Category Archives: news

exciting stuff happening at the youth cartel

i’ve been thinking i need to write a summary of some of the cool new things going on in the youth cartel. but then i noticed that adam posted one the other day. so being the lazy slacker that i am, i’m going to repost what he wrote!

Lots of cool things happening with The Youth Cartel. Here’s some new things to point out.

Middle School Ministry Campference – Save the date. We’re doing it again. This time we’ve moved a few hundred miles south to Seymour, Indiana. And I’m using inclusive language because I’m going to be a part of it this year! link

A brand new look for the website. Simply put we had outgrown our first look/feel. That’s not unusual for a start-up. The plan all along has been to flex as we grow. Well, this new site has some serious design muscle to flex, at least I think so. link

Launching a job page. This week I started a job page for our site. Our hope is to connect revolutionary youth workers with revolutionary churches. link

Our first book in the iBookstore. On Tuesday, our Extended Adolescence Symposium ebook went live in Apple’s iBookstore. It’s been prominently featured on the Religion, Christianity, Health, and Psychology pages. We’ve got lots more planned in this department. link

We have a very busy events calendar. Marko and I have a lot booked in the category of youth worker training and family ministry. Like the iBookstore, we are dreaming about lots of cool stuff in this department right now. link

We’re continuing to serve ministry organizations. About half of my time each week is invested in serving behind the scenes with some amazing youth ministry organizations. I’m totally loving this part of what we do. link

Long story short, these are exciting days for our brand new little start-up. We are growing like crazy. Marko and I just keep looking at each other in awe– holy smokes this is a blast!

Pray for us as we deal with the realities of our growth. We have many massive decisions in the coming weeks/months.

pre-order copies of The Way bible

so, i was working on a project i couldn’t say much about for more than a year. occasionally on facebook i would mention that i’m working on a bible, and people would jokingly ask if i was re-writing it. nope, instead i was just playing a role in creating what i think is the most amazing young adult (16 – 30 year old) bible available today.

when i was in middle school, i carried a copy of The Way. it was the groovy bible, baby, with awesome hippie lettering on the cover. really, it was the very first youth bible, and broke a million barriers. heck, i was watching vera farmiga’s amazing movie, higher ground, the other day, and the 70s version of The Way was used in a scene.

a month after i left YS, back in the late fall of 2009, tyndale publishers contacted me, asking if i’d help them think about a new bible for young adults, reviving the old The Way brand. they brought me in for a day of consulting, where we talked about the needs of today’s teenagers and young adults, and dreamed about what a helpful bible could be like. in early 2010, at tyndale’s request, i created a proposal for what the project could be like, including a bunch of elements. they loved it; and in september of that year, we signed an agreement for me to be the general editor.

it was an absolutely massive project. from early january of 2011 through late august, i had a deadline every three weeks. i recruited a primary writing team of 3 others (and myself), and an additional 150 or so contributors. i worked to concept all the pieces, and got them into good enough shape for the remaining editorial process at tyndale. i also recruited and worked with a team of talented photographers to select hundreds of gallery quality black and white photos to compliment and illustrate the 400+ extra-biblical elements. the result (with massive contribution from the editorial and design teams at tyndale) is a bible, in the new living translation, that i am completely proud of, and would love to see in the hands of any high school or college student. it really is that good.

the more than 400 additional elements are very carefully designed to help connect the reader with The Way of Jesus.
Elements include:

    – Book intros that connect biblical content with the life of young adults today.
    This is my Story segments written by young adults seeking to connect their stories with The Way of Jesus.
    What I Wish I’d Known segments written by seasoned Jesus-followers, reflecting back on their own young adult years.
    Lament segments — honest cries to God expressing a particular question or dissatisfaction with the way things are.
    Living in The Way segments providing short links between the biblical text and real life today.
    – Hundreds of gallery quality black & white photographs complementing and illustrating various segments.
    – Interactive QR codes that lead the reader to additional online content and opportunities for engagement.

Contributors include: myself, Tash McGill, Crystal Kirgiss, Holly Rankin Zaher, Seth Barnes, Mike Hogan (of the David Crowder Band), Chris Hill, Gary Haugen (IJM), Matt Maher, Rich Stearns (World Vision), Ginny Olson, Austin Gutwein, Alex Harris, Phyllis Tickle, Charlie Peacock, Dan Kimball, Frederica Matthewes-Green, Scot McKnight, Jeanne Mayo, and dozens more.

