Category Archives: the youth cartel

our 3rd Women in Youth Ministry cohort of YMCP

At The Youth Cartel, our flagship program–the Youth Ministry Coaching Program–is experiencing some amazing growth. With more than 250 graduates now, we continue to refine and tweak and see massive transformation in the lives of participants and their ministries. Just the other day, a fairly recent grad who has simultaneously jumped into our Level 2 cohort and our Coaching Certification training emailed me, writing:

As I stand waiting to board my flight from Chicago home, I’m struck with an overwhelming appreciation for the Cartel. A little over a year ago I didn’t know The Youth Cartel existed and as I reflect over the past year, I can’t believe how far I’ve come-how I’ve grown in ministry, what I’ve learned, but more importantly how my life has so drastically changed from being bitter and focused on the past to future-focused and hope-filled. Thank you for the role that you and the Cartel have played in that transformation. I am forever grateful!

If you’re not familiar with YMCP, you should read this overview.

If you’re wondering about the 8 cohorts we’re currently filling, click here.

But I’m particularly pumped about the four topic-specific cohorts we’re currently looking to fill. So i’m posting about each of them, four days in  row.

Tuesday, I wrote about the new Ministry Architects cohort co-lead by April Diaz (from the Cartel) and Jeff Dunn-Rankin (VP of Coaching at Ministry Architects).

Wednesday, I wrote about the new Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry cohort I’ll be co-leading with Kurt Johnston of Saddleback Church.

Yesterday, I wrote about the 2nd Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian Context cohort.

And, today: the THIRD (woot!) Women in Youth Ministry cohort:

There’s something about the mixture of a group of likeminded individuals coming together and the accountability of a trained coach that does wonders for your growth and development as a leader and youth worker. We’ve learned that journeying with a safe group of peers provides fertile soil for long-lasting change.

We think that women in youth ministry are the intersection of some of our favorite people: leaders, women, and youth workers. And this environment is a beautiful opportunity for my gifts and background to be used for other women!

This whole-life coaching program is all about developing and empowering women in leadership. Being a woman in youth ministry is different. It demands unique skills and awareness as we approach the challenges and opportunities due to our gender.

We will learn across a scope of subjects focused on leadership development and youth ministry realities in this changing culture. This specialized cohort will have 8-10 women in leadership, and meets twice for 2 days plus 4 times online (2-3 hours each). Each component is very intentional and structured to provide encouragement, training, challenge, and transformation.

A Few Details…

  • HOW MANY: 8-10 women will be accepted
  • WHO: Our group is from all over the U.S., and you do not need to be in full time ministry or a point leader. But each woman must be in youth ministry in some way.
  • MEETING SCHEDULE: This cohort will meet twice for 2 full day meetings (the first and last) in Northern Indiana and have 4 online meetings (2-3 hours each). The specific dates will be chosen by the group. The first meeting will be scheduled roughly 3 – 6 months after the group is filled.
  • 1on1 COACHING: Participants receive four 30-minute phone calls with me between our face-to-face meetings
  • CONNECTION: Private Facebook group for ongoing support and interaction
  • HOMEWORK: We will do a good amount of shared, cross-disciplinary reading. I believe that Leaders are Readers! Additionally, each participate will self-assign homework based on learning and necessary, personalized growth areas
  • COST: $2250 (+ participant travel costs)

Interested? Questions? Email April Diaz at [email protected].

Ready to apply? Apply online at http://theyouthcartel.com/coaching.

Read more here: http://www.aprildiaz.com/blog/wymcohort2.

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian Context cohort of YMCP

At The Youth Cartel, our flagship program–the Youth Ministry Coaching Program–is experiencing some amazing growth. With more than 250 graduates now, we continue to refine and tweak and see massive transformation in the lives of participants and their ministries. Just the other day, a fairly recent grad who has simultaneously jumped into our Level 2 cohort and our Coaching Certification training emailed me, writing:

As I stand waiting to board my flight from Chicago home, I’m struck with an overwhelming appreciation for the Cartel. A little over a year ago I didn’t know The Youth Cartel existed and as I reflect over the past year, I can’t believe how far I’ve come-how I’ve grown in ministry, what I’ve learned, but more importantly how my life has so drastically changed from being bitter and focused on the past to future-focused and hope-filled. Thank you for the role that you and the Cartel have played in that transformation. I am forever grateful!

