Tag Archives: paul martin

masterpiece: the art of discipling youth

i’d met paul martin previously; but i didn’t know him well. so, at the first or second meeting of the youth ministry coaching program cohort he participated in (about two years ago), i was stunned when paul presented his thoughts about discipleship. it wasn’t that i disagreed — not in the least. my being stunned was more a factor of hearing someone be so articulate, talking about a subject i was somewhat familiar with, but introducing so many new words and concepts that helped me think in new ways. i’m not spinning this at all when i write: i remember the exact spot i was in, in nashville, when i thought to myself (and may have said out loud), “you need to write this as a book!”

fast forward two years, and here we are: it’s a book.

i’m SO pleased to announce paul’s book, being published by The Youth Cartel:

Masterpiece: The Art of Discipling Youth

here’s the back cover copy:

Masterpiece. That’s how Paul the Apostle describes us in his letter to the church in Ephesus. We are God’s masterpiece. Most people never hear that phrase. Even fewer will believe it. Masterpiece: The Art of Discipling Youth uncovers the process of revealing teenagers as the masterpieces Christ created them to be. It doesn’t approach discipleship with a blank slate, sketching with small groups or painting with programs. Instead, it focuses on revealing the art that is already under the surface of every teenager, removing the grime of life and restoring the vibrancy of the true colors underneath.

This book is for youth workers who are tired of canned meetings geared towards the masses. Veteran youth worker Paul Martin shares his process for recognizing individual youth as what they are: God’s masterpiece.

here’s what dr. andrew root (author of so many fantastic youth ministry books, including The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry and Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry) wrote about paul’s book:

I know Paul Martin as a thoughtful person and it comes as no surprise that his first book is a thoughtful one. This is a book that will push you deeply to think differently, but this push comes with the compassion of a pastor’s heart and a deep passion for the possibility of discipleship itself. If you have an interest in discipleship this is a book you must take a look at, it will change your youth ministry.

we’re taking pre-orders on The Youth Cartel store right now, for a december 1 release. the book will be $12.99 then, but the pre-order price is 25% off (or $9.74). and, yes, it will be available for kindle and in the apple ibook store also.

paul martin connects coaching and real discipleship

i just returned home from nashville, where i had the 5th of 6 meetings with my youth ministry coaching program cohort that meets there. such an amazing group of youth workers, and we had an amazing time together.

recently, YMCP grad paul martin riffed on the connection between coaching and discipleship on his blog. i really loved the post — not only because he affirms me and YMCP, but because i hadn’t really thought of YMCP as discipleship before. but, in many ways, it is. here’s what paul wrote:

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Mark Oestreicher’s Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). As an graduate, I have posted and talked to church leaders and youth pastors about the many benefits of coaching. If you’ve never heard of it, definitely go check it out. There isn’t a better opportunity for new and old youth workers out there.

I’m not writing because of the benefits of coaching programs. This is about the church. Simply, the church has failed in doing its primary function of making disciples. It reminds me of the beginnings of organizations like Young Life. If the church were doing what it should have been doing to help teenagers in the first place, there wouldn’t have been any need for Young Life. Likewise, if the church were discipling young people (and old people too) into coworkers in their communities, coaching wouldn’t be needed.

The church downgraded discipleship into a system of education. It now has measurable outcomes based on life stages and spiritual maturity. This removed it’s mission replacing it with the mindset of a factory foreman. I said in another post that the church had castrated itself. I wish that were true. At least then this mindset would have died, and the church could have been reborn. Instead, the church has courted people through one-off prayers of conversion leading to an epidemic of illegitimate children. It’s shameful.

There are many cures needed to help the church steer out of the mess it has made. Coaching is the best I’ve seen. It’s hard, glorious, slow, painful, redeeming, Biblical and proven. Why would any church seeing the constant failures of the current system hesitate to make use of a coaching program? It’s way cheaper and less time consuming than seminary. On the other end of the spectrum, it infinitely more effective than small groups, conferences or, as in the case of most leadership development in churches, nothing. This is a no brainer.

cohorts are now forming for the fall of 2012, with plans for san diego, nashville, and three other cities. click here for more info.

what’s the single objective of youth ministry?

super-smart youth ministry blogger paul martin ran a blog series (that no one read, because he posted them during christmas week) asking a variety of people to reflect on the question, “what’s the single objective of youth ministry?”

there are some really interesting responses, worth reading, from:
joel mayward and adam mclane
benjamin kerns and jeremy zach
mark riddle

here’s my response (click here to see paul’s comments):

yikes. this is a scary question. i like complexity, and abhor easy-answer-theology. so, while i know you, paul, well enough to know you’re not looking for an easy answer or a 3-step process, identifying a “single objective” of anything is tough, because, we always have multiple objectives — always, whether we want to or not. i’d be so much more comfortable with a list of objectives than singling one out.


