Tag Archives: a beautiful mess

current reading list for my coaching program (and a question about a virtual cohort)

in my youth ministry coaching program cohorts, there’s a reading assignment for the first five of our six meetings (the last meeting has a TON of prep, so i don’t assign reading). i’ve modified the list a bit from the first year of YMCP to this last year. here’s my current list, and why i have participants read them (if you’re not interested in the list, skip to the bottom of this post and consider my semi-related question):

for the first meeting:
Youth Ministry 3.0, by some dude
my book is a bit dated in some ways (i wrote it about 5 years ago, after all). i keep thinking i should write a Youth Ministry 3.1: What I Wish I’d Said (though, i ended up covering quite a bit of that in A Beautiful Mess, though indirectly). however, i assign this book first because i want to have common language in the cohort for many of the issues we’ll talk about. in fact, i lead a conversation based on the content of the book for about 2 hours at each of the first two meetings (where each of the other books get about a 45 minute discussion). whatever its weaknesses at this point (and they are there), YM3.0 still provides what i believe to be an accurate description of the primary changes in youth culture over the last 60 years, and a bit of backstory to books like Sticky Faith and Almost Christian, as to how we got where we are.

for the second meeting:
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie
when yaconelli announced that i was going to be the president of ys, old ys insider (and wittenburg door staffer) craig wilson — now known as mcnair — sent me a copy of this book. i think it’s the only book other than the bible that i’ve read four or five times, all the way through. and i wish every book i would ever read would be like this one: full of amazing stories that act as perfect metaphors for concepts and ideas. in this case, the concepts and ideas are about maintaining your creativity when you’re part of an organization with red-tape and bureaucracy and constricting systems. the metaphor of the title is brilliant in-and-of itself: don’t get caught in the hairball, but don’t shoot off on your own trajectory. maintain orbit, staying connected to the hairball, and exerting your own gravitational pull. a freakin’ brilliant and wonderfully weird book, if there ever was one.

for the third meeting:
Teen 2.0, by Robert Epstein
i don’t know that i can think of another book — any other book — that i’ve ever read that has both shaped my thinking about adolescence, parenting, and youth ministry, while regularly pissing me off or driving me nuts. and, as about 70 people in my YMCP program have slogged through this long-winded but gripping diatribe, i could count on one hand those who wished they hadn’t bothered. you’d never know it by looking at him, but epstein is a freakin’ wild man, a voice in the desert, a logician and scientist who’s still very willing to use hyperbole and exaggeration. really, i’m not sure how else to describe this book (at it’s core, btw, it’s a description of how the “false” construct of adolescence came to be present and assumed as an unshakable non-negotiable). annoying? yup. longer than it needs to be? you bet. enlightening and perspective-altering? yeah, absolutely.

for the fourth meeting:
either Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, or Delivering Happiness (not the comic book version, by the way!), by Tony Hsieh
one of the central themes of my coaching program is the importance of values. i’ve blogged about this a bunch (here’s an example of that), so i won’t harp on it here. but we work on and talk about values quite a bit in YMCP. after the meeting where each partipant spends time crafting a first pass at their own personal vocational values, i have them read one of these two books (they can pick, or read both). both are amazing case studies of leaders who lead their organizations primarily by ruthlessly bringing alignment (and re-alignment) to the organization’s values. they lost revenue because they cared more about the values. the made tough choices. they messed (both admit where they got it wrong, and where they were tempted to compromise on their values). after reading these books, we talk about what it cost them to embrace their values, and what they gained. then we bring that around to our own contexts.

for the fifth meeting:
A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry, by the prince of Saturn
i added my new book to my cohorts this past year because it felt like a nice book-end to the opening of Youth Ministry 3.0 (like i said, it clarifies some things, and emphasizes some things that were barely mentioned in YM3.0). but while participants are reading it, i ask them to be ready for these discussion questions:

  • What theology is explored here? How do you resonate or react to it?
  • Where are you most encouraged by what’s happening in your youth ministry? What does that reveal about God?

i also keep almost adding Almost Christian, by Kenda Dean, into the mix (probably replacing one of the current books). i haven’t added it in the past, because i’ve normally assumed most youth workers have already read it. but i keep finding that only about 25% of my participants have read it, and it really is — in my opinion — the single most important youth ministry book in the last 5 years (though it’s a very challenging read). each cohort ends up talking about it in roundabout ways, as i reference it so often; and most of my participants added it to their own self-assigned homework at one point or another.

