Tag Archives: tash mcgill

top 20 youth ministry blogs

adam mclane’s research is complete, and he posted his list of the top 20 youth ministry blogs on the ys blog earlier this week. i’m super pleased to see whyismarko somehow land at #2. to be honest, i’m rather surprised by this, as it seems like my traffic never fully recovered from the 6 month blog sabbatical i took last year (and, even since i’ve started blogging again, my traffic has been on a slow downward arc). some of my slowing traffic, i’m sure, is that i have chosen to not care about it like i used to (the old 2 posts a day, every single day approach i used to use). these days i post when i want to, and rarely more than once a day. and if three days go by without a post, i choose to not care.

my ranking was certainly helped by the fact that, for whatever reason, my technorati ranking is pretty good at the moment (526), while josh griffin’s blog (who, i’m VERY confident, gets WAY more readers than mine) has an oddly low technorati ranking at the moment.

i like adam’s approach of considering influence as a subjective portion of the rankings. all rankings are, ultimately, subjective in one way or another (the compiler chooses which metrics to care about, which are often in opposition to one another). but i think the list will be even better next year, when those voting on influence are the last year’s top 20 (or, will that make it worse, like a church elder board that has the power to choose their own replacements!?).

some of the list are the expected standards of youth ministry blogging. but i was pleased to see tash mcgill pop up from 41 last year to 16 this year. tash is one of the only female bloggers on the list (kara powell of the fuller youth institute blog being the other), and one of only two non-US bloggers (the other being ian mcdonald of the UK-based youthblog). her blog is really worth reading (she’s a great writer), and i’m glad this list will give her more exposure. i’m also a fan of jeremy zach (as a person, youth worker, and blogger), and glad to see his blog on the rise.

the two biggest “injustices” on the list, in my opinion, are josh griffin not being in the top 2, and the fuller youth institute blog coming in at 13, where it actually dropped from #5 last year. the FYI blog is, i think, the single best youth ministry blog out there. if i were creating a “blogs youth workers should read” list of my own (100% weighted on my subjective opinion), the FYI blog would be #1. i’m not sure how it could drop this year, as the content is better than ever. but i have to believe it’s because not enough people know about it, and with the addition of “influence” in adam’s formula this year, it didn’t score high enough with those who provided the input on that factor. (there’s also a little “injustice” in people who barely ever blog at all making the list. for example, my good friend chris folmsbee makes the list at #8, a climb from #21 last year, but hasn’t posted since mid-march! or, how ’bout mark riddle, who rose this year also, but hasn’t posted since mid-january!)

ultimately, whether i made the list or not, i’m glad adam created it, because there are a few in the top 20 that i’ve never heard of — and i want to start following them.

here’s the list — happy reading!

2010 Rank / Blogger Name / Blog address (2009 Rank)
1 / Youth Specialties Blog / http://youthspecialties.com/blog (12)
2 / Mark Oestreicher / http://whyismarko.wpengine.com (3)
3 / Tim Schmoyer / http://studentministry.org (3)
4 / Josh Griffin / http://www.morethandodgeball.com/ (2)
5 / Adam McLane / http://adammclane.com (7)
6 / Adam Walker Cleaveland / http://pomomusings.com/ (1)
7 / Orange Leaders / http://www.orangeleaders.com/ (–)
8 / Chris Folmsbee / http://www.anewkindofyouthministry.com/ (21)
9 / Ian MacDonald / http://www.youthblog.org (9)
10 / Walt Mueller / http://learningmylines.blogspot.com/ (–)
11 / Jeremy Zach / http://www.reyouthpastor.com (28)
12 / Jonathan McKee / http://blog.thesource4ym.com/ (19)
13 / Fuller Youth Institute / http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/ (5)
14 / Mark Riddle / http://www.theriddlegroup.com/blog/index.htm (25)
15 / Mike King / http://king.typepad.com/mike_king/ (15)
16 / Tash McGill / http://tashmcgill.blogspot.com/ (41)
17 / Gavin Richardson / http://www.gavoweb.com/ (8)
18 / Matt Cleaver / http://mattcleaver.com/ (29)
19 / Kurt Johnston / http://simplykurt.com/ (10)
20 / Stevan Sheets / http://www.stevansheets.com/ (10)

headed back to haiti

when i walked out of the port-au-prince tent villages of marassa 14 & 17 on a friday in late february, i told the village leaders i’d be back. i think this statement was probably more a reflection of me avoiding the emotions of saying goodbye. but i did feel a burden for these people. and i have a deep sense of anticipation about seeing them again.

