Tag Archives: the youth cartel

Why We Published This: Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World

uh… a week ago i posted a ‘why we published this’ about gina abbas’s amazing new book, A Woman in Youth Ministry. and i said i was going to post every day that week a “why we published this’ about one of our new resources. but then i didn’t post again. my bad. weak internet during my travels conspired with a schedule that was more full than i’d planned to result in a goose egg. so, now, i resume this li’l series with…

Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World: Cultivating Exploration and Ownership

teaching teenagers in a post-christian worldlast fall, jake kircher drove me from Open Boston to his church in CT, where i spoke to teenagers, then taught a parent seminar. we had a bunch of time on the road; so when he told me he had a product idea for me to consider, i told him to take his time. jake wove a story about the need he’d discovered with his post-christian teenagers for a different approach to curriculum. as he shared what he’d developed, and why, i responded with something like,

“jake, i think this sounds great; but i think there are two separate resources in this: a curriculum line using this approach, and a short ‘manifesto’ book describing the approach in more detail than a curriculum intro allows for.”

jake considered that for a few weeks, and we were off to the races. later this week i’ll post about jake’s THINK curriculum. but here’s the manifesto–an articulate, challenging, pithy-but-practical book about a teaching approach closer to the socratic method than a propositional throw-down. i’d imagined jake’s book as a sister book to brock morgan’s exceptional book Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, as they’re addressing some similar contextual realities. so we titled jake’s book with a ‘companion’ title to brock’s.

here’s the back cover description:

Youth workers are in a tough spot these days. On the one hand, we’re finding that teenagers who have little to no church background and Bible literacy tend to be hyper tolerant of all religious views except for Christianity. On the other hand, students who grew up in the church and have heard all of the “right answers” are still struggling to articulate their beliefs and live them out day to day.

When these two realities combine in youth ministry, they can make teaching teenagers about spiritual things an infuriating experience. It can feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall.

It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So maybe it’s time we try something different when it comes to teaching theology to our students. That’s the hopeful change that Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World addresses.

As a follow-up to Brock Morgan’s exceptional Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, this book will help you shift from being a content dispenser to a conversation cultivator. It’s time we stop treating teenagers like consumers—even when we really believe in what we’re selling. Instead, let’s create learning environments that lead to faith exploration and ownership.

and here’s what others are saying about it:

In Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World, Jake Kircher calls us to reset how we communicate the truth of Scripture to teenagers. We need to clear our memories and adapt our approach to their real world. It’s not the world many of us grew up in. Jake’s style is transparent and humble. He advocates an organic style of ministry that acknowledges and draws on the worldviews and learning styles of students. What he says should be carefully considered by youth leaders—especially those of us whose faith was nurtured in the “God said it…I believe it…that settles it” era. It’s a helpful and provocative read.
Doug Clark, Director of Field Ministries, National Network of Youth Ministries

As you read this book, you will hit bottom with Kircher and then begin to see youth ministry from a new perspective. It’s a tough perspective. You can’t just pour the essence of this book into your cup of ministry, add water, and stir. This is a call to leaders to give up all the superficialities, competitions, and idols of our present ministries and accept a radical relationship with Christ, with the intention of showing young people the difficult cost and high value of discipleship—a radical relationship with Jesus. Only this way can young people escape the limitations and bondage of a post-modern, post-Christian age. It is a self-critical approach to ministry—one in which we need to learn and determine our goals through self-reflection and out of deep relationships with youth, discovering with them what life is all about and how true, loving relationships grow. This book might be too searing and personal, a little too radical and honest for you—though I hope not; because it’s also disarmingly practical.
Dean Borgman, Charles E. Culpeper Professor of Youth Ministries, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Founder and Director, Center for Youth Studies

