Category Archives: the youth cartel


Youth Ministry Coaching Program: New Cohorts Forming Now

Adam sent this out in a nice email to our Cartel email subscribers. thought i’d post it here also!

New San Diego & Nashville Cohorts

YMCP is a year-long, whole-life coaching program for youth workers. It’s built on a cohort approach: Each cohort has 10 youth workers, which provides a shared learning environment, a variety of inputs, and a team of ministry friends who’ve got your back. Full cohorts meet for two days, every other month, over the course of the year. In between meetings, we interact on a secret facebook page, as well as coaching phone calls.

There are still two “open” cohorts (not denominationally-focused or funded) with a few spaces in them:

The 2014 Nashville cohort has five confirmed participants and five more spaces available.
The 2014 San Diego cohort has three spaces available.
Both of these cohorts will launch when we fill them up (and all participants get to vote on meeting dates). For more info, check out this page on our website, or email me and I’ll send you the program overview and other stuff.


What Youth Workers are Saying about YMCP

Here’s the thing about YMCP. You sign up thinking you’re in for some good youth ministry insight and discussion (you are), and maybe the people will be cool (they will). But what you can’t know until you’re in the midst of it is how you’ll grow to look forward to each meeting as a time of sanctuary, how the room full of strangers will be friends by the end of the first day, how your heart will drop a bit at the end of each cohort because you know there are only a few left. My year in YMCP helped me grow as a youth worker, for sure. But what I am truly thankful for is the way it helped me define who I am – as a person, as a follower of Christ, and THEN as a youth worker. The insight and personal development that came out of YMCP for me go way beyond my professional life. I’m more confident in my decisions, my abilities, and my passion than ever before. And I have nine awesome, crazy, amazing friends in ministry and in life that I can call on at any time.

Brandi Manes

The Youth Ministry Coaching Program is hands down the most important program I have participated in my 13 years of youth ministry. The holistic approach and balance of training, inward reflection and spiritual growth allowed me to be stretched not only into being a better youth leader, but also into being a better person. YMCP is of great benefit for the veteran or rookie youth worker.

Brian Mateer

YMCP with out a doubt saved me from leaving youth ministry. I was in a tough spot without any direction. This program helped facilitate a safe place to work out and through the situation. It was an absolute highlight of my life so far to be in such a dark place, and over the course of a year with the program be restored with grace through great coaching.

Christopher Dinnell

After transitioning from full-time ministry to a volunteer position, I couldn’t see how I would effectively live out my calling. YMCP helped me regain my passion and find direction to help me move forward in my ministry.

Bethany Butterfield



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

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

A Word from the Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Oestreicher
Partner | The Youth Cartel

oh, and for the record, here’s what some other people are saying about it:

Morgan Schmidt is a snappy and relatable writer. But above all, she is a prophet blessed with a winsome honesty that sneaks up on you as you’re planning your umpteenth mission trip and whispers: “Recalculate.” For Schmidt, being human boils down to desire; and youth ministry that’s honest is about desire too—the desires of youth for God, the desire of God for them. With Woo, Morgan Schmidt joins a new class of practical theologians taking aim at the false gods driving the youth ministry industry, and she restores our focus—and our hope—on young people’s God-given desire to become, belong to, and worship as the body of Christ. Woo completely won me over.
Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church

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

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

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

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


get your lent on

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

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

Relax. We’ve got you covered.

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

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

Bulk Pricing for Lent

  • 1-4 copies: $9.99 each
  • 5-9 copies: $9.49 each
  • 10-19 copies: $8.49 each
  • 20-99 copies: $6.49 each
  • 100+ copies: $6.09 each
open gr

Open Boston and Open Grand Rapids (and Denver, and Paris, and Seattle, and Bay Area)

the Open Youth Ministry events hosted by The Youth Cartel and a growing cluster of regional youth ministry organizations is such a cool collection of local, contextualized events. each one or two-day event is local in the sense that the organizing team is at least 75% (or more) local (only adam mclane, from The Youth Cartel, is a non-local on each team); the speakers are almost all local; a local youth ministry organization receives a third of the ticket sales; and each event has a unique feel and format, decided on by the organizing team.

all this is built on the belief that the best ideas often come from local, in-the-trenches youth workers.

add to all that goodness: each Open event costs a ridiculously cheap twenty five bucks!

in 2014, we have six Open events officially happening (and a couple more under consideration). two of them are coming up VERY soon, and registration is live and cranking.

