Category Archives: church

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!

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Zydeco Mass

my family attended an amazing, joy-filled Zydedo Mass eucharist service tuesday night with some friends, at st. paul’s episcopal church in san diego. it was an absolutely beautiful and unique worship experience. i captured some of it in short videos and photos. here’s a taste:

my family and a friend (not a video):
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the processional

reading of scripture:

reading of the gospel (not a video):
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“dance your offerings to the front”:

eucharist/communion:

the washboard player was one of the only people who didn’t seem amused; but he was awesome in his own curmudgeonly way (not a video):
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the recessional:

experiential, joy-filled worship, man. couldn’t all our churches use a bit more of that!?

boss yelling

thinking about why so many youth workers are abused

recently i had dinner with a youth worker couple who had the kind of story i hear way too often these days. they’d been beat up, in one way or another, by a church. the pastor had said they were doing a great job, blah, blah, blah. though he did seem to have concerns about ministry style (they were relational, he was organizational). in the end, they got totally blindsided by the pastor or the board telling them they needed to leave. there was some kind of agreement on what would be said publicly, which the church and pastor (the way it was told to me) totally violated. lots of hurt. lots of pain. lots of mess.

i hear these stories every week. literally. there are variations, of course. some involve massive tension with a cold-hearted automaton of a senior pastor over a period of years, resulting in the ministry version of parallel-play (ministering alongside each other without any significant interaction with each other). some involve a spineless yes-man of a senior pastor and an overbearing board with some misguided ideas about what the youth ministry should be doing or valuing.

but the common thread is “abuse”. once in a while, i get the sense that the youth worker was in the wrong (even if only partially). but whether there was wrong on both sides or not, there are all-too-often scenarios where the treatment of the youth worker is unacceptable.

as i was flying home and thinking about and praying for this wonderful and sad youth worker couple, i started to ask myself some more macro-level questions. maybe it was because i was in a plane at the time, 35,000 feet over somewhere. that big-picture view. anyhow…

why is it that churches are SO bad at conflict resolution?

why is it that churches are SO bad at conflict resolution, particularly amongst their staff? so few senior pastors seem to have any ability in this area (surely, there are wonderful exceptions).

why do so many youth workers get abused by their churches? while they’re at the church, and especially in how and why they leave.

khaki shortsmaybe it’s because our calling is so unique, so given to misunderstanding? maybe it’s because great youth ministry will never look quite like most senior pastors envision a pastoral role to look? when the senior pastor of my church in omaha re-inforced the office dress code, stating that jeans and shorts weren’t appropriate around the office, and that we would wear khakis or slacks and a collered shirt unless we had a specific ministry reason why we were dressed otherwise, i took him literally. and the summer day i was going to be hanging out with middle school kids off-campus, i wore a collered shirt and khaki shorts. he yelled at me in the middle of the office: “we don’t want to see your knobby knees around this office!”

yeah, maybe that’s true. and i’m sure it’s true much of the time. but here’s the harder thought that i almost wish i hadn’t had…

what if the reason so many youth workers are treated poorly by our churches is partly because of us?

what if it’s because we’re immature? or, unprofressional, sloppy and ill-mannered? what if we’re hiding behind our calling and job descriptions (and audience) as an excuse for not getting organized, not growing up, not being a team player?

i’m not suggesting we all start keeping office hours and wearing dress slacks (and clip-on ties!). i’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt as a type this, and i can’t imagine working in a church where they required me to “dress up” for the office.

i tears me up to see so many youth workers treated poorly by their churches. and with each individual case, my primary response is empathy and shared pain. i know what that feels like. but taken collectively–looking at the whole mess from a few tens-of-thousdands of feet in the air… well, i just wonder what role we’ve all played in creating a system that would treat us this way, over and over and over again.

thoughts?

looking back

what has changed in the last 8 years?

i was trying to find an old blog post this morning, and came across this bit i wrote in 2006 (a mere 8 years ago), with thoughts about change over the next 10 years:

The world in 10 years
(a ridiculously subjective summary by Mark Oestreicher)

Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind (one of the best books I read last year) is primarily about the change in culture that will demand more right-brained thinking than the dominant left-brain thinking of the past few decades. He talks about the need for leaders to be creatives and empathizers, more than (the former) logicians and knowledge workers.

