Category Archives: books

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

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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.

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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

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Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus

9780991005024-front-1000since most youth workers haven’t heard of morgan schmidt, the author of our upcoming release, Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus, i thought it would be a good idea to add a few words in the front of the book about why we chose to publish this work. here’s what i wrote:

A Word from the Publisher

Publishing is tough these days. (I wanted to write, “It’s gettin’ hard out here for a pimp,” but I thought the music/movie reference might get lost, and some would be offended.) Most publishers just cannot afford to release a book by an author who doesn’t have a built-in platform to move thousands of copies on her own.

Morgan Schmidt does not have a platform to move thousands of copies of this book on her own.

But, call us visionary or passionate or stupid, we simply had to publish Morgan’s book. Morgan Schmidt is more than the ideas and words on these pages; we believe she’s an important emerging voice in youth ministry. And built into the DNA of The Youth Cartel is a commitment to find people like Morgan and help them shape all of us.

And the words on these pages—well, I am really not blowing smoke when I write that they are among the most important and reorienting and revolutionary and fresh words written about youth ministry in the last couple years. Plus, as a bonus, Morgan writes in a winsome way that leaves you no choice but to really like her, whether you agree with her proposals and perspectives and time-delayed explosives or not. As with most of the stuff we publish or host at our events, our goal at The Youth Cartel is not that you agree with us (or fall prey to our megalomaniacal plans to rule the world), but that you are invited to think, reflect, and hear the voice of God about youth ministry.

With that, I’m excited to introduce you to Woo: Awaking Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus and to the insightful Morgan Schmidt. (You can take it from here, Morgan…)

Mark Oestreicher
Partner | The Youth Cartel

oh, and for the record, here’s what some other people are saying 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.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

Woo is, hands down, one of the most sensible and simultaneously exhilarating books about pastoring students that I have read in a long time. Morgan Schmidt wisely guides us to awaken desire rather than run from it, equipping us to form desire to follow in the way of Jesus. Woo invites leaders to see students as real people, with real longings that matter. Don’t let the warmth and wit of Morgan’s writing fool you—this changes everything you’ve known about youth ministry.
Dwight J. Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology @ The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, coauthor of The New Parish

Woo is a book about desire, the desire of young people to be authentic and real. It is also about the desire for those who serve the Church to be the midwives who help them do just that. Knowing Morgan Schmidt, I can tell you this book is authentic and real. Here is offered one devoted person’s theology and praxis around the ministry to youth. I highly recommend it, and I thank God for this offering to the Church.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, VIII, Bishop of Olympia

Both Augustine and Kierkegaard, in their own ways, asserted that we are what we desire. Consumerism has adopted in a counterfeit but powerful way this theology. When our desires go askew and latch onto consumer goods, political ideologies, or fear about our children, we create pantheons of idols to worship. Like a prophet from the Old Testament, Morgan Schmidt has called out youth ministry for its idol-making, asserting with flare and depth that youth ministry has been captured by desires other than encountering the living God. This is a book that will challenge you because it will ask you to expose your desires. But in so doing, you may find not the idol of successful youth ministry, but the living God who will draw you closer and closer to the humanity of young people this living God loves.
Dr. Andrew Root, Luther Seminary, author of Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry

I really like what Morgan Schmidt is saying to youth pastors in Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus. We should know by now that approaching the Christian formation of young people in our churches needs something more than doubling down on what we think worked in the past or even a “new” method or model—a full theological paradigmatic shift is necessary. Morgan carefully unveils a more spiritual posture toward the young people we want to do life with. It starts with a passion to approach them with a sense of awe in their personhood. It involves our curiosity and commitment to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work of unleashing a young person’s imagination in the pursuit of discovering his or her beautiful God-given humanity. Maybe if we spent more time nourishing our own lives with God and what it means for us to become more fully human, we might just find ourselves around young people who feel fully alive desiring life in Jesus Christ. If you are comfortably ensconced in a church that puts on programs for youth to consume, and measures its success based on immediate results—don’t read this book. It will either make you very uncomfortable or—if it captures you—it could get you fired. But, then again, it could also spark an awakening in your congregation.
Mike King, President/CEO of Youthfront, author of Presence-Centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation

jean valjean

Jean Valjean and the sparking of hope

here’s a little snippet of the writing i’ve been doing in the desert this week. this is the intro to the 8th chapter of the book (which is about hope). this chapter is tentatively called “Jesus, the Hope-Giver.”

