glad that the article hit you in the right spot! Thanks for being part of the ym360 Community.
by: andy@ym360 May 8, 2012 3:44 pm