process

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 6

youth workers, feel free to copy and paste (or email) this series in a parent newsletter or email. i’d appreciate a credit line, but otherwise, go for it. oh, and by the way, this totally has implications for youth ministry also.

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition
and part 3: bored with church and god
and part 4: boundaries and decisions
and part 5: a world of paradoxes

processProcess Trumps Content

This is a very important issue for parents to consider, especially with the current trend toward a college-prep emphasis in school culture. School curriculum often teaches toward test scores. Even Christian schools, who are rarely involved in state testing, often focus on cramming content with an eye to college acceptance.

Many churches take a similar approach: load young teens with info during this formative age, in hopes that it will “stick” and become a guiding force in their lives.

Unfortunately, this is quite misguided.

Just prior to puberty (around 9 or 10 or 11 years old), your child’s brain does a wonderful thing: it grows an abundance of new connections. Like a massive infiltration of tree roots grasping for earth, these new connections between various parts of the brain open up a world of possibilities.

However, these new connections are only that: possibilities. There is no good way to use them all. So, those connections that get exercised and used end up forming a dominant part of the brain’s function through the rest of life. And those connections that are used less, well, they actually disintegrate during the teenage years!

What does this tell us? It’s essential that the young teen years be about learning how to think. Process, “what if”, and “why?” are critical. Discovery is the best learning mode (for spiritual learning or academic learning). If young teens exercise this part of their developing brains, it will positively impact their lifelong thinking, their spiritual growth (after all, spiritual stuff is abstract), their emotional health, their relational maturity, and their desire to continue growing and learning.

So, make room for “why?” and “what if?” Those are questions of speculation (a brand-new, but wimpy, ability for young teens). Encourage discovery. Don’t be threatened by questioned values and boundary-pushing. This is the best stuff of early adolescent brain development!


By the way, I unpack this more (and a bunch of other stuff about early adolescent development) in my book Understanding Your Young Teen; and go into detail on teenage brain development (not only for young teens, but teenagers in general) in A Parents Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains.

ride the lobster

photo in need of a caption, kidmin edition

yeah, we need a photo in need of a caption this week, i think. it’s been a while. and you guys (well, those who bother to enter!) make me laugh.

this time around, i’m gonna give away a complete set of The Youth Cartel’s newest downloadable curriculum Viva: Known. these four sessions focus on learning about the character and mission of Jesus through his conversations with those around him.

ok — plenty of youth workers have some responsibility for children’s ministry also. so let’s call this the kidmin edition of photo in need of a caption. whatcha got?

ride the lobster

CONTENDERS (the best of the best!)

Mike
Stop playing with your food.

Scott
Anybody got another quarter?

Chris Wyatt
Ten years before her first pot. Ten minutes before his last.

Kevin I
Tryin’ to catch me ridin Nephropidirty

Diane Jones
Let us pray for the new youth leaders.

Richard C Mobbs
Thanks, mom. Couldn’t pop 25 cents for the ride outside the supermarket.

Chad Inman
The next Sea World controversy…

AND THE WINNER IS…

once again, a tough call and a close race. but the one that actually made me LOL, literally, was Diane Jones’ “Let us pray for the new youth leaders.”

congrats, diane! you win!

optical illusion triangle

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 5

youth workers, feel free to copy and paste (or email) this series in a parent newsletter or email. i’d appreciate a credit line, but otherwise, go for it. oh, and by the way, this totally has implications for youth ministry also.

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition
and part 3: bored with church and god
and part 4: boundaries and decisions

optical illusion cubeWelcome to the world of paradox!

If you have a preteen or a young teen living in your home, you gain a whole new appreciation for the concept of paradox. These wonderful kids completely embody every meaning of the word. In so many areas, they seem to be both one thing, as well as the polar opposite! (This can be quite maddening, and paradoxically, quite exciting!) It’s all about transition, baby.

Here’s a list of a few you might notice:

Young teens can be incredibly trusting, but will only listen to someone who’s honest and transparent. Young teens (and especially preteens) often don’t have the jaded skepticism of their older teen brothers and sisters. They are very willing to trust–a wonderful characteristic that shouldn’t be missed. This time of life is, in many ways, a last-stop refueling station into the long desert drive of adolescence. Take this opportunity to build on that trust, to show that your word is good.