Question: i’ve been toying with the idea (because multiple people have asked for it) of beta-testing a virtual cohort of the youth ministry coaching program. i’m a bit hesitant, because i think a massive, irreplaceable aspect of the value of the program is that we meet, face-to-face, for two days, every other month. that face time fosters the formation of a safe little tribe. each cohort grows to love one another and depend on each other for growth and support and accountability. and that just can’t be the same with a virtual cohort.

however, i know that there are just people who either cannot or will not find a way to pay the $3000 for participation in the full program. so… i’m wondering: if i beta-tested a virtual cohort (we’d probably meet one day/month, for about 4 hours, in a G+ hang-out), would you be interested? we could still cover some of the same ground; and it would be substantially cheaper, of course (though i don’t yet know what that means). anyhow: comment below, or shoot me an email ([email protected]) if you’re interested in exploring being a part of this beta-test. if i get 6 to 10 peeps, i’ll probably give it a whirl.

Rachel Blom’s review of A Beautiful Mess

one of the bloggers to break onto the top 25 youth ministry blogs list this year, rachel blom, published a nice review of A Beautiful Mess on her blog: Youth Leader’s Academy. she posted this a long time ago, and i’ve had it sitting in my drafts folder for months. i’ve since gotten to know rachel in real-world, not only online world; and was so pleased to see her blog make the top 25 list this year. i encourage you to follow her blog. and, of course, i encourage you — as rachel clearly does — to pick up a copy (or 10) of A Beautiful Mess!

Mark Oestreicher (across the globe known as Marko) has written a very un-Marko-ish book. His usual style is to provoke, address, and criticize. In a loving manner, absolutely, but he’s usually on a crusade of some kind to point out what needs to change in youth ministry.

In this new book A beautiful mess he is on a crusade as well, but an entirely different one. He actually wants to encourage us youth leaders, that we’re doing an awesome job. He wants to show us what we’re doing right in youth ministry. How very, very encouraging for a change!

He shows a few trends he thinks are making youth ministry headed in the right direction, like theological reflection and the integration of teens instead of the isolation they often face in church and in their whole world.

Now Marko wouldn’t be Marko is he didn’t throw in some very sharp observations here and there like this one:

What we don’t need is to replace one technology (“programs are the answer!”) with another technology (“post-programming is the answer!”).

There’s, as always, food for thought in his writings, the kind you’ll need to chew on for a while.

Calvin Park reviews A Beautiful Mess

calvin park, on his thoughtful blog, random bloggings, reviews A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right With Youth Ministry.

Youth Ministry in the United States isn’t an abject failure, or so reasons Mark Oestreicher in his new book from Simply Youth Ministry. In A Beautiful Mess, Marko lays out what he sees as many of the successes and positive aspects of youth ministry. I grabbed the book not long ago, and sat down the other night to read it. What follows are my own random thoughts on this tiny book.

First things first, A Beautiful Mess really is tiny. I finished it in about an hour and a half. That’s not to say it isn’t a good read. It is. In fact, I found it extremely encouraging. You’ll notice that I talk extensively on this blog about how we need to think of new ways to do youth ministry. I haven’t changed my mind on that (aside: neither has Marko). The data are just too clear: the youth ministry status quo isn’t working. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good things about the youth ministry status quo, and no one has been talking about them–until now.

The most helpful bit of the book, from my perspective, is actually the third chapter (of four, total). In this chapter, Marko shares some positive trends in youth ministry that he has observed from in-the-trenches youth workers. This was encouraging to me for two reasons. First, I haven’t observed these trends when I’ve interacted with local youth workers. That tends to leave me feeling isolated. Not fun. Second, each of the trends he mentions are, I think, extremely positive and exactly the kind of things we need to be experimenting with in youth ministry right now. They are some of the things we’re currently trying and experimenting with in the youth ministry at my church (things like more theological reflection, integrating students into the larger body rather than isolating them, and working with and involving parents).

So, this little book was encouraging and helped me to feel slightly less isolated in the youth ministry world. It’s also challenged me to continue mucking about in this beautiful mess we call youth ministry.