i’ll play along. and i’m gonna use one word: christlikeness. that’s our singular objective, i suppose. if i were to put it into a sentence, it would be something like, “the single objective of youth ministry is to walk with teenagers on their journey toward christlikeness.”

of course, there’s a ton of secondary objectives implied in my sentence (as is — did i already say this? — always the case). as joel mayward wrote on your first day of this series, one can’t merely say “the objective is discipleship” without addressing what we mean by discipleship. of course, i know that you — paul — have a very different working definition and practice of discipleship than many youth workers. same is true here (and, really, i suppose my “christlikeness” and joel’s “discipleship” are two ways of saying the same thing).

my role as a youth worker is to live, honestly, my own journey toward christlikeness with and in front of the teenagers in my midst. i can’t change teenagers — that’s the holy spirit’s job. i’m not directly in the transformation business; i’m in the transformation hosting business. hosting is a metaphor that brings up sub-metaphors like stewarding (“how do i steward the time i have with teenagers in a way that best exposes them to the transforming work of the holy spirit?”), curator (“how can i highlight and bring attention to the good stuff god is already doing in the world, and in the lives of teenagers?”), and evangelist. wait — did i just say evangelist?!?! yup — but i don’t mean it in the way you might think. i mean it in the same way that apple might have an evangelist on staff. my role as a youth worker (connecting with what adam mclane wrote for you) is to be the evangelist for teenagers in my church. i am the lead banner waver for teenagers in my congregation, reminding them of their responsibility to collectively engage with the teenagers in their midst.

whatcha think? how would you answer that question?

GUEST POST: paul martin reflects on his YMCP experience

one of the highlights of my experience at leading the 2010/2011 nashville cohort of the youth ministry coaching program was getting to know paul martin. we’d met before, but didn’t really know each other. he’s such a gifted and thoughtful youth worker (and person, in general) that i often felt like i was co-leading the cohort with paul. at our last meeting (at the end of the cohort’s 6th and final 2-day meeting), i asked paul if he would consider writing a short reflection on his experience, as a guest post. paul’s blog, btw, is here.


As I drove home from my Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP), I struggled with another experience to compare it to. Conferences seem like high school pep rallies compared to it. Seminary wasn’t nearly as personally challenging. Cruising at a leisurely pace down I-65 and giving myself plenty of time to digest this rare opportunity, nothing seems to fit into a nice neat description of what has just ended for me.

Maybe this is similar to what the disciples felt after their time with Jesus. It seems like it, after a year of meeting with ten other people from various other places in the church. Like Jesus’ chosen twelve, we seemed to stumble through trying new skills, having our comfortable ministry lives tested for strengths and weaknesses. The result feels much like Jesus renaming Simon and calling him Peter. Jesus recognized something deeper in Simon that changed his identity. Each of us has realized a depth of our unique character inside us, that now surfaces in our lives.

This wasn’t just a learning environment, though. Each encounter was designed to force a confrontation between ourselves and our ministry practices. Though we read books and discussed them, the focus wasn’t on the always on the content, but rather how we interacted with the ideas. I was surprised at how much I got out of the group. As an idea guy, I’m used to new ideas. They way the group interacted with each other and the ideas created a depth that one person just couldn’t plumb.

there was freedom in the personal coaching time to talk about those ideas that were stirred up in our learning time, but Marko always challenged and affirmed how they would play out back in my own context. This is more than mentoring. I found that Marko’s longevity in youth ministry likely stems from his ability to recognize and encourage youth workers. Because of his experience, he can easily connect ideas to application.

I can’t wrap this up in a small package. The benefits are just too numerous and too complex to summarize. I do remember thinking going in that this was a big commitment with a sizable cost. Having completed the experience, it was such a bargain. The experiences of seminary and conferences, though valuable, just can’t compare. If you work with youth and can commit to the process, I can think of no better way to grow as a person and a youth leader.


we’re in the final weeks of filling this year’s YMCP cohorts. the san diego cohort is full; and nashville is very close to full (a spot or two may remain). there’s a good amount of room in the others. check here for details.

paul martin on ymcp

paul martin is a youth worker you will be hearing much more from in the years to come. he’s one of the most grounded and outside-the-box youth ministry thinkers i know. his blog is brilliant. he has an article coming out in youthworker journal, and i expect he’ll have a book published in the next two years. paul is in the nashville cohort of my youth ministry coaching program, and it was clear from our first meeting that he should be leading a cohort of his own. so he’s part of my 2011 roll-out, leading a cohort in atlanta starting this fall. here’s what paul wrote about ymcp recently on his blog.