The Way will release about april 1. but when i got back from my silent retreat in the desert the other day, i had an email in my inbox from adam mclane, my partner in The Youth Cartel, sent to our email list. the email was offering a pre-sale special:

A Special Pre-Sale Offer

We’re selling 3 different editions of The Way in our online store.
Soft-cover (Retail: $24.99) Our price, $20.99
Hard-cover (Retail: $29.99) Our price, $25.99
Leatherlike (Retail: $44.99) Our price, $38.99
Pre-order any combination that totals 10 copies or more of The Way and Marko will send along a personal note. (If you’re interested in 40 copies or more, please contact me, adam, for an even bigger discount.)

One of the fun things about our online store is that any order over $65 automagically gives you free shipping. In this case, that’s just a couple of copies. Cool, right?

Three Reasons to Pre-Order The Way From Us
1. Your order supports the ministry of The Youth Cartel.
2. I love to commit my buddy Marko to writing lots and lots of personal notes. It’s good for his soul.
3. My kids, 8 & 10 years old, pack every order from our store. Not only are they really good at it, you just might get something special in your box. You won’t get that level of awesome from Amazon.
To take advantage of this pre-sale deal, click here.

we hope to have a sample pdf on our site soon, so you can see how freakin’ amazing this thing looks. there’s really nothing like it on the market right now — visually or content-wise.

announcing the 2012 middle school ministry campference

last year i took a big risk. well, i took a bunch of them; but one of them, for sure, was to put on the first-ever national event just for people who work in churches with junior highers. this is my tribe-within-a-tribe, my people. i love middle school youth workers maybe even slightly more than i love middle schoolers themselves.

four amazing organizational partners believed in the dream and took the risk with me (simply junior high, christ in youth, group mission trips, and springhill camps). i called in favors from middle school ministry friends (who, frankly, didn’t take much convincing, because they couldn’t stand the idea of missing it). and 75 people trusted us enough, or were desperate enough, to attend the event. honestly, i was worried — a month out — that it was going to be too small. but as the event drew near (last october), i had this deep sense that the size was going to be just perfect for the first time out. i still figured, at that point, that it was a one-time thing.

then the middle school ministry campference happened. and all of us who were there felt like we were on holy ground. we could tell we were onto something. every single one of my hopes and expectations were surpassed. it was like no other youth ministry training event i’d ever been to. “speakers” stayed for the entire event, hanging out, having meals and conversations and laughing fits with the level playing field of attendees. even michael flaherty, the CEO of walden media, instigated late night shenanigans.

people who attended said things like:

MSMC was everything you love about camp – fireside chats, laughing until your sides hurt, worship, and the felling you’ve made an entire army of new friends who love random, awkward, authentic, and deeply impressionable middle schoolers. I left refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to go back and love middle schoolers and their parents to Jesus! (elizabeth)


The MSMC just confirmed the importance of middle school ministry and confirmed my calling from God to continue in this work. (andy)


Wait! There are other people like me? I think this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed the campference. To hang, talk, laugh, pray and cry with like-minded people. (mark)

and, people begged us to do it again.

honestly, i kinda put out a few fleeces to god. i don’t know that they were hard-and-fast fleeces. but they were questions i needed god to answer for me.

first, i needed to know that at least a couple of the partner organizations would support the idea. i checked with them, and was thrilled to find out they were all ‘in’ for another year (that was a huge confirmation from god, actually).

second, i felt we needed to find a good location for the campference that was farther south. this was a conflict for me, because springhill camp in evart, michigan, had been such a generous partner, with a facility that rocked. but springhill came back and offered their south camp, in southern indiana. check.

finally, i wanted to hear from my inner core of middle school ministry peers (a.k.a., the “speakers”). 100% unanimous, they were all in, and certainly not with reluctance!

so, here we go! the 2012 middle school ministry campference is a reality, and the site is live. we’ll take registration live in a couple months (though you can enter your info if you want us to let you know when that happens, or keep you informed of other developments). just yesterday i invited a very special guest to join us, someone i would be so completely, off-the-charts stoked to have join us.

much more to come in the months ahead. but i hope — if you care about junior highers and middle schoolers — that you will join us this year.

