I’m in the basement of my church. I can hear the groans and creaks of “the others” upstairs. They’re shuffling papers, having meetings, dishing out information. I’ve barricaded myself in “the lab”, aka my office, working on Project Q. If people will leave me alone, I know I’ll create “the next big thing”.
I don’t need anyone else. I don’t need ‘the others” do this thing called youth ministry. I’ve been trained by the best. I don’t need a network, I have skills that would make younger youth workers look like skinny jean mannequins. I’ll outlast them. It’s just God and me holed up here, and I am going to survive this desolate wasteland, so help me God!
So went the inner narrative of my life, the lone survivor mentality of “It’s me and God against the world”. If you are doing youth ministry alone, ask yourself, “Why cut myself off from the very source that could bring life back to my bones and ministry?”
This is part six in a series of posts about Jeff Goins’ new book Real Artists Don’t Starve. I’m extrapolating the information he shares about artists and making art to convince youth workers that they are artists made in the image of The Artist. I want you to stop selling yourself short and use everything that God has given you to succeed in the church you serve and beyond.
Now, back to the bunker I built.
There have been times where I’ve shuttered myself off from everyone and that was a bad idea. I thought I was the smartest person in the room and that there was no room for personal improvement. My ideas were the best and your ideas sucked. Sometimes it was true, most of the time, it was not.
Jeff says in the book
The Starving Artist works alone.
The Thriving Artist collaborates with others.
Jeff tells the story of the C.S. Lewis quote that he made about J.R.R Tolkien,
“No one ever influenced Tolkien,”he said. “You might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch.” A Bandersnatch is a mythical creature that appears in Through the Looking Glass. It’s an irritable monster, not a creature you’d want to tangle with and certainly not one you could easily “influence.”
This could not be further from the truth. Both Tolkien and Lewis as well as 17 others met at a local pub for 17 years and shared their idea, their projects, and their dreams. They were dubbed or dubbed themselves The Inklings.
One day, Tolkien became bored with writing about the Hobbit and shared this with Lewis who said,
“The problem,” Lewis replied, “is that hobbits are only inter- esting when they’re in un-hobbit-like situations.” That was all he needed to say.
Tolkien went on to write Lord of the Rings.
If great work and ideas comes from collaboration, why don’t youth workers do more of it?
These were the self limiting beliefs that held me back from collaborating
My idea is the best and cannot be improved upon
I don’t want to work with so and so because we are different denominations
They probably don’t want to work with me anyway because we are in different churches.
They’ll think I’m trying to steal their kids.
I’m in a smaller church, why would they want to work tougher, they have all the resources they need.
God will make this happen if He want it to happen.
The best things I’ve ever created was because of collaborations.
Networking on Facebook, led me to connect with Ryan Latham who became my co-author for our first published book Prepared for Impact. We collaborated and produced something pretty cool that helps youth workers plan better.
The events I’m the most proud of were the results of a bunch of neighborhood youth workers getting together and deciding that their were no walls between us. By collaborating with other youth workers, we’ve clothed the homeless, fed the hungry, pulled off great concerts and events like See You At The Pole Rally’s.
I met my friend Dave Weiss as part of a collective team called The Write Group. He’s a great artist and cartoonist. We’ve collaborated several times on different project and created Insta-Mission Devotions, a series of devotions to use on mission trips.
Pre-internet, I had to make phone calls to find a network or call some of my youth worker friends to get ideas. Now, I just go to Facebook and join a group to receive feedback on whatever I happen to be working on.
Let me say it clearly, you cannot do youth ministry alone and thrive. Whether it’s collaborating with other ministries in your church, other youth workers in your area, or with others online to create or flesh out the kind of youth program ideas God has placed upon your heart.
You may get your best idea alone, in the shower, but that idea needs help and that comes from collaborating with others. The final iteration of your idea will become what it should be because of others.