If you’re not familiar with YMCP, you should read this overview.

If you’re wondering about the 8 cohorts we’re currently filling, click here.

But I’m particularly pumped about the four topic-specific cohorts we’re currently looking to fill. So i’m posting about each of them, four days in  row.

Tuesday, I wrote about the new Ministry Architects cohort co-lead by April Diaz (from the Cartel) and Jeff Dunn-Rankin (VP of Coaching at Ministry Architects).

Wednesday, I wrote about the new Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry cohort I’ll be co-leading with Kurt Johnston of Saddleback Church.

Tomorrow: the THIRD (woot!) Women in Youth Ministry cohort:

And today, some info about the 2nd Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian Context cohort:

This whole-life coaching program is all about developing and equipping you as a youth worker within a Post-Christian context of ministry. How do you know if you’re in a Post-Christian context? Well, have you found traditional ministry strategies becoming less and less effective? Are you finding that it’s getting more difficult to get students to come to your church? Or that when you do, students have little to no church or Biblical context? Well, those are signs that your church or area may be Post-Christian. (You could also check out this post from Barna.)

Ministry within a Post-Christian world isn’t always easy. It’s a whole new world of ministry, which requires blazing a different trail in order to effectively reach students with the gospel. We will learn across a scope of subjects including theology, practical life realities, sociology, and issues defined by this group. Each time we meet is very intentional and structured to provide encouragement, challenge, and transformation. This cohort provides customized attention to your specific context and needs as a youth worker in a Post-Christian context.

Details

This group will launch roughly 3 – 6 months after filling. The group will collaboratively choose meeting dates. This includes:

  • Three 2-day, face-to-face meetings lead by Jake Kircher (author of Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World, and the 4-volume THINK curriculum), with either April Diaz or Marko attending the first meeting.
  • Three online meetings for 3 hours each (via Google Hangout) led by Jake Kircher, and including guest contributors.
  • Participants get seven 30-minute coaching sessions (3 in-person and 4 via phone).
  • Access to a secret Facebook group for ongoing support, connection, and interaction.
  • We’ll do a healthy amount of reading and cross-disciplinary learning, as well.
  • Cost: $2500. We will work out a payment plan with you, if needed.
  • 8-10 people will be accepted.

Some may look at the cost and discount their participation. We’ve come to believe, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If this is something you’d benefit from, let’s find a way! At the same time, a helpful way to compare the cost is asking: What’s the cost of a job change? a divorce? a moral failure? This cohort is designed to help avoid all of those things and strengthen you as a youth worker, which will only lead to better ministry! That perspective makes $2500 well worth it! It’s one of the best investments you can make in your leadership. The learning you’ll have from the others in the group will be beyond a conference and these detailed bullet points! And you are worth the investment.

Details in summary:

FormatHybrid cohort – 3 face-to-face meetings of 2 days each + 3 online meetings of 3 hours each. 7 individual coaching sessions (3 face-to-face and 4 phone).

Price$2500

CoachesJake Kircher, with April Diaz or Marko

Launch Date3 – 6 months after reaching 10 participants

LocationGrace Farms, New Canaan CT (1:30 Northeast of NYC)

Interested? Questions? Email Jake Kircher at [email protected].

Ready to apply? Apply online at http://theyouthcartel.com/coaching.

Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry cohort of YMCP

At The Youth Cartel, our flagship program–the Youth Ministry Coaching Program–is experiencing some amazing growth. With more than 250 graduates now, we continue to refine and tweak and see massive transformation in the lives of participants and their ministries. Just the other day, a fairly recent grad who has simultaneously jumped into our Level 2 cohort and our Coaching Certification training emailed me, writing:

As I stand waiting to board my flight from Chicago home, I’m struck with an overwhelming appreciation for the Cartel. A little over a year ago I didn’t know The Youth Cartel existed and as I reflect over the past year, I can’t believe how far I’ve come-how I’ve grown in ministry, what I’ve learned, but more importantly how my life has so drastically changed from being bitter and focused on the past to future-focused and hope-filled. Thank you for the role that you and the Cartel have played in that transformation. I am forever grateful!