Worth the read.

marv nelson’s reflections on A Beautiful Mess and being well resourced

i really enjoyed marv nelson’s review of my book, A Beautiful Mess, because he didn’t just summarize the book, but reflected on how it resonated with his own journey. really thoughtful stuff:

Youth Ministry is a Beautiful Mess. Mark Oestreicher (Marko) puts this elegantly in his new book, which I was blessed to get for free. Simply put, this book is a beautiful, authentic, transparent and gut-checking look into what’s right with Youth Ministry. Several things that Marko writes resonate with me and several of the mistakes Marko lists he’s done, I know I am or was guilty of as well.

Marko used to be the President of Youth Specialties, where resources poured down into the hands of Youth Ministers/leaders every where, so when he says: “In fact, I’m becoming more and more convinced that one of the worst things that can happen to a youth ministry is to become well resourced” (page 20, iBooks), one should sit up and listen.

When I started as a full-time youth pastor at the ripe old age of 21, I was in a small church with a youth budget of $3,000. Compared to some of my friends, that was a lot of money but to me, it was frustratingly small because I believed the lie that resources would make my ministry grow. I soon realized the best thing to do would be to write my own youth talks instead of buying other people’s youth talks (no offense Marko). I’m not talking about writing the fuzzy wuzzy stuff I was somewhat trained to teach but digging deeper and going deeper with the teens, writing “real” sermons. Once I gave God the control of what to speak at Youth Group, rather than Youth Specialties or Group or whoever else, I saw a dramatic shift in the kids lives. Now, I’m not all against resources, I think they can helpful at guiding and leading in the right direction for youth ministry practices or even youth talks. The issue comes when we believe the only way to do it is the way it’s shown to be done with these resources. I write books and read veraciously so resources that are for the pastor or ideas that are for him can be very effective and useful, again it’s full reliance to the lack of reliance on God.

Then, as things shift in the church, I was put down to part time because of financial troubles within the church and my budget was cut further. Soon my wife and now new baby realized we had to move. I changed jobs into a mega-church with tons of resourcing. Where I used my meager budget before to buy food and take kids out to eat I now had a huge budget to do greater and bigger events. I soon realized I fell prey to the trappings of “resources” again and needed God to slap me upside the head and remind me of the lessons of the past.

I share that bit of detail because Marko’s words resonated with me about resourcing and I couldn’t put the book down. Although this book is short (34 pages in iBooks), it packs a huge punch. Marko soon shares why he believes resourcing can be a bad thing: it takes our reliance off of the Spirit and places it in the hands of man.

Marko states his 2 bottom lines: “Bottom line No. 1: Without a sens of the Holy Spirit’s role in your life, you will always be limited in your own spiritual growth and practice and, therefore, in your youth ministry efforts *OUCH*. Bottom line No. 2: A youth ministry that’s not informed by active and intentional listening to the Holy Spirit will miss out on who God is calling it to be *DOUBLE OUCH*” (page 25, iBooks, Ouches were my own).

This has been a hard lesson to learn for me personally but Marko is dead on correct. I fear too often in Youth Ministry we rely on the programs, the resources and what the “pro’s” are doing that we neglect to listen to God for our own current context. We stop praying about ministry and simply “do” ministry. This does not create long-lasting disciples to Jesus but may create dedicated followers to a person, namely the youth pastor. Our jobs are not to create cult-followings for ourselves but to point them to Jesus.

Marko says some other very profound things about youth ministry, his own walk and his own “re-thinking” that he’s undergone as it comes to youth ministry. It’s a packed 34 pages that I feel every youth worker needs to read and re-read to remind us of what’s important. I know it’s a book I will refer back to so I can remember the most important thing: allowing God to lead, nothing and no one else.

8 Youth Ministry Tipping Points -or- How Crazy That I’m Speaking at a Group Event!

here are a few realities some of you know, but are usually only spoken of in hushed tones:

a. it’s a bit wild (though fun) that i — mark oestreicher — am speaking at Group’s intimate and in-depth event, ReGroup. i mean, i’ve always appreciated Group Magazine, and the dudes at Simply Youth Ministry have had my respect for years. but, if we’re really honest, i was in the other camp. so it’s a bit trippy that i’m writing all these books for SYM, and now speaking at this event!