In one short chapter, Pink offers a three-part summary of the primary change we’ll experience in the next 10 years (of course, Pink’s book is written to business leaders, so keep that in mind):

ASIA

A few facts from the book:

    - Each year, universities and colleges in India produce 350,000 new engineering graduates.
    - Half of the Fortune 500 companies now outsource to India.
    - 1 out of 10 IT job will move overseas (to Asia) in the next 2 years; 1 out of 4 by 2010.

Our issue isn’t the outsourcing of jobs, of course.

But what will it mean for our affluent and resourced churches and youth ministries when our country, religiously, looks more like Europe, and the thriving, model-creating influence in the church is coming from Asia? Will be have the humility to learn and grow?

AUTOMATION

Quote from the book: “The result [of massive automation]: as the scut work gets off-loaded, engineers and programmers [think youth workers!] will have to master different aptitudes, relying more on creativity than competence, more on tacit knowledge than technical manuals, and more on fashioning the big picture than sweating the details.”

Nobody predicted that Western teenagers would so quickly skip over the already slow and tedious technology of email and so fully embrace the instant real-time social technologies of IM, texting, and MySpace.

MySpace has already replaced the mall, and is THE place for teenage social networks. But all we’re doing so far is talking about the dangers.

ABUNDANCE

A few facts from the book:

    - the U.S. has more cars than licensed drivers
    - self-storage is a $17 Billion industry in the U.S. alone
    - the U.S. spends more on trash bags annually than nearly half the nations of the world spend on ALL goods.

The impact: the search for empathy, beauty, play and meaning.

Columbia University’s Andrew Delbanco: “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is in the unslaked craving for transcendence.”

This is our story! Empathy, beauty, play, meaning and transcendence? That’s our stuff! And we know the inventor of those things!

One more thought, NOT from the book

Many sociologist and culture writers are talking about a major shift in identity, from…

An identity rooted in individual and national (I am autonomous, I am how I define myself. “I did it my way”. The Marlboro Man. Anything larger than me is a nationalistic connection.)

To…

An identity rooted in local and global, or what some emerging leaders are cutely calling “glocal” (I am defined as part of a ‘local’ community – but local isn’t geographic, it’s however I define my community; and, I see my identity more rooted in being a citizen of the world than in being a citizen of my country.)

Obviously, this has massive implications for us in church leadership and youth ministry leadership, as most of our theologies, approaches, assumptions and methods are built on individual/national identity frameworks.

looking backhonestly, those words sorta cracked me up, reading them today. and, i was struck by how much has changed in 8 short years. looking in the rearview mirror is always easier and more accurate, of course. if i were to name the variables that have shaped change the most, i would now label them differently. i would suggest a move to a culture in which these realities are primary shapers:

Information
You’ve likely read or heard these sorts of details elsewhere, but the amount of knowledge and information that exists in the world is said to double roughly every eight years. That’s insane. It’s an absurd understatement to call it “exponential” growth.

But an enormous additional dimension to this steep increase in information is the ease at which we can access all of it. No longer are these mountains of knowledge and information protected in musty libraries and hidden in corporate vaults: almost all knowledge is accessible to us with the click of a mouse, or, increasingly, the touch of a thumb on our mobile platforms. Unless you live “off the grid”, information is in your face constantly, whether you want it or not.

Immediacy
Not only is all knowledge and information available (at least more of it than we could ever use), it’s all available at this moment. It’s accessible anytime, anywhere.

When we have to wait for something these days, it automatically feels foreign or antiquated.

Disposability
The easiest place to see this is our relationships with hard goods, from contact lenses to mobile phones to car leases. Even the laptop I’m typing on right now—a very new MacBook Air—has a “planned” or “built-in obsolescence” of about 18 months (of course, Apple is brilliant at promoting and exploiting this). And what should I do with this fairly expensive and originally cutting-edge computer when I need the new version for whatever reason? Really, I might be able to get twenty or thirty bucks for it on Craigslist; but it won’t be much more than a formerly useful paperweight.

Another easy-to-grasp example for our relationship with technology: computer printers. Several years ago now, the printer industry went through a major re-orientation of change-or-die proportions. Printers became cheap and disposable when printer manufacturers realized they could make more money from ink sales if they got people to buy low priced printers that required disposable ink cartridges. I got the printer that sits on my desk for the best price possible: FREE! But I spend more money annually on the stupid ink cartridges (which are also disposable, by the way) than I spend on car tires!