If you’re not familiar with YMCP, you should read this overview.

If you’re wondering about the 8 cohorts we’re currently filling, click here.

But I’m particularly pumped about the four topic-specific cohorts we’re currently looking to fill. So i’m posting about each of them, four days in  row.

Yesterday, I wrote about the new Ministry Architects cohort co-lead by April Diaz (from the Cartel) and Jeff Dunn-Rankin (VP of Coaching at Ministry Architects).

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the 2nd Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian Context cohort.

And, Friday: the THIRD (woot!) Women in Youth Ministry cohort.

But today, I’m pumped to tell you about the new Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry cohort I’ll be co-leading with Kurt Johnston of Saddleback Church:

There has been an explosion of churches moving to a multi-site approach in the last few years. Understandably, a church’s decision to move to a multi-site approach is rarely (if ever) driven by the mission of the youth ministry. And as such, youth workers in these churches are often scrambling to figure out best practices, formats and structures, success metrics, and all sorts of other variables. We felt it would be great to host a YMCP cohort exclusive to youth workers wrestling with these questions.

This cohort will still embody the values and promises of YMCP: leadership development and growth in self-knowledge, problem solving and personal transformation. But Kurt Johnston, the leader of all youth ministries for Saddleback Church’s 17 campuses, will also guide some specific conversations on the uniqueness of multi-site church youth ministry.

As a bonus: The Youth Cartel and Saddleback Church will be hosting a 2-day mini-Campference on the topic of Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry. One meeting of this cohort (probably the first meeting) will coincide with this event, with the fee for this event being included in the cost of the cohort.

Details in summary:

FormatHybrid cohort– 3 face-to-face meetings of 2 days each + 3 online meetings of 3 hours each. 6 individual coaching sessions (2 face-to-face and 4 phone). One of the face-to-face meetings will coincide with a Multi-Site Youth Ministry mini-Campference co-hosted by The Youth Cartel and Saddleback Church.

Price$2500

CoachesMarko and Kurt Johnston

Launch Date3 – 6 months after reaching 10 participants

LocationSaddleback Church, Lake Forest CA

For more information (including pricing and a full overview of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program), click here.
To lock in your spot for one of the 10 spots, click here to apply and put down a $100 deposit.

announcing the Ministry Architects cohort of YMCP

At The Youth Cartel, our flagship program–the Youth Ministry Coaching Program–is experiencing some amazing growth. With more than 250 graduates now, we continue to refine and tweak and see massive transformation in the lives of participants and their ministries. Just the other day, a fairly recent grad who has simultaneously jumped into our Level 2 cohort and our Coaching Certification training emailed me, writing:

As I stand waiting to board my flight from Chicago home, I’m struck with an overwhelming appreciation for the Cartel. A little over a year ago I didn’t know The Youth Cartel existed and as I reflect over the past year, I can’t believe how far I’ve come-how I’ve grown in ministry, what I’ve learned, but more importantly how my life has so drastically changed from being bitter and focused on the past to future-focused and hope-filled. Thank you for the role that you and the Cartel have played in that transformation. I am forever grateful!

If you’re not familiar with YMCP, you should read this overview.

If you’re wondering about the 8 cohorts we’re currently filling, click here.

But I’m particularly pumped about the four topic-specific cohorts we’re currently looking to fill. So i’m posting about each of them, four days in  row.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about the new Multi-Site Church Youth Ministry cohort I’ll be co-leading with Kurt Johnston of Saddleback Church.

Thursday, I’ll post about the 2nd Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian Context cohort.

And, Friday: the THIRD (woot!) Women in Youth Ministry cohort.

