Two weeks ago in the Youth Ministry class that I'm teaching online through Columbia College I discussed in my lecture the dangers of prepackaged ministry material. You can go anywhere online these days and have a lesson on your desktop, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or smartphone in less than a click. Some are free. Some cost monthly. Some cost per download. You can buy entire series. If you really wanted to you could buy enough from Simply Youth or Youth Specialties for the rest of your youth ministry career in just a couple minutes. You can drive down to Cokesbury bookstore, Family Christian Bookstore, or Lifeway Christian Bookstore and have lessons for weeks and weeks.
And its that easy!
But too many times youth workers fall into the easy trap. They buy the latest and greatest ministry material because of cool packaging, a tweet, a email, or a facebook link. They often just open it up, print it out, and that is their lesson prep. They pay no attention to the original audience that the material was written for. They take Doug Fields outline and read it not thinking that their youth group in middle America is not the same as the students that attend Saddleback.
Society teaches us that easy is best. But when we do this in ministry, we are shorting ourselves, our students, but most importantly God.
I'm not saying not to buy any of these materials, because I own pretty much every Simply Youth and Youth Specialties item from doing this for going on fourteen years now. I'm saying if you use it, take the time to read it and adapt it to you group, your demographics. Many times I just use the title, the main scripture, and the graphics. But I generally spend 4-6 hours preparing my weekly lesson.
In the past when I was lazy, I fell into the easy trap and my ministry suffered because of my laziness. I look back and I learn. I know I will not let myself fall into that trap again.
Take advantage of these resources, they're are a great start. But be sure not to rely on them without putting your own God-given knowledge and theology into them. Lesson prep is not easy, but don't short yourself by not taking the time to make it your own!