My favorite Broadway musical is Cats.

That’s a lie, actually, and a glimpse into my strange sense of humor. Seriously, the percentage of normal, well-adjusted guys who love Cats has to be terribly small, right? Sorry if I’ve offended you. Sort of.

My favorite Broadway musical is Les Misérables. But to be honest, I prefer the film versions, because I can focus on the storyline more, not being distracted by the theatrics and staging. I was more upbeat about the 2012 version with Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Anne Hathaway than many people I know. And I was two-thumbs-up about the 2000 version with Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich. But my favorite version of the story, by far, is the 1998 (non-musical) version starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and a pre-Homeland Claire Danes.

I think the reason the 1998 version of “Les Mis” is my favorite is because it contains one of my all-time favorite scenes in any film, ever. It’s a scene in all versions of Les Mis, but none capture it quite like the 1998 film version.

You can skip reading this paragraph if you’re a Les Mis groupie, but to make sure everyone is on the same page: Les Miserables is the story (written as a book, by Victor Hugo, in 1862, and widely considered one of the best novels of the 19th century) of Jean Valjean, a peasant who steals a loaf of bread for his starving sister’s child and spends 19 years in prison for the crime. After his release, he breaks parole, and his hunted down by a law-obsessed police inspector named Javert. There’s much more to the story, of course. It’s an exploration of law and grace, loyalty, transformation, and redemption.

jean valjeanMy favorite scene occurs fairly early in the film, when Jean Valjean is first on the run for breaking parole. Turned away from multiple inns because his yellow passport marks him as a convict, Valjean is taken in by the town’s priest, Bishop Myriel. During the night, Valjean steals the rectory’s silverware. But he is caught, and policemen return him to and the silverware to the rectory to refute Valjean’s claim that the silverware was given to him, enroute to what will clearly be a return to prison.

Here’s the breathtaking scene. When the police ask the Bishop if the silverware is his, he responds that it was the rectory’s, but that Valjean is correct in stating it was a gift. As the police release Valjean and turn to leave, the Bishop continues, saying that Valjean had forgotten to take the silver candlesticks. Valjean’s face reveals confusion, and the Bishop re-iterates that the valuable candlesticks were part of the gift.

Pulling Valjean aside, Bishop Myriel quietly says, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.”

The scene is powerful to me (and thousands of others) on multiple levels:
• I am Valjean (and so are you). I do not deserve mercy, but have been shown it countless times, by my God and by people in my life.
• The “measure” of mercy is over the top: not only forgiveness, but a double-portion gift.
• This is a clear picture of Jesus, particularly through the lens of the Bishop’s final comment.
• As a follower of Jesus, I am called to live like this, to be a dispenser of this style of mercy, which I find simultaneously life-giving and completely counter to my instincts.

And the scene is a powerful picture of hope’s arrival. Valjean heads into the rectory courtyard, held by the policemen, completely without hope. Full of fear and absolutely demoralized, days out of exile and about to be returned. He leaves with a kernel of possibility starting to crack open in his heart.

This is Jesus, who shows up in the midst of our confusion and pain and fear, and surprises us with hope. Other than the fact that Valjean would not be returning to prison, the immediate circumstances of Valjean’s life are still difficult. But his imagination is sparked, a dream of a new potential, hope and longing commencing the Tango.

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get your lent on

Lent Starts March 5th
We’ve got you covered…

Did you know Lent starts in just a few weeks? We know you just got done submitting receipts from the Christmas Party and you’re trying to pre-screen all of the Super Bowl commercials before 25 parents call you about the latest GoDaddy attention grab this Sunday.

Relax. We’ve got you covered.

lent-instagramFellow youth worker Erik Willits has put together a great resource for your group, a Lenten devotional simply called Lent.

Tons of youth groups (and entire churches) tested Lent in 2013 and loved it.

