Steve Henwood takes a look in the games cupboard and reflects on how we need to think about the ‘stuff’ of youth ministry and how we can get more


Children’s and Youth Ministry and stuff are synonymous.

We are the buyers of it, stewards of it and while they might banterously mock us, we are often the ones other departments come to because they’ve suddenly realised they want to borrow it.

So, let’s talk about gear.

I don’t mean pritt stick, felt tips and bulk-buy hot chocolate tins.

I mean the bigger, more expensive things.


Being a Steward

Those of us who oversee this can often fall into one of two holes.


One the One Hand…

The ministry of Jesus and the apostles was notably unhindered by the use of smoke machines and pizza ovens.

But still, sometimes we wish we had them, like that other church does. They’re cool. We want to be cool.

We don’t admit enough that it is far too easy to play church, like nursery children playing house. Few things feed this better than buying new, shiny ‘ministry’ gear.

There is not, and can never be, a substitute for the impact of prayer and the work and power of the Holy Spirit.

Your youth outreach night doesn’t need smoothy blenders to succeed. That’s not technically true, it IS true and you have to deeply know that. Examine your heart and pray before each purchase.


One the OtherHand…

We can live in a poverty mindset. Children’s and Youth ministry leaders are masters of delivering quality on a shoestring. But this often causes us to limit our entire outlook. It took me too long to realise that what I thought was careful stewardship of limited resources was sometimes just cowardice. Yes, the church budget was limited. No, that’s not an excuse to short-change the ministry with my small-minded thinking.


“What Would You Do With £1000?”

That’s what the church leader asked my friend many years ago in a one-to-one meeting. “Oo, good challenge,” he said, feeling his lack of vision being poked at. “I don’t know. I suppose I should be more ready to answer hypothetical questions like that.”

“It’s not hypothetical,” came the reply, “the council have offered us the money and it could go to CYM. Unless you don’t want it.” (He went away and quickly thought hard on what to do with it!).

If you were being nice, you could say that this reflected a lack of coveting - he was content to lead with what he had. He’d tell you that’s naïve. We are surrounded by need and we need to be ambitious to meet it.

Ask, seek knock. It’s in the manual. But you can’t ask if you don’t know what for and you have given up looking.


Good Stewardship – Current and Future

If you lead children’s and/or youth ministry you are a steward both of the resources you have now and the potential resources available to you.

In my last post I had a sign over my desk,

What is impossible now but if it were possible would revolutionise this ministry?

Of course, that is a broad question to sit, reflect on and pray through. (Go on then).

Of course, the answer is not simply ‘more gear’.

But sometimes, we acquire something that has a real impact on the ministry. A strong gazebo, portable projector, a good pool table, a minibus, toasters.

It’s not about the thing, it’s about what it helps unlock. Looking at the cupboards in the office here, the things we have quietly acquired over the years allow us to resource other churches, build supporting relationships with programmes in the community, create attractional spaces for youth, children and families as well as make the basic day to day work more impactful.


Building Resources – 12 Tips

This isn’t License To Shop. The best resources are built wisely over years, even decades.

1. Make a List

Go wild. Re-ask yourself the questions above. Be like a kid let loose with the Argos catalogue pre-Christmas. Yes, like Argos Kid, your list will also have things listed you don’t need or even actually want, but the exercise might also reveal you’ve been limiting your thinking. It could be a fun team activity if you frame it right. Once done, prayerfully mull on it for a while and use it to make proper plans.

2. Budget Plan

Whatever your budget, you need a plan on how it’s going to be spent. I.e. an actual plan on what is going to be spent where and when, not a vague idea in your head. While you’re at it, remember there is a year next year, and one after. Some of what you’ve listed could be planned for then.

3. Storage

The main question. Before you buy anything – where are you going to put it? And, what things might you need to relinquish to make room for it? Get the tape measure out before you click purchase.

4. ‘Tis The Season

Plan your purchases (and your budget) around the ideal times for each item. Dressing up nativity outfits for under5s? Ebay in Jan when parents ditch the once-worn costumes. Summer camp tents? End of August sales.

Whatever it is, chances are there’s a good time and place to get it. (Budget plan & diary reminders each year).

5. End of Year “Little By Little” List

Some things are well suited to the little by little approach. A full set of puppets was prohibitively expensive. As was getting all our large outdoor bean bags at once. But having them on an ‘end of year, if we have money-left-over-in-the-budget list’ meant that over years we grew those and other resources one or two at a time when we could.

6. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” List

The ‘it’s not our top priority but still it would help,’ list. Ideal for other end of year acquisitions. Yes, avoid this list become whimsical. But, equally it might expose your over-cautiousness, (e.g. the number of times we’ve said “this is brilliant, we really should have bought this sooner.”)

7. Wear And Tear Each Year

Don’t wait until craft resources are entirely depleted, every team bib is lost and every sponge ball perished. Some things take years to wear down but if they all go at once it will mess up your other spending plans.

Replace a little each year.

8. Bigger Things

What is never going to be buyable in any normal budget year? If you seriously think it’s a good idea then make some serious plans. Talk with the main church leadership. If their answer is no then honour that, right or wrong that’s their leadership call. Keep praying.

9. Really Big Things

I’ve noted that all the church leaders that I respect have a few ridiculously big project ideas in their back pocket, ideas that they bring out occasionally to mention to the Lord. Yes, it’s more like daydreaming but it helps you not bury talents and keep your head up looking for kingdom possibilities.

If someone gave you £1million for the ministry what would you do?

(I’ve already picked the building in my town. Well, the whole project is more like £2million actually. But hey, one day Lord? In the meantime, I have smaller plans… .).

10. Partnership

There are some things in our loft that are part owned by other churches. There’s gear in their storage lockers and crypts that we helped buy. As long as is it’s something that you aren’t going to all want at the same time, this can be a very workable model.

11. Keep an Asset Register

Each church department should have one. (Few rarely do, be the trend setter!). It’s simply a list of equipment over, say, £40. (Ours is just a Google spreadsheet with tabs for each grouping - camping, electrical etc). List storage location and replacement cost. Its uses for fire insurance and succession planning are obvious, but it also helps you keep track and appreciate what the ministry has at its disposal. Keeping it updated needs an afternoon of attention each year, an ideal job for an intern or ‘keen to help, but don’t want to be near teenagers’ congregation member.

12. Carefully Share

It’s not easy knowing when to say yes and no to others asking to use your resources. Be generous, they are His resources. But, know it’s okay to sometimes say no, that’s stewarding too.


In the End

One day, someone will succeed you. However small your budget has been, your ambition is to say as you leave, “there you go, you’re better resourced than I was when I started. God’s speed.”