Coaching – Why YMCP Works

For the past six or so months, I have been a part of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program with Mark Oestreicher. I knew that it was going to be a life changing experience. Being a part of a community as transparent and vulnerable as that has to mark you. What I didn’t know was how much I would learn.

We read books together, present ideas, talk about youth ministry issues and share our lives. All of these are things I have done before. Having all of these happen in a group that reflects and pushes back on each other is invaluable. I really can’t fully describe how amazing it is.

For less than the cost of two semesters of seminary, I get to be a part of something that I know will leave a legacy. Every person in this group will go on to do great things. I have no doubt about that. The knowledge alone would be worth the cost. But what YMCP really teaches is the ability to know yourself and share that with others.

Oh, and I am going to lead a group in September in Atlanta. If you want to learn more than a seminary can teach you, if you want to see a depth of character that has been revealed in the mirror, if you want to see how you are made for things beyond what you can imagine, contact me.


(Or read this, visit the YMCP site, or watch the video)

note: the san diego cohort was originally set to launch in may. but i only have 4 or 5 people for it at this point, and i need a minimum of 8 to make it work. so, instead of canceling that cohort, i’m postponing the launch until we have enough people (hopefully august or september). please let me know if you’re interested in that cohort.

the 10 commandments of discipleship

my friend paul martin is one of the smartest, most thoughtful youth workers you’ve never heard of. part of the reason you’ve never heard of him is that he doesn’t self-promote or jockey for exposure. paul had a blog that was really worth reading; but he shut it down and started a new one recently in an effort to focus his content more specifically on discipleship and youth ministry. he’s an outside-the-box thinker who is seriously worth following.

his new blog is ‘being ministry‘.

here’s a taste of why i’m pimping him here — paul’s post called ‘my ten commandments of discipleship‘:

My guidelines and promises to myself in discipling others:

1. Thou shalt not bring thy own stuff into the relationship and make everything about you – So many times I see people do this and do it myself. Something the person I am discipling says triggers something I remember about my own life. It’s OK to share a story, but this can get out of hand quickly.

2. Thou shalt come prepared – Arrive early, having prayed, spiritually nourished and emotionally stable. Everyone has bad weeks, but that should be the occasional occurrence, not the norm

3. Thou shalt wait – Don’t come into the meeting with lots to say before you even make eye contact. Things may have changed since the last meeting, or you might just need to listen. Don’t arrive with your guns ready.

4. Thou shalt not wait – Don’t be afraid to jump into a situation that needs clarity, needs interrupting, or needs your help. You have been invited into that if you are in a discipleship relationship. Don’t flinch.

5. Thou shalt not make this into therapy – Discipleship, though it may look like it at times, is not therapy. The only counselor that should show up is God’s counsel.

6. Thou shalt not call out every problem you see – Often there are lots of issues going on all at once. It’s like golf, you can’t focus on your grip, your stance, the position of your arm, your backswing, your head, your eye contact, and the many other minutia at the same time. Don’t over burden disciples with all that they need to work on. Give them one thing, or two.

7. Thou shalt not condemn when you don’t see the progress you wished for – It’s not fair or helpful to show too much disappointment in someone’s working through their problems. They know they didn’t measure up this week. They need safety and support, and they came to you for it.

8. Thou shalt not micro-manage – Too many suggested solutions create co-dependance and enabling behavior. It feels good to be needed, but don’t cave to giving all the solutions. Let your disciple start coming up with their own solutions.

9. Thou shalt always challenge AND affirm – One of these is completely ineffective without the other. Both need to be present for a consistent movement forward.

10. Thou shalt have faith in God to do the work you can’t – You can’t make the real changes. Those are God’s realm. Be faithful to what you are called to. Don’t try to be God, and don’t take credit for God’s work. Just be faithful.

follow up post on ym3.0

paul martin came back and reflected a bit more about what he read in youth ministry 3.0 (here was his first pass review). good schtuff, paul.

I recently read and wrote about Mark Oestreichers recent book Youth Ministry 3.0. After reading it and discussing it a little on the Facebook page, I was asked by a fellow youth worker what it was about. Among other things, I talked about how it outlines the way things have been done in youth ministries through three distinct eras. What came out of this conversation was a comparison the three eras and what was consistent through each.

What is the Same

It usually comes back to that word in youth ministry. I have seen ministries that I thought were incredibly awful in how they taught and even in what they taught that were made great if only for the way they related to each other. Through the years, it has always been a mark of health and vigor to be connected in relationships in a ministry. I’m not sure if I could back this up, but it seems to be a trend for youth leaders to develop a team leaders to minister with than it has been to be a solo guy in the ministry.

