Category Archives: books

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.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker

cover-concepts4dat last year’s Summit, april diaz gave a talk on a topic i’d asked her to focus on: Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker. i knew she would do great. but i didn’t know she’d be THAT great (like, one of the best talks at the event). instantly, i knew it had to become a book.

now, slightly less than a year later, april’s book of that same title has released this week! i’m going on record and saying that every youth worker has to read this book (yeah, i know i’m the publisher, and we benefit if you believe me — but that’s not the reason i wrote that sentence!).

here are a few paragraphs from the end of chapter 1 (actually, you can download a longer sample here):

May I begin this book with a confession? In my church context, we were fairly content with being insane. We knew we weren’t operating at full capacity, but students were still showing up. It’s not like we’d totally destructed. We were tweaking things here and there, yet we still weren’t seeing tangible results. I felt a holy discontent that things were not as they should be, and that discontent would not let me go. The catalyst for us in reimagining the role of the youth worker was a staffing transition that presented an opportunity for real change. But honestly, the catalyst should have been the names and stories of graduated teenagers who were deeply struggling in their faith or no longer walking with Jesus.

In each of the first three Gospels where Jesus discusses fasting, he speaks some haunting words, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38 NLT). I wonder why Jesus declares these words in a discussion on fasting? What do fasting, prayer, and wine have to do with each other? My hunch is that Jesus was hinting at the ancient truth that with any necessary change and maturing growth, a period of fasting and reflection must come.

What we are considering requires more than fancy programmatic tweaks or human ingenuity. We require something new, given to us by the Divine Creator. To be given new wine and a new wineskin is beyond us, beyond our human knowledge or finite experience. Jesus hints that this need to fast—a need to create space in which to evaluate the old—contains deep, yet difficult wisdom that will transform our very souls and then impact our leadership and the teenagers we love.

May we begin our reimagining with the humility to confess we’ve messed up a few things along the way—despite our good intentions—and we are in need of the Great Sommelier to make some new wine for us to drink from a new vessel.

and here are JUST A HANDFUL of the long list of people who have agreed with me that you have to read this book:

In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz invites us on a journey of ministry reformation, as she translates the findings of the Sticky Faith research project into a model that actually works in the real-life trenches of youth ministry. There is little doubt that now is the time for bold experimentation around the dream of building student ministries that actually build life-long faith in the next generation, and April is one of the early cartographers of the future landscape of youth ministry.
Mark DeVries, Author of Family-Based Youth Ministry, founder of Ministry Architects

I read this book immediately after wrestling with some Youth For Christ veterans about needed shifts in a ministry leader’s job description and just prior to interviewing candidates for my church’s open position in youth ministry. The timing was perfect, bringing sweet clarity to my own gnawing convictions. As a bonus, the book reads like a caffeinated conversation with your spunky, irrepressible and street-wise friend. April and Newsong Church are onto a really important course correction for God’s people and I’m grateful that she’s made the effort to share her insights with us all.
Dr. Dave Rahn, Sr VP, Chief Ministry Officer, Youth for Christ/USA, Director, Huntington University’s MA in Youth Ministry Leadership

For years many of us have known that something wasn’t quite right with how we’ve been ministering to students all these years. In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz has taken us one step closer to providing us with a clear and compelling vision for a desperately needed new vision for youth ministry. April’s extensive history and experience, keen mind, and love for kids, families and the church all combine to help the new-comer or most seasoned veteran take the leap into a more theological, long-term and practical world of our ministry to our young.
Chap Clark, PhD, Author, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture, Fuller Seminary

April passionately reminds us of the heart of our work–relationships with and within the Body of Christ. Her steps toward redefining the role of the youth worker are echoed in the words of others who have also experienced similar “holy discontent” with status quo youth ministry. If you’re hungry for more…see a link that might be missing…are frustrated in the way the church and youth ministry segregate…then you’ve found an exceptional place to begin, right here, with April.
Brooklyn Lindsey, Youth Pastor, Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, Lakeland, Florida

so, go here. download the sample. order your copy or five or twenty (ok, that was the publisher part of me talking there).

back to school discounts at The Youth Cartel store

all week, we’re having a big “back to school” sale on The Youth Cartel store. each day will have a “deal of the day”.

and, all week long, we have a special price on our new “everything we make bundle,” priced this week only at $79.99 (instead of $146.94).
everything we make

This bundle includes a single copy of each of the following products currently published by The Youth Cartel.