Disposability, though, is way more far-reaching than the lack of permanence with respect to our technology hard goods. Disposability has become the norm for most things (unless they’re seen as a commodity with appreciating value, which is not the world most people live in). In this reality, careers are disposable, and relationships are disposable, and experiences (merely another item to be consumed for their temporary satisfaction), and beliefs.

these three culture-shaping realities–information, immediacy and disposability–are super-critical for youth workers to be aware of. all of us adults are shaped by these realities, but we’re immigrants to this culture. teenagers are natives. are you thinking about ministry responses (i.e. teaching wisdom and discernment!)?

the-summit-black

video from The Summit now available, PLUS Kid President creator Brad Montague on making things simple

we almost didn’t get video from The Summit this year. we had a professional videographer all lined up, and he cancelled the day of the event in a rather not-so-professional-after-all way. luckily, my partner in The Youth Cartel is both a quick thinker and the owner of a very nice camera, and we had a friend there who was willing to “oversee” it.

so here we go, just a month later, with a little editing magic from adam. 18 videos, all in a TED style. our theme this year was ALL, loosely riffing on the shema (love the lord your god with all your heart, soul, mind and strength). seriously, it’s very rare that you can find a collection of short (the shortest is just over 8 minutes, but most are 12 – 15) videos that will challenge you to think in new ways about youth ministry. use them for training and discussion at your church; or just watch them for your own development. as we said at the beginning of the live event, the real intent of The Summit is not to get you to DO what these presenters suggest, per se. the real intent is that the holy spirit would use these to help you dream new dreams.

so, you can buy the whole lot of ‘em for fifty bucks. this year they’re on vimeo pro, which gives you the option of downloading (for use with a team or something) or streaming (quicker, for your own viewing). you can also buy one session’s videos for twenty five bucks, or an individual video for ten. click here to buy.

Session 1: Soul

  • Bryan Loritts (The Anchor of Your Soul)
  • Lem Usita (Identity Formation and Youth Workers)
  • Holly Rankin Zaher (Dancing with Faith and Doubt)
  • Paul Martin (What Playing Guitar Taught Me About YM)
  • Nkiru Okafor (The Dark Night of the Soul)
  • Luke MacDonald (Going All In)

Session 2: Mind

  • Bethany Stolle (Design and Co-Creation)
  • Crystal Kirgiss (Changing Views of YM Throughout History)
  • David Crowder (The Process of Creativity)
  • Michelle Benzinger (Beauty Will Save the World)
  • Carlos Cedeño (Giving Your Ministry Away)
  • Annie Lockhart (Imagination as the Starting Point of YM)

Session 3: Strength

  • Brad Montegue (Making Things Simple Without Being Simplistic)
  • Christy Lang (Bible Interpretation: Starting With Teeenagers’ Interpretation)
  • Jeffrey Wallace (Redefining Urban as a Survival Mindset)
  • Theresa Mazza (Re-Imagining Yourself as a Youthworker-at-Large)
  • Mark DeVries (A Modest Response to the Death of YM)

Session 4: Heart

  • Mark Oestreicher (Choosing the Unchosen and Unloved)

and to give you a little taste of these babies, here’s brad montague’s talk on “making things simple without being simplistic.” brad is the creator of the Kid President videos that have been so viral over the last year or two. he gets hundreds (thousands?) of speaking requests from every sector of society, and he accepts very few of them. so we were truly honored to have him join us. watch and enjoy!

and, speaking of The Summit, we’re officially moving to nashville for next fall. dates are november 7 and 8. of course, there are LOTS more details to come, but we have a super-special “use up the dregs of your 2013 youth ministry budget” deal right now: a $25 deposit locks in the lowest rate of $109/person. we’ll invoice you for the balance in late summer of 2014. these deposits are non-refundable, but fully transferable. click here to go for it!

women in youth ministry, and april diaz’s ymcp cohort

the brou-ha-ha over the last couple weeks about the under-representation of female voices at christian ministry events (see here for starters, but there’s lots more) has had me thinking a bit about women in youth ministry. i know that, for a segment of the church, this is mostly a non-issue. their traditions have long viewed women as equally gifted for and called to ministry. but i also know that so many of my sisters in ministry continue to be viewed as “limited” in what they can or should do, and what roles they can or should embody. and for those women, there’s an additional layer of complexity in that it’s often not safe for them to talk about it.

