owen neistat

verbalization, adventure, and getting boys to do stuff

i have a genderalization i sometimes throw out in parenting seminars:

teenage girls make friends and find their place in their world through talking; teenage boys make friends and find their place in their world through doing stuff together.

sure, there a plenty of exceptions. and this doesn’t mean that girls don’t learn from doing stuff, or that guys don’t need verbalization. it’s simply a basic tendency. it’s why teenage girls can share an intimate moment of verbal sharing and instantly be BFFs. it’s why a teenage guy can play video games with another guy, pretty much not talk about anything (at least not anything intimate or vulnerable) and consider that the perfect foundation for a friendship.

we youth workers know the importance of getting teenagers talking. i’ve been really challenged in this area by the work and words of amanda drury, who The Youth Cartel had speak at a couple events in 2012 and 2013. it has caused me to say such questionably strong statements as:

for teenage faith development, verbalization of faith is more important than accuracy.

but what about guys and doing stuff?

i have, on more than one occasion, challenged a father (more than one father) who’s troubled by how he and his son seem to be disengaging. i’ve challenged these dads with a simple, but radical, idea: splurge and take your son on a BIG TIME international adventure trip. do something and go somewhere you would never do on a “family vacation.” do something where you’re pushed, both to being personally stretched, and to relying on one another.

i’m saddened by how few (none?) of these dads have ever exercised the will and courage to take me up on my suggestion.

that’s part of why i LOVED this short film by casey neistat. admitedly, casey is an adventurer. so he’s more accustomed to these things. but his son owen wasn’t an adventurer. really, this is very much worth the 20 minutes to watch (both for the story itself, and for the principles you can see at work).

dads? what sort of shared adventures are you willing to embark on with your son?

youth workers? amidst the critical value of creating space and an environment for verbalization, how can we embrace the importance of getting guys to do stuff (and maybe verbalizing in the middle of that)?

young teen doubt 2

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 1

i’m starting a new series of occasional posts with this one. i’ll probably post about one per week or so. but these will be a random tidbit of input for parents of pre-teens and young teens. if you’re a youth worker, feel free to copy and paste these into a parent newsletter or email (though i’d appreciate a credit line), for forward them a link.

young teen doubt 1Welcome to the World of Doubts

A nervous set of parents met with me. Tears came quickly. Judy, the mom, spoke in-between honks into her tissue: “Johnny, our 7th grader… [honk!]… he’s always been such a good boy. And he’s always loved Jesus.”

The dad nodded.

Judy continued: “But the other night at dinner… [honk!]… Johnny said, ‘I’m not sure I want to be a Christian anymore.’” [honk!]

A big smile broke out across my face.

Their faces made it obvious they were somewhere between confused and offended by my grin. So I explained:

Questioning and examining (usually called “doubting”) Mom and Dad’s faith system, or her own childhood faith system, is a necessary part of early teen faith development.

Did you catch that? Parents (and plenty of youth workers) are usually threatened, even frightened, by their kids’ doubts. But teenagers who don’t go through this process will reach their early 20s with a stunted (childish) faith!

Let me back up and explain a bit more fully.

The Task of Discovery

Stephen Glenn, a psychologist who published a bunch in the 70s and 80s, developed a helpful little timeline (I’m modifying the ages Glenn suggests to account for our current context). He said the first few years of life are all about “discovery”. The next few years (4 – 7, roughly) are all about “testing”. And the years from 8 – 10 are focused on “concluding.”

Then a shift of seismic proportions–-usually called puberty–-comes along like massive storm waves crashing against a sea wall made of chalk or sandstone. Wave after wave, erosion takes place–erosion of all those nice pre-teen conclusions. And the cycle begins again: 11 – 14 are years of “discovery”; 15 to 20 year-olds tend to focus on “testing”; and those in their 20something years (now called “emerging adults”) shift to forming conclusions.

