Category Archives: the youth cartel


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!

YMCP coaching update: new cohorts almost formed, and a new ‘women in youth ministry’ cohort starting

in some ways, the youth ministry coaching program gave birth to The Youth Cartel. at least, YMCP existed before TYC. and it’s still one of our flagship programs. to date, 99 youth workers are either graduates or current participants in one of our 9-month online or year-long face to face cohorts. personally, it’s been one of the greatest ministry joys of my life, and i LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing the growth and transformation of these people and seeing them become some of my closest ministry friends. in fact, i have a 2-day working reunion in a week with my first nashville cohort, which met in 2010 and early 2011. we have all, to a person, stayed in close touch (thanks to a secret facebook group), and our reunion will both an ongoing opportunity for growth and a freaking party.

i’m very close to filling multiple new cohorts, and am ready to announce a brand new one. here’s the run-down:

palm treeSan Diego

my third san diego cohort didn’t fill up earlier this year. i have 5 or 6 people committed, and we only need 8 here in san diego to make a go of it (since i don’t have travel costs). i would love to start this cohort early in the new year, and wonder if there are any more people who are interested. you don’t have to live in SoCal, though the travel costs certainly shift if you don’t! the most recent addition to that pending group lives in dallas.

columbia-as-seen-fromColumbia, South Carolina

the south carolina conference of the united methodist church started talking about forming their own YMCP cohort early this year. and at this point, we have 7 committed people, ready to go. we need 10 for that cohort, so we’re looking for 3 more people. this cohort would really be ideal for any UMC youth workers in the southeast — SC, NC, GA, VA, WV, TN, KY, and even northern FL. and hey, if you’re interested in this and aren’t in a UMC church, i think we can make an exception. :) oh, we’re hoping to start this cohort before the year’s end — maybe in early december.


my current nashville wraps up in november. i don’t have concrete plans yet, but i’ll likely open up the application process for a new nashville cohort that i’ll hope to launch in late winter or spring of 2014.

epcEPC cohort

the evangelical presbyterian church has been trying to fill a cohort for most of this year. they have 5 committed, so we still need 5 more. they’re just now exploring opening it up to non-EPC youth workers, as well as some additional ideas. the location of this cohort isn’t set yet, but it’s likely to be in either western PA or nashville. if you’re an EPC youth worker, talk to me! and if you’re not, i’ll announce the actual plan at some point, if we open it up to non-EPCers.


DSC_0146-2the amazing april diaz, in partnership with me, will be launching a YMCP cohort exclusively for women in youth ministry. april and i have taken the best of the face to face format and the online format and are launching this cohort in a hybrid approach. the cohort will strictly limited to 8 participants (+ april; and i’ll probably be a “guest coach” at a couple meetings).

here’s april’s description of her vision for this group:

This 10 month whole-life coaching program is all about developing and empowering you as a woman 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 including theology, practical life realities, leading men, and issues defined by this group. This specialized cohort has 8 women in leadership, and meets twice for 2 days plus 4 times online (2-3 hours each). Each time is very intentional and structured to provide encouragement, challenge, and transformation. This cohort provides customized attention to your specific context and needs as a woman in youth ministry.

and here’s the unique (hybrid) schedule we came up with:

  • January – face-to-face, 2 days (in orange county, CA)
  • February – online, 3 hours
  • April – online, 3 hours
  • June – online, 3 hours
  • August – online, 3 hours
  • September – face-to-face , 2 days (in orange county, CA)

we hope to fill april’s cohort quickly, so dates (particularly for the january meeting) can be collaboratively locked in soon.

details, details

all of the year-long face to face cohorts have a $3000 fee. i realize that might seem steep to some of you. but i can tell you this: not one single person who has gone through the program has said it was overpriced, and many have said it was underpriced. sure is cheaper than a semester of grad school, yet the impact on your life and ministry will be exponentially greater.

the women in youth ministry cohort, however, since it’s a hybrid, is $1750.