this made me think of two particular women in youth ministry that i’m partnering with these days (two of many, to be clear): gina abbas, a wonderfully gifted youth minister, newly the JH Pastor at mars hill bible church, and currently writing a book for The Youth Cartel for women in youth ministry; and april diaz, a very longtime friend of mine who is one of the most gifted leaders of any gender i’ve ever met (who, coincidentally, also wrote a book for The Youth Cartel!).

that made me remember a lament april wrote for me a couple years ago. i was working on a large multi-author project, and specifically asked april to write a lament to god about the place of women in church leadership. i asked april because i know her to be gracious to peoples’ stories and not demanding or rude in how she talks about these issues. april wrote this wonderful “prayer” based on psalm 40:

april

Lament for Psalm 40

Waiting. No one likes waiting. Maybe me least of all. I’ve waited my entire life to see your Church reflect your heart to see men and women lead your people. Equally. “With skillful hands and integrity of heart” (Psalm 78:72). I’ve waited for your Church to wake up and get it that we have as much to contribute to the Kingdom as men do. I wish your Word were painfully clear about our contribution equality.

Too many times I’ve seen women in the pit of despair because they have not been allowed to use their voices, their gifts, their experiences, their calling to build the Kingdom. You have not stopped them from leading and teaching, Lord; your people have.

My sisters and I have cried when we’ve been told “no”, “be quiet”, “this is not your place”. We need your rescue, God. We desperately need you to bring good news in places where we are pushed down, snuffed out, and negotiated around. Your Kingdom suffers when we are relegated to roles and ministries and places where we are not gifted or passionate. How long?

You are solid and steady and trustworthy. When your Church fails me, I can still be amazed by who you are. I will find my hope in you, not in an outcome – a promotion or a platform or power. I will receive a new song that you give me and sing to the rooftops of who you are and what you’ve done. I will serve you fully and contribute my best to your Kingdom, even in the midst of broken systems. Give me the courage I need to be faithful today.

How long will we sing this song? When I grieve for what your Church is not yet, I must remember that you are a God of justice and have called ordinary people like me to bring justice on earth as it is in heaven. Help me not be afraid to speak out and speak for those who do not have a voice, but to do so with humility and love.

You have written your calling upon my heart and I will not forsake you. I will take joy in following you no matter what anyone else says. Help me listen to you more and more and follow you obediently. Thank you for my calling, even if it’s not honored among others.

and here’s the killer, that points out the problem and almost caused me to pull out of the whole project: we weren’t allowed to use this piece, because a major, conservative, christian bookstore chain would not carry the project if april’s lament was included. april was as gracious about the whole thing as one can possibly imagine.

yc-all-black-300x68and this is one of a hundred reasons i’m glad april will be leading a cohort of my youth ministry coaching program for women in youth ministry. the women in all my other coaching cohorts have been equal in every way, and have added so tremendously to each group. but some, i realize, would particularly benefit from being a part of a cohort that allows them a sisterhood, a place that’s truly safe to not only think about youth ministry and leadership, but also to lean on each other. april’s cohort will be a modified version — 2 face to face meetings of two days, and 4 shorter online meetings. we’re limiting it to 8 participants, 5 of whom are already committed. april’s really hoping to get the remaining spots filled in the next few weeks, so the cohort can look for an early-2014 launch date. if you’re interested and would like more information, please email april directly, as [email protected] april has blogged about this cohort here and here and here.

Curiosity is the Serum for Judgmentalism

my most recent epilogue column for Youthwork Magazine (UK) came out recently. here’s what i wrote!

serumI get insanely annoyed by the judgmentalism within the Christian church. I’m not just talking about judgmentalism within a single church, but that judgmentalism that dismisses or diminishes entire movements and tribes within the bride of Christ. That judgmentalism that shows up as ministry leaders who spend so much time and effort deciding (for God, it seems) who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s “in” and who’s “out.” But, I can’t deny the beam in my own eye on this one.

