Tag Archives: the summit

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!

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!

The Summit teaser video

i hope you’ve heard of The Youth Cartel’s new event, The Summit, by now. i posted about it last week, as did adam on his own site and The Youth Cartel blog. and it got some good twitter and facebook buzz last week when we announced it.

cool things are developing on this event almost every day. we’ll be adding presenters regularly, and i’m rather stoked about some of the presenters we’re in discussions with right now.

and, maybe you saw this little quick-and-dirty teaser video somewhere else last week. but i thought i’d toss it up here in case you hadn’t. we’re still too poor for a good camera, so this was just shot with an iphone (!). maybe someday we can be a real youth ministry organization with better equipment. but for now, you’ll have to excuse the movement and wind noise.

a different kind of youth ministry training event: The Summit

i’ve been dreaming about this baby for two years. so i’m so completely stoked to reveal it today. The Youth Cartel is launching a new event this fall, called The Summit.

first, the calendar stuff:
-November 9 and 10
-in Atlanta, GA

and here’s the gist of it (taken directly from the event website):

There are other amazing youth ministry events. We love ‘em (they’re mostly run by friends of ours). But we at The Youth Cartel wanted to try something different, something we’ve been dreaming about for two years.

We’ve always been big fans of TED talks, and are creating an event with that vibe. We want our imaginations stirred. We want to dream together. We want to grab hold of hope. And we want to do all of this with you.

The theme for The Summit this first time out is PANORAMA. Let’s link arms (and brains and hearts!) as we pause to grasp a big-picture view of youth ministry present and future.
Each of the main sessions will have 4 to 6 presenters carefully selected for what they will bring. We’re not just inviting “good speakers” or big names; we’re choosing (and working with) presenters who will help us pull a thread through the entire event.

Session 1, on Friday evening, will focus on Hear and Now. Each presenter will offer a different look into a facet of our current reality.

Session 2, on Saturday morning, is called Peripheral Vision. These presenters will help us look to the side, to consider what we might learn from other fields of knowledge and experience.

Session 3, on Saturday afternoon, will bring our attention to The Horizon, where the presenters will suggest hopeful possibilities of where we might be going in our collective effort of youth ministry.

Session 4, early Saturday evening, will offer a keynote speaker to wrap things up, as well as some extended worship.

Sessions 1 through 3 will be followed by opportunities to meet with individual presenters who will respond to questions and prod you (and your team) to wrestle with contextual application of the combustible ideas they are passionate about.

The Summit doesn’t fit the categories for what you’ve experienced at a youth ministry event before. It’s different.

the line-up of presenters and topics is already shaping up to be WAY cool:
(session 1)

    Nikole Lim (topic TBA)
    Aaron Arnold, topic: Global Youth Culture
    Dori Baker, topic: Capacities of Teenagers

(session 2)

    Ben Chestnut, topic: Creating an Environment for Creativity and Empowerment
    Bobby John, topic: Entrepreneurship and Risk
    Mark Oestreicher, topic: Theory U and Transformation

(session 3)

    Charles Lee, topic: Birthing Ideas
    Gregory Ellison II, topic: Learning to Notice Marginalized Teenagers
    Chris Folmsbee, topic: Hopeful Imagination
    Seth Barnes, topic: Ruining Teenagers and Young Adults for Jesus

we’ll be adding more presenters over the months to come, so check the site for updates.

we really hope you’ll join us. we really hope you’ll bring a team (especially if you live in the southeast and can drive!). let’s dream together, baby!