some no-travel-costs openings in my speaking schedule

looking at my travel schedule over the next few months, i have a handful of days or evenings where i’ll be stuck in a particular city in-between other engagements. that means, if you’d like me to:
– speak for your youth group or event
– lead a parent training event
– lead some youth ministry training
– provide some consulting, or a bit of custom coaching
i’m available without you needing to pay travel costs.

here’s the list:

sunday morning and afternoon, february 12, in chicago, il

thursday, march 8, in san antonio, tx

friday, march 9, in vancouver, bc

saturday evening, march 17, in detroit, mi

sunday, march 18, in detroit, mi

friday evening, april 20, in atlanta, ga

saturday evening, april 21, in either atlanta, ga, or nashville, tn

sunday morning, april 22, in either atlanta, ga, or nashville, tn

sunday afternoon or evening, april 22, in nashville, tn

wednesday evening, april 25, in nashville, tn

sunday, may 6, in detroit, mi

if you’d like to connect about the possibility of me helping you, please shoot me an email at [email protected]

a quote worth leaning into

recently, three women in the developing world were awarded the nobel peace prize for their work. read this article on to learn more about these three amazing women and why they were chosen.

but this quote from one of them — liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — really caught my eye (and mind, and heart):

“I urge my sisters, and my brothers, not to be afraid. Be not afraid to denounce injustice, though you may be outnumbered. Be not afraid to seek peace, even if your voice may be small. Be not afraid to demand peace.”

ooh — sounds biblical. i want my life to be a part of that.

understanding your young teen has released

my latest book, understanding your young teen: practical wisdom for parents, is officially available! i’m stoked. it’s my first book written for parents, and covers a wide variety of developmental issues about middle schoolers, as well as practical implications for parenting.

here’s the official description:

Between the ages of 11-14, adolescents experience one of the most significant periods of change they’ll face during their lifetimes—physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Mothers and fathers of young teens are presented with new challenges in understanding, communicating with and parenting their kids during this time in their lives. Understanding Your Young Teen offers insights on early adolescent development, new research and cultural changes, and practical applications for parenting and living with young teens. Mark Oestreicher has worked with young teens for nearly three decades, and is also the parent of two teenagers. Based on his research and experience, this book is presented to parents of young teens as a conversation from one parent to another. With transparency about his own experience parenting, and examples from his extensive involvement with thousands of other young teens and parents, Understanding Your Young Teen dives into the developmental realities of early adolescence. Oestreicher educates parents on the latest research and cultural shifts that affect their children, revealing opportunities for faith formation in the lives of young teens.

we’re selling it at a discount on the youth cartel store. if you want to buy a bunch of ’em for parents in your ministry, let me know, and we’ll see about doing something special for you (like, a note for your parents, or me skyping into a parent meeting, or maybe even special pricing). i spoke to a group of 50 parents at bay presbyterian church in bay village, ohio, on the content of the book, last weekend. had a great time with them.

here’s the full cover (you can click on it to see it larger)…

MIX: a 6-7-8 Summer Conference

i’m a big fan of christ in youth’s touring event for middle schoolers, called JH Believe. i’ve spoken on it many times, and have a bunch of friends who take their middle school groups. it has grown over the years (yes, in size; but that’s not what i mean) to being so creative and so fantastically age-appropriate. johnny scott and his team seriously bring it.

so, i was pretty stoked to hear that the same creative team, under johnny’s leadership, was thinking about starting a 4 day summer conference. and now, it’s real. MIX: a 6-7-8 summer conference. here’s the bit from the website:

For more than 12 years, CIY has lead the way in providing age appropriate events for Junior High and Middle School students. MIX is a brand new four-day summer events, designed specifically for 6th, 7th and 8th grader students. MIX provides all of the tactile, interactive, small group faith-building experiences you have come to trust us for when hanging with your kids.

MIX is an event that understands that middle schoolers need their own experience. MIX is not designed for high-schoolers or preteens. MIX is specifically designed for a 6th, 7th and 8th grader’s and their special cognitive and developmental abilities. You’ll build relationships with your kids as they come to understand their own spiritual formation and grow as Kingdom workers through dynamic worship, engaging activities, off-the-chart recreation and small group interaction.

seriously, i don’t toss around my ‘endorsement’ very often. but i’ll easily offer it here. i like these guys; i trust them; and i’ve seen first-hand how good their events are.

This American Life covers Middle School

NPR’s classic show, This American Life, did an entire hour on the american middle school experience this past week. wow. so fantastic. you can listen to the whole thing, or to the individual segments listed below, by clicking though to the show’s page.