That makes me think of a quote my wife shared with me sometime ago. It’s a quote about Gandhi (not by Gandhi), from the book “The Root of This Longing”:

Gandhi always brings you back to yourself–the beam in your own eye, the discrepancy between your own actions and the ideals you profess. He insists that you look beyond the headlines for the root causes of each new horror, and always the trail leads back to forces in consciousness, like envy and fear and the lust for power, and always you have to recognize those same forces in yourself.

Shoot. I would much prefer the point out others’ annoying judgmentalism than face my own.

Half a dozen years ago, the leadership team of ministry I was a part of was sitting in the living room of a beach house in beach town in California, on retreat. And we were getting worked. Our consultant was in the process of inverting all the dimensions of reality as we knew it. At one point, during discussion, I noticed a co-worker getting defensive. This particular co-worker was pretty transparent when about his defensiveness, so it’s not that I was being perceptive: his body tensed up and he fidgeted like crazy, his voice raised a half-octave, and his answers become a series of “uh-huh’s”.

In the spirit of the truthfulness we were trying to foster, I decided it should be called out — “for the good of the team.” I did, at least attempt to speak with gentleness, even though I was calling him out. I said, “Hey, can I interrupt? You’ve suddenly gotten really defensive.” And here’s where I completely blew it: in the insecurity of that moment (thinking I was doing a good thing), I turned to the rest of the room to back me up: “Am I alone in this? Do the rest of you see this?”

Before the defensive guy could respond, the consultant turned to me, and with uncharacteristic directness and push-back, completely unveiled what I had just done: that I had attempted to gang up on my coworker; that I had tried to manipulate everyone in the room to my opinion in order to corner my friend. Just as the tingly nature of being publicly exposed and realizing he right started to set in, the consultant re-directed again. He said something like: I’m calling this out for a very specific reason. If you five are going to be effective, you have to learn the skill of being curious.

He used the situation that had just been unveiled as a case-study: if I notice that my coworker seems to be getting defensive, and if I really want the best for him as a human being, as an image-of-God bearer, than I should be more interested in what his “positive intent” is (what’s driving the defensiveness, in this case), than in embarrassing him or making myself look like the hero of group dynamics and herald of truth.

This concept of “being curious” profoundly shaped that leadership team over the next couple years. We exercised it all the time with each other, and it — more than anything else, I think — changed the tone of our meetings.

I found the concept of being curious (particularly about someone’s “positive intent”) has spilled over into other areas of my life. And I think it might offer us some particular value in our overwhelming place of judgmentalism in the church.

If judgmentalism is the venom currently coursing it’s way through the veins of the church, I’m thinking the anti-venom, the serum, isn’t what we’ve thought it to be. It’s not more truth or more clearly defining what we mean or retreating.

Curiosity. Loving, “I want the best for you” curiosity. I think that’s the serum.

To the church or ministry leader who seems overly concerned with criticizing others, or with who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s “in” and who’s “out,” I ask, gently: What are your fears? What are you feeling, and what’s driving those feelings?

And to myself, when I catch myself in the midst of judgmentalism, I ask, gently: Wait, Marko, what’s going on here? What’s driving this judgment or attitude? What’s the positive intent behind this — how are you hoping to benefit from this? What’s another way to think about this?

10 leadership soundbites off the top of my head

soundbitesreally, i’m going to make this up right now. ’cause i gots me a little burst o’ passion that i think will translate to twittery bits (ooh, “twittery bits” probably used to mean something very different). so here we go… i’m gonna wing this!

  • sometimes you fake it until you’re able to break it. that’s when things might get good.
  • “the ways we do things around here” could be, just might be, a really wonderful and good thing. take a second look before you discard it.
  • might is shite
  • “who i’m responsible for” can be legitimately in tension with “what i’m passionate about.” but not for long, or you’ll wilt.
  • you need a “how could this possibly succeed?” moment at least twice a year.
  • crossing t’s and dotting i’s is for scribes. is that all you are?
  • there are a thousand legitimate things you could do with the next hour.
  • loosening your grip is the second most important component of growth.
  • i want to play with people who are weird. i want to work with those who are odd. the edge of change is always populated with weird and odd folk.
  • see that line? put a couple toes over it. there you go.

why i still believe in short term missions

was thinking about haiti yesterday, which got me thinking about short term missions and youth ministry. i get asked fairly often for recommendations of organizations i trust. and i’ll be honest: while the list of organizations offering trips seems to grow every single year, there are very few i whole-heartedly feel good about recommending.

some time ago, i was asked to respond to this question about short term missions trips and youth ministry:

Why are (or why aren’t) mission trips good for building students’ character? How high of a priority should they be in youth ministry?

