Let's Get Creative
As a youth leader, what are some words you would use to describe yourself?
Preacher of the Gospel?
These are all phrases that I pray encompass who you are as a leader. However, what about this one:
I wonder how often this word would come up if we were asked to describe our leadership? Maybe you don’t think creativity belongs in ministry? Or, maybe you’re all for creativity…but you’re not in any way creative?
Friends, I am here today to tell you that when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with students, we’ve got to be willing to step outside of the box. We are charged with ministering to teenagers with short attention spans and various learning styles. Teenagers from all different cultures, contexts, and backgrounds. Sometimes, stepping outside of the box and trying something unconventional can prove to be beneficial in our youth ministries.
Are you nodding your head in agreement, but still feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body? Allow me to share what fuels my creativity when it comes to leading my students.
This is where everything should begin: seeking God and asking for His wisdom. There have been times where I have sought God on certain lessons and messages, and He has given me ideas I never could have come up with on my own. We serve a God who knows the very individuals we find ourselves ministering to, and He is more than capable of providing us with ways to teach them.
There have been times where He has shown me uncommon ways to convey a message. Other times, He has shown me that just simply preaching a straightforward message, and not doing anything out of the ordinary, would be best. In both instances I have seen Him guide me and move greatly.
The creative process must begin with seeking the Lord. Know that you are creating something that will honor Him, not you.
2. Go Beyond the Walls of Youth Ministry.
Stop for a moment a do a Google search for “Youth Ministry Games.” Then, do another search for “Youth Ministry Sermon Illustrations”. Finally, do one more search for “Youth Ministry Icebreakers”.
You will find thousands upon thousands of different ideas tailored to ministering to students. While there’s nothing wrong with this, chances are, you are going to find the same few games, sermon illustrations, and icebreakers. This is when it’s helpful to walk outside the realm of youth ministry and start looking elsewhere for inspiration.
I cannot tell you how many of the ideas in my youth group have been inspired by teachers, children’s ministers, YouTubers, coaches, and more. Take some time to do the same. Follow a kindergarten teacher on Instagram. Sit in on a children’s service at church. Have lunch with other ministry leaders and bounce ideas off of each other.
Do whatever it takes to get that creativity flowing.
3. Ask Questions.
When I am planning a series or going over a Sunday morning lesson, I often have to stop and ask these questions:
“What does this ministry need right now?”
“What have we done before that has worked?”
“What hasn’t worked?”
“How can I tie this in with my students’ lives at this very point in time?”
Creativity often begins when we stop and ask ourselves these types of questions. When we do, we’re able to say “no” to ideas that failed in the past, while also reworking them to succeed in the present. In addition, questions like the very last one mentioned above remind us that whatever we create, it must be relevant to where our students are.
Let me give an example:
Every few months our youth group does a Game Night. The first few that we had were fun, but I decided it might be time to try something new.
What does this ministry need right now?
I knew that our next Game Night was scheduled at the same time our students would be doing a series on Christ-centered friendships—but they needed to be shown that, rather than just told in a Wednesday night lesson.
What have we done before that has worked?
I knew that in the past, we invited a nearby church to join us at one of our game nights. This proved to be a lot of fun, and it helped my students get out of their comfort zones and interact with another group.
What hasn’t worked?
I remembered how the decision to invite another group was rather spontaneous and not very intentional. I could have planned things better. This pushed me to invite other youth groups ahead of time, but intentionally plan games and a devotion that would minister to all of them.
How can I tie this in with my students’ lives at this very point in time?
Finally, I knew that whatever I planned had to be relevant to what was going on in the lives of our youth. It just so happened that the date of our game night was right at the beginning of the school year. Not only was the night centered around team-building and get-to-know-you games, but it also focused on starting the school year out with the goal of being a friend that honored Christ.
From much prayer and thinking on these questions, our youth group had its first ever “Community Game Night”, and I saw the Lord move in such amazing ways.
I believe this same thing can take place in your youth ministry.
Fellow youth leader, it’s time to get creative. It’s time to step outside of what’s comfortable for you and try something new. My prayer is that as you plan this year, you would seek God and ask Him for new ways to lead your students. Ask Him for fresh vision.
And be ready to get outside of that box.