same goes for many of the pastors and church leaders we met on that first trip.

next tuesday (may 25, the day after my birthday), i fly to miami, where i’ll overnight before heading to port-au-prince on wednesday the 26th. this time around, i’m taking a team of church leaders, church bloggers, and radio voices. we’re going to connect with pastors and work out more details in the adventures in missions church partnership program (called the “isaiah 58 project”), which will pair up haitian churches with american churches (or, really, churches from anywhere in the world) for prayer, encouragement, community development and rebuilding, and – possibly – trips to bring helping hands. i’ll blog more about this church partnership program separately.

it’s a wonderfully eclectic group going, and i’m pretty stoked to spend a handful of days with them:

david hayward, more commonly known by his nakedpastor blog moniker. david’s blog is one of the top 100 church blogs, and he’s a guy who blogs with a level of honesty that is rare. a self-described “artist trapped in a pastor’s body”, david brings an artist’s perspective to everything he does. he has recently stepped down from his church in canada, where he served for a very long time. it will be cool to be with david in this time of life transition.

doug pagitt. doug is the pastor of solomon’s porch, in minneapolis. author of a bunch of books, and a pot-stirrer in the american church. doug also hosts a sunday morning ‘religious talk show‘ on a local minneapolis talk radio station, and podcasts those shows to a wider audience. doug and i have been friends for many years, but haven’t spent much time together in the past few; so it will be wonderful to hang. and, as always, doug will cause all of us to think in different ways.

ed noble is the teaching pastor of my church. i’ve known ed longer than i’ve known anyone else on the team — he hired me as his junior high pastor (he was the high school guy) at a church in omaha in 1989. ed is coming along to consider a church partnership for our church, with a haitian church.

tash mcgill is coming all the way from new zealand (with a few days of stop-over here in san diego on the way)! tash is a youth ministry blogger, entrepreneur, programmer, and radio show host. tash lived with my family for 4 months last year, when she was doing some work for youth specialties, and she’s always a joy to have around. she’ll be broadcasting stuff about the trip back to listeners in new zealand.

seth barnes is the founder and exec director of adventures in missions. we’ve been friends since about 1990, when i first connected with AIM for a junior high missions trip. seth was on my february trip to haiti also, and it will be interesting for the two of us to see how things have changed (or not) in the last 3 months).

– bruce dawson is on staff with AIM, and will be giving leadership to the new church partnership program. i’m looking forward to getting to know bruce, and dream together about how to get american churches engaged in this amazing approach to rebuilding haiti.

– there’s one more guy coming (paul young), but i really don’t know anything about him (AIM is bringing him).

– oh, and me!

in the days before i leave, i expect to blog at least a couple more times about the trip. we’ll be launching a giving project connected to this trip also, with a focus on raising funds for the salaries of a few haitian leaders who will run the haitian side of the church partnership program. more on that in the next day or two. and, we’ll all be blogging from haiti, as we did in february.

in the mean time, a handful of actions you can take:

– join the team facebook group. if you’re on facebook, go to this link and “like” it. that will bring updates from the team, as well as aggregated blog posts about the trip, to your facebook news feed. if you’re not on facebook, you can still bookmark that page and peek in as often as you’d like.

– if you’re a twitterhead, we’ve also set up a twitter feed for the group. someone here in the states will be watching all our blogs and tweets and retweeting them on this page.

– start to pray for us. pray that god will give us wonderful meetings with haitian pastors that will confirm some aspects of the church partnership program, and cause us to drop or modify other aspects. we want to create long-term, sustainable, non-dependent, restorative relationships with church, built on trust and a belief that both churches have something to offer to the other. what we learn on this trip will be key to launching this program.

– think and pray about giving to support the salaries of the haitian staff who will oversee the church partnership program (and watch for my blog post about that).

the longest ym3.0 review yet!

tash mcgill, a brilliant youth worker in new zealand, wrote an extensive and deeply thoughtful summary/review of youth ministry 3.0. this is the kind of reflection i dreamed of stirring up with this little book.

At last, I was so excited when this book arrived on my doorstep courtesy of a somewhat begging-type email to Marko. International shipping would’ve cost me $53 US.. which is kinda funny. The wait to see this book hit NZ shores .. well who knows how long, but considering all things.. I wasn’t prepared to wait.