  • The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers (paperback)
  • The Picture Book Guide to Youth Ministry (paperback)
  • Every Picture Tells a Story: 2013 Edition (download)
  • Stations of the Cross (download)
  • Lent (paperback)
  • Leading Up (paperback)
  • Masterpiece (paperback)
  • The Youth Cartel’s [Unauthorized] Dictionary of Youth Ministry (paperback)
  • Good News in the Neighborhood (download)

the “deal of the day” for the rest of this week are on single products. but today’s deal is a little different…

deal-of-the-day-DAY1-250Deal of the Day!
Each day this week we’re featuring something at half off. Why? Because we love ya, that’s why.

No coupon codes needed. The only restriction is that you have to buy the deal today!

DAY 1 – All of our downloadable stuff is on sale
$12.50 Every Picture Tells a Story: 2013 Edition
$12.50 Stations of the Cross
$12.50 Good News in the Neighborhood
$12.50 The Summit 2012 audio (all sessions)
$25.00 The Summit 2012 video (all sessions)

the in-between

happy august 1! man, are you like me in feeling like summer has blown past so freaking fast?!??

today feels like a hinge day on my calendar, for a bunch of reasons:

  • i just wrapped up a crazy few weeks of travel, and am going to be at my desk for a week
  • there are a bunch of projects i’ve pushed off until now
  • i have a few significant deadlines (a book manuscript, a major program for a consulting client, and others) due sept 1 or thereabouts; so this is final push time
  • school starts soon, which means: my daughter heads off to college, and my son heads back to high school. and my now-8th grade guys small group starts up again (this “holy crap! it’s already august! school’s about to start!” thing is why we’re running a “free shipping on orders of $25 or more” deal over at The Youth Cartel store).

the in between with outlineand, today is also the official release of my friend jeff goins’ new book, The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing. i’m stoked about this book; but i have to admit: i’m biased. not only is jeff my friend, but i’m his literary agent. and in that role, i have walked this road with jeff for a little over a year, shaping the initial framing of this book, speaking into things like title and cover and other bits. not to take anything away from jeff at all — he’s a great writer, and i love the storytelling in this spiritual memoir. i just feel a little extra emotional connection to this book than i do with most books i read.

this is exactly the sort of book i’d want to take on a spiritual retreat — something that will cause me to reflect on my life and on god. stories and encouragement and challenge and perspective.

here’s what the book’s about:

We’re an “instant gratification” generation, but the trouble is, most change happens gradually.

Most of us spend our lives searching and longing for something more than what is in front of us. Whether it’s traveling abroad or chasing cheap (or expensive) thrills, we’re all looking for medicine to satisfy our restlessness. And, so often, we’re looking in the wrong place.

The In-Between is a call to accept the importance that waiting plays in our lives. Can we embrace the extraordinary nature of the ordinary and enjoy the daily mundane-what lies in between the “major” moments?

Moments of breakthrough are not where life’s greatest transformation happens; the stuff that God uses to shape us often lies in the in-between. It’s the bus stops and layovers and DMV lines and moments of unintentional pause that force us to become better people.

That’s not to say there aren’t moments of epiphany. There are. It’s just that most of us find ourselves living somewhere in the in-between. Learning to live in this tension, to be content in these moments of waiting, may be our greatest struggle-and our greatest opportunity to grow.

and i love this trailer (part of why i love it is because the little kid SERIOUSLY looks like he could be jeff goins, the author, as a little kid!):

here’s the book’s website. i seriously encourage you to check it out. heck: i encourage you to get it and read it, not just check it out! ’cause, in so many ways, early august IS the in-between!