The basic disciplines of the faith seem to be consistently used through the years to bring people closer to God. Prayer, Bible study, missions, service and worship have all been used consistently in youth ministries through each era. There have been some changes in how they were done through the years, but they are all apparent.

What is Different

Many youth ministries in each version have depended highly on how well they entertain the teens who show up. I would love to say that this is a trend of the past, but it seems to still be used even in this era. I don’t have a problem with entertainment, mind you, but I don’t want that to be what I depend on to reach kids. A friend said it better than I could. My philosophy is “what you save them with, is what you save them to.”

Having said that, there seem to be more youth ministries that are trying to use ministry time more like a lab and less like a class. Ancient practices like Lectio Divina are showing up. Leaders are living life with teens and incorporating them into what they do to draw closer to God. I am really glad to see this more and more.

Teaching Methods
Through the years, many of us have used technology to be more effective communicators. From overheads, to projectors, to candles, we use atmosphere to create a setting teens feel safe in. Again, more and more I see ministries leaving the building, doing life together, doing more than in eras past. Though I do still see many larger ministries contained in a building, usually through large worship events, it seems to be less important where we meet.

At the same time, teaching methods have advanced. We now identify kinesthetic, visual, auditory learners. We see external and internal processors. Likewise, we teach in different ways to help teens retain messages and understand what God is saying.

In earlier days, there were fewer sub-communities in adolescent life. I remember when it was the jocks and nerds, though it was never really that simple. Today, teens have many groups that they hang out with and they are not always as closely tied to any of them. Many have several groups that they consider themselves a part of. Some of it is affinity based like sports or activities, some of it is more locations based like early teens who live near each other and have no choice but to do things together. Either way, the days of having a couple of friends consistently all the way through your school career are becoming rare.

The affect of more loose community in the church is obvious to most of us. The church, and youth ministries especially, have become just one piece in the pie of teen life. Kids may have church friends and also school friends and also social friends and not consider each of those groups compatible.

What Then?

Mark is getting a lot of people asking questions about what we are to do with this knowledge. I think that is a great problem. At least there is a growing group of people wondering where we are going in youth ministry. I know that I don’t know where we are heading, but my hope is that in raising the questions we are moving together towards a more intentional future. As we ask questions and try new ideas, we are moving into more possibilities and a new way of thinking about what we do. I’m really glad to have read the book, but I am even more glad that people who have read it are moving towards a new idea in youth ministry. I can’t wait to see the next era.

really nice ym3.0 review

still diggin’ the “what i loved”/”what i didn’t love” context of these reviews for youth ministry 3.0. houston, we have a theme!

this wonderful review is from paul martin, on his like a fire blog:

I have been putting this off for some time, though I’m not sure why. I have been looking forward to Mark Oestreicher’s new book Youth Ministry 3.0 for a while and finally got a copy of it. Mark previewed a lot of the book on his site before its release, so I was really quite pleased to finally get the book.

Mark has made it pretty clear that he isn’t proposing a new formula for youth ministry with this book. Instead, this book is more like a “where we have been, where we might go” kind of approach. I would have to say that I was happy with the outcomes and with how he expressed each stage of youth ministry through the years. This would be a great book for a youth pastor to get his senior pastor so that he understood why the ministry wasn’t like it was 10 or 20 years ago. This would also be a great book for a veteran who is tryng to re-imagine what they do or try new things. It would also be a great book for someone new to ministry who is just trying to figure the whole thing out. I guess it woud be a great book for lots of people.

What I like:
The Cover (just looks good, unlike a lot of youth ministry books designed by ADD graphic artists)
Quotes from people in the trenches ( a lot of good sound bytes)
The examples from the past are really great in showing how really wrong some of the stuff we used to and yet how well it worked.
The last two chapters I would say that everyone in youth ministry need to have in their face almost every day they plan anything in youth ministry.
It’s short, so almost anybody can finish it in a day. No beating around the bush.
It has a Facebook site already up to discuss it. Seriously could be something cool if people are willing to be honest.

What I didn’t like:
Not much, but…
It was short (I know, I liked that it was short, but I really want to flesh this whole book out some more)
I think the possibilities pointed to could be fleshed out more. There could be more options than what is offered for the preferred future (though I don’t think it could necessarily be done by one guy, even if it is Mark).
I was thinking more and more about individual guys and how their gifting fits into where youth ministry will go into the future. I would love to hear ore about that, though again, that might be beyond the scope of this book.

In a nutshell, I think this is an important book for youth ministry. I put it in the same category as Jim Burn’s Youth Builders and Walt Mueller’s Engaging the Soul of Yoth Culture both which I recommend to anyone in youth ministry who hasn’t read them. Way to go Mark, now let’s get some ideas flying and hear some stories of attempts in 3.0.