open bostonfirst up is Open Boston, on february 7/8, at Gordon College. this is Open Boston’s second year, and the organizing team is fired up. the main event is saturday; but the team decided to add an early day on friday with a couple intensives, dinner, and a time of worship (all still included in the $25 cost!). i’m actually going to Open Boston this time, and am super pumped about it. see the website here, and register here.

open gra couple weeks later, the first-ever Open Grand Rapids will take place on february 22, at Cornerstone University. the speakers have been chosen and plans are ready to go. we’re really stoked about adding GR to the list of Open host cities this year. see the website here, and register here.

coming up later this year:

  • the first-ever Open Denver on september 13
  • the 2nd Open Paris on october 24/25 (we’re adding housing options this year!)
  • the 2nd Open Bay Area (CA) in november (date still being finalized)
  • the 3rd Open Seattle (date still being finalized, but in october or november)

mark the dates on your calendars if you’re within driving distance of any of those cities and plan on bringing a team! and if you’re near Boston or Grand Rapids, get to it!

cartel storefront image

spend your budget!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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!

Youth Ministry Coaching Program update

ymcp leafi’m thrilled with the continued development and organic growth of The Youth Cartel’s Youth Ministry Coaching Program. really, it’s our oldest initiative, now entering its 4th year (it actually started before The Youth Cartel officially existed). cohorts who have completed their year-long journey:

  • San Diego 2010
  • Nashville 2010
  • San Diego 2011
  • Nashville 2011
  • NC UMC 2012
  • TX Episcopalians 2012
  • YMCPv (online) West 2012
  • YMCPv East 2012
  • Ward Church (custom cohort) 2012
  • Calgary 2012
  • Nashville 2013

one of the really cool things about these cohorts is that each of them is an ongoing “private club” of safety and support. they interact all the time on private facebook groups, and most of them have had 2-day working reunions (Nashville 2011 has even had 2 reunions!). at this moment, i have 2 online cohorts nearing the end of their program (YMCPv Central 2013 and YMCPv East 2013).

this past week was a stellar week for YMCP:

  • i launched the new SC UMC cohort
  • april diaz’s “women in youth ministry” cohort filled up (it will launch in the next few months)
  • i’m scheduling meetings for the new NC UMC cohort that’s full and launches in january
  • funding came through for two additional denominationally focused cohorts — a 3rd NC UMC cohort, and one for Presbys in the Pittsburgh area

here’s what’s currently open:

  • i’ve just started forming the next nashville cohort. 4 of the 10 spots are filled. and i have another 8 to 10 who are seriously considering it (which usually means they’re asking their churches for funding!). if you’re interested in this cohort, or even have questions about it, shoot me an email ([email protected]), and i’ll send you the overview doc and answer your questions.
  • the next san diego cohort has been a tough one to fill. the honest truth is that i’ve been trying to fill it for a year and a half. i only need 8 in san diego; but each time we get to 6 or 7 committed, one or two are no longer able to do it and we drop back to 5. that’s where we’re at now — 5 committed. if we can get 3 more, we’ll go for it! anyone interested? you could do worse than a year of growth in san diego!

i doubt i’ll be able to launch any online (YMCPv) cohorts this coming year, as i’ll have so many full cohorts going. and since each person gets one-on-one coaching from me in addition to our regular meetings, i’ll be working with about 40 – 50 youth workers individually this next year as it is. my hope for a few years has been to expand YMCP, offering some cohorts with other coaches. i tried that in the past, and they didn’t fill up (this is one of the reasons i’m so pleased april’s cohort filled up). but maybe we’ll take a swing at that again this year. adam and i are meeting next week for a couple days of looking at The Youth Cartel in 2014 and beyond, and i’m sure this will be one of our topics.

such good stuff! let me know if you’re interested in the Nashville or San Diego cohorts.

introducing Childhood Lost (it’s worth losing sleep over)

childhood lost screen shot

for the past 9 months, The Youth Cartel has worked with the Youth Mobilization team at World Vision to create a new program for youth groups.

World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine is a flagship youth ministry program, engaging a few hundred thousand teenagers each year in learning about and making a tangible difference in hunger. if you’re not familiar with 30 Hour Famine, or have never tried it (or haven’t tried it in a long time), i highly encourage you to check it out. the FREE materials are re-created every year, and it’s really a stellar program. (by the way, The Youth Cartel also helps with the 30 Hour Famine blog, and it has fantastic posts from a variety of youth workers every week — you should check it out and follow.)

but in my consulting work with the Youth Mobilization team, we continued to return to the idea that World Vision does so much great work in additional areas of global need than hunger. human trafficking, clean water, malaria, AIDS, micro development, and so many other issues are strongly in World Vision’s wheelhouse, and they have effective and robust work all over the globe in every one of those. combine that with the fact that youth workers and teenagers are so much more aware, these days, of these other global issues. it just made sense for us to serve youth workers with a program in some of these other areas.

childhood lost bugintroducing: Childhood Lost, a FREE youth group program focused on child slavery

Childhood Lost is a 15 hour experience for your youth ministry (ideally, overnight friday or saturday). its aim is to make a tangible difference in the lives of children who are at risk of being trafficked. for our first year of Childhood Lost, we’re focusing on vulnerable children in bangladesh, as it’s one of the world’s hotspots for both children being trafficked into multiple forms of child slavery: sexual slavery, as well as forced labor.