April Diaz’s Summit talk, The Summit early bird deadline, and 3 freaking awesome books

seriously, sometimes there’s just so much awesome stuff happening around The Youth Cartel that i feel like i have to meter it out here on my blog. i’ve had people tell me that they feel like my blog is all promotional stuff these days. and that really bugs me, to be honest. i really try to write about whatever i’m stoked about, or whatever i’m thinking about, or whatever i’m ticked about. i don’t want to have this just be a marketing channel, but i get so stinking excited about sharing stuff with you that i’m pumped about.

so: i’ll just lump three or four cartel-y things into one blog post! the haters can skip reading and wait for me to get all ranty in another post.

first: The Summit early bird deadline

you know about The Summit, right? TED for youth workers. imagination ignition. creativity jet fuel. the most diverse roster of provocative presenters who will melt your freaking mind. yup, that event. it’s in atlanta this coming november 8 and 9. but the early bird pricing of $149 for individuals and $129 each for groups of 3 or more ends friday night!

to give you a little appeteaser of the event, here’s april diaz’s fantastic presentation from last year’s event, called Re-Imagining the Role of the Youth Worker. we were so stoked about her talk that we asked her to expand it into a book, which she’s done, and we’ll be releasing that bad boy in early october (just in time for The Summit this year!).

second: pre-sale of The Picture Book Guide to Youth Ministry

9780985153601-3Da youth worker in louisiana named paul records contacted me about this fun and helpful book idea quite a long time ago. somewhere in the midst of our months-long email conversation, The Youth Cartel decided to start publishing books. and we decided to pick up paul’s book. it’s such a fun and solid approach to a book about priorities for volunteer and rookie youth workers. it’s a focus on being the youth worker god made you to be, rather than on having a particular skill set. really, the subtitle says it well: Simple Lessons on Reaching Teens, Sustaining Your Soul, and Avoiding Ministry Meltdowns. and paul created all these fun and goofy illustrations to go with it (which makes reading it really engaging). since it’s a picture book, we laid it out in a landscape design, like a children’s book.

this would be a perfect book to buy for all your new volunteers (and your old volunteers also!) as you approach a new school year. and with that in mind, we’re offering special pricing on bulk purchases.

the book is at the printer right now, and we expect to have it in stock by the end of the month. at that point, the pre-sale pricing will go away — so jump on this one now.

  • 5-9 copies – 15% off
  • 10-19 copies – 20% off
  • 20 or more copies – 35% off

you can download a sample here, by the way.

third: pre-sale of The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers

9780988741355-FRONTyup, leave it to The Youth Cartel and jonathan mckee to publish a youth devotional based on zombies. full disclosure: jonathan was way down the road of having this published by a much bigger publisher (“much bigger” isn’t saying much, in comparison to us!), but a honcho there pulled the plug, saying they couldn’t publish a book about zombies. but we will! and we are! jonathan creatively weaves a fiction (duh!) story, written by a teenage zombie apocalypse survivor, about the lessons he and his friends have learned about staying alive. at the end of each of the 27 short chapters, there’s a collection of reflection questions and a bible verse or two to get students thinking about wisdom (the subtitle of the book, by the way, is “27 Principles of Wisdom When You’re Running for Your Life!”).

just got an endorsement in from josh griffin, who wrote that this is “The most original student devotional I’ve ever read.”

this is a great book to give to teenagers; but really, it would be a blast to use in the context of a small group.

yup, we’ve got special pre-sale pricing:

  • 1-9 copies – Save $1 each
  • 10+ copies – Save $4.19 each (35% off retail)

sorry, we don’t have a sample yet (it’s still in final editorial, and should release in mid-august); but trust me, it’s awesome. everyone who has read it has loved it (including teenagers).

fourth, and finally: continued pre-sale of the Ignite Bible for Teens

Ignite - The Bible for Teensi was stoked to play a general editor role (meaning, i wrote a bunch, recruited other writers, edited their work, and gave lots of input on design and other elements) for this new NKJV bible intentionally created for middle schoolers.

just today, i got this fantastic endorsement from brooklyn lindsey (who really knows middle schoolers):

The Ignite Bible has a grit to it that I’ve not seen in other teen Bibles. The feel of the cover itself suggests that there’s a something resilient and eternal in your hands. I like that the hardiness found in it’s pages doesn’t lend to obscurity. Instead, carefully selected language paves clear pathways, instructing young readers in relevant topics–giving them biblical insight that helps them right where they are in their everyday life. My favorite feature: the short but super engaging book introductions, they were so good I read them all.

you can download the entire book of matthew as a sample here, so you can see both the content and the design.

and, yup: we have awesome pre-release pricing for a limited time. the softcover and hardcover are both $5 off retail, and if you order 10 or more copies, we’ll give you 30% off. seriously.

ok, there’s some of The Youth Cartel stuff i’m excited about. there’s plenty more; but that’s the time-sensitive stuff you needed to hear about!