How refreshing to get advice from someone who’s right in the thick of the challenge of sharing faith with young people. Jake writes from the perspective of an experienced youth pastor who knows that the old methods of teaching teenagers are increasingly ineffective. The goal remains the same: for teenagers to develop a deep commitment to God that will last a lifetime. But standing up front at a youth meeting and telling teens what to believe isn’t working. Instead, Jake gives us inspiration and practical guidance to teach teenagers who are immersed in modern culture and, of course, the digital world. This is a place where having the space to explore and ask questions is a critical element of the journey to truth, and Jake’s advice will ring true to anyone wondering how to help young people find faith in a postmodern world.
Chris Curtis, CEO, Youthscape

Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World is a quick but important read for far too many of us youth workers who declare we have a plan for ministering to youth, but deep down we aren’t really sure that what we’re accomplishing will last. Jake Kircher is not afraid to be honest about his youth ministry past and what he believes today.
Mike King, President, Youthfront, Author of Presence-Centered Youth Ministry

I loved this book and I highly recommend it. Jake Kircher understands today’s culture and gives us wonderful insights on communicating with teenagers. This book is well researched and no doubt will give you many effective tools to speak to this generation.
Jim Burns, Ph.D., President, HomeWord; Author of Teenology and Confident Parenting

Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World is a must-read for youth workers who are in the trenches. Jake Kircher has written an honest and practical book full of thoughtful and deliberate strategies for guiding teenagers’ spiritual formation in today’s very complex, post-Christian world. Kircher can do this so well because he is immersed in this paradigm shift as he ministers to teens in the Northeast. His personal accounts resonate with my own and, most likely, with those of any youth worker who is passionate about leading students into life-giving faith. My recommendation is that you buy a copy of this book for yourself—and then buy six more!
Brock Morgan, Author of Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

Teaching is often missized in youth ministries. We either give it grandiose value, or we’re entirely too dismissive of the power of the spoken Word. Jake Kircher is clearly a gifted practitioner, and he does a skillful job of right-sizing the importance of teaching in our ministries. This work is a masterful combination of stating the inaccuracies of our theology and practices, while offering creative, practical insights for how to do it better.
April L. Diaz, Author of Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker; The Youth Cartel’s Director of Coaching

Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World is an engaging and compelling journey of ministry transformation with huge kingdom implications. I enjoyed Jake’s personal, even vulnerable, approach as he moved his youth ministry to one characterized by “exploration and ownership.” My favorite chapter is chapter 5, “Why We Discourage Exploration.” We don’t mean to, of course; but we end up, as he aptly describes it, making our students listeners, not livers of the Christian faith. I love how Jake’s book is filled with fresh hope for youth ministry—and the whole church!
Len Kageler, Ph.D., Professor of Youth and Family Studies, Nyack College; Author of Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society

download a free sample and/or buy the physical book from The Youth Cartel site
buy kindle or physical copies from amazon

Why We Published This: A Woman in Youth Ministry

A Woman in Youth Ministry: Honest Insight and Leadership Wisdom for Real People

a few years ago, before The Youth Cartel was publishing stuff ourselves, i had coffee with a local youth worker named Gina Abbas. i’d sorta known of gina–at least i knew her name–but we didn’t actually know each other. but when we met for coffee, i could quickly tell she was a seasoned youth ministry veteran with something to say. she’d been consistently blogging at her “a woman in youth ministry” blog, which was starting to cause a few challenges (everything from raised eyebrows to outright conflict) at her conservative church. we processed a bit, and got to know each other, and that was about it.

not long after that, gina showed me the proposal for a book she’d been thinking of. i signed on as her literary agent, and after we tweaked and polished the proposal, i started shopping it around. but, alas, three factors wonderfully conspired against finding a publisher for her book:
1. the youth ministry publishing world has been wildly unstable and shifting for a number of years, with many publishers not sure what they’re hoping to publish, and others mired down in a quicksand of cumbersome processes.
2. gina’s book was honest. some would call it edgy (which, in this case, was code for “more honest than we’re comfortable with”).
3. and, gina didn’t have a national platform with built-in sales guarantees.

but: that’s exactly the sort of book and author the Cartel decided we needed to publish (look at morgan schmidt’s book for an example). and when we decided to start publishing, i told gina, “enough of this shopping around to publishers who don’t see why this is both an important book and a needed book; let’s publish this ourselves.” and, i am very happy that gina agreed.