At the same time, they are beginning to develop a more adult sense of the baloney-detection. If you want to be an example to your young teen, if you want to continue in a role of impacting their lives (in a positive way, that is), it’s essential that you do so through a commitment to honesty and vulnerability. This can be pretty tough, even threatening. When you’re wrong, it’s crucial that you admit it. If they sniff out insincerity or hypocrisy in your or your words, you’ll quickly lose your place of leadership in their lives.

They’ll catch less than you’d think, yet they’re savvier than you’d expect. This is a tricky one, but so true! Because the life of a young teen is all about change (physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, psychological), they have a huge tendency toward “in-one-ear-out-the-other” behavior. You’ve certainly experienced this! You explained to your daughter why a certain behavior is a bad choice, and two weeks later, she seems to have no memory of that discussion. Often that’s because she really doesn’t have a memory of that discussion!

But at the same time, young teens are developing a very savvy ability to see through charades, to understand when they’re being marketed to, and to be aware of consequences. Often what happens with kids this age is that they are savvy enough to understand a situation, but not enough to apply it to their lives.

They want to be treated like adults, but have the opportunity to act like children. This has enormous implications. They’re caught in an in-between world. They know where they want to go: they know they want to be treated like adults, to have more freedom, to make more decisions on their own, to not be treated as if they were 4th graders. It’s important to talk to young teens with an adult voice, and to begin the move to a come-alongside perspective.

But at the same time, they are still very much children, and need the opportunity to act that out, without pressure to grow up too soon. A girl may move out of her childhood music choices, but still love to play with Barbie dolls. Allow her to live in that place. A boy may desire to sit at the adult table at family gatherings, but still keep a childhood stuffed animal on his bed. Don’t rush them into adulthood, but don’t treat them like little kids anymore either.

Some are prototype young adults, while some are really children, and most are both. The reality is this: it’s not that the young teen living in your home is either a child or a young adult (with some magic line being crossed at some point); it’s that she’s both, at the same time. Young teens aren’t just in-between, they’re in an overlap zone–childhood remains, while they’ve already stepped into the young adult world.

Living with paradox isn’t easy! But it’s not only the reality of the young teen years, it’s somehow part of God’s wonderful design for this transition to healthy independence and adulthood. Have fun!

neon steeple

Crowder’s Neon Steeple (win a copy!)

crowder

thanks to the live streaming on itunes radio (available through today only), and then thanks to the record label who sent me a copy of the album in the mail, i’ve been listening to Crowder’s new album, Neon Steeple, almost nonstop over the past week (a few little breaks to listen to the new Coldplay album and the new Conor Oberst album). the album releases on itunes, and everywhere else, tomorrow (tuesday, may 27).

neon steeplei realize i’m biased, since i’ve loved Crowder’s music for a long time, and even more biased because i like him as a person. but it almost doesn’t matter which new direction david goes with his music: i love it musically, and love it lyrically. this album is, unquestionably, his most eccentric and eclectic, ranging from bluegrass and old-timey church songs that johnny cash could have sung, to alt-pop worship, and even a couple tracks i can only classify as “dance” numbers. neon steeple is the baby that marcus mumford and emmylou harris and johnny cash and hank williams and king david (the psalmist) and someone representing alt-pop (maybe the xx, or–OOH!–the ting-tings) would have, uh, birthed together. that just got weird; but, again, i love eclectic.

if you want the same old vanilla christian easy listening, this is not your music. but if you want honest lyrics, unwaveringly god-focused (as Crowder’s songs have always been), with a wild variety of musicality that leans to the down-homey (lotsa banjo, baby), you’ll be a happy listener.

and, i have two copies of the deluxe edition of the CD (17 tracks!) to give away. in the past when i’ve given these away, i’ve gotten a ton of comments, because i made it easy on you (which made it hard on me); so i’m going to inverse that equation this time around. if you want one of these FREE CDs, you must write a haiku about Crowder. that’s right: three lines, of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. i’ll pick the best two, email you for your address, and your CD will be mailed to you.

i mean, Crowder put quite a bit of creative energy into creating this baby, so a little creative effort on your part seems warranted, right?

