Tag Archives: marv nelson

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.

part 3 of a 3-part review of ym3.0

marv nelson has posted a 3-part review of youth ministry 3.0. i posted part 1 and part 2 yesterday. and now, part 3:

As I’ve said in my last two posts: I loved this book, it’s clear insight and it’s candid view of where we are to go next.

I think one of the constant threads that is going around in not only Youth Ministry, but Ministry as a whole is that you can’t use other people’s programs, ideas and methods and expect what happened there to happen where you are. So know, that this isn’t a book that says: “Hi, I’m Marko and I’ve done YM right…here’s how you can copy me”. Marko simply lays out where Youth Ministry has been, what has worked and what hasn’t. Then Marko takes us to the present times within Youth Ministry and shares the same (what’s working and what’s not). The methods and ways of doing ministry will look different depending on where you are. However, the heart-beat of the needs that are within Youth and their culture will be the same. This book highlights those needs and sends the reader back into YM armed with that knowledge to pave his/her own path with the students God has blessed them with.

With that said, let me wrestle with this book one last time with you on a piece that caught my eye. It comes in Chapter 6 of the book on page 113-116. Marko entitled this portion: “Finally, Don’t Be Driven”.

Here’s what he says: “Teenagers desperately want to experience passion, but they sure aren’t interested in being driven! And youth workers who embrace a Youth Ministry 3.0 mindset and approach will stop being driven by job descriptions, measurements, buildings, time demands and Messiah complexes. Instead, we’ll slow down enough, deconstruct enough to be fully present”. (page 114)

It strikes me that when I worry about how many teens are there on a given night, I get depressed when attendance is low and excited when attendance is high. This is WRONG! I won’t be fully present when I’m depressed about numbers. And honestly, I won’t be fully present when attendance is average. Being passionate is saying: “even if I have one freakin kid show up, I’m going to be fully present and do what God asks me to do!”

This is especially hard for me right now. My job description changed from full time to part time. I had to switch my Youth Group times and the teens aren’t showing up. I’ve allowed it to get me down from time to time. It’s affected my lessons, my games and my attitude. I need to be PASSIONATE, not DRIVEN. Trust me when I say wrestling with this little book isn’t easy. Trying to SHIFT your YM mindset is hard. However, if we are to succeed, it must be done. Does it have to be 100% what Marko says? No. BUT, he’s on to something and if we as Youth Workers don’t see the same train…it won’t be easy to get on it later.

I appreciate the time, effort and wisdom that Marko poured into this book. I truly believe this is only the beginning of this discussion. Shifting will take time and effort. It will take humility and trust. It won’t be answered and done with one book, or with one person. We must (as Marko humbly admits he needs too) collaborate, discuss and work through this together. We must be humble to accept correction and wise to give it. I hope we can all learn from one-another, connect with one-another. Giving no Youth Pastor, or Youth Worker “rock-star” status but being all on the same plain and same page, pushing forward in the name of Jesus so that His name can be Great and students can come to know Jesus as we do!

part 2 of a 3-part ym3.0 review

marv nelson has posted a 3-part review of youth ministry 3.0. i posted part 1 previously. and now, part 2:

As I stated in my first post on this book (HERE), I am going to unpack further some of the ideas that Marko opens up in his book: Youth Ministry 3.0.

Today, I will deal with two: 1. Getting small; 2. Belonging.

Marko contends (rightly, I believe) that in order to meet this new wave of Youth Ministry, we have to have a “get small” attitude. This is a MAJOR shift within Youth Ministry, because it’s has been (in the YM 2.0 mode) all about GETTING BIG!

I remember when I was a student doing things that were called: B.E.O (code for Big Event Outreach). These were the big deal outreaches where you get kids in, throw Jesus at them ad hope they come back. There was TONS of money spent, tons of hours planing and tons of people invited. The bigger, the better was the mindset. It was programming for the sake of programmimg in a lot of ways.

