Do you ever get the feeling that most major Christian publishing companies are out of touch with the average youth ministry? I was looking through some catalogs online this weekend and I am surprised by the cost and focus of many of the resources. When I think about the vast majority of churches in our area, I don’t think about mega-churches or even churches with full-time youth pastors. I think of churches who have volunteers with a heart for teenagers who are trying to build youth ministries on a shoe-string budget.
I live in the only city between 2 counties. The city has around 7000 people, one county has 16,000 people and spans almost 100 miles from end to end. The other county has around 30,000 people. There are probably over 200 churches in the twin county area (that’s no exaggeration!) and I can only think of 3 that have a full time youth pastor. So when I see curriculum and resources that cost hundreds of dollars, I know that it is not feasible for most of our area churches. So when I do run across resources that can be downloaded and don’t cost a fortune (like on SimplyYouthMinistry), it is encouraging to me. But unfortunately, there are not many companies who cater to small rural ministries.
And it is not only cost that deters small churches, it is the focus of the material. So many times the illustrations, the games, and the focus is large groups who live in cities. I feel that rural ministries are left to patch together material that was not geared toward the world they live in. The area I live in is not consumed by postmodernism. We are several years behind the world of big cities. Although that gap has been closing due to the internet and tv, our kids are still very grounded in a Christian culture. It is very different when almost everybody you come into contact with has experience with the church. When you ask, they say that they are a Christian, but you have to dig deeper to truly discern if they have just attended church in the past or if they truly have accepted Christ. The focus is not on those that are hostile to the gospel, but those who are apathetic about it. I have seen very few resources with that type of concern.
I have been fortunate to be part of two different churches who have both been committed to youth ministry and have not been afraid to budget accordingly. But the truly ironic thing about the youth ministry market, is that the churches that can actually afford these resources typically write their own. So, the churches with volunteers who really do need help are left in the dark. I would encourage all youth ministry companies to really think about who you are trying to help. If it takes a fortune to produce some slick video based curriculum that nobody can afford, are you really being good stewards? I’ll get off my soapbox for now, but my heart and passion is reaching teens, and I want to see churches of all sizes and budgets be able to have the best resources available.