whatcha got?

winner, winner, crowder dinner

hey, nice job, peeps. fun entries.

i’m sad to be forced to not consider a handful that don’t fit the required haiku form (3 lines, of 5 syllables, 7 syllable, and 5 syllables, in order). some of you don’t quite get that, or just didn’t care!

hands down, the winner is absolutely Rob, for his brilliant three word

Virtuosity
Interdisciplinary
Pogonology

(for those not in the know, “pogonology” is “the study of or a treatise to beards”)

the second winner was more difficult; but i’m going with Chuck’s for sheer randomness and absurdity:

I met Crowder once
He smelled like freedom and steak
No wait, that was me

thanks for playin’, everyone!

music camp concert

Max and the Haiti Music Camp (or, when teenagers are given space to lead)

my 16 year-old son max is going to haiti for a month this summer. he’ll be part of a small team of four people partnering with leaders from my church’s sister church in carrefour to host a two-week music camp for children in the community around the church.

this is a perfect mix of max’s interests and passions: he’s very much into music (he’s a drummer, but plays other instruments, and is fascinated by music theory); he loves serving, and is particularly gifted with children (he volunteers, without any push from his parents, in the children’s ministry at our church); he’s passionate about justice and people in need (again, without any provocation from us, he has regularly, for years, joined a group of people who befriend homeless people in downtown san diego); and he’s had an interest in haiti since he was little (long before the earthquake, he did a massive school report on the country, and knows all about its history).

but all of max’s passions and interests might have sat semi-dormant if it weren’t for adults who cleared a pathway for him to activate, by organizing the trip, including him as an equal, and clarifying the needs.

in response, max has done the following things (TOTALLY on his own — i usually found out about these things he was doing after the fact):

  • max is actively collecting instruments for the music camp. he is unapologetically asking people for donations. he asked on facebook, asked musicians at church, and met with the owner of our local music store to make a big ask. the music store owner came through in a major way, donating this wonderful collection to the cause (which was a neat fit, as the music store owner had just launched a website of unique world music instruments):

instruments

  • max is taking a four-week crash course in creole language and culture, every thursday night:

creole class

  • max is organizing (completely on his own) a benefit concert for the camp. he found a location, volunteers, put together a facebook page, and continues to develop a robust line-up of solo artists and bands of a wide variety of rock, pop and folk genres. the concert is this friday night. if you live in san diego, there are worse ways you could spend a friday evening.

music camp concert

  • max (with help from us — this is one of the only aspects we helped him with) sent out support letters to friends and family around the country. since most of his personal trip costs are being covered by himself and us, the majority of the funds coming in will go directly to the costs of running the camp.

of course, i’m extremely proud of my son; amazed even. but all of this has also been a great reminder to me of what kenda dean wrote about in one of her earliest books, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church. instead of merely treating teenagers as consumers (as the vast majority of churches do), or even the step-in-the-right-direction of giving them roles in the church, what would it look like if we tapped into teenagers’ natural interests and passions (this is really what morgan schmidt writes about in her book Woo: Awakening Teenagers Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus), providing rails to run on and then getting out of the way? yup: teenagers will lead. and teenagers will remind us what passionate faith looks like, in action.

by the way, if you’d like to support max’s trip, i’ll let him ask you in his own words (copied from a facebook status):

this is really important! i’m going to haiti this summer for the month of july to put on a music camp for street kids and orphans, and we need money. $35 pays for one child’s tuition to the camp, and $50 pays the salary of one music teacher (although we will accept any amount). this camp will create jobs, create mentorships, and give the kids a sense of purpose. please help us show these kids that someone loves them.

if you’d like to help, you can donate here. all donations through this site in the next few weeks will go directly to camp tuition scholarships and haitian music teachers working the camp.

boundaries

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 4

youth workers, feel free to copy and paste (or email) this series in a parent newsletter or email. i’d appreciate a credit line, but otherwise, go for it…

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition
and part 3: bored with church and god

teenage turtleBoundaries and Decisions

This research-proven truth may surprise you: Parents are still the number one influence in the lives of their teenagers. Many parents assume that with adolescence, the peer group takes the top influencer slot; or media; or something or someone else.