Can’t you see that in your young teen? They’re in the midst of a massive adventure of discovery. That’s why they want to try everything–four sports, three clubs, five friendship groups, a new hobby or collection each month. They’re trying to gather data about the world, about how people interact, about values, about reactions. And, about what it means to be a Christ-follower.

So wrestling with “what do I believe?” becomes a wonderful question for young teens to ask. That doesn’t mean we fan the flames of their doubts (“I can’t believe you still believe that!”). It means we come alongside them in their doubts, rather than interpreting those questions (that data collection) as a real rejection of faith.

How Should Parents Respond?

Don’t freak out. When you hear doubts squeaking out, take a deep breath. Thank God that your budding teenager is still willing to verbalize this kind of thing with you. A strong negative reaction will teach your child that she shouldn’t share in the future.

Exercise curiosity. Young teens rarely have the self-awareness to verbalize their doubts in helpful and constructive ways. We have to look beyond the presenting evidence for the question(s) forming in the background. And we have to ask.

Encourage verbalization. In other words, talk about it! Healthy dialogue is often all that’s needed. Ask questions, rather than preaching.

Share in first-person. Your pre-teen or young teen will “catch” more from your life than from your words. When you do choose to share words, try not to be too prescriptive (“Johnny, what you need to do is this….”). Instead, share from your own life. Respond to doubts with your own story, including your own doubts (past or present).

Pray. Isn’t that one obvious? Your child is going through the most formative and tender years in faith development. Talk to God constantly!


Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, a veteran youth worker, and a parent of a 20 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son. He speaks frequently to parents, and is the author or co-author of six books for parents, including A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, A Parents Guide to Understanding Social Media, A Parents Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating, and Understanding Your Young Teen. With his own “apprentice adults,” he co-authored a book for teenagers: 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents.

happy

A Happy Teenager is a Lame Parenting Goal

a publisher asked me to write a short parenting book yesterday. and my teenage son is out of town this week on a class trip (and my 20 year-old daughter is away at college): so we’re getting a taste of empty nest. those factors mashed up to bring to the surface some thoughts i’ve had percolating for a while.

A Rant:

holy cow, so many parents have absorbed, like sponges, the misguided idea that the goal of parenting a teenager is for the teen to be happy.

happywith that goal in mind, they become obligated to parent with a set of behaviors and practices that misfire and don’t get them to their (misguided) goal:

  • “sure, i’m your parent; but i really want to be your friend!”
  • “i want to protect you and keep you safe, free from any scratches or dangers.”
  • “unless it’s in an area where your exploration will give you happiness, then i want you to have that.”
  • “oh, you made a really bad choice? i don’t like that you made that choice, but i’ll remove the consequences, because they would make you unhappy.”
  • “you’re too young for responsibility. you can think about that stuff when you’re an adult. i’m sure you’ll magically become responsible at that point.”

A Concession:

but i have compassion for parents of teenagers. and, as a parent of a teenager and a 20 year-old (who i refuse to consider a teenager), i hope you’ll have compassion on me.

i am regularly bombarded (as are all parents of teenagers) with the message that my teen’s happiness should be my goal. i’m told that my teenager’s happiness is my measure of success. i’m told that i’m a BAD PARENT if:

  • i don’t remove consequences to bad choices.
  • i don’t give my teenager everything s/he wants.
  • i give him or her meaningful responsibility and expectation.

really, it has become downright COUNTERCULTURAL to parent teenagers with any goal other than an obsession with their happiness.

i’m convinced that a big part of this is because the american dream has changed.