But today, I’m stoked to tell you about the new Ministry Architects cohort co-lead by April Diaz (from the Cartel) and Jeff Dunn-Rankin (VP of Coaching at Ministry Architects):

Ministry Architects and The Youth Cartel are partnering together to offer an exclusive, one-of-a-kind development opportunity for youth workers. Built on the model of The Youth Cartel’s proven and successful Youth Ministry Coaching Program, the two organizations will each bring their strengths, approaches, and ministry values to a cohort of 10 youth workers who will meet together over the span of a year. The Cartel coach (April Diaz) will focus primarily on holistic leadership development, while the Ministry Architects coach (Jeff Dunn-Rankin, VP of Coaching) will focus primarily on building sustainability in your church’s youth ministry. The program includes: three meetings of two days each, in Nashville, three online meetings, plus seven one-on-one coaching sessions (three in person, and four via phone or skype).

 
We’re hoping to launch this cohort in the Fall of 2016 (participants will speak into actual date selection); but we will look to schedule the first meeting 3 – 6 months out from when the cohort is full.
 
For more information (including pricing and a full overview of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program), click here.

To lock in your spot for one of the 10 spots, click here to apply and put down a $100 deposit.

Details in summary:
FormatHybrid cohort – 3 face-to-face meetings of 2 days each + 3 online meetings of 3 hours each. 7 individual coaching sessions (3 face-to-face and 4 phone).

Price$2500

CoachesApril Diaz (The Youth Cartel) and Jeff Dunn-Rankin (Ministry Architects)

Launch Date3 – 6 months after reaching 10 participants

LocationNashville

For more information (including pricing and a full overview of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program), click here.
To lock in your spot for one of the 10 spots, click here to apply and put down a $100 deposit.

the values driving my church’s middle school ministry in this season

if you read my blog much, you know i talk and write a lot about leading from values. it’s a central theme in our Youth Ministry Coaching Program.

i define values as the answer to the question: What is God calling us to embody in this season? (and by season, i mean: this chapter of our ministry life together.) values should flow out of mission (Why do we exist?), and lead to strategy (How will we embody our values?) and goals (What are our measurable, actionable plans?).

we teach a process of developing ministry values in our coaching program. and the awesome junior high pastor at my church (where i’m a volunteer) recently graduated from a san diego cohort of YMCP. last fall, we had a fantastic volunteer team retreat, where i got to lead our team in developing values. and recently, we came back together to identify which of our values were the most aspirational (we aspire to embody these, but don’t really do so yet), and to come up with strategy for those.

i was reminded how much i love the values our team came up with. thought i’d share them with you here (not so you can copy them, as the best ministries discern their own values!).

things to note:

  • they’re in no particular order
  • the initial italic words come from our discernment process, and are grouped together from a bunch of value-ish stuff that surfaced.
  • the bold sentence is the actual value.
  • the additional sentence(s) are an unpacking of the value.
  • our JH ministry is called Riptide (which is why you’ll see that all throughout).

Riptide Values

  1. Family/Belonging/Known

Riptide is a family. We will be a place of radical belonging for young teens and for leaders. Every junior higher who walks through our doors will be known and know others.

  1. Questioning/Safety/Honesty

We will be a safe harbor of support and honesty. Questions will be viewed as a cause for celebration rather than a reason for shame or embarrassment. Personal stories will be celebrated and treated with the respect they deserve.

  1. Experiencing God/Jesus

We desperately want junior highers to encounter Jesus. We believe that the best life is one that follows Jesus; and to that end, we want young teens to experience God as a means of cultivating their faith and being transformed. We will be leaders who will manifest our own personal relationships into the ministry and lives of middle schoolers.

  1. Celebrate Uniqueness/Culture of Encouragement

We believe each student and leader is unique and has gifts to offer the world. We will actively develop a Culture of Encouragement, intentionally identifying and nurturing competencies.

  1. Integration with church

Junior Highers should be connected with Journey, not just Riptide. We believe that a long view of faith development means we are compelled to think of junior high as one chapter in a life long faith journey. Because of that, we will work to reduce the isolation of young teens in our church and find meaningful ways to integrate them into the life of the congregation.

  1. Take Risks/Embrace change

Change is constant, and growth requires risk. Riptide cannot stay the same, cannot coast, cannot become complacent. We will consistently evaluate, discern the Holy Spirit’s leading, and experiment with change in order to become everything God has dreamed our ministry could be.