The Zombie Craze

9780988741355-FRONTsince The Youth Cartel has a book coming out very soon (probably late august, but we’re already pre-selling it!) called The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers: 27 Principles of Wisdom When You’re Running for Your Life!, i thought it would be cool to interview the author — Jonathan McKee — about our culture’s current fascination with zombies.

so, here you have it!

MARKO: This past TV season Walking Dead was the number one watched show on television. We see even more zombie movies emerging: Warm Bodies, World War Z… Why is America so obsessed with zombies right now?

JONATHAN: It’s funny, when I was in high school I remember watching the original Dawn of the Dead. The zombies were slow and clumsy… but I was hooked! Not because I liked watching blue dead people walking around, but because I liked watching a group of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The original Red Dawn had the same effect on me.

I don’t think it’s just zombie movies that are the fad right now… it’s survival against adversity. The Hunger Games provided this, and Divergent will as well. Young people are intrigued with tales of surviving against the odds. The zombie genre provides this in generous portions.

MARKO: World War Z is the newest in the zombie genre to hit the theatres. Should people go see it?

JONATHAN: I really enjoyed it. My daughter Alyssa (17) and I saw it on a daddy/daughter date. It was suspenseful and intelligent. Brad Pitt’s character cared about his family and was dedicated to do anything necessary to save them.

The film provided a few unique elements we haven’t seen before—that’s not always an easy feat. The most original was the way the “dead” moved and climbed.

I saw a review from one guy ripping on the film because it didn’t have any gore (the movie easily kept to a PG-13 rating, with no sex, nudity or gore of any kind). This film was actually a little milder than the Walking Dead TV show. But I don’t think the lack of on-screen violence dumbed it down in any way. The film provided moments of off-screen horror where your imagination was able to paint the picture of what was happening. Sometimes that is far more terrifying.

I thought it was a very creative entry to the genre.

What did you think of it?

MARKO: I totally dug it. Saw it with my wife and 15 year-old son. I mean, it wasn’t the “movie of the year” or anything; but it was worth the price of admission, for sure.

JONATHAN: Definitely.

MARKO: Can you see youth ministries using this zombie or “survival against adversity” trend for good?

Jonathan McKee 300JONATHAN: I think it’s wise to use pop culture as a springboard to conversations about Biblical truth. This doesn’t mean saturating ourselves in this culture, but it does mean noticing what people are intrigued with and using that to jumpstart dialogue about truth, in the same way the Apostle Paul used the idolatry of the people of Athens as his discussion-springboard for his famous speech on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Like your free “YouTube You Can Use” discussions each week.

Young people are looking for answers to deep questions. They’re facing more dilemmas each day. Characters from shows like The Walking Dead make life or death decisions every episode and face immediate consequences. This is something young people never got from Jersey Shore. Walking Dead is a great discussion piece.

MARKO: What’s your pick for the best zombie movie ever made?

JONATHAN: That’s a huge question.

When I grew up, one of George Romero’s films would have been at the top. But now we have talented directors like Zack Snyder doing remakes. The first 5 minutes of Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake was probably one of the most terrifying survival film moments of all time. Shocking visuals. Terrifying film.

But then we have some candidates who might not even label their films “zombie” films. Take Will Smith’s battle against the “infected” in I Am Legend. Does that count? Or how about director Danny Boyle’s truly frightening film 28 Days Later (a film released in 2002, which has a beginning soooooooooooooo similar to The Walking Dead, whose first comic was released in 2003, it would be hard to deny giving 28 Days Later the credit for originality on that one)? 28 Days Later, although bleak, was one of the first films offering an explanation for the disease and a possible cure.

So if I were to include all those possibilities, even including the 1979 movie Zombie with the famous shark scene, I’d probably go with 28 Days Later.

Marko: Given all these entries to the zombie genre, what’s unique about your ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR TEENAGERS that will be in our store next month, and what can we expect from it?

Jonathan: I guess the most unique element in this guide is that it’s a devotional. Whodathunkit? A zombie devotional. It very unique in format. It feels like a fiction book, but then it pauses for moments of reflection and scripture.