Childhood Lost is fashioned in a unique way: it’s a combination of 2 hour experiential learning chunks, broken up by 1 hour vigils, where teenagers have an opportunity to “stand with” vulnerable children and those who have already been trafficked (there are a couple short periods of sleep built into the night as well; but those periods of sleep will be interrupted, much in the same way that a child’s sleep in a vulnerable context would be interrupted). the whole program is meticulously crafted and highly interactive, and i’m SUPER stoked about how well it turned out.

we’ve worked closely with the staff at World Vision who focus on vulnerable children, as well as with World Vision Bangladesh, to ensure that we’re serving real needs and representing the issues accurately. this first year, we have a fundraising goal of $300,000. those funds have a specific purpose: funding plans already created by World Vision Bangladesh (but not yet funded). our funds will go to help establish 11 “child friendly spaces,” which are something more than a drop-in center for children in highly vulnerable contexts (one of these, for example, is on the same street as several brothels, and offers a place for children to learn about their value and experience safety and peace outside of the walls of the brothels where they live with their mothers).

really, Childhood Lost is such a great opportunity to engage your teenagers in a real-life problem. they’ll learn. they’ll feel. they’ll be part of a solution.

check it out here, and sign up today! (did i mention it’s FREE?). also, stay up to date by liking the Childhood Lost facebook page (, and following the Childhood Lost twitter feed (@WVChildhoodLost).

Open Paris, in a word

this last weekend, Adam and i were in paris for The Youth Cartel‘s event called Open Paris. these “Open” events have been adam’s birth-baby, shaped by this short manifesto of vision. but each Open event is completely unique, since there’s a high level of ownership given away to the local organizing team.

i’ll admit something here: while i thought the vision of doing one of these in paris was fun, i was a tad skeptical that it would actually work.

but i was wrong. 100%.

50 youth workers from 7 or 8 countries came. by most event planning metrics, that’s not a win. for this event, it was totally a win. the event had a relational dynamic as a result. we learned from each other; but we also hung out together. like: i have new youth worker friends now who live in germany and holland and england and france.

so, Open Paris in 5 words: LOCATION WAS HARD TO BEAT


Open Paris in 4 words: OUR HOST WAS AMAZING




Open Paris in 2 words: CURIOSITY WINS


Open Paris in 1 word: LIMINAL*


* a thin place, often used to describe a spiritual thin place. in this case, a place where the kingdom of god and the world of humans overlapped.

my next two months are insane and awesome

dv370009a.jpgtoday starts the insanity. i’m flying to south carolina today. and it’s the first of many, many weekends out over the next two months.


27/28: Building U event for youth leaders and student leaders, in Greenville, SC
29/30: UMC district worship night in Greenville, SC


4 – 6: JH Journey (junior high event) in Anderson, IN
10 – 13: The Youth Cartel’s Middle School Ministry Campference (actual event is 11 – 13), in Seymour, IN
13/14: The Youth Cartel’s Best Ever Parent Training Ever for Central Christian Church in Carmel, IN
16 – 21: The Youth Cartel’s Open Paris, Paris, France (actual event is 18/19, followed by a parent seminar for The American Church in Paris
25 – 27: Especialidades Juveniles Convencion (spanish YS convention) in Orlando
27/28: The Youth Cartel’s Best Ever Parent Training Ever for a group of churches in Lakeland, FL


6 – 11: The Youth Cartel’s The Summit, in Atlanta (actual event is 8/9), followed by a Best Ever Parent Training Ever for the North Georgia Conf of the UMC
13 – 16: Detroit, for the Detroit Youth Ministry Network on the 14th, and a youth ministry training event for Life Church in Canton, MI on 15/16
18 – 20: Youth Ministry Coaching Program in Nashville
22 – 24: National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville

whew! if you’d like to support me through this season, i sure could use prayer! pray for good health, adjustments to time changes, a clear head, a responsiveness to the spirit, and for my family back home!