  1. Face outward/Mission/Outreach

We will help junior highers engage their faith outside the Riptide room. We refuse to allow our ministry to become program-centric and only occurring in our room. We will engage the world around us in mission and outreach, both for the formation of our junior highers, and to engage the work of the Kingdom of God.

Recommended Graduation Gifts for Teenagers

Slide1we have a few resources either published by The Youth Cartel, or developed by me (marko) and sold by The Youth Cartel, that are worth your consideration as graduation gifts (either for individual students, or for a youth group context). as is always the case with stuff we sell in our store, excellent bulk pricing discounts are available.

The Amazing Next, by Brock Morgan. honestly, there are so many cheesy high school graduations books on the market. most of them fall into one of two categories: (1) inspirational drivel, or (2) “this is our last chance to cram some apologetics down your throat so your freshman philosophy professor doesn’t undo everything we’ve tried to teach you.” both categories are lame, and both don’t get read by actual teenagers. that’s why we worked with Brock to develop this book. we wanted a grad book that was fun, honest, helpful and–most of all–would get read rather than shelved. i love this book, and the response (it released last year) has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Way Bible. i was the general editor on this baby, and it took 18 months of my life. we wanted (we, in this case, being me and Tyndale Publishers) to create a bible that was truly honest and helpful for older teenagers and young adults. almost all ‘teen bibles’ have a target of a 15 or 16 year old. we had 17 – 20 year olds in mind when creating this. it’s full of evocative black & white photography, book intros and a variety of other elements all designed to connect young adults with scripture. this isn’t a study bible — it’s a reader’s bible (and as such, the new living translation is perfect). it’s available in softcover, hardcover, and a black leatherlike cover. (i’ve bought copies of this bible for the guys in my 8th grade small group as a gift — don’t tell ’em.)

Ignite Bible. i was a general editor on this bible also — and it is specifically focused on middle schoolers (so this would NOT be a good choice for high school graduates — but, instead, for kids graduating from grade school into middle school). softcover and hardcover available.

4 Excellent Teen Devotionals for Summer Use

Slide1

with the recent release of two very unique devotionals for teenagers, the Cartel now has four excellent options. i think each of these would be fantastic for a variety of summer youth ministry programming:

  • weekly program
  • students completing on their own (since they have more time in the summer)
  • as an aspect of summer camp, or follow up
  • as an aspect of a missions trip, or follow up

all of these are priced low, and have bulk discounts available. all our devotionals work great for individual use. but we don’t actually publish them unless they will work great in the context of youth ministry.

Soul Pirate Handbook, by Luke Lang, is our newest release. it’s a fun and engaging pirate-y approach to considering the good life that Jesus offers us. this would be ideal for middle schoolers and younger high schoolers.

The Real Jesus, by Jen Bradbury, is–in my opinion–about the most theologically rich devotional for teenagers you can find. and it’s pedagogically powerful, in that it very intentionally invites teenagers to bring their own thoughts and insights to the question Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” this devo is perfect for high schoolers and even college students.

Ordinary Time, by Erik Willits engages with the liturgical calendar (for those from non-liturgical churches, ‘ordinary time’ is the name of this season we’re in over the summer). this is a more reflective and contemplative devotional. and, really, this is an all-ages resource (as are the others in this series: Lent and Advent).

Finally, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Manual for Teenagers, by Jonathan McKee. this is our best-selling book for a reason: teenagers love it. it’s part fiction, part devo, all awesome. if you have teenagers who wouldn’t normally engage with a devotional book, this will be the exception.

 

how The Summit is shaping up

i had this idea swimming around in my head for a couple years, of a youth ministry event that was totally different and unique. i imagined it as TED for youth workers. i even looked into making it an official TEDx event, but discovered that TED doesn’t allow events with religious connections.

so, once adam joined me at The Youth Cartel, we decided to take a risk and try this thing. we tweaked a few things from the TED format, to make the event more ideal for the sort of learning we hoped would occur. and The Summit has been a win. two years in atlanta, and now in our second year in nashville.

we’ve always said The Summit is not a training event. there are other youth ministry events with that goal. the goal of this event is to spark your imagination and instigate new thinking. we want the presenters and their content to be fodder for the holy spirit to get your stirred up, out of ruts, and into dreaming new dreams for your youth ministry. (these aims, by the way, are why we pull a thematic thread through the event, and why we have 45-minute ‘digging deeper’ dialogues after each main session.)

summit-2015-theme-squarethis year we’re making what we think is an awesome tweak, based on our theme of Elephants. we’re going to address “three elephants in the room of youth ministry.” The Summit always develops in a very organic way, with me having tons of conversations with people, exploring our theme(s) and getting input. this year that’s especially true since we have a curator for each session. so, for now, here are the descriptions of the sessions, with info about where we are in the planning.