It’s also unique in the story. As a fan of the “survival against the odds” genre, I wanted to create a realistic story about three teenagers enduring hardships. Yes, they’re on a daily quest for water, food and shelter, but even more daunting is their emotional battles as they face the loss of their loved ones and they encounter the worse kind of adversary… selfish human beings.

As I wrote the story I made myself a promise: I’d keep it real and relevant. I never forced anything into the story that wasn’t real. That’s probably why a few publishers turned it down. The story is gritty. Never gratuitous, but very raw and real.

But the book is also so relevant to real life today. The story consistently reflects to life before “the havoc” (which occurred on March 18, 2019), back when teenagers could lie around their rooms listening to their headphones, walk into their kitchen, open the refrigerator and pour themselves a glass of fresh lemonade. The contrast between surviving in a post-apocalyptic world and… wanting a new case for our iPhone 5 is eye opening. That’s where the discussion questions I provide at the end of each chapter get really interesting. These scenarios get young people thinking about real life.

I think young people will relate to it.

Marko: I agree. It’s so much more than a Young Adult Fiction book; it’s a unique devotional for teenagers. Yeah, a Zombie Devo. That’s part of what I really loved about it.

Jonathan: It was a fun project. I actually had a group of teenagers “screen” it in its final draft and give me feedback. They really liked the questions and thought I talked about issues that many people were afraid to avoid. I’m glad to see a publisher taking a “leap” on something this edgy.

Marko: Well, I’m stoked other publishers were too afraid of Zombies to publish this, because I’m really pleased to have it in The Youth Cartel’s catalogue of outside-the-box, fresh resources for teenagers, youth workers, and parents of teenagers.

Jonathan: Thanks for this opportunity to dialogue.

an awesome new middle school bible (and a screamin’ deal on pre-orders)

HEY, EVERYONE WHO WORKS WITH MIDDLE SCHOOLERS (or junior highers, or whatever you call young teens in your context)!

get ready for…

Ignite - The Bible for TeensNKJV Ignite Bible for Teens

i was pretty stoked last year when i got contacted about a new bible being created by thomas nelson publishers for young teens. at first, i was just giving opinions (which i’m rarely short of). but eventually, my role grew to that of general editor on this awesome bible. our hope with this bible was to create a bible that would help young teens with a few bible-related issues:

  1. we wanted a bible they would be pumped about, one that connected with them in content and design, one they would be excited about carrying around and opening up.
  2. we wanted a bible that would help them find what the bible says about the real questions middle schoolers have, and subjects they need to know about (addressing “I’d love to know what the Bible says about this subject, but I have no idea where to find it!”).
  3. we wanted a bible that helped young teens actually engage scripture, rather than distracting them from scripture.

and, i’m really pleased that Ignite meets all those goals. i pulled together a killer team of writers who really know young teens, including brooklyn lindsey, scott rubin, jeremy lee, crystal kirgiss, and others. and many of you helped me when we needed some quick input from real middle schoolers about the name (Ignite was the overwhelming choice of the 1500 young teens we polled).

here are some of the features:

  • Find It Fast—A table of contents and topical index on the inside cover so it’s easy to find what you need
  • Spotlight—In depth features about the big story of God and His people
  • White Hot Topics—Articles that deal with major issues that teens face today
  • Flash Points—Smaller articles that introduce teens to topics and stories they don’t know are in the Bible
  • Sparks—Highlights of Bible promises to deepen faith
  • Soul Fuel—Relevant verses pulled out for memorization

i’m particularly pleased with the Spotlight and White Hot Topics features. each them include a string of 6 entries on a particular theme, anchored to 6 different bible passages that address a particular subject. there are 10 of the Spotlight features (6 entries each on 10 critical theological subjects), and 60 of the White Hot Topics (6 each on 60 topics!). download the sampler (the book of Matthew) and you’ll get a sense of how these work. really, i could see youth workers using these topical and theological scripture threads as either preparation for teaching or as the actual fodder for small groups (even if you don’t want an NKJV bible, these elements are an extremely rich resource).

anyhow, since i had a hand in developing this beauty, The Youth Cartel gets to sell them at some really wonderful prices. i mean, we’re discounting the regular softcover (from a retail of $24.99 to $19.99) and hardcover (from a retail of $34.99 to $29.99). but since we’re really about resourcing youth workers, we’re offering some absolutely killer bulk discounts. if you pre-order 10 or more copies, we’ll discount the price 44% off retail on the softcovers (making them $13.99) and 40% off retail on the hardcovers (making them $20.99). when the bible officially releases in a few weeks, on july 16, we’ll need to raise that minimum bulk order to 20 copies (you’ll still be able to get discounts on orders of 20 or more after the release date, but the discount won’t be quite as steep).