Sadly, what ended up happening was it seemed disingenuous, fake and all about numbers. Marko states in YM 3.0 that this obsession with numbers must CEASE.

I believe he’s RIGHT. All this obsession with numbers has hurt Youth Ministry rather than help. It has caused Youth Leaders to be depressed, arrogant and jealous. It has caused the focus of Jesus to be transformed into productivity. It has taken the role of importance from kids knowing, loving and living for Jesus into getting bigger, better numbers of people into the ministry.

Getting small would help down the road of true discipleship as well as create a place where belonging can be felt.

When I asked my Sunday School class of Sr. & Jr. High boys: “Where do you feel you belong…or in other words where do you feel most like YOU?” I received tons of good answers. One kid said: “with my music friends, doing music”. Another said “with my fourth period friends” still another said “stage crew”. Lastly one student said “At lunch with my lunch friends”. I guarantee that you’d have similar answers if you asked the question.

We NEED to notice something about these responses…does anyone see it? OK, I’ll help you…they are all…SMALL GROUPS!

Getting small, creating ways to be small in a BIG group will help bring students into a place where they can say: “I Belong”. The students didn’t say “At School, with everyone” or “With everyone at church” they said micro-groups of certain people. If we’re honest…we’d have a similar response ourselves. We feel belonging in smaller places…less places to get hurt..less places to have people know our business and less places to be truly known.

I will continue to unpack this stuff. However, I ask you, the reader whether you are teen, youth pastor, youth leader or none-of-the-above to interact with this. Tell me what you think….good, or bad…I want to know!

a teaser review of ym3.0

sounds like marv nelson is going to post a series of reviews on youth ministry 3.0, and this is the first installment:

I’ve finally read Marko’s Manifesto of Youth Ministry. I’ve read snippets, interacted with blips (Youth Ministry—What Must Die) and enjoyed what I’ve read of Marko’s ideas for his book Youth Ministry 3.0.
Now, having read the book entire, I want to share, work through and interact with the content. Being it’s a “manifesto” this will take more than one post to do it the justice it deserves.

Marko’s main premise is that Youth Ministry has been through three different “epochs” or phases in it’s history and we are now in the third epoch: Youth Ministry 3.0. He describes his premise well and each epoch in quick succession, giving the reader a firm historical grounding for his new ideas for this third epoch and why we need to embrace, understand and work within it. What I enjoyed most about this book was it’s direct approach to the matter of Youth Ministry. There was no attempt by Marko to sound eloquent or smart by adding extra chapters. He kept it frank, to the point and very concise. His book felt a lot like Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence in this. Both books are shorter than 150 pages, but are packed with great information that needs to be added to our lives in ministry NOW.

I think one of the most amazing things about this book is the interaction Marko got BEFORE publishing and while writing! Most guys don’t do this…they like their own thoughts too much. Here Marko shows not only his humility but his willingness to collaborate with other Youth Workers in order to design the best possible description of this new wave: YM 3.0. I was sad only because I couldn’t add my “two-sense” to the mix. I didn’t start following his blog until the book was already in the works of publishing. However, I am grateful for this act. It also shows we as youth workers can’t be on our own islands. Even Marko, the President of YS admits he needs help from other youth workers…what makes us think we can handle this new wave alone?

Before I continue to write, let me define (as Marko does) what Youth Ministry 3.0 is. Youth Culture has shifted. There are three main things that Youth have needed and still need today, each epoch has had its own focus however. YM 1.0 was Identity, 2.0 was Autonomy and 3.0 is Affinity (belonging). Marko states that we must understand that teens are looking for belonging. The old mind-set for YM (numbers driven, crazy BIG) must be left behind and the new mind-set (creating a space for small, intimate belonging) must be introduced and used.

I will unpack this further in my next post(s). Know that this book is definitely worth the read for ALL Youth Workers. It is informative, insightful and in my opinion right on! I did a “test” this Sunday by opening up the question at Sunday School: “Where do you feel you most BELONG?” and it was encouraging to say the least.