Bulk Pricing for Lent

  • 1-4 copies: $9.99 each
  • 5-9 copies: $9.49 each
  • 10-19 copies: $8.49 each
  • 20-99 copies: $6.49 each
  • 100+ copies: $6.09 each
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spend your budget!

wow — the fact that it’s only days from christmas doesn’t seem weird to me; but the fact that 2013 is days from ending, that’s wild to me (as it always is).

cartel storefront imageif you work in a church, this might not be the end of a budget cycle. but so many youth workers i know are in the final days of a 2013 church budget. and if that’s you, and you have a tiny stash o’ funds left, i’d like to suggest two good uses, all of which are also time-sensitive:

1. FREE SHIPPING in The Youth Cartel store on all orders of $25 or more, for the continental U.S., through tuesday, december 24 (christmas eve!). this is your chance for a win/win. we have way too much product in our “warehouse” (the shelves in adam’s garage). and, of course, you get the double-win of our awesome products AND free shipping. we’re seeing people use this opportunity to do a couple things:

  • place bulk orders on a single product (remember, any order of 20 or more copies of a single product gets a 35% discount anyhow!). yesterday, someone bought 20 copies of the “Parent Pack of Awesomeness” (all five books in the Parents Guide series). and someone else bought 40 copies of the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers, clearly getting ready for a retreat or a small group series or something.
  • or, quite a few have just used this to stock up on resources they’ve wondered about, but hadn’t gotten yet. i’m seeing lots of orders with 5 or 6 different titles, just 1 or 2 copies of each.

you don’t need a coupon or code for this deal. just have more than twenty-five bucks in your cart, and a continental U.S. address, and the shipping will automatically get cut. easy peasy, sugar-plum squeezy.

2. Event deposits. we’re offering the very best deal you can ever get on pre-registrations for our two national events, the Middle School Ministry Campference, and The Summit. in both cases, a $25 non-refundable, but fully transferable deposit now (before 2013 ends!), locks in the lowest rate, and we’ll invoice you for the balance at the end of next summer.

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  • the Middle School Ministry Campference (here’s last year’s website) is a weekend-long tribal gathering for people who work with young teens. you learn a ton, but you’ll also have more fun and build more ministry friendships than any other youth ministry event you’ve ever attended (i am not exaggerating). the event is at SpringHill Camp in seymour, indiana (hour south of indy, hour north of louisville), october 10-12, 2014. and with this special pre-registration, you lock in an all-inclusive rate (really, accommodations and food included!) of $259 per person.

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  • The Summit (last year’s website) is like TED for youth workers, carefully crafted to spark your imagination and get you thinking in new ways. of this year’s event, Christy B wrote “The Summit left my mind full of new ideas to connect with my students and ways to engage them in their spiritual lives. Can’t wait for next year!” we’re moving the event to nashville for 2014. november 7 and 8. and with this special pre-registration, you lock in an almost absurd rate of $109! (seriously, that’s cheap)

 

both of those pre-reg deals end the second before ryan seacrest says “happy new year!”

my brand new book: 99 THOUGHTS FOR JUNIOR HIGHERS

99-thoughts-for-junior-highersi wrote a thing.

actually, i co-wrote it. with my good friend brooklyn lindsey.

it’s called 99 Thoughts for Junior Highers: Biblical Truth in Bite-Sized Pieces

we both completely dig junior highers/middle schoolers/young teens. really: i’ve been working with them for 33 years, brooklyn for lots of years also (she’s clearly not as old as me). i wrote another one of these a year ago with my own two niños (99 Thoughts on Raising Your Parents), and thought it was a blast to write. so we were pretty pumped when Simply Youth Ministry said yes to our idea of adding this book to their 99 Thoughts line.

if you’re familiar with the 99 Thoughts line, you might be surprised by this: even though we wrote for young teens, the “thoughts” are longer than most of the books in this series (in fact, we turned in a manuscript that was almost exactly twice as long as requested!). there’s depth to this book, even though it cover a LOT of ground in a limited amount of space.

we broke the 99 Thoughts into 11 “chapters” (really, subject groupings):

  • Who Am I? – Understanding Yourself
  • What’s Happening to Me? – Everything About You Is Changing
  • You and God
  • The Low-Down on Church
  • How Do I Figure Out What I Believe?
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Future Matters
  • What’s Most Important? – Figuring Out Priorities
  • Your Crazy Life
  • Girls and Guys

each chapter also has a “Story from Junior High Marko” or “Junior High Brooklyn.” they’re true stories from our own young teen years, thematically connected to the chapter, and told from our perspective as if we were junior highers. a little weird, but fun.

here’s the back cover copy:

Life for a typical junior higher is awesome. And hard. And fun. And exciting. And boring. And crazy, right? Basically, it’s a blur of all those things—and more!