so, download the sampler and check it out.
then, head over to the product page on The Youth Cartel store and pre-order your copies!
questions? shoot me an email ([email protected]).

criticism bites

criticism-bites-berryi blogged before about my good friend brian berry’s excellent book Criticism Bites. brian’s life and mine are wonderfully connected:

  • he’s the student ministries pastor at my church
  • even though i volunteer in the middle school ministry, and he’s more hands-on in the high school ministry, i am, technically, one of his youth ministry volunteers
  • my son is in brian’s small group
  • brian’s son is in my small group (and his older son was in my last small group)
  • plus, we like each other and hang out regularly
  • so, i’m biased. but i’m biased in a good way, in that i know his life and character and skills (bow-staff, among others).

    that’s part of why adam and i wanted to carry brian’s book in The Youth Cartel’s online store, even though we didn’t publish it. it’s a book for anyone in ministry, really. while brian’s examples are often in a youth ministry context, anyone in any ministry role will absolutely benefit from his insight on how to effectively handle criticism.

    brian has even been the recipient of criticism from ME! and he has handled it pretty well.

    i had a fun (and somewhat silly) chat with brian about his book recently. here’s the video:

    pick up the book here!

probably my favorite youth ministry resource, revised

cover-3Din about 2000, i found a strange little stack of black and white cardstock photos in ireland, designed to be used for conversation and sharing. they were out of print, but had been published by a mainstream publisher. i loved them, but saw how they could be amazing when connected with spiritual reflection and meditation (and a new set of photos, as the ones i found were dated and odd on many ways).

so i set out to create a resource that hit lots of resistances along the road to development. it was fairly outside the every day scope of production people at a publishing company to think of creating a box with a small leaders guide and a stack of photos. but we got passed that, and Every Picture Tells a Story released in 2002 (11 years ago!). thanks to the good friends and brilliant minds who created the YS “Core” or “NRS” or “One Day” (as it was variously called), Every Picture Tells a Story got demonstrated multiple times over the years to thousands of youth workers; and as a result, it sold really well, and was used by tons of people.

the response, frankly, blew me away. really, i stopped counting how many youth workers have told me that EPTAS is their all-time favorite youth ministry resource. i stopped counting how many have told me they have used it over and over and over again. and i love hearing stories about how it’s truly not just a youth ministry resource, but can be used with just about any age.

21the product went out of print quite a few years ago when the publisher just couldn’t justify the printing costs anymore. and, with the rights reverted to me, i started selling a scanned copy of the leader’s guide along with digital version of the photos (thought there’s a copy of the original on sale at amazon for $700!). but i’ve been thinking for some time that it needed a facelift. adam (the other half of The Youth Cartel) strongly agreed. but it wasn’t until i worked with a dozen photographers to pull together the hundreds of black and white photos in The Way bible that i saw a feasible way of revising Every Picture Tells a Story.

all that to say: i’m completely stoked to release, today, the revised 2013 edition of Every Picture Tells a Story. the leader’s guide is mostly the same, though i re-edited it and updated a few things (and adam created an all-new beautiful layout for it!); but the photos are all new. and they’re awesome.

here’s the product description, in case you’re wondering what the heck i’m talking about:

Using the powerful force of 48 black-and-white photographs to open doorways into students’ souls.

9A complete revision (with all new photos) of the groundbreaking and popular 2002 resource, Every Picture Tells a Story draws on the undeniable evocative force of black-and-white photography to elicit reactions and reflections at deep levels in the observers. Using the 18 activities described in the leader’s guide included, groups will:

  • Choose photos that are reflections of their walks with God
  • Pray and journal about their thoughts, dreams, hopes, and experiences
  • Share with each other in a wide variety of “state of the soul” exercises
  • Use photos as springboards to describe their families, their friendships, and their inner lives.

Ideally designed for small group use, Every Picture Tells a Story can easily be used by individuals as well as groups of 100 or more. Tested with students internationally, this resource opens new doorways into the souls and hearts of students.

