Youth Ministries Know No Fences

Posted on September 28, 2008

When I visit churches to consult with their staffs on copyright issues, there's usually one table in the most remote corner of the room that avoids eye contact, keeps their heads down and starts squirming in their seats. As I begin outlining various activities that require prior permission from copyright owners, the discomfort is palpable.


Any idea which ministry this group represents?’s the youth or student ministry. They become increasingly restless and fidgety as I talk about burning copies, downloading material from the internet, and sharing video and MP3 files.


 “They’ve grown up without fences,” one youth minister explained. “If they can copy and paste or download something to reproduce it, they think it must be OK. They believe that if ‘they’ don’t want us to copy and use the material, ‘they’ wouldn’t let us do it…it wouldn’t be so easy!”


 And let’s face it, the church’s young people are the most creative, innovative and savvy when it comes to downloading, ripping, copying, pasting and bypassing DRM and codes to access and use website content.


 As a youth minister, you don’t want to throw a “wet blanket” on your students creativity, so how can establish some fences that honor copyright laws and encourage innovation and imagination at the same time?


 Keep in mind that you are training and laying a foundation for the next generation of Christian leaders, and you have an opportunity to show them the importance of honoring copyrighted creative works.


 1)      Use copyright compliance as a spiritual teaching opportunity. God’s ways are not the world’s ways—just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it pleasing to God. Present a teaching on the spiritual reasons to honor copyrights. Some key points you could highlight include:


   The 8th commandment says “Thou shalt not steal.” Because a copyright is an intangible intellectual property, it’s often difficult to grasp.  Still belong to someone and a reproducing someone’s copyright, without permission, constitutes stealing.  

  • The Bible instructs us to honor the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1) The U.S. Copyright Law very clear protects the rights of works of authorship. 


  • If your students use copyrights without obtaining permission, they could place your church at risk of copyright infringement and suffer liability for law suits and fines.


  • Copyright compliance honors the gifts of Christian artists and supports the ministry of creative arts.



2)      Personalize it—if any of your students have creative gifts such as songwriting, photography or filmmaking, explain that they may one day be called to a creative arts ministry and make a living on the royalties paid for use of their copyrights; e.g., share David Crowder’s or Chris Tomlin’s story.


 3)      Research and explain how to make the most of existing blanket licenses like CCLI, CVLI, WorshipCast License and PerformMusic License, which make it possible to use certain types of copyrights in specific ways without obtaining prior permission. (See May 19, 2008 Blog posting.)


 4)      Develop a cache of resources for royalty free or legally purchased copyrighted materials and train your team and youth to use these materials. Check out content at,,,


 5)      Nurture the talents and gifts in your youth and encourage them to use their own creative works in developing worship materials and projects such as videos, films, multimedia presentations, drama and music.