A few years back, a handful of thought leaders in youth ministry were in a room that I also happened to be in. We were talking about what spiritual growth actually looks like in teenagers. But we experimented by starting the discussion with stories from our own lives of when we experienced significant spiritual growth.

After we’d all told a bunch of stories, and themes from the stories had been placed with sticky-notes all over a wall, we noticed something interesting. All of the stories fell under one of four umbrellas, or contexts:

  1. meaningful community
  2. pain or failure
  3. victory or success
  4. perspective-altering experiences

Missions trips can offer all four of those contexts. Seriously, what else do we do in youth ministry that offers all four of those contexts in a compact span of time?

There’s some bad short-term missions trips out there, to be sure. Drive-by missions, or missions-vacations, or “lets go see the poor and destitute so I can feel both bad about myself, then better about myself because I felt bad about myself” trips. But a theologically and missionally thoughtful trip can from what I’ve observed have a more lasting impact on the faith formation of a teenager than anything else I even did in youth ministry.

———-

PPM_Logobut if i’m really being responsible, there are additional questions i have to layer on top of the experience it will offer “my teenagers.” and most of those have to do with the host organization having a ruthless, uncompromising commitment to two things:

  • long term partnership with local ministries
  • an unflinching desire to and practice of serving the vision of the leaders in those local ministries

these days, my top recommendations are Praying Pelican Missions and Center for Student Missions. Mark+CSM-Large_BlackPPM is newer to me, but i was truly surprised by how unreservedly i feel like i can recommend them after seeing their work first-hand. CSM is an old favorite of mine (and i took more than a dozen trips with them back in the day), but conversations with my niece who worked in their san francisco site for a year, and now works in their chicago site, has renewed my sense that they still get it right. I’m also a fan of Group’s Big Day of Serving (particularly for junior highers — it’s been fantastic for the junior highers from my church). if i were making short-term decisions for a youth group these days, i’d take middle schoolers to the Big Day of Serving; i’d take a mix of middle schoolers and high schoolers (and maybe parents!) on an urban domestic trip with CSM; and i’d take high schoolers and parents (and probably other adults — mult-gen, baby!) on an international trip with PPM.big day of serving

i’m sure–quite sure, actually–that there are other wonderful options. but when i’m asked for recommendations, those are my go-to responses these days.

super awesome videos from dan stevers (with prizes!)

more than two years ago, i blogged about my church’s uh-maze-ing video guy, dan stevers. the guy’s creativity blows my mind. but he’s also a deeply good guy, with an amazing heart for ministry. in fact, he stepped out in faith this year and stepped down from his paid role to focus more on creating video content for the global church (many of his videos are available now in spanish, chinese, and other languages). dan is also passing along what he’s learned: there’s a whole collection of free tutorials on his site.

i’ve just rarely seen such high quality work — with a HUGE variety: mini-movies, comedy, animated scripture, sermon themes. heck: i dare ya to click through to his site, watch one video, and not watch a second. it’s almost impossible (sort of like pringles).

because i believe in dan and the quality of his work, and think there are enough youth workers who could use his stuff, i want to do a little give-away contest dealio.

and i’m going big on this one: gonna give out THREE prizes, worth a total of $123!

one person will win a license for this amazing video about identity, normally 17 bucks (seriously — so good for youth ministry):

Identity from DanStevers.com on Vimeo.

another person will win a license for dan’s best-selling mini-movie, change the world, also normally 17 bucks. (you can click through to watch a preview)

then one lucky winner gets this motherload: dan’s bestsellers collection (as he says, “all killer, no filler”), which is normally 89 bucks.

and, here’s how i’m going to give these away. i know there are a TON of you who are planning on coming to The Summit or the Middle School Ministry Campference, and just haven’t bothered to register yet. i know, because you’ve told me! so: the next three people who register for either of those events win these prizes (first one gets the bestsellers collection, and the next two get the single videos). i get emails from our reg systen when someone registers, so i’ll know who you are! but you’ll have to act quickly.

and, whether or not you come to the MSMC or The Summit, check out dan’s amazing art, and think about the impact it could have in your ministry.