b. for those who follow these things, i really thought the tectonic plates of the youth ministry world had finished a season of massive movement back in late 2009 and early 2010. tic got laid off from ys. i got laid off from ys. zondervan sold ys to youthworks, but kept the publishing rights. a dozen other ys staffers lost their jobs or chose to move on. tic got rehired by youthworks to lead ys. doug parted ways with SYM, then joined ys. adam left ys and joined me at the youth cartel. really, it was a bit like playing day trader; and i’m only scratching the surface here. so, it’s all a bit humorous (well, it is to me, at least) that tic is now the executive pastor at my church, and i’m speaking at a group event!

c. most of you couldn’t care less about all that stuff; and it’s far enough in my past now that i really get a kick out of it all.

it’s awesome, in my thinking. i’m stoked to get to partner with group and sym, so i was off-the-charts cheesy-grinned happy when i got an email from rick lawrence of group magazine, asking me to be a part of this event.

here’s what i can surely say about ReGroup: i’m so stoked to be a part of this thing that i re-arranged a family vacation to be a part of it. to share three days of training with a great youth ministry friend who always makes me think more sharply (kurt johnston) and one of the wisest people in all of youth ministry (rick lawrence)… well, that will be a happy place for me.

very loosely based on some of the stuff from my recent SYM book, A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry, this small event (limited to 100 people only!) will focus on conversations about a handful of factors (8 of them, to be exact!) that can make a significant impact on your youth ministry. we’ll also mix it up with some exercises and models to get you thinking in new ways. and (this is a BIG AND), we get to have dinner at thom and joani schultz’s home (who i last saw — this is not a joke — at a remote, outdoor, riverside restaurant in botswana, africa; but that’s a story for another time — maybe that evening at their home.)!

here’s the official write-up:

This unique and intimate gathering is specifically crafted for youth pastors who crave the time, interactivity, and in-depth learning that happens in a retreat setting. Every year at this event, the 100-or-so attending youth pastors get an interactive ministry growth experience like no other (just ask past participants). Over the course of three days you’ll learn how to do something that’s rare in today’s youth ministry—push the accelerator down on “tipping point” ministry practices instead of fret about what’s not working. Our team will lead you through a pinpoint array of growth-producing ministry imperatives. In addition, we’ll stretch your thinking with some models of transformation and change that will get you thinking about “what could be” for both your youth ministry and your own life.

In addition, a highlight of this event every year is an evening at Thom and Joani Schultz’s (President and Chief Creative Officer of Group) home, enjoying a meal together. Also, we’ll gather in one of the most beautiful spots in the Colorado Rockies for a picnic and a special experience that will deepen your relationship with Jesus.

We’ve made the registration cost (which includes your meals) a low $125—our simple desire is to “love on” a community of youth pastors who have unique challenges and a unique perspective in the context of a three-day trajectory-changing retreat.

click here to read more, or here to register. time for some rocky mountain high, baby!

austin mccann’s review of A Beautiful Mess

youth ministry blogger austin mccann wrote a nice review on his blog of my last book, A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry. here’s most of it:

It seems like every time you turn around there is a new youth ministry book that is promoting a new “model” or “philosophy” of youth ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against these types of books and many of them have been instrumental in shaping my own philosophy of youth ministry. But far too often as youth pastors and youth workers, we look to the next “big thing” and quickly abandon what we are doing for the sake of doing youth ministry differently. This is not always bad because in a changing youth culture, we must be changing the way we minister to students in that culture. But we must not get caught up in what’s wrong with our youth ministry and quickly jump to trying something new. We need to realize a lot of what we are doing is working and actually making a different in the life’s of students for the sake of the Gospel!

This is why Mark Oestreicher’s book, A Beautiful Mess, was such a breathe of fresh air for me! Finally, a youth ministry book that didn’t talk about what is wrong with youth ministry, but actually explained what is right with youth ministry! Mark explains some of the current things in youth ministry that are working and bringing fruit in the life’s of our students. He helps us see that the glass is half full, not half empty. This book allows youth pastors and youth workers to be encouraged and walk away feeling like they are making a difference, because they really are making a difference! Mark admits that we must not resist change because we always need to be changing the way we do student ministry, but we must not change for the sake of change. We are doing some things right in youth ministry and let’s see the glass half full and continue serving students with the love of Christ.