Why the Shift?

for centuries, the american dream has promised that if you work hard, you can possess the good life. this dream has morphed, to be sure, in its definition. the shift is located in our collective desire of what we want to possess. even as recently as thirty or forty years ago, the good life was primarily about property ownership, with a side helping of possessing relationships. that might be a little snarky, but the image of a poor immigrant, dreaming of one day owning a piece of land, or a home, and raising a family while applying oneself to “a good day’s work” was as clear as a norman rockwell painting.

my paternal grandparents lived this dream. maria and rudy separately left germany in their middle teenage years, steaming toward the american dream on a ship. both headed for detroit, where each had cousins or siblings who had recently put down roots. eventually meeting and marrying, they lived the life one can imagine them dreaming of as they had one foot on the gangplank and one foot on the ship leaving europe.

rudy spent his life as an electrician for detroit edison (now called DTE energy). they had a simple but comfortable home, raising a family of three children (my father included) in ann arbor, michigan. at retirement age, they did what retirees were supposed to do in those days, moving to clearwater, florida, and a massive retirement community where she could fill her days with ceramics classes, and he could fill his with golf.

by 20th century standards, they lived the american dream.

but the 21st century has a different set of values. today’s american dream is about possessing happiness, not property. material things are still a major part of the picture (maybe more than ever), since the assumption for many is that “stuff” will provide happiness.

but increasingly, today’s young adults, and thirty- and forty-somethings, are less interested in property possession and raising a family, and are more interested in a variety of other perceived happiness producers: fun, travel, adventure, meaning or significance, community, and freedom (not freedom to own things, but freedom from being anchored to anything).

The Result:

how’s this parenting approaching working out for us, by the way?

teen languagelet’s see… i’d suggest these results:

  • adolesence is extending faster than pinocchio’s nose. young adults don’t know how to take responsbility for themselves because they’ve never been given responsibility.
  • teenagers and young adults are increasingly being treated like children. this certainly does damage, and is darn close to abusive.
  • teenagers are no happier than they were a decade or two ago (prior to this absurd pendulum swing).
  • parents are not experiencing more satisfaction in their roles. in fact, more parents feel like failures than ever.
  • basically: everyone loses. no one is getting what they actually want.

time to take stock and consider a redirect, i’d say.

The Better Goal:

i believe the goal of parenting a teenager is independence. in other words, i’m more interested in raising adults than “raising kids.” sure, we’re not ultimately made for independence; god made us in his own image, wired for interdependence. but the dependence children have on their parents needs to shift during and after the teen years, with young adults both moving into interdependence with other people and their parents. so: i’m sticking with “independence” as a parenting teenagers goal: my kids have to experience healthy independence from me (and my wife) before they can choose another alternative.

to that end, i continue to wrestle my own internal insecurities, pressure from our culture, and fear of failure, to practice these commitments:

  • i will not treat my daughter or son like children. i will view them and think of them and treat them as apprentice adults rather than living the last few years of childhood.
  • i will be err on the side of giving freedom for decision making (which is not the same thing as disengaging, or abdicating). i will create clearly articulated boundaries within which glorious amounts of freedom and decision making can be exercised.
  • i will not remove the consequences of bad choices, even if the consequences will be challenging and a threat to happiness (and even if the consequences are a major inconvenience to me).
  • i totally dig my daughter and son, and love spending time with them; but i will neither fool myself into thinking i’m their peer, nor expect them to include me as a peer.

i’d love for my daughter and son to be happy (in case you thought i was suggesting the opposite). and i think they generally are happy. it’s just not the goal of my parenting. and it shouldn’t be yours, if you want to see your teenagers grow into healthy adults.

ok. who’s with me?


Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, a veteran youth worker, and a parent of a 20 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son. He speaks frequently to parents, and is the author or co-author of six books for parents, including A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls, A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains, A Parents Guide to Understanding Social Media, A Parents Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating, and Understanding Your Young Teen. With his own “apprentice adults,” he co-authored a book for teenagers: 99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents.

YWDlogo dude

Youth Worker Discounts (dot com)

One of the things I like most about my friend Kurt Johnston (Saddleback’s youth pastor) is that he’s an idea machine! Granted, not all of his ideas are good ones but I love the fact that he just keeps swinging away knowing he’ll strike out a lot and hit a home run or two along the way. His latest idea could be one of those “home run” type of ideas. It’s certainly creative.

YWDlogo

Youthworkerdiscounts.com is what Kurt is calling “A movement of generosity” to help fund small youth groups. The vast majority of youth groups are small, underfunded, and led by awesome adults lacking the time and money it takes to get training and resources and youthworkerdiscounts.com is one way the rest of us can help.

