It seems to have become a badge of honor. “We don’t use any outside resources.”
Some people in ministry have decided to go it alone. They now spend a sizable chunk of their time creating their own curriculum, Bible studies, teacher guides, devotionals, messages, music, video and artwork.
I’ve heard a variety of reasons for this shift to homemade stuff. Such as:
- “Nobody knows my people like I do. They have unique needs. I need to create material that is uniquely suited to them.”
- “My church expects me to create everything from scratch. If I don’t, they’ll wonder why they’re paying me.”
- “Our church creates everything internally and brands it with our church name.”
- “I like being creative. This is my creative outlet.”
- “We can’t afford professional materials.”
- “The Bible is all I need. Give me the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”
- “All the stuff on the market is garbage. I’m forced to create my own.”
Though I understand some of the rationale, I’m concerned about the final outcomes and some of the side effects of being a Lone Ranger resourcer. And I’m concerned not just because I lead a publishing company. Sure, I’m interested in seeing our resources widely used. But I have a deeper concern and love for the effective work of the local church throughout God’s Kingdom.
I too am a consumer of resources in my work and ministry. I appreciate the perspectives, expertise, and hard work that others build into their resources. I learned a long time ago that I can get a lot more done and accomplish my mission better when I rely on others to supply me with what they do best.
That’s true in my work, and it’s true in virtually every other line of work. Successful professionals everywhere look to outside professionals to provide the tools they need to accomplish their mission. You don’t find many doctors concocting their own pharmaceuticals. You don’t find many carpenters making their own lumber and nails. You don’t find many airline pilots refining their own aviation fuel.
Yet some in the church feel compelled to attempt to do it all themselves. And it’s distracting them from what they’re really called to do. Their justifications for shunning outside help could use a re-examination.
“Nobody knows my people like I do.” That may be true. But in a largely homogenous society with access to mass communications, your people share more similarities than differences with the rest of the population. In the larger landscape, today’s national brands, mass media and franchises effectively connect with people in every community nationwide. Similarly, a good ministry resource connects with people in your church as well as people in thousands of other churches.
“My church expects me to create everything from scratch.” If that’s true, it may be time to clarify your written job description–to focus it on ministering to people.
“Our church creates everything internally and brands it with our church name.” Shunning anything that is NIH (not invented here) is less about excellence than it is about pride. As powerful (and ugly) as pride is, nobody comes to your church because you do your own manufacturing. They don’t care about your branding. They just want to experience God.
“This is my creative outlet.” Hopefully, your ministry isn’t about you. Find ways to exercise your creativity that do not deny your people of more effective resources. Remind yourself of that desperate yearning to escape when you endured another homespun song that Devin felt “led” to share with the captive congregation. Don’t be Devin.
“We can’t afford professional materials.” So you spend countless hours building your own. What’s your time worth? Help your church prioritize its stewardship toward those efforts that directly affect your people’s spiritual growth.
“The Bible is all I need.” If that’s ultimately true, your people don’t need you; just hand them a Bible and go home. However, it’s better to follow Jesus’ example. He used a variety of ideas, people and things to bring scriptural truths to life.
“All the stuff on the market is garbage.” I understand. We’ve all been disappointed by inferior work. The world of ministry resources, like most other endeavors, includes a wide range of quality. There’s some poor work, but there’s also good work. Don’t let the lackluster stuff keep you from finding and using good resources that will help you accomplish your mission.
The best ministry resources are created by gifted servants, pre-tested with actual participants, re-tested, refined, polished, and produced by seasoned teams of dedicated professionals. They’re specialized members of the Body of Christ, who do their part so that others can do their part on the front lines of ministry.
And that’s the true essence of the biblical picture of the Body of Christ. Each part does what it does best. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (1 Cor. 12:17-19)
God doesn’t call any one of us to do it all, to be proficient at everything. He simply calls us to be the part of the Body he created us to be. And to let others be the parts of the Body he created them to be. So that, together, the Body can accomplish the mission.
Funny, I am writing our curriculum for our confirmation program, and now the Sunday School grades 4 and 5. It is more to fill a gap – caused by years of an inferior program, few children, etc. – than it is because there are no quality materials available. In fact, I look closely at what quality publishers like yours are presenting and then hone it to our particular needs. I look forward to a time when we can simply ‘plug into’ a published curriculum. Thanks for your consistently insightful posts.
Great stuff…somebody once said something that I think of as a build my sermons, “I milk a lot of cows but I churn my own butter.”
I think the greatest teachers are also teachable.
I agree there is a lot of great stuff out there and reinventing the wheel is not a good use of anyone’s time or resources.
In Kenya and probably in Africa, there’s still so much to be done. I do not know of a indigenous company that is developing ministry tools and resources exclusively for the church. For instance, we do not have a contextualized curriculum for discipleship in high schools that i know of…..we started the first Christian high school magazine 4 years ago and it has been a blessing. I hope someday that we can form a team of ministry specialists to serve the church in Kenya with youth ministry tools and resources the way GROUP does!
Great article! I would hate to think I had to write all my own stuff (though I do some)! I’m glad the market is expanding and offering a variety of options to help churches.
Taking a solid structure and starting point and then sewing your own creativity and unique church needs into that will save hours of time, and in turn free “ministers” up to actually minister to people. And I use ministers in quotations because I’m not just talking about paid staff, but volunteers, and workers who are committed to loving their church! You hit the nail on the head, it is pride that is the only thing that would keep us from using fantastic resources available to us that are out there if you look for them.
Love this article! I can see where arrogance would come into play…
My biggest need to rewrite comes from too much gender specific material out there. God as he? please… Get rid of that and I could save lots of time in rewrites.
Yes! I have had this same discussion so many times over the years. So often I’ve had others reject quality resources because they’re ‘American’ and not relevant to our kids and culture or audio contains US accents, yet they’ll watch hours of overseas tv content without issue. As a teacher, I know that any resource will require some level of customisation. Start with a quality resource and add your own individuality.
I do find this to be very true today. I think part of what influences this is the varying “cultural” differences in churches and the need (or perceived need) to be independent and true to the organizational mission. I agree that it is often pointless to reinvent the wheel but I think sometimes these leaders do so to control the internal teachings. I wonder if the process to develop disciples would be quicker if all churches used a few of the (well done) curriculum models out there?