Parachurch Youth Ministry = Baby Products?
One of my most favorite things about Student Life (which I'm sure, for some, would be the most frustrating) is that we never become complacent. We are always in a state of change, wondering how we can improve or innovate or do something new. For many of us, we get completely jazzed trying to figure it all out. At the same time, we can also get really tense, hoping and praying we get things right, that we know what we're doing, that we're fighting for the right things and ignoring the rest. We don't always get it right. That's for sure. But we try, and we try hard, and we do it all for good, I believe. At any rate, we're kinda entering one of those phases right now. Asking a lot of questions. Searching for the correct answers.
Inevitably when in one of these seasons we search for some help from "experts" that are out there. People who have been around in the worlds of ministry and business (since we are both) and know what they're talking about (we think). However, one of the things that I find the most troubling in looking to these experts is trying to figure out just how to apply what they have to say to our "industry" (excuse the business terminology, if you will, but a lot of the guys we read are business dudes, so using their lingo just makes things easier). The reason, I think, it's difficult to apply their principles is because our industry is really unique (by our "industry" I mean providing resources for youth ministry; I consider events a resource). So, one of the things I do is try to look outside of our industry to another that I might can compare it to.
Here's the best I've come up with.
We're kinda like the baby industry. Since I've become a father, I only realize more and more how true this is. This is what I mean.
When creating products for babies there's a few different things you have to keep in mind.
1. The product has to work for the baby. It's got to meet some need the baby has. It has to be appealing to them, entertaining to them. It's got to be for them.
2. The product has to make sense to the parent. It's got to be practical, easy to use, affordable. After all, they're the one who's actually going to be doing the purchasing.
Now some products will lean more one way than the other. For isntance, a toy is going to be much more designed for the baby. What parent wants some hunk of brightly colored plastic that flashes lights and plays annoying electronic xylophone music over and over? Most don't. Believe me. But the baby does. However, when it comes to strollers, what does a baby really care so long as it's comfortable. But a parent wants it to be lightweight, sturdy, have plenty of space to carry the rest of the baby's stuff, have a cupholder for their coffee and look more stylish than all of their other friends' strollers.
For most baby products, though, they are designed with a near equal consideration for both baby and parent, perhaps only favoring one slightly over the other.
Well, in the world of youth ministry resources, that's pretty much what we do. We've got to make stuff for teenagers that works for them, appeals to them, meets a need they have, etc. At the same time it's got to make sense to the youth minister, be affordable, help them in their ministry, accomplish their goals, etc.
Trust me, it would be much easier to make something for just one type of audience instead of trying to find the balance between two.
But who wants to do it the easy way, anyway?