Here’s how it works:

  • You pay an annual membership fee of $20.
  • In return, $10 of your membership fee goes directly into the pot to buy resources for small youth groups.
  • And, you get access to thousands of discounts on all sorts of stuff like hotels, restaurants, movie tickets, etc. PLUS 30% off every order from our friends at simplyyouthministry.com

It’s actually a terrible business model because there’s nothing left for Kurt! When I pointed this out to him his response was, “Well, that’s because it’s not a business. It’s just an idea I had to help small youth groups.” Touché, Kurt. That was dangerously close to a Jesus Juke.

A “home run” idea? I suppose that remains to be seen. But it’s a pretty good one, and his heart behind it is why I wanted to share it with the rest of you.

Check it.

ymcp leaf

Nashville, San Diego, and SoCal/Hawaii PC(USA) cohorts of YMCP

ymcp leafhere’s an update on the Youth Ministry Coaching Program

we now have four full cohorts going (each have met at least one time so far). three are “closed” groups for denominations: south carolina UMC, western north carolina UMC, and pittsburgh presbytery of the PC(USA). the fourth is our “women in youth ministry” cohort led by april diaz (meeting in orange county, CA, and online).

but we have three other options at this time:

2014 Nashville Cohort

this cohort is off and running in the lead up to a first meeting in august. we’re just now starting to schedule that meeting and deal with other preliminary administrative details. but, while the cohort has its allotted 10 spots filled, i’ve started taking an 11th person in most cohorts. this is primarily in case someone has to back out; but i’ve done a few cohort with 11 people in them now, and have found they’ve been fine. so, if anyone is interested in grabbing that 11th spot in the nashville cohort, it’s first-come, first-served.

2014 San Diego Cohort

filling this cohort has been a challenge. we only need 8 to make this one work. and for two years, since the 2nd San Diego cohort finished, we’ve added people and lost people. we were at 5, and added two awesome people in the last month; but then two of the people who had been waiting forever had to pull out. so we’re back to 5. i’d sure love to see this one make it. there are awesome people in the mix already, but we need 3 more. if you’re interested, jump in!

2014 SoCal/Hawaii Synod of the PC(USA) Cohort

this presbyterian synod approved, last week, funding for a full cohort. participants will only be responsible for $500 of the program cost, plus their incidental expenses (travel, books). the location is still being finalized, but it will definitely be in either LA, Orange County, or San Diego. obviously, in order to qualify for this cohort, you have to be an employed youth worker in a PC(USA) church in the SoCal/Hawaii synod. we’re opening an application period for the month of april. we may or may not have spaces remaining after that period; but if you want in, you need to jump on it (as it will likely fill during the application period). to get an application for this cohort, email rocky supinger ([email protected]), the YMCP grad who had the vision for this and worked the proposal through approval by the synod.

we’re so excited about how YMCP continues to grow and impact lives!

viva-passion

super awesome youth ministry easter resources

8bithymnal3first, i have to provide you with this FREE bit of total awesomeness i found a few minutes ago: a free album download of 8-bit easter hymns by a creative dude named tyler larson, available on noisetrade.com. totally fun. can see using this in youth ministry. note that tyler offers two other free albums of similar music (both free); one is christmas music, and one is just a collection of hymns (but all in that 8-bit video game sound). really fun.

and…

The Youth Cartel (the feisty little engine that could) now has a pretty cool suite of easter resources that you should know about!

viva-passionfirst up (and, the newest release) is VIVA! Passion. yeah, weird name if you’ve never heard of it. VIVA! is our very new downloadable curriculum resource that you really should know about. each month we’ll release a set of four new lessons. you can get individual lessons for a buck-ninety-nine, or the four-pack series for a save-your-budget price of $5.99.

the Passion set of VIVA! includes these four sessions:

  • The Entry – Jesus begins his final week of life by riding into Jerusalem during Passover and announcing his reign as King… on a donkey. How did Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem show him to be far more than just a humble man willing to ride on a donkey, but as a King who was subverting the expectations of the powerful and peasant alike?
  • The Temple – This lesson will explore the temple culture, Jesus’s reaction to it and how we can allow him to “turn things over” in our lives.
  • The Curtain – This lesson will continue our look at the last week of Christ’s life and specifically key in on the tearing of the temple curtain after his death. The temple, and more specifically the Holy of Holies, was where God dwelled, where heaven met earth. The curtain separating us from God came down so we all can experience and participate in heaven meeting earth without barrier.
  • The Mission – Betrayal, violence, death and disappointment. What a way for the last week of Jesus’s life to wrap up. But then Jesus comes back- with more power and authority than ever. This lesson will look at how the resurrected Jesus chose not to confront his enemies, but to spend the time to find his followers, put his arm around them and bring them back into his mission. The same mission we get to participate in today.

(the first set of VIVA!, by the way, is Viva! Genesis, and includes:

  • The Poetry of Creation
  • The Story of Adam and Eve
  • The Story of Noah
  • The Story of Abraham

and there’s a free download sample of that second lesson.

then, CUATRO MAS!

stations-cover-finalStations of the Cross: 13 Dramatic Stories of Jesus’ Last Hours

from the freakishly creative mind of steve case, this downloadable resource is totally something you could use as a series, or pull creative bits from for other teaching and programming at this time of year (or any other time of year).

Stations of the Cross is a book of thirteen creative and dramatic lessons that will take participants into the last moments of Jesus’ life. Those who venture into these words will smell the sweat. They will feel the blood roll down his back. They will be taken to the dark place within their own souls and be invited to leave all that baggage behind in the tomb.

Utilizing scripture, dramatic readings, and thought provoking questions, Steve Case provides a unique approach to curriculum that can easily be customized for individual or group use.

Product includes PDF and editable word files of sessions, plus PowerPoint backgrounds and other graphic files for use in group settings or teaching contexts.

9780988741331-front-1000God Parties: Learning from Jewish Feasts and Festivals

this is a fairly new downloadable resource — just came out a month or two ago. it’s not like anything else you’ve seen in youth ministry curriculum.

God Parties takes these big concepts and breaks them down into lessons that incorporate ancient traditions with relevant application for today’s teens. In many ways the protestant church has lost connection with its Jewish heritage. God Parties shows how the festivals point us to Jesus. It helps students better grasp the Hebraic backdrop of Jesus’ world by giving the leader teachable background and historical insights.

For the youth worker teaching week in and week out, it can be difficult to come up with creative ways to involve students so they’re not simply listening to a message. God Parties offers leaders 3 months of opportunities to involve students in the preparation, teaching and learning roles, and connects biblical concepts with food, object lessons and activities that reinforce learning and application–all designed to be repeated each year as God prescribed.

btw, God Parties comes with leader’s guides and student handouts, as well as a bunch of short videos from the author speaking to you (the leader) about what’s most important to focus on in this session. i love how jeff (the author) connects these ancient jewish feasts and festivals to jesus (really, i learned a ton of stuff when we were developing this resource!) and helps apply it to our lives today. for easter, specifically, there’s a full passover seder experience and instructions. as usual, there’s a free downloadable sample on the product page.

two more, quickly:

good-news-in-the-neighborhood-squareGood News in the Neighborhood: a 6-Week Curriculum for Groups

this award-winning downloadable curriculum (i made up the award-winning part; but it SHOULD be) has gotten such overwhelmingly positive responses from those who’ve used it. it was originally conceived to align with pentecost, but can really be used at any time of the year. includes all sorts of goodies, like intro videos, graphics, and more.

This 6-week series will deep dive your students into the practical realities of a radical life with Jesus. Built around six themes of community life, students will gain an understanding of their role in their community and be challenged by a series of simple experiments they can try. More than a series that teaches your students about being Good News in their community, Good News in the Neighborhood offers practical application based on the life of Jesus and the 1st century Church. Our hope is that your students begin to see how God has called them to become good news in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods.