Junior high truly is a season of ups and downs, of possibilities and confusion, of amazing memories and embarrassing moments. To survive it all, you sometimes just need a little help—or 99 bite-sized bits of help!

Mark Oestreicher and Brooklyn Lindsey—youth pastors who’ve worked with people your age for a long, long time—have teamed up to create this insider’s guide for this wild ride.

They’ll help as you examine the changes in your life, figure out what you believe, see where God and church fit into the picture, choose how to interact with family and friends, and decide what matters most in life. And you’ll read some true stories about the authors’ own junior high years!

99 Thoughts for Junior Highers will entertain, engage, and encourage you during this crazy season of life!

we really hope that youth workers and parents will get it for their 11 – 14 year-olds. it’s a great stocking stuffer, mom & dad. it’s a fun small group christmas gift (which you could totally use in small groups come january). check it out or buy it here!

and, for a bit of oddity, here’s a li’l promo video i shot in my hotel room at o’hare airport last night when i got stuck there on my way home…

ADVENT: A Journey Of Waiting, Watching And Preparing For The Light

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early in 2012, The Youth Cartel released a totally cool devotional called LENT. quite surprisingly, it was a devotional about LENT. weird, huh?

erik willits really created a fantastic 40-day devotional journey. amazing, really. and the response was fantastic. of course, sales of that one have sorta tapered off at the moment (hopefully people will think of using it in their ministries again in the new year). but we asked erik to write another one, this time for advent. using our creative book titling powers, we decided to name this one ADVENT.

we’re a youth ministry organization, and erik’s a youth pastor. so let’s call it a youth ministry product. but, really, it’s not limited to youth ministry use (in fact, erik’s entire church used the LENT devotional last year). ADVENT can be used with any age, and erik wrote it with that in mind.

as erik writes in the intro:

The idea for this guide to Advent and Christmastide is that you will enter into this journey with your church, youth group, small group or family. The journey of learning to wait, prepare and hope shouldn’t be done alone. Ultimately, it should stir in you the desire to help the poor and give to those in need. It should encourage you to walk and not run and pray instead of purchase. Having people with you on the journey will help you to do all these things well.

you can download a longer sample here. but here’s a random entry i grabbed:

PREPARE // DAY 9
READING :: Luke 3:1-18

John the Baptist is our Advent portrait of preparation! He’s our icon, if you will—the image that points us to the greater reality God is leading us into.

In Matthew’s account, John is painted as a peculiar prophet, wearing a camel hair coat with a sweet leather belt to complete his outfit. He dines on bugs and wild honey—exotic, right? Now, don’t worry, the takeaway from the life of John the Baptist isn’t to eat exotic bugs and wear fur coats and leather belts (unless you want to). What we learn from John the Baptist is that living a life prepared for the Messiah means looking a little peculiar to the culture around you.

Do we as Christians look any different in the way we participate in Advent and prepare for the birth of Christ than the rest of our culture? In my observation, many times those who believe in Jesus and those who don’t participate in Advent in a similar way—by hanging lots of lights and buying lots of gifts. In fact, the majority of Christians I know prepare for Christmas, which means participating in Advent, by preparing to give and receive presents and have Christmas parties. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Christmas party as much as the next guy, but I don’t want that to be primary marker of my Advent experience.

This is why the way of John the Baptist and the Advent he lives is so radical and counter-cultural. As we authentically engage the Advent portrayed by John the Baptist, our response should be the same as those who listened to him in Luke 3: “What should we do?” And John tells us. “If you have two coats, give one away and do the same with your food.” He then talks to different people with different influences and abilities and helps each of them with a practical way to prepare for the coming of the Christ and His Kingdom.

Why not take a moment and evaluate your gifts, abilities, possessions and circles of influence? Bring a friend, parent or pastor into the conversation and come up with a “John the Baptist” approach. Meaning, if John were to look at your life, what kind of practical challenge would he give you this Advent, as you prepare for the coming of Jesus in His birth, His return and in the coming of His Kingdom on earth?

How would John the Baptist challenge you to prepare for Jesus this Advent?

we’ve really priced this one for group usage. it’s just $9.99 each; but order 20 or more copies and you can get them for $6.49 each. of course, check out the the downloadable sample here. such a great way to have a focus other than ski trips or presents or ugly sweaters!