Here’s another fact that may surprise you even more: Young teens still want and need boundaries. Maybe you’re not surprised by the thought that they need boundaries; but the fact that they want them seems counter-intuitive to their regular spoken and unspoken demands for independence. Of course, unless uttered in sarcasm, you’ll never actually hear your student say, “Please, Mom, I want less freedom!”

You live this issue every day. Because the primary task of parenting a teenager is to foster healthy independence, the rub of boundary setting is in your face on a constant basis.

And it’s not that kids want (or need) a huge set of restrictions: instead, they want to know–with clarity–where the fences of their decision-making playground are placed.

Two extremes to avoid

The Cage. It’s very common (in fact, it’s increasingly common) for parents to be concerned about the world in which their young teen is growing up. It’s common–and good–for parents to be concerned about the fact that our culture is expecting kids to act older (and be exposed to “older things”) at a younger and younger age.

The good and appropriate motivation to protect your new teen, however, can easily result in an unhealthy restriction on growing up. Parents at this extreme keep the boundaries on decision-making and independence so close that teens never (or rarely) have the opportunity to make any real choices.

This extreme can stunt the emotional and spiritual growth of teens, keeping them from the essential learning that comes with good and bad decision-making. In other words: setting the boundaries too tight works counter-productively, keeping your teen from growing in maturity.

Free-Range. The opposing extreme is also common (though increasingly less so), and is possibly even more destructive. This comes from the often-exasperated parent who says: “I don’t know how much freedom to give my teen. He seems to want complete independence, and his friends seem to have that already. Since I don’t know where to draw the line, I’ll give him what he’s asking for: almost complete independence.”

I’m saddened and occasionally shocked by how many 12 year-olds have complete freedom in every decision other than the basics of life (shelter, food, car rides). These young teens are allowed, or even encouraged, to make every choice when it comes to things like: curfew, bedtime, music and movie intake, friendships, money-spending, clothing and appearance. I’m not suggesting a prudish approach to this list (anyone who knows me can vouch for that!). But remember what I said at the outset of this article: teens want and need boundaries!

The Goal

The challenging goal of parenting teens, then, becomes to provide ever-increasing boundaries, with freedom inside those boundaries to run wild and make decisions.

This is not just about maturation and growing up and becoming healthy whole independent adults (although that’s a pretty good list!). This is a spiritual task! For parents, this is a fulfillment of the spiritual task given to you by God: to raise whole and healthy independent adults (failure as a parent looks like a 28 year-old who is still dependent on his mommy).

It also has spiritual implications for your young teen: as she learns to make healthy decisions, in the semi-protected environment of the boundaries you set, she will gain courage and skill for the task of embracing a faith-system that needs to evolve and grow into her own.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: a manifesto of integration, April Diaz. the subtitle says it all. short and to the point.

youth ministry books i’m always recommending

recently, someone in one of my coaching groups asked me to give a list of 10 or so youth ministry books that everyone should read. there are SO many great youth ministry books that it’s tough to make a good list without knowing the reader’s context and what would be most helpful to her. but, i do find that there’s a certain list of books that i end up recommending the most.

what any individual youth worker should read might be a variation on this; but here’s my books i recommend most often:

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Almost Christian, Kenda Dean. difficult and long read, but definitely one of the most important YM books in the last 5 years.

Revisiting Relational Ministry, Andrew Root. calls into question how we’ve “used” relationships as a manipulative tool, and suggests a new way based from a theological framework.

As for Me and My (Crazy) House, Brian Berry. fantastic help for thinking about how to balance family with the demands of youth ministry.

Leading Up, Joel Mayward. about having influence in your church when you’re not in a position of power. allegory from the perspective of a new JH pastor.

Masterpiece: the art of discipling youth, Paul Martin. frames discipleship as a process of helping to uncover teenagers’ unique selves, rather than a program of content.

Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus, Morgan Schmidt. you could call this “desire-based youth ministry.”

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, Brock Morgan. what YM look like when teenagers are truly postmodern. EXCELLENT and provocative.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: a manifesto of integration, April Diaz. the subtitle says it all. short and to the point.

Sticky Faith, youth leader edition, Kara Powell and Brad Griffin. research-based implications of faith that lasts beyond youth group (and teenage years).