I would recommend this book for anyone involved in youth ministry. This book will help you identity some of the things we are doing right in student ministry and encourage by reminding us we are making a difference!

thanks, austin!

aaron arnold’s review of A Beautiful Mess (from a global youth perspective)

aaron arnold (full disclosure: he’s a good friend of mine) is the leader of youthHOPE, a very cool organization committed to developing youth ministry leaders in a variety of developing nations. they’ve done amazing work in places most people wouldn’t even visit. i’m really pumped that aaron is going to be one of our presenters at The Summit, presenting on “changes in global youth culture,” in the first session look at the here and now. (btw: some of the super-screamin’ incentives for being the earliest to register for The Summit expire at the end of the day tomorrow!)

aaron wrote a nice and thoughtful review of A Beautiful Mess on the youtHOPE blog (one of the blogs i follow).


So I saw that Simply Youth Ministry was offering a free download of Marko’s new book and I jumped on it. BTW, it is my first official book read on my iPad. I didn’t figure that I would get to it right away, but ended up reading it this afternoon in one sitting after coming back from the gym.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and was glad to see the positivity that Marko expressed in his latest analysis of youth ministry. It was also personally gratifying to read some of his thoughts that I have discussed with him before, as I have had the chance to get to build a friendship with Marko over the last 10 years or so since he first started going to Argentina during my time in Chile as a global youth worker. I would like to share some of my thoughts as I read the book and how it applies to global youth ministry.

There are so many concepts that I could comment on that come out in this short book, however I am going to limit it to three:

Contextualization is king, youth ministers should be natural missionaries!

I really can’t shout this loud enough. I read an article about 10 years ago by Paul Borthwick in which he compared so many of the skills that a missionary needs to acquire with those that a youth pastor should regularly use. At the time, I was in Chile serving as a global youth worker (the word that YouthHOPE uses for a missionary who focuses on youth ministry) and it made total sense to me. Youth ministry, more than any other age specific ministry, requires us to contextualize. Marko explains it simply here:

“In a world where youth culture exists, this simply must include adults who are cross-cultural missionaries, willing to embody the gospel into that cultural context.”

Marko makes another very interesting sub-point here as he explains, “Adolescence, as we know it today, is a cultural construct and didn’t even exist a hundred years ago.“ Even though adolescence is a lot younger or just emerging in most of the rest of the world, we can’t deny its presence and the need for focused ministry with global youth. I believe that youth workers are the best people to take on the challenge of reaching out and partnering with God in the transformation of the lives of the 1.8 billion young people around the world. If they are effective, then they have already put into practice the skill of contextualization (maybe even unknowingly) and with a little more training could translate that skill to a different country around the world.

Small and resource poor is not necessarily a disadvantage, but actually provides a distinct advantage.

When we peel away the performance/resource intensive programming, the technology and all the curriculum that we let other people write for us, there is really a simple formula for success in youth ministry. Marko outlines it here:

“Let me be clear about the three things that are necessary for great youth ministry:
1. You like teenagers (I would go a little further and use the world ‘love’)
2. You are a growing follower of Jesus
3. You are willing to live honestly in the presence of those teenagers you like (love)”

The lack of resources also helps us to avoid the “for” instead of “with” approach to ministry. When you need a freakin’ PhD to run the sound systems/lights, then it will probably exclude the involvement of 13-year-olds or good intentioned parents. So what happens is that your youth ministry is run by “experts” who more than likely aren’t involved in doing any of the three things that Marko writes about.

In the rest of the world, we really don’t have these issues and there is some great youth ministry that is happening with NO budget, NO full-time staff and NO fancy technology. That is not to say that they don’t want the resources that we have here in the States or recognize how much more they could do if they could serve full-time, but all of that is not the essence of success in youth ministry.

US youth ministry has something to learn from the rest of the world.

Marko references his involvement in youth ministries from other cultures and countries. He (and I totally agree with him) cites the intensity and excitement at the training events and how during a training with Latin American youth workers, he was able to come to some important conclusions about youth ministry and it’s essence. I believe that there is more that could have been written about what the rest of the world has to teach us about youth ministry. I am not criticizing Marko on this one, just throwing it out there. In fact, I love the way that he distills youth ministry, “The single objective of youth ministry is to walk with teenagers on their journey toward Christ likeness.” I first heard something similar from a Spanish youth worker, author and friend Felix Ortiz about 10 years ago as he tried to understand how to do youth ministry in the post-modern, post-Christian culture of Western Europe.