There’s something great about seeing the words printed and the smell of the book. The hardcover and layout is great.

So – although I could’ve posted previously on the book – I wanted to wait until I had my copy, had re-read it just like everyone else. I’ve loved the conversations on the Facebook group as people are reading, thinking, devouring, wrestling.

Opening Statements

I’m entirely biased towards the overall goodness of this work. Marko is my friend, fellow youth ministry type person, thinker, wise talker, grounded theologian and passionate exhorter of positive forward movement in youth ministry philosophy and practice. He’s also incredibly humble and has been so openhanded with the creation of this work and subsequent dialogues that he’s really embodied the essence of some of the YM3.0 premises we arrive at in the final chapters.

I’m entirely biased because these thoughts reflect both my passion for adolescent development,’cultural anthropology’, sociology, community psychology AND young people, the reformation of youth ministry practice and the future of the world. Many of these words and ideas are threads of my own story and I’m stoked to have had the opportunity for conversations around these ideas with Marko and the many other readers of his blog, YS groupies and the like.

This is not a typical youth ministry book because there is no cure prescribed – in fact, more or less, we’re left openended with a brief framework of some diagnostic tools and applications. The conversation is left openended intentionally. It does not answer all the things we instinctively want to be answered, because we have to wrestle with plenty of things ourselves.

Now…From The Beginning
I really loved Kenda Creasy Dean’s introduction – she nails the spirit of the book and the author. I’m a sucker for reading the forewards and the acknowledgements. And this section really sets you up for what you’re about to read. She highlights the honesty and potential discomfort of the ideas.

Framing Change in Youth Culture
Marko does a great job of reviewing the key tasks of adolescence, the emergence of youth culture and the history of adolescence in a broadsweeping but clear overview for people that get lost in the chaos of what all the science and psychology tells us. I’m a sucker for most of the reference material he refers to – and the recommended reading list at the back of the book provides great material that further unpacks these key ideas. There wasn’t much about actual brain function – but that’s ok, because you don’t want to lose people too soon in!

Marko’s concluding statement addressing where youth ministry as we’ve known it is currently failing highlights the shifting priorities of adolescence and how we’ve been slow to respond.

Implicitly, the question is brought to mind – with this elongated adolescent period, what does this mean for the future of the 20-something youthworker? It’s commented on in the sidebar too.

My lingering question: What happens if you line up generational shifts alongside these adolescent priority shifts and the responding youth ministry changes? What can we learn from mapping the past and present in order to make wise choices for the future?

A Brief History Lesson
The story of Youth Ministry 1.0 and 2.0 covered in chapters 3 & 4 highlights a few important things – including that the “first youth ministry missionaries” did it exactly right – they responded to youth culture by “letting it inform the language and topics of youth ministry.”

The charts included are helpful for mapping the drivers, youth culture fixation and key themes. Love those.

My lingering question: How much deconstruction of Youth Ministry 2.0 has to be done in order to have a healthy foundation for YM 3.0? Much, none or some? Is it possible to leap into YM 3.0 from 1 or 2.0 (yes, whispers of 1.0 still exist) or must there be a 2.8 process? What is the role of leadership and broader church context? Can a youth ministry grow (this is a better idea than leap or shift) into 3.0 without the active participation of the whole spiritual community?

Chapter five includes some gems.. Like Chris Cummings statement on pg 67

“This generation of teenagers knows there’s something worth living for beyond themselve, but they’re struggling with actually defining it.. and everything else in our culture says it’s all about them.”

This is a classic observation of the Generation Y tension – and what creates such a great melting pot moment for YM 3.0 to hatch in these communities of young people assured of their own value and voice, desperate for a way to make a difference.

Marko leans heavily on some of Tim Keel’s concepts from Intuitive Leadership (another big emphasis on how great both the endnotes and reading list from this little book is .. ) when talking about the role of youth workers shifting to “cultural anthropologists with relational passion”.

Much of the practice ideology here is straight out of a mission context that has been successful forever – Paul started it. “Culture informs contextualisation” is a great phrase that should stick in the mind. Themes of Communion and Mission were wrestled with publicly on the blog and the picture of a Present youth ministry took shape with the voices of dozens of youthworkers.. they translate well into this section. They also form an almost impeccable mesh with Generation Y values of tribe, cause, flexibility.