NOTE: today is the early bird registration deadline. if you register by tonight, you save $40 on the individual and group rates. we really hope you’ll join us in nashville on november 6 and 7.

Session 1 (Friday Evening)
Elephant: Immaturity and Transition in Youth Ministry
Curator: April Diaz
April, along with other presenters, will guide us in an exploration of the awkward topic of our collective immaturity. While misaligned values and unspoken expectations are normally the cause of conflict, we youth workers often seem to have difficulty seeing our own contribution to the problems. Not knowing how to deal with conflict, we too often move on, only to repeat the pattern. Together, let’s look at the plank in our own eye.
other confirmed presenters:

  • Jen DeJong — Transitioning Well
  • Danny Kwon — The Surprising Benefits of Staying a Long Time

other likely presentations:

  • Why We Lie to Ourselves
  • Celebrating Youthfulness Without Being Immature
  • Being Professional Without Becoming a Suit

Session 2 (Saturday Morning)
Elephant: Evangelism and Apologetics
Curator: Dan Kimball
In an increasingly post-Christian world, how do we talk about Jesus and the gospel with those outside our youth room? While the age of pluralism has caused some to simply stop talking about Jesus and the gospel, others charge forward with 1980s approaches. Honestly, the issues are complex; and many of us find it easier to avoid altogether. Dan Kimball, along with other presenters, will bring a variety of perspectives and ideas to this Elephant in our collective room.
other confirmed presenters:

  • Brock Morgan — Bringing the Good News Back to Evangelism
  • Daniel White Hodge — Baptized in Dirty Water: Evangelism in Post-Civil Rights Era

other likely presentations:

  • Good News or Bad? Interpreting Lifeway vs. Pew Research
  • Beyond Conversion Theology: Toward a Postmodern Apologetic
  • The Bono Effect: The Shift from Evangelism to Justice

Session 3 (Saturday Afternoon)
Elephant: Ministry to LBGT Teenagers
Curator: Ginny Olson
We’re not out to change your theology (in either direction!). But let’s be honest enough to admit that we are not wildly succeeding at responding to and including gay teenagers (and those questioning their sexuality). And most of us will be totally lost when we have a transgender teen sign up for summer camp or a mission trip. We promise you: the presenters in this session will not all agree with each other. But our hope is that we’ll all learn and think in the midst of the dialogue about this massive youth ministry Elephant.
other confirmed presenters:

  • Daniel Merk-Benitez — Helping Your Church Be Proactive with LGBT Issues
  • Mark Oestreicher — Helping Parents of LGBT Teenagers
  • Justin Lee — Creating Safe Places (title not final)
  • Gemma Dunning — Love The Saint: how to pastorally support, love and encourage LGBT teens

other likely presentations:

  • What I’ve Learned and What We’ve Changed

Session 4 (Saturday Late Afternoon/Early Evening)
Focus: Elephants as Formation Instigators
Presenter: Jon Huckins
This last session is a chance for us to worship together and wrap up the day with a broader perspective. Jon Huckins is an accomplished guide in the arena of peacemaking; but we’ve asked him to apply those insights to how we address the Elephants that exists in our churches.

oh, and…

Pre-Summit Sessions (3-hour learning experiences during the day on friday — included in your registration. note that these are not necessarily connected to the event theme)

  • Dave Sippel — Sustainable Youth Ministry
  • Jake Kircher — Helping Teenagers Own Their Faith
  • Mike King — Theological Imagination and Spiritual Practices Among Elephants and Sacred Cows
  • John Huckins — Arming Teenagers to Wage Peace

(more Pre-Summit Sessions will be added)

seriously — this thing is very much shaping up to be a barnstorming, powerful, revolutionary time together. i had the youth pastor at a very large church (a guy with more than 50 paid youth workers under him — a guy who normally gets paid to go speak at events) email me the other day, writing, “I’m planning on coming to The Summit this year. The topics and line-up look SO GOOD and important!”

