“The Nightmare Before Christmas” Mistake

               Today is Halloween, and whether or not you celebrate this holiday the evidence of the day is unavoidable.  I am writing this at our local Starbucks and all the baristas are dressed up as super heroes, assorted felines, and one costume that I cannot quite figure out.  While I was growing up my family didn’t really celebrate the holiday, but I have always enjoyed seeing the creativity of costumes, and the excuse Halloween gives to dress differently than is conventionally acceptable any other day of the year.

Going along with the day’s festivities I thought I would blog about Tim Burton’s masterpiece, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and what that has to do with us in youth ministry.  A quick recap for those of you who have never seen the movie or for those of you who have forgotten:  In the movie there are different worlds that create the different holidays of our world (Christmastown, Halloweentown, Thanksgivingtown, etc.).   The main character, Jack, lives in Halloweentown and grows tired of how they do their holiday.  Accidentally he stumbles on Christmastown for the first time.  He is overwhelmed with the amazing experience he has there.  He then goes back to his own town and tells the people that they are going to start doing Christmas instead.  Of course, it is a complete disaster and almost ruins both holidays.  I will leave it at that so that I do not give out any spoilers for those of you who haven’t seen it.

In ministry we often make the mistake that Jack did.  We will see how other ministries work, and how well it works for them.  We then go back to our own ministries and try to duplicate their ministry at ours without taking into account our cultural setting, needs, and resources.   Similar disasters from the movie can occur at our ministries when we naively do this.

Recently I had a chance to visit the high school ministry services at Saddleback.  I hope to blog about that experience more extensively in the future.  Right now I will just say that I took away many great ideas from their amazing ministry.  However, many things that they do will just not work in my setting.  They are much larger, work in a different culture, have more resources, and have a different strategy of ministry that works in their setting.  If I would just duplicate there ministry completely at The Underground (name of our youth ministry) it would be disastrous.

The grass always seems greener on the other side; and trying to capture another ministries thunder is a bigger temptation during times of frustration and burnout like Jack was going through in the movie.  We are to learn from each other, but as youth ministers our job is to translate good ideas into our ministry setting.  Every ministry is different and what works at Saddleback or Willow Creek will not work, as is, at my setting in Shippenburg, PA.  We all serve different roles in the Kingdom of God, and we are to serve our ministries differently.  We are not called to lazily take other people’s ideas and just duplicate them.   We need to prayerfully adapt these good ideas from other ministries, and work them into our context in a way that is beneficial.  Don’t make Jack’s mistake and try to be someone you are not or make your ministry into something that it is not intended to be.


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