Also, I would say that if we could turn off our “God-complex”, “Savior of the world”, “God bless America superiority” for a minute, we would see that there is a lot to learn from the rest of the world and how they are doing youth ministry. It’s time the United States starts to import youth ministry philosophy and programming ideas instead of feeling like we just need to export. We are part of the global youth ministry and we can gain a lot if we just open our eyes and ears more.

In the end, I found Marko’s new e-book to be refreshing and encouraging. The self-proclaimed pot-stirrer goes optimist on us and I like it. However, please don’t put away your spoon Marko, there are still so many things to be challenged in the world of youth ministry.


A Beautiful Mess isn’t free anymore; but you can get a physical copy now!

2 time-sensitive bits o’ info, and a bonus bit of info you’ll care less about

1. today is my 49th birthday. a couple weeks ago, max (14) asked me how old i’m turning, and i told him. he said, “No way!” i was pleased that he obviously thought i must be much younger, until he followed up with, “haven’t your turned 49 at least three times now?!”

49 feels weird. not bad; just weird. i don’t feel almost-50.

2. today is also the LAST day to download my latest book — A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry — from simply youth ministry, for FREE. tomorrow, it goes on sale in both downloadable and print versions. click that mouse while it’s free (or click tomorrow, and let me earn seventy-five cents!).

here’s a bit from a nice paragraph from a review posted by austin mccann:

…Mark Oestreicher’s book, A Beautiful Mess, was such a breathe of fresh air for me! Finally, a youth ministry book that didn’t talk about what is wrong with youth ministry, but actually explained what is right with youth ministry! Mark explains some of the current things in youth ministry that are working and bringing fruit in the life’s of our students. He helps us see that the glass is half full, not half empty. This book allows youth pastors and youth workers to be encouraged and walk away feeling like they are making a difference, because they really are making a difference! Mark admits that we must not resist change because we always need to be changing the way we do student ministry, but we must not change for the sake of change. We are doing some things right in youth ministry and let’s see the glass half full and continue serving students with the love of Christ.

3. i got home from san antonio (via london) last night, and am stoked to be home for a full week. next thursday, i leave for uruguay and argentina!

update on The Youth Cartel

ok, there’s just so much going on in our wee company, it’s hard for me to discipline myself to not post about my excitement over this or that every day.

so, as further prevention from “all cartel posts, all the time,” allow me to update you and remind you on a few things that are just the bomb:


The Youth Cartel is doing three events this year, and two of ’em are brand new:

  • the middle school ministry campference is in its second year. we have a great line-up (including tic long!); but the line-up isn’t really the reason to come. the reason to come is that, if you’re in JH or middle school ministry, this is the one place where you can really spend three days with your tribe. i’ve never been a part of an event where every single person who attends could offer a raving endorsement. the MSMC is in seymour, indiana, october 26 – 28.
  • the summit is the youth cartel’s new flagship event. i’ve been dreaming about this for two years or more, and with adam joining me, we’ve been able to turn the dream into a reality. but, seriously, it’s already surpassed my expectations, and it’s still 6 months away. the presenter line-up blows my mind. this is the event i would attend even if i had nothing to do with creating it. join us in atlanta, november 9 and 10 (btw: the first 100 who register get MAJOR bonus swag).
  • finally, adam has been dreaming of a grassroots, organic youth ministry event where anyone can speak. talk about leveling the playing field and acknowledging that we’re all in this together! that’s what Open is all about. our first Open is Open Seattle, on october 6. the second location is a doosy! (stay tuned)


with 6 cohorts of 10 youth workers each either completed or in progress, i continue to find the youth ministry coaching program to be my most deeply satisfying days, other than time with my family. we’ve opened 5 cohorts for later this year (or whenever they fill), and are deep into conversations with 3 denominational groups about cohorts specific to their tribe. oh, and we’ve just begun conversations about a possible new zealand cohort! ha!

here’s another quote, from current participant sam halverson:

The YMCP is the single most helpful resource I’ve found in over 30 years of professional youth ministry. While conventions, workshops, and seminars are influential and necessary, the Youth Ministry Coaching Program is a much more personal and personable resource for anyone wishing to understand and struggle with the ins and outs of professional ministry. The spiritual direction, values assessments, readings, discussions, personal sharing, and presence-minded shepherding led by Mark Oestreicher encompass all parts of life – not just youth ministry.