A Tale of Two Youth Workers, Eric Venable. a short allegory about processing teenage doubt.

Hurt 2.0 (the revised edition), Chap Clark. understanding the hurt and pain of today’s teenagers, with a look at their isolation.

bored in church

thoughts for parents of young teens, part 3

youth workers, feel free to copy and paste (or email) this series in a parent newsletter or email. i’d appreciate a credit line, but otherwise, go for it…

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition

bored in churchBored with Church and God

When your kid was 9, he loved going to church, loved his Sunday school class, and seemed to have a real relationship with God.

But now, as a young teen, he seems bored. Maybe he’s even expressed this: “Church is boring; I don’t want to go.”

This is a natural occurrence in the lives of young teens. But the reasoning behind this boredom isn’t the same for every child. Here are a few possibilities:

Not Connected
Children (prior to the teen years) need fewer reasons to find church or Christianity engaging. A few fun moments in Sunday school or the reality of Christ in their parents’ lives can be enough. But young teens start to perceive a disconnect (if one exists) between real life and “church-world.” If they don’t sense a relational connection with people in the church (youth group leaders, other kids, adults in the church), it’s easy for them to make the small leap to boredom.

Young teens have a passionate need to be valued and noticed. Any place that doesn’t validate who they are as individuals, any place where they don’t feel known, can quickly feel awkward or boring to them.

Churchianity
Unless your family happens to attend a church with worship and sermons that connect with your young teen (this isn’t common, and isn’t normally the aim of most churches), attending church can begin to feel like a monumental waste of time to young teens – even if they still have an active faith in God.

The forms most churches use (in song, spoken word and format) are pretty foreign to the world of a teenager. Frankly, they’re often pretty foreign to the world of adults too! But the variance from “church-world” to the world of adults is almost always less than to the world of teens.

Faith System Disconnect
Probably the most common, and most healthy reason for young teens to feel boredom is their developmental need to grow up in faith. Pre-teens and children approach faith issues, obviously, with the mind of a child. But a young teen’s new ability to grasp (or at least entertain) abstract ideas begs all their concrete spiritual conclusions and understandings into question.

This shift in thinking ability has enormous spiritual implications for young teens, because pretty much everything we talk about at church, or in relation to faith in God, is abstract. Its like kids have a backpack of faith system “bits.” And during their young teen years, situations arise that call these bits to the forefront. When it becomes obvious to a teen that their childhood spiritual answer to a given situation or question doesn’t offer a strong enough answer anymore, they are forced to ignore this issue or struggle to allow their beliefs to evolve into a more adult form.

Don’t be freaked out by this process. Don’t be thrown by your teen’s expression of boredom. Instead, find constructive ways to come alongside her during this transition time of life.

Processing Boredom with Your Young Teen
Here are some ideas for coming alongside your young teen and her spiritual boredom:

  • Live it out. If your teen sees a vibrant and real faith being lived out day-to-day in your life (and being verbally expressed also), it will go a long ways toward helping him consider what an adult faith system should look like.
  • Talk about it. Our natural tendency is to lecture our kids about why they’re bored (“you need to do this”). Instead, work to create open lines of communication about faith and church. Process your child’s questions and reservations without jumping to easy answers.
  • Look for relational connections. Help your teen be (or stay) connected to the people of the church, not just the program. Look for creative ways to foster these relationships – with their peers and with other adults who will care about them.
  • Debrief. After a church service or youth group meeting, talk about what went on. Be careful that this doesn’t come across as a test. Helping your teen see the life-connection between what’s talked about at church and their world is a wonderful way to encourage the growth of their faith.
my-tribe-square

Join us at the 2014 Middle School Ministry Campference!

my-tribe-square- Customized learning about Middle School Ministry.
- Conversations with people who understand you.
- Rubbing shoulders with JH Ministry vets and experts.
- Worship.
- Laughter.
- Dialogue.
- Ziplines and skeet shooting and nature and camp food and silliness and lip syncing and late night secret sharing and rest.

What’s the only place you can experience every single one of those in one weekend? The Middle School Ministry Campference, of course. Come join with your tribe.