My lingering question: Ideologically, it’s perhaps the biggest shift the book deals with, something that really impacts the practices of goal-setting, future planning, curriculum development, the very fabric of what spiritual formation in practice looks like. Marko is truthful enough to say what many of us already know deep down – that programming small groups does not build true community. Small groups of young people and volunteers who truly embrace life together on a wider scale do – but that kind of “community curation” (my phrase, not Marko’s) I think requires a different mindset than what the current “ideal youth worker” might be in the minds of those hiring.

So…How do we get there?
This has to be the most frustrating but the most liberating section of the book – Marko raised great concepts, ideas and gives lots of permission to experiment, to fail and to invite multiple voices into the process. He offers a few key ideas – like Contextualization and pushes at colonization approach that some have had towards youth culture.

My favourite part of this chapter throws open the question of what real life-long learning in a youth ministry context can look like when YM3.0 will also require so much unique cultural anthropology. The priority of incarnational life with real young people becomes so particular. The stories and lives of the young people we are actually with (Present).. are the best blueprint to the youth ministry we are doing (Mission in current context). To me, it feels like a welcome spring clean of the boardroom whiteboard where we’ve drawn endless visions of what we’d like our youth ministry to be in 5 years time. (I’m not convinced that there isn’t a place somewhere for this thinking, but probably not in the priority line it has been in.)

Points of Note:
Discernment features strongly in this chapter – and my friend Jill recently commented that “discernment and intuition have a lot in common – discernment is perhaps educated intuition?” I think there is merit to the point especially in the context of discussing the communal discernment of a group in regards to youth ministry. So, discernment (being something we more naturally attribute to wisdom and age, experience) is perhaps the maturing spiritual gift of intuition that may be present in many of your young people/leaders/surrounding voices..that intuition may be found in those that naturally ‘feel’ the ebb and flow of the ‘environment’.

Multiple groups have been an issue of contention and whilst not supporting this as THE way forward, Marko presents it as an opportunity. You could argue that the response of people to this possible programming tool demonstrates a high level of 2.0 thinking that still resides. Others ask the question fairly enough, how to do this in the context of small ministries – but it’s an idea for consideration, not a prescription. My reflection is that this kind of approach allows affinity to be one of the key tasks worked out through your ministry.

Experimentation is a strong value here, especially the process by which the young people themselves are the dominant storytellers.

Supra-Culture is the youthworkers dream. “Common affinity found in Christ alone”. My thought would be that having the same philosophy or values at the core of your ministry would enable multiple groups to work out unique expressions of this Supra-Culture.. again, lots more experimentation and reflection required. More of a laboratory of youth ministry as many have commented on in discussion. The messiness of this is absolute, guaranteed – but the long term effectiveness of this approach may be highly rewarding.

My lingering question: Lifelong professional development for youth ministry that doesn’t sit in isolation from broader church leadership, that focuses on developing practical contextualization skills and anthropological thinking/frameworks that youth pastors can use. How? Also – how to encourage and enable youthworkers to hold the desire for effectiveness and the mandate to experiment and exegete locally in tension?

My lingering thoughts from this chapter:
Whilst Marko doesn’t cover the brain/biology equations, I think that the role of Feelings & Experience in the faith train diagram are vital. As these experiences and feelings form neuron pathways while cognitive recognition of “God” occurs – they must be valued. Thus the “feeling” and “experiential” components of our ministry may actually help form “faith” foundations while the rest of experience is in chaos?

Youth Ministry 3.0 will acknowledge the humanity and validity of teenagers – they are contributors “in development” and “in practice”.

The role of family-based ministry will need to change – for those places where it’s in practice.

We need to come up with new frameworks for KPIs, goal setting, reassessment and staff management in this area.

And So To End
I read this book last night with a drink, a starry night and a cigar.. in honour of such nights in San Diego! There were lots of things I underlined. Lots of things that will continue to be discussions over the coming years. I am excited for multiple copies of the book to arrive onshore so that meaningful conversations can start around so many things…

There are things I wrestle with – mostly to do with how we can appropriately engage in these practices and conversations in a way that sees real change. How quickly can we translate and establish new training and support structures for this new way of thinking and crafting youth ministry? How do we, taking these lessons, begin to also look ahead to what the kids of Gen X and Gen Y will look like and how youth culture may continue to map our response in youth ministry?

Mostly.. I’m glad to be part of the conversation. This reengages my hope and desire to work with young people and for young people – for the sake of attainable belonging or affinity with the person and body of Christ. (I’m not sure how they are both important or expressed, but they both are.)