Why We Published This: The Audacious Seven

steve case is one of the most prolific youth ministry writers i’ve ever known. for 15 years or so, i’ve been trying to keep up with proposals from steve, and greenlighting as many as i can. you might know his work on books like The Book of Uncommon Prayer (and vol 2), Everything Counts, The Big Book of Case Studies, Road Rules, and many more. for the Cartel, steve wrote our very first book, The Youth Cartel’s (Unauthorized) Dictionary of Youth Ministry, as well as the Stations of the Cross curriculum. we’ve got a fun book coming out from steve in march called Bigger Badder Board Games. and we have a few more things in the hopper, just waiting for the right time.

so, yes, steve is prolific.

but the primary reason i’ve published steve so many times isn’t because of the sheer quantity of ideas he comes up with, or the speed at which he can write (which is mind=blowing, by the way), or how open he is to editorial input and changes. the reason i keep finding myself publishing steve’s ideas, year after year, is because he is one of the most creative people i have ever met.

9781942145066-coverThe Audacious Seven: Life Lessons from Seven Saints Who Didn’t Back Down, shows steve’s creativity. it’s a very outside-the-box curriculum (hard to use the word curriculum, as steve’s stuff rarely fits comfortably into preconceived categories) that looks at seven historic saints. but they are far from an academic lessons focused on information. instead, they use story to help teenagers think about bold living for jesus. you can use them as a series, or as one-offs (like the session on Patrick would be great near St. Patrick’s Day; the session on Nicholas at Christmas; and the session on Valentine at… well… Valentine’s Day).

here’s the official description:

What can we learn from the impudent, impertinent, insolent, presumptuous, cheeky, irreverent, brazen, shameless, defiant, fresh, mouthy, saucy, sassy, nervy, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky, daredevil, reckless, venturesome, mettlesome, gutsy, spunky, and temerarious servants of God?

The Audacious Seven looks at the lives of seven of God’s servants who went so far above and beyond the call that we refer to them as saints. Seven common everyday individuals who had the opportunity to crawl into a hole and hide, but instead looked adversity in the eye and with the power of the Spirit said, “Bring it on.” Teenagers will examine these saints not for their piety, but because their stories are part of our stories as believers. No matter what our denomination, these stories our part of our faith history and that makes them part of who we are as a church today.

it’s a downloadable resource, and includes this stuff:

A detailed introduction and overview of the curriculum for leaders explaining how to use The Audacious Seven, what we can learn from the saints, and why these stories matter today.

Seven lesson guides on the chosen saints: St. Patrick, St. Catherine, St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Marina, St. Nicholas, and St. Valentine. Each lesson guide includes an introduction for leaders, dramatized stories and re-imaginings of the writings or lives of each saint, the prayers associated with or written by each saint, discussion questions, relevant Scripture, and ideas for actions that will inspire teenagers to take these life lessons and spiritual insights to heart.

download the FREE sample session (St. Patrick) here. and read this fun interview with steve about the product. then you’ll see why i think this thing is so cool.

Why We Published This: The Jesus Gap

9781942145028.main.1000february 22, 2014 (less than a year ago): the first Open Grand Rapids. i wasn’t there, but adam mclane was. late in the day, he sent me a text telling me everything was going well. but he also said that the presenter who totally blew everyone away was a chicago area youth worker named jen bradbury. he told me how jen has presented on her original research about churched teenagers and their christology. he suggested a publishing chat was in order.