9780988741317-front-smalland, finally, our award-winning (yeah, not true once again) devotional journal…
Lent: A Journey of Discovery by Addition, Subtraction and Introspection

our second-best selling title ever, in the long history of The Youth Cartel, because it’s so splenderific.

but, alas, you’re too late for this year. stock is gone and we’re not reprinting it until some time closer to Lent 2015. we just want to make sure this is on your radar, so you can continue to be the well-informed and wise youth worker that you are.

brainstorm

what’s on my “to read” stack, and a recommitment to read

i’ve been a really lousy reader so far this year. other than books published by The Youth Cartel or manuscripts i’ve been asked to endorse, i think i’ve only read one book this year, which i just finished yesterday: malcolm gladwell’s david and goliath. it was great, by the way. but i’m annoyed by how passively i read it — a few pages at a time. the irony of my snail’s pace is that i’ve spent SO much time on planes these past 3 months. over the last few years, sitting on planes has been my #1 reading spot, unquestionably. i’ve flown 55,000 miles in these past three months, but read one book! and that bugs me.

i want to learn.

i want to grow.

i want to think.

i want to dream and create.

and i believe that reading is essential to all of these. so i’m jumping back in. enough binge-watching dexter on my ipad when flying. i have a one-night trip to birmingham, alabama this friday/saturday. it’s a long way to go for one night; but that means lots of reading time in airplanes!

here’s what on my current stack of books:

brainstormBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Daniel J. Siegel MD
why it’s on the stack:
research about teenage brains has shifted from “limits” to “potential,” and i want to stay on top of that shift that aligns with my belief in teenagers.

brainwashed-coverBrainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld
why it’s on the stack:
my long-term suspicion of the underlying assumptions of popular reporting on teenage brain discoveries, and their alignment with culture’s general dismissal (fear?) of teenagers is finding purchase in books like this one.

finding the space to leadFinding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership, by Janice Marturano
why it’s on the stack:
heard good things about this one, and suspect it might have some “outside our tribe” value for church leaders, as well as for the ebook i keep threatening to write about leading without power.

it's complicatedIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by danah boyd
why it’s on the stack:
danah boyd is brilliant. very few people have the intellect, research cred, insight, and communication skills to do what she does. i’ve been waiting for this book (it just came out last week).

jesus feministJesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, by Sarah Bessey
why it’s on the stack:
i want to be a better feminist. and i’m intrigued by sarah bessey (and considering her as an event speaker).

bank of bobThe International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time, by Bob Harris
why it’s on the stack:
i love micro loans as a development approach. and my wife read this for a book club and really enjoyed it.

one more thingOne More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, by B. J. Novak.
why it’s on the stack:
b. j. novak totally cracks me up. no question: this book is on the stack for the same reason i got cold stone ice cream the other night (sweet cream ice cream with pistachios and heath bar).

serpent of veniceThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel, by Christopher Moore
why it’s on the stack:
chris moore is my naughty literary indulgence. i read every single book he publishes. i laugh out loud, and i marvel at his creativity (both in plot and word).

and this handful of books that have been sent to me, which i’ll likely give a quick read:

Youth Ministry: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right, by David Olshine

Flimsy Ministry: Is the Foundation of Your Youth Ministry on Rock or Sand?, by Brian Seidel

Critical Connection: A Practical Guide to Parenting Young Teens, by Andy Kerckhoff

Letters to God: Diary of an Unsilenced Generation, by Cassandra Smith

Losing Your Religion: Moving from Superficial Routine to Authentic Faith, by Chuck Bomar

Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God & Faith [Sticky Faith Curriculum], by Jim Candy, Brad Griffin, and Kara Powell

jesus walking on water, kinda

photo in need of a caption

yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve had one of these.

someone’s going to get ticked at this one, i’m guessing. just know that i’m not suggesting that jesus didn’t walk on water! there. geez (us).