Here’s what a few of last year’s attendees had to say:

The MSMC is like getting one-on-one training focused on Middle School Ministry all day long. From the speakers on stage to the person sitting next to you, every person brings it at the MSMC. Every time you start a conversation you know it could be the best one of the weekend.

It’s unlike any other youth ministry conference. Not only do you get great content, but the laid back camp atmosphere creates a great environment for building relationships with other middle school youth workers.

Middle School Ministry Campference isn’t about all the hype and pizzazz of other conferences. It’s about being together with the strange creatures that Middle School Pastors are. It’s not about showing you creative things; it’s about inspiring creativity in all of us. The connections that you make here are 1000x better and more useful than the handful of notes you’ll take anywhere else and never look at again. If I had the choice between Campference and any other conference, I’d choose this every time.

The Campference site is now live, and registration is open! We work hard to keep our all-inclusive rates crazy-low. And thanks to our partners, we’re able to offer Early Bird registration, including LODGING AND ALL MEALS at these great rates:

  • $320 – Early Bird Single Registration (register by June 30, 2014)
  • $295 – Early Bird Group Rate, per person (groups of 3 or more, register by June 30, 2014)

As added Early Bird perks, we’re throwing in more than $50 of extra goodies, FREE:

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The Summit website is live

marketing-headertoday is a big day in Cartel-land. we’ve launched the website and opened registration for The Summit 2014. this is our third year of this truly unique youth ministry event that’s sort of like TED for youth workers.

what is it, you ask? is it pretty much the same as other youth ministry events, you ask?
HA, i say. and then, i stand aside and allow some of last year’s attendees to answer your questions:

The Summit inspires your passion, stirs your mind, and awakens raw and new thinking. You come away with excitement to take on a new challenge or a fresh creativity for the road that you are traveling.

The Summit challenges and sets the stage for a future of ministry that we are about to find ourselves immersed in. It is freeing to have a map and concept for the realities of future youth ministry.

The Summit deliberately provoked my imagination and ministry innovation. Loved it!

and one of my favorite quotes about last year:

The Summit is not a pep rally, group therapy, or a pissing contest of who’s better. It makes the assumption that youth workers are smart people who liked to be challenged and stretched mentally. Thank you. It’s nice to know that not everyone thinks what we do is for dumb-asses in skinny jeans (though skinny jeans were well represented).

here’s the way we describe it on the website:

A Creativity Sparker. An Idea Stirrer. An Insight Inviter.

That’s what The Summit is all about.

We’re all for practical training, but training is not really the focus of this event (there are other events that do that really well). Instead, The Summit is intentionally designed to stir your youth ministry imagination and assist you in discerning God’s leading for your wonderfully unique expression of youth ministry.

each year at The Summit, we pull a thematic thread through the whole event. this year’s theme:

Exploration

Doing youth ministry in church means we’re part of systems and history and expectations. Good or bad or indifferent, those forces can easily subjugate us into doing things the same way, year after year. But context changes; and teenagers change. Staying true to our calling beckons us to lace up our hiking boots and set off on an adventure of discernment, experimentation, and dreaming. Like adventurers climbing Mountains, diving into Seas, and reaching into Space, let’s lean into: Exploration.

filling out the presenter line-up for this event is a year-long process. at this point, we have 10 of the 18 presenters locked in, plus two “session framers” (a storyteller and a theologian)–new roles this year. check out the current line-up here, and know that we’ll be adding to it in the months to come!

register early for $3.01! (sorta)

if you register yourself or your group this month (by june 1), we’re not only giving you special pricing, but we’re adding a whole combo platter of early reg perks:

Early Bird Price
$149 per person
$129 for groups of 3 or more

Perks
Pre-Summit Session of your choice – $40 value
Video of all sessions – $50 value (register by June 1)
Audio of all sessions – $25 value (register by July 1)
Good News in the Neighborhood –$25 value
Viva – Genesis – $5.99 value

That’s correct. If you register by June 1st we are giving you $145.99 in perks. So basically, it’s $3.01… which is absolutely hilarious and crazy.

hope you can join us!! as a wee appetizer, we released David Crowder’s talk from last year’s Summit yesterday (btw: David’s new album, Neon Steeple, started pre-selling on itunes this week).