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.