we’ve had a blast this year partnering with organizations and ministries as diverse as biblica, dougfields.com, urban youth worker’s institute, tyndale publishers, and about a dozen others.


already in 2012, i’ve been stoked about the release of The Way bible and A Beautiful Mess. I have 6 more books coming out with simply youth ministry over the next year (3 of which i’ve finished), and i’m working on two versions of an ebook that The Youth Cartel will publish.

adam published his first book, with jon huckins, through The Youth Cartel’s own brand: good news in the neighborhood.

i’ve been stoked about working with a few great authors to help them find publishers for their books, finalizing deals for lars rood, jeff goins, and len kageler.

and The Youth Cartel is throwing in hard on publishing through our own brand, with 7 projects signed. you’ll see these start to come out over the remaining months of this year.

oh, and i still love writing regular columns for Youthworker Journal and Youthwork (the UK magazine for youth workers), as well as occasional contributions to Immerse Journal and Group Magazine. Adam and i both write for Slant33.com.


our weekly Cartel Culture and YouTube You Can Use emails have been a great hit. in just 8 short months we have more than 1200 people receiving them.

we launched a free job bank on our website. and our facebook page, blog, and twitter feeds are all gaining traction.


i still love speaking to teenagers and youth workers, and find my schedule regularly full with amazing opportunities (like, i’m leaving for london this morning, to speak at the Youthwork Summit).

yup, we’re busy little beavers, and we’re having the time of our lives. thanks to all of you who have been so supportive of us. we long to serve you well (and push you a little bit). We have three or four more sweet ideas in the hopper, if we can find the bandwidth to get them going!

A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry (FREE!)

hey, i have an idea: how about i run a big ol’ blog contest where the winner gets a FREE copy of my brand-new book, A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry?

but, here’s the catch: you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to enter, and everyone’s a winner!

i am quite pleased that the creative minds at simply youth ministry suggested we give away my book for two weeks (the downloadable versions). after these two weeks, it’ll cost you a few bucks, and you can also order a physical copy if you want. but for now, you can FREELY download a packet with a pdf, a .epub file for ipad, and a .mobi file for kindle.

how much does that rock? well, quite a bit of rockage, thank you very much.

here’s the skinny on the book: i was starting to sense a weariness in the youth workers i connect with, due to the barrage of “bad news” coming from people like me, as well as the research and books that have been telling us, in a sense, that we’re failing at our calling. i was stirred by a poignant moment i had at an event last year, where i felt i was complicating things, and stopped to try to encourage the good and faithful youth workers in that room (read that experience here, which shows up in the book also).

so, when SYM was asking me for book ideas, i suggested i write something about what’s going well in youth ministry.

at one point the book was called The Glass Half-Full — and that’s really the point of it. sure, there are some problems in youth ministry, and we can’t stick our heads in the sand. but there’s also lots of really wonderful stuff happening in churches all over the place. AND, the subtle notion that fixing what’s broken is completely within our power is, honestly, a bit arrogant and messiah-like.

so, that was the nexus of this baby. it’s not long — a quick read at about 10,000 words. easy, peasy.

here’s the back cover copy someone at SYM created (which summarizes the book very well):

When you think about the state of youth ministry today, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you cheer or fear? Is the glass half full or half empty? In this honest, frank, blunt examination, veteran youth worker Mark Oestreicher offers a fresh perspective on what’s working in youth ministry today—and discovers that perhaps things aren’t as broken as some of us might have thought.

Theologically and anecdotally, we can uncover plenty of encouraging signs in the realm of youth ministry, according to Oestreicher, whose youth ministry experience includes time as an in-the-trenches youth worker and as a publisher of youth ministry books and resources. A Beautiful Mess features insights on the issues and opportunities facing youth workers, including the trend toward longevity in ministry, the power of smaller churches, the work of the Holy Spirit, the rewards of authentic relational ministry, the need for integration instead of isolation, and the centrality of faith and humility.

This book will help you experience the freedom of your calling, rather than the stress of expectations. You’ll discover an abundance of reasons to remain optimistic, intentional, and faithful as you engage in the lives of today’s teenagers.

so, get to it. download your free copy here!