Host Ira Glass interviews a 14-year old named Annie, who emailed us asking if we would do a show about middle school. She explains why exactly the middle school years can be so daunting. (4 1/2 minutes)

In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin’ about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio. Alex’s takeaway? We shouldn’t even try teaching kids at this age. Marion Strok, principal of a successful Chicago school, disagrees. (6 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: this is a great segment. and, i recommend that book (not much just chillin’).

We sent several correspondents straight to the epicenters of middle school awkwardness: School dances. Producers Lisa Pollak and Brian Reed, plus reporters Eric Mennel, Rob Wildeboer and Claire Holman spoke with kids across the country during the nervous moments leading up to the dances. And Lisa even ventured inside, to the dance itself. (9 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: a fascinating bit.

When Domingo Martinez was growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, Domingo’s two middle school aged sisters found a unique way of coping with feelings of inferiority. This story comes from Martinez’s memoir The Boy Kings of Texas, which Lyons Press will publish in July 2012. (11 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: this is the one section i think you can completely skip. the producers could have easily found a literary piece to read that had more application and implication.

We realized that there are already reporters on the ground, embedded inside middle schools: The kids who report the daily announcements, sometimes on video with full newscast sets. Producer Jonathan Menjivar wondered what would happen if instead of announcing sports scores and the daily cafeteria menu, the kids reported what’s really on their minds. Students at Parkville Middle School outside Baltimore, and their journalism teacher Ms. Davis, agreed to try out this experiment. (7 1/2 minutes)
marko: this section is fine, but if you need to cut somewhere, it’s not as helpful as some of the others.

Producer Sarah Koenig reports on a kid we’ll call Leo, whose family recently moved away from Rochester, NY, leaving behind all of Leo’s friends and stranding him in a new—and in his opinion, much worse—middle school. (10 minutes)
marko: you gotta listen to this one.

Ira speaks with Shannon Grande, a teacher at Rise Academy in Newark, about a seventh grader who had all sorts of problems with behavior and hygiene and schoolwork. In order to help turn him around, Grande had to harness the power of peer pressure for good. This story came from Elizabeth Green, who’s writing about Rise Academy for a book and for a reporting project on the schools called Gotham Schools. (7 minutes)
marko: some helpful stuff in here.

(big thanks to kevin libick for pointing this out to me!)

the youth culture report

i absolutely love it when i stumble onto cool youth ministry resources that i’ve never heard of, never seen mentioned elsewhere. i’m a bit jaded, i suppose, and often have a “seen it all” attitude. so finding something i truly haven’t seen before — well, that makes me happy.

finding was like that. my first exposure to it was when the guy who oversees it said he’d like to be a sponsor of the extended adolescence symposium (to be clear: this is not a “sponsored post” though — i’m writing about the youth culture report because i think you should know about it). at first i thought, “oh man, that thing is butt ugly.” but then i realized, “ah, drudge report.” yup. butt-ugliness, intentional. usefulness, also intentional.

the youth culture report is a collection of links to news stories youth workers should be aware of. that’s it. straight forward. it’s not auto-generated via key words, so an actual human being is making sure each article linked is truly worth it.

i’ve been checking in on the youth culture report for over a month now, to make sure i really liked it before i recommended it. in the mean time, i downloaded both the iphone app and the ipad app. i’m finding i use those even more than the website — they’re quickly becoming a go-to app when i’m sitting somewhere and have about five minutes to kill (wasn’t that tactful?).

anyhow, i really encourage you to check it out, if you’re a youth worker or the parent of a teenager.

thanks for your help in saving the lives of haitian orphans!

the other day i posted a desperate cry for help. an orphanage i’d visited in haiti, and that teams from my church have visited and helped many times over the past year, was discovered to be trafficking children. i asked you to click through and sign a petition to apply some pressure to those who had the power to shut the orphanage down (the 6 churches and ministries involved — my church being one of them — had already prepared placement for all the kids in the orphanage). many of you clicked through, and many of you passed along the need on facebook and other social networking sites. we met our goal of 10,000 signature (passed it, in fact).


i just got this facebook message from a woman in my church who’s there right now!

It’s done!! You guys, we won! After a morning full of police, guns, and arrests the kids were loaded up and they are now on their way to safety! Praise you Jesus!!

thank you, jesus, indeed.

and thank you, whyismarko readers.

update: coverage