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

9780988741386-frontyesterday, i posted about one of the most significant youth ministry books of the year, april diaz’s Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker. and i told the story of how it came to be. really, the story of brock morgan’s brand new book, Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, is the same. and it’s also one of the most significant youth ministry books of the year.

in 2012, i was aware of the ministry challenges brock was facing. i’ve known him well for a dozen years; and i was very much paying attention to whether his move to new england, after a youth ministry lifetime on the west coast, would end quickly or not. we chatted somewhere along the way, and i saw how brock was learning more new stuff than he’d likely learned in the previous five years combined (it helps that he’s a humble learner).

so we asked him to speak at The Summit that fall on the assigned topic, “Reaching Teenagers Who Don’t See a Need for Jesus.” like april, brock hit it out of the park. it was one of the talks that people were buzzing about. it was one of the talks that convinced me and adam that The Summit was the right event for the right sort of youth worker (one who’s interested in thinking in new ways). minutes after brock finished speaking, i asked him if he would consider writing the talk as a book. less than a year later, here we are, and the book — Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World — released this week.

here’s a few paragraphs from the first chapter (but you can download a longer sample here):

Stuart Murray defines post-Christianity (or “post-Christendom”) as “The culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story and as the institutions that have been developed to express Christian convictions decline in influence.”

The Christian faith losing coherence? Check.

Christian institutions declining in influence? Check.

It’s a difficult shift to perceive when all the people you hang out with think just like you do. But if you get outside the bubble and really listen, you’ll discover that things really have changed in the world, and they continue to change. You see, a post-Christian world is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant religion or even the dominant mindset. An evolution has occurred over the past 50-plus years. Slowly and gradually over time, our society has begun to assume values, cultures, and worldviews that aren’t Judeo-Christian. At that youth workers’ conference 20 years ago, I was told this was going to happen. But I didn’t listen. And now that time is upon us.

America is in the midst of this transition from a Judeo-Christian value system into a post-Christian mindset. Oh, you can bet the church is doing a lot of kicking and screaming right now. That’s what happens when the top dog is no longer the top dog. It’s called a power struggle. And when something that’s been dominant within a culture starts to lose its voice, power, and influence…well, it can get pretty ugly. Watch the news and you’ll see that it’s not just ugly; it’s downright toxic.

Some of you might be thinking, No way, Brock! You’re wrong. I’ve read the stats and I’ve seen the research. The majority of people in America and around the world are Christians.

To that I say, “Really? That’s what you think?”

here’s just a sampling of the amazing endorsements that came in for this book:

After reading the draft manuscript I contacted the folks at The Youth Cartel and pre-ordered 25 copies! No joke. Brock’s insight into post-Christian culture and ministry to teens within such a culture are inspiring and refreshing. His optimism for the future burns brightly which makes for a helpful resource that not only deconstructs the current reality but also faithfully constructs a new way forward. This book will undoubtedly assist any youth worker in their pursuit of guiding teens into spiritual formation for the mission of God in a post-Christian culture.
Chris Folmsbee, Author of A New Kind of Youth Ministry and Pastor of Group Life Ministry at Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World is, above all, a story of honesty and hope. There’s not a youth worker alive who won’t resonate with Brock Morgan’s unassuming self-portrait of a ministry (and a youth minister) coming to terms with America’s first explicitly “post-Christian” decades. I felt like I knew the youth in these pages; I groaned with recognition at Morgan’s failures and smiled at God’s grace-giving surprises. Above all, Morgan gives teenagers–and those who love them–what we are desperate for: permission to trust in a God who is far bigger than the moment before us. If you’re looking for another program manual of youth ministry how-to’s and free advice, keep looking. But if you need a friend in the trenches, whose journey will make you feel a little less alone, then this is your next read.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary, Author of Almost Christian and Practicing Passion

What you’re going to hear in this book is the passionate heart of a thoughtful youth worker who is unwilling to let standard youth ministry operating procedure get in the away of authentic, vital ministry. You won’t have to agree with everything Brock says to recognize that he’s asking important questions. This isn’t just hand-wringing. Particularly in the last few chapters there are some helpful, practical steps for the way forward. Well-worth a read!
Dr. Duffy Robbins, Professor of Youth Ministry, Eastern University, St Davids, PA

download a sample if you want. but you’re gonna want to read this thing. check it, here.