9780991005024-front-1000but, really, i’m all a-twitter (in the old meaning of that word) with anticipation for what weirdness and wonder you’ll come up with. need a prize to prompt ya? fine. how about a copy of morgan schmidt’s MUST READ new book, Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus. it officially released this week. here’s what kenda dean said about it:

Morgan Schmidt is a snappy and relatable writer. But above all, she is a prophet blessed with a winsome honesty that sneaks up on you as you’re planning your umpteenth mission trip and whispers: “Recalculate.” For Schmidt, being human boils down to desire; and youth ministry that’s honest is about desire too—the desires of youth for God, the desire of God for them. With Woo, Morgan Schmidt joins a new class of practical theologians taking aim at the false gods driving the youth ministry industry, and she restores our focus—and our hope—on young people’s God-given desire to become, belong to, and worship as the body of Christ. Woo completely won me over.

so there. youth worker, if you ever asked yourself WWKD? the answer is clear: she would read this book.

winner gits one.

ok — whatcha got for this beauty, sent to me by an old friend and former middle school ministry volunteer, dr. matt carlson? (click on this bad boy for a much larger image.)

jesus walking on water, kinda

CONTENDERS

Jesus clearly brings out a large quantity of comments, both here and on facebook. here’s the best of the best, from my admittedly subjective and skewed perspective:

Othy
…and this was the scene in which you could tell that the producers spared no expense for the special effects in the “Son of God” movie.

Dave Wollan
Oh you of little hands

Cash
“During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
That was when I made you carry me
So that I could walk on water
And you could learn your lesson.”

David Hanson
Ancient “Chicken Fighting.”

Dan Jones
Miracle Whipped.

Josh Jones
The lesser known, 13th disciple – Aquaman

Lauren Christian
“Oops. Wrong lake.”

Jason Buchan
the disciples practicing their human video for their next outreach in Galilee.

Klint Bitter
“Jesus, dude, two words: under. Wear.”

and the winner is…

i have to admit, i was hoping for a good Son of God movie line. so i’m givin’ it to Othy, for “…and this was the scene in which you could tell that the producers spared no expense for the special effects in the “Son of God” movie.”

congrats, Othy — a copy of Woo is coming your way!

Slide1

The Best Life

i’ve had a book about Hope percolating in me for almost five years. i’ve had a publishing contract for the book since last summer. i finished a draft of it about 6 weeks ago and sent it off to 6 readers (including two “theological readers”). last week i spent 3 days in the desert making corrections and tweaks based on feedback from the readers. and on saturday, i sent it off to the publisher. even if the book only sells three copies (me, my wife and my mom), this was a major deal for me, writing a book that expresses something deep from my soul, and not just my head.

here’s a tiny snippet from the last chapter…

The Best Life

The age-old existential question that has haunted philosophers and college sophomores for a very long time, is some version of “Why am I here?” Jesus gives us some fodder for consideration in what has become my favorite Bible verse:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

Remember: When Jesus says “they” in this verse, he’s talking about you.

Contrary to what one might assume by observing Christians in America, Jesus did not say:

  • I have come that you may get into heaven.
  • I have come that you may leave this lousy place one day in the future.
  • I have come that you may get serious about religion, finally.
  • I have come that you may experience your ship coming in.
  • I have come that you may know who’s “in” and who’s “out.”
  • I have come that you may stop disgusting me so much.

It’s a pretty revolutionary promise, really. Jesus wants you to experience a full life. That’s his verbatim explanation for his time on earth.

Why are you here? To have a full life.

So, what’s a full life, then?

I’m convinced, from scripture, observation of hopeful people, and my own experience, that a fullness of life burns most hot when I follow in the footsteps of Jesus and give my life away, bringing Hope to the hopeless.

As my more self-focused longings are filled with the pigment of Hope, they start to shift. Since Hope and longing are dancing the Tango, a shift in one shifts the other. My Hope increases, and my longings turn outward. My longings shift and my Hope needs a power boost.