1:30pm, february 27, 2014: i chatted with jen. wow — yes, it quickly became clear that jen’s research (as part of her MA in youth ministry leadership at huntington) had raised some important issues about christian teenagers and jesus. it was 100% clear to me that we needed to help give jen a platform to speak to youth workers about what she’d discovered. and, thankfully, jen wanted to jump in.

february 28, 2014: jen sent me most of a full book proposal. at least it had the pertinent bits. it was a fantastic start. we chatted again that day and i made a handful of minor suggestions.

march 3, 2014: jen sent me a revised proposal based on my input, as well as a sample chapter.

march 10 i emailed jen with this: “jen bradbury, how is it that you are just now surfacing as a voice that needs to be heard in the world of youth ministry!? seriously — you are the real deal. your expanded TOC is excellent, and is SO CLEARLY a book that needs to be written and read.”

within another week or two, we had a signed publishing contract with jen. she wrote like a mad-woman, and turned in the manuscript in mid-june, and after some frenetic months of editing and design and printing and stuff, we released The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus in early October.

for those not familiar with book publishing, let me clarify: that’s an insane timeline.

but we pushed hard and fast because we were 100% convinced this was a book that needed to be published, and that it was a book that every youth worker simply must read. after all, if the majority of our teenagers have massive misinformation about who jesus was and is, then what the heck are we even doing? the beauty of jen’s book, though, is that while her research reveals some surprising and frustrating–even discouraging–news about what our teenagers actually believe about jesus, there are totally actions we can take to address the problem. in other words, it’s a hopeful book.

here’s what andy root (in my opinion, one of the top three minds in youth ministry) had to say in the foreword he wrote:

So here we stand, needing not simply to help our young people possess information about Jesus, but rather to invite them to experience the living Christ. We are asking them to take these experiences of Jesus’ presence and absence in their lives and reflect on them through Scripture and church tradition—not in order to know information, but to give testimony to the depth of their experience. And this, in my mind, is the gap—the gap between young people’s experience of the living Jesus and their ability to give coherent and thoughtful reflection upon it. If we can help them do this kind of reflection, it might transform their lives and be a rich blessing to the church.

Reading Jen’s book will prove helpful to bridging this gap. It will make you think; and most importantly, it will move you into the depth of ministry where the living Jesus is always present, taking what is dead and bringing it back to life.

and here are a few other opinions:

Jen Bradbury is seasoned, wise, and warm, as might be expected of a youth minister. She’s also a tenacious researcher with mad writing skills and a desperately important problem to dissect. That’s why The Jesus Gap managed to exceed my expectations. This book needs serious attention from anyone who loves Jesus, loves kids, and loves the Church. There’s hope in these pages!
– Dave Rahn, Sr. VP, Youth for Christ/USA, Director, MA in Youth Ministry Leadership at Huntington University

The Jesus Gap is a must-read book for four reasons. First, it discovers, critiques, and champions the place of Christology in youth ministry. Second, it is a rare gem: National research done with rigor that helps us find a confident way forward. Third, it was written by a veteran youth pastor with a proven and current record of fruitful leadership. Finally, Jen Bradbury is a gifted thinker and leader in youth ministry who leads, teaches, and nurtures as well as any I’ve seen. You can be confident of the quality of the data, the theological wisdom, the practical application, and the integrity and Christ-centeredness of the one who writes.
– Terry Linhart, PhD, Author and Educator at Bethel College – Indiana, TerryLinhart.com

In The Jesus Gap, Jen Bradbury offers deep insight into the way teenagers view Jesus. Full of important questions and a critical look at what we are telling teens about him, Jen offers a wealth of practical ways we can positively impact what our youth believe about Jesus. Regardless of your denomination or the size of your ministry, this book is filled with valuable wisdom for how pastors or parents can play a key role in strengthening the faith of our youth. I am left feeling hopeful that when we introduce teenagers to the true Jesus, we will open the door to a faith that will last a lifetime.
– Doug Fields, Author of Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, Co-founder of downloadyouthministry.com

so, yeah — here are my questions to you, dear blog reader:
1. are you a youth worker?
2. if you answered ‘yes’ to question 1, have you read The Jesus Gap yet?
3. if you answered ‘no’ to question 2, what is your frickin’ problem?

(oh, two more things: we asked jen to speak on this subject at The Summit last november, and her excellent, short talk is available here. we want to take another step and help your teenagers come to know and experience the real jesus; so we’re just starting the development of a Jesus Gap devotional, with jen as the author. watch for that to release sometime in 2016!)