i think it’s likely i’ll start a couple more online cohorts in early 2014 also. those have worked well, and i just finished two of them and have two more about halfway through the 9 month process. the cost of the online groups is $900.

i’m happy to email you a program overview and or an application. there are a bunch of testimonials and stuff on this page of The Youth Cartel site. of course, email me ([email protected]) with any questions you might have. you can email april directly if you have questions you’d like to ask about her cohort ([email protected]).

a peek into Kurt Johnston’s morning devotions

love this little video of kurt talking about this crazy little event called the Middle School Ministry Campference. kurt helped me dream it up, and was my original sounding board when my dream of the event was just a scattered mess of vision and impulse.

and, in this video, you will catch a glimpse of the quality biblical materials kurt uses for his own devotional life.

the Campference start FIVE WEEKS FROM TODAY! this year we’re adding some awesome new speakers, and some sweet new conversation options, and a bunch of other goodies. (oh, and this week the camp approved our crazy idea of a combo zipline and paintball game during free time. they didn’t go for the combo zipline and skeet shooting, though.) but the best thing about the Campference remains the same — hanging with the middle school ministry tribe.

holy cow. it’s gonna be a blast.

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 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.

back to school discounts at The Youth Cartel store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

three Summit bits of awesomeness

Summit bit of awesomeness numero uno:

i think we’ve landed our 18th of 18 presenters. more on that very soon. now if i can just get uncle wally to respond so we have our official event uke player (the dude was sorta old, so i’m hoping he’s still alive!)…

Summit bit of awesomeness numero dos:

we released the video of ben chestnut’s uh-maze-ing talk from last year’s Summit into the wild this week. ben is the co-founder and CEO of mailchimp. seriously, this is a guy who would speak at TED or any other non-ministry event. but he likes adam (don’t we all?), so agreed to speak at our little event. he offers some brilliant insights. really, this is worth the dozen minutes it takes to watch about ten times over.

Ben Chestnut: Creating an Environment for Creativity and Empowerment

Summit bit of awesomeness numero tres:

this is awesome. we’re partnering with some awesome peeps to offer a youth ministry and marriage retreat in connection with The Summit (now you really have a chance to say, “hey, honey, let’s mount The Summit”!).

marriage retreat logo

here’s the scoop:

Youth ministry has a propensity to demand much of marriage, which at times can be difficult enough on it’s own. Yet many youth workers have even more of a tendency to project an image of the perfect Christian marriage, even though we have the same bumps and challenges as other couples. As Christian leaders, it is imperative that we learn to tend to the soul of our own marriages and families before coming alongside students and their parents to do the same. This 48-hour retreat is designed to help you do just that!

Organized and designed by REACH Youth New England, in partnership with WinShape Retreats (a foundation of Chick-fil-A) and sponsored by Simply Youth Ministry (SYM), the Youth Ministry and Marriage Retreat is designed to provide you quality relational time as a couple as well as innovative and interactive teaching and workshops to strengthen your marriage. You will also have the chance to intentionally connect with other youth workers and their spouses about marriage and ministry as the retreat is intentionally intimate and limited to only 16 couples.

The retreat will start Sunday November 10th at 12:00pm and wrap up Tuesday, November 12th at 10:00am and will take place at the beautiful Winshape Retreat Center in Rome, GA – a 26,000-acre wildlife preserve that sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by a rolling wonderland of forests, meadows and streams. Two nights lodging, six meals, and programming are all included in this retreat. All of it a $700 per couple value… for only $100 PER COUPLE (if you register by October 1st) thanks to the generosity of WinShape and SYM!

A full schedule, and more details will be available soon.


The Summit is offering couples who attend the Youth Ministry and Marriage Retreat our absolute craziest rate of just $159/couple for The Summit. Our hope is that you can attend together to The Summit on Friday and Saturday, get your imagination sparked and your heart charged up with youth ministry ideas… then go spend a few days together at this marriage retreat to spark and recharge your marriage. How fun is that?

How do I get this deal?

First, register for the Youth Ministry and Marriage Retreat.

Next, after you complete your registration you’ll get a special discount code for The Summit.