Features include:

  • Will bring about reaction and reflection
  • Easy to use–no prep necessary
  • Can be used over and over again and still remain fresh
  • Can be used in a wide variety of settings–small groups, large groups, leadership teams, missions trips, retreats, even with adults
  • The 48 photos can by printed multiple times, or used on screens.

34it’s an all-digital product now, in case that’s not clear. print the photos (over and over again, if you want), or use them on screens.

we’re offering a special deal on this for the first couple weeks only (i think this is only through may): if you get it now (click here), we’ll include the original set of 48 photos also.

anyhow: i’m looking forward to hearing more stories of how this funky little resource opened up insight into the hearts and souls of teenagers, how teenagers sensed that god was speaking to them, and how youth workers had some of their best spiritual discussions ever.

two sentence book reviews, part 4 (christian living and church & ministry)

getting caught up on book reviews. i allow myself two sentences: one for summary and one for my review.

Christian Living

wreckedWrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life, by Jeff Goins
5 stars
how coming to the end of yourself is essential for the good life. fantastic writing and insight, this book needs to be assigned reading for anyone 17 – 40.
*full disclosure: i was the literary agent for this book.

only godOnly God: Change Your Story, Change the World, by Dwight Mason
4 stars
how to lean into a full life of adventure, alignment and purposefulness. i didn’t think i was going to like this book, but i liked it more and more as i read; a nice practical counterpart to donald miller’s A Millions Miles in a Thousand Years.

EricSamuelTimmStatic Jedi: The art of hearing the quiet whisper of God, by Eric Timm (book cover not available yet*)
4 stars
learning to move beyond the static (noise, clutter, distractions) in our lives.
the official endorsement i wrote for this book: Weird title/awesome book. Quirky author/insightful thinker. Unique style/fresh ideas.
*note: this book releases in early september

Church & Ministry

cultivateCultivate: A Youth Worker’s Guide to Establishing Healthy Relationships, by Matt Wilks
4 stars
advice for managing the many relationships in the world of a youth worker. worth the read, for sure, for paid youth workers who want to be more proactive in the complexities and nuances of the myriad relational contexts where they need a win.

thin placesThin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community, by Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley
4 stars
a look at the missional church movement through the experience of a particular experiment in san diego. helpful and interesting, and easy to read, but occasionally too focused on the context of the central case study.

criticism bitesCriticism Bites: Dealing With, Responding To, and Learning From Your Critics, by Brian Berry
5 stars
brilliant, practical advice for handling criticism for ministry leaders. written for a youth worker, this book is must reading for anyone in any church leadership role.

taking theology to youth ministryTaking Theology to Youth Ministry, by Andrew Root
4 stars
the first in a series of four short books exploring theology in youth ministry, sometimes using the fictionalized story of a youth worker in theological crisis. the content is amazing, but the jumping in and out of the fable occasionally frustrated me.

everybody's urbanEverybody’s Urban: Understanding the Survival Mindset of the Next Generation, by Leneita Fix and Jeffrey Wallace
4 stars
reframing “urban” as teenagers in survival mode. while i wasn’t sure i completely agreed with 100% of this book, it completely made me think in new ways.

youth ministry from the outside inYouth Ministry from the Outside In: How Relationships and Stories Shape Identity, by Brandon K. McKoy
5 stars
a radically different way of thinking about teenage identity formation and youth ministry.
the official endorsement i wrote for this book: My brain is swimming with questions and ideas, conviction and possibility after reading Youth Ministry from the Outside In. McKoy turns our ministry inside out, actually–moving our focus from isolated individuals assembled together, toward an ecosystem of living and breathing people-in-relationship. Read this book carefully–it may take more than one pass–and watch how it worms its way into your thinking and practice.
*note: this book releases in early october

a faith of their ownA Faith of Their Own: Understanding the Common Cry of Preteens, by Chris Folmsbee
5 stars
a non-fluffy look into the faith development of pre-teens.
the official endorsement i wrote for this book: In my over 30 years of ministry with young teens, I have noticed that many parents don’t start thinking about teenage faith development until their children are well into their teen years. This book provides parents an entré into engaging the faith formation of their preteens and young teens before their children have mostly separated into a faith of their own. Deeply theological while still easily readable and practical, Folmsbee gives parents a greatly needed gift.
*note: this book releases on july 1