This is the full life. This is the life we were invented for. This is God’s dream for you, a continual broadening of your longings and increase of Hope, put into action.

volunteer youth worker.pack

Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide Books

about three years ago, chris folmsbee of barefoot ministries asked me to develop some training for his organization, targeting volunteer youth workers. the idea was that i would speak at a small handful of saturday training days geared for volunteers (which sorta happened, at that time). and the original plan was that each attendee would get three short ebooks as a bonus. i wrote the three books; but there were some complications, and they weren’t ready for the training days.

so, now, all this time later, they’ve actually been published and are available! sorta fun, as i didn’t even think they were going to see the light of day! all three are short and practical — great for handing out to volunteer leaders on your team.

volunteer youth worker.small groupsA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Leading a Small Group

A lot of churches and youth ministries have given up on the idea of small groups, writing them off as too tedious, too difficult to manage, too hard to find volunteers for, too expensive to provide materials or curriculum for, or any other number of reasons. In A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Leading a Small Group, Mark Oestreicher argues a different perspective. Marko insists that small groups promote safe spaces to grow, consistency in teenagers’ emotionally tumultuous lives, and repetition that instills in them the importance of trust and tradition. The Guide to Leading a Small Group is perfect for anyone feeling disenchanted with the concept of small groups, and after Marko succeeds in changing your mind in the first few pages, he’ll use the rest of the book to help you restructure and rethink your small-group programming so you don’t get burned out again. Marko is leading the charge in reviving small groups, and you can join him today.

volunteer youth worker.understanding teensA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Understanding Today’s Teenagers

Many parents have taken a defeatist approach toward understanding their teens, and not without good reason; it does often seem hopeless, after all. But that’s where you, the volunteer youth worker, come in. Mark Oestreicher shows that Understanding Today’s Teenager is both possible and rewarding, if one has the right tools. Marko explores the dimensions of nature vs. nurture, brain activity, culture, biology, and emotional development, all of which lead teenagers to do the wacky things they do that adults don’t understand and often can’t remember having done themselves. Marko also reminds us that adolescent development doesn’t end at the age of 18 just because United States law says it does. A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Understanding Today’s Teenager uses a combination of science, logic, and compassion to help bring us back from the cliff edge and remember why we started working with teens in the first place. Use this book as a jumping-off point to re-ignite your passion for teens.

volunteer youth workers.parentsA Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Resourcing Parents

Every youth leader, volunteer, or pastor has failed at some point in their communication or interaction with their teenagers’ parents. It’s inevitable. We are human, most youth workers are still pretty young themselves, and most parents are guarded and protective of their kids. These factors combine to create a minefield, of sorts, for parents and youth workers to navigate. In fact, youth ministry mogul Mark Oestreicher starts off A Volunteer Youth Worker’s Guide to Resourcing Parents by admitting some of his own failures in his interactions with students’ parents. But then Marko uses the rest of the book to explore the importance and deep significance of being intentional with parent contact and interaction, and not letting family ministry slip through the cracks in favor of teenager-only ministry. If you’ve had some discouraging interactions with parents lately, this book might help provide a new perspective, allowing you to show some grace, both to yourself and the parents you’re trying to minister to. Let Marko guide you in seeking the best balance in your ministry efforts in order to maximize and equip one of your greatest youth ministry resources.

to be clear: i didn’t write those descriptions, and didn’t even see them until they’d been out for a few months. i’m cracking up that they called me a “youth ministry mogul.” apparently The Youth Cartel sounds bigger and more menacing than it is (two guys working out of their homes)!

knowing that lead youth workers might want to get these in bulk for their leaders, we’ve priced them in a way that makes that extremely possible:

  • 1-4 copies: $7.49 (Save $.50 off retail)
  • 5-9 copies: $6.79 (15% off retail)
  • 10-19 copies: $5.99 (25% off retail)
  • 20+: $5.19 (35% off retail)

or, you can get the pack of all three books for a nifty $19.99!

volunteer youth worker.pack