A Woman in Youth Ministry.covernow, a couple years later, gina’s book is real, and one of several titles we have releasing just now. it is at times winsome, even funny; and it is at times confrontative and challenging; it is at all times honest and helpful. this is a book that every woman in youth ministry would benefit from. but it’s also a book that male youth workers need to read if they hope to understand some of the unique challenges their female peers face.

here’s the book’s summary, from the back cover:

If you’ve ever been boycotted for being a girl, pumped breast milk on a church bus, gotten fat from eating too much pizza, or wondered if women really can do youth ministry (even when they get old)…

Whether you’re a single or married female in youth ministry, with or without kids…
Whether you’re a part-time, full-time, or volunteer youth worker…
If you’re serving in a tiny church or a ginormous church…
Or even if you’re a guy who wonders how he can better partner with women in youth ministry…

A Woman in Youth Ministry is for you.

This book is full of stories and rants and blessings and cone-of-silence honesty. Gina Abbas is a storyteller, a listening ear, and an honest coach. She pulls no punches and bares her deepest pain and joy. And—over and over again—Gina provides encouragement and practical help for youth ministry leaders who sometimes feel like they’re going it alone.

and here’s what others are saying about it:

“I wish we didn’t need this book. Really, I do. I wish the current Christian culture were such that a book like this would be completely superfluous. But it’s not. It’s needed—desperately needed. As a youth ministry professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, I’m constantly having conversations with young women who want to know, “Could I be a youth pastor, too?” I look forward to handing them a copy of Gina’s book so they can get current, firsthand information about what it’s like to be a woman in the trenches of youth ministry. Gina’s conversational style is full of insightful stories and wise tips to help bolster her readers’ confidence. While it’s true we learn a lot from experience, Gina’s vulnerability allows us to learn from her experiences as well. This is a must-read for any young woman who wonders whether God could use her to minister to his children.”
Dr. Amanda Drury, Assistant Professor in Practical Theology and Ministry , Indiana Wesleyan University

“‘It’s hard to be awesome when you’re too busy.’ This line from Gina’s book rang so true for me. With creativity, honesty, humor, and meaningful advice from her own story, other voices, and God’s Word, Gina weaves together a beautiful addition for women in leadership. May we–as individuals and as the church–slow our busyness so the kingdom can be even more awesome.”
April L. Diaz, Author of Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker; Director of Coaching at The Youth Cartel

“The challenge for women in ministry today is not just confronting the overt ways women experience inequality (still very present), but also naming the latent ways inequality is perpetuated in ministries’ unchecked assumptions, expressed through programs, postures, relationships, language, and theology. Gina’s story is exactly that–a journey packed with encounters, ideas, and questions worth considering. Women and, more importantly, men should read this book and let Gina be another (or maybe their first) female ministry conversation partner.”
Steven Argue, Pastor and Theologian-in-Residence, Mars Hill Bible Church; Adjunct Professor of Youth Ministries, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary; Advisory Council Member, Fuller Youth Institute

“I wish A Woman in Youth Ministry had been available when I began my career in youth ministry. I desperately emulated the male youth pastors I knew because I was unsure how to be a woman in youth ministry. This book would have saved me considerable grief and heartache, and enabled me to feel less alone. Gina’s stories and wisdom will, no doubt, provide many female youth workers with a road map for how to confidently live into their calling as women in youth ministry. But don’t be fooled by the title. This book isn’t just for women. It’s also for male youth workers who want to partner with their female colleagues more effectively in order to do God’s kingdom work.”
Jen Bradbury, Director of Youth Ministry, Faith Lutheran Church; Author of The Jesus Gap

“If you’re a woman in youth ministry, or know a woman in youth ministry, this book is essential reading. Gina’s writing is warm, honest, and encouraging, with a little bit of rear-kicking. I loved how she opened up difficult but essential topics like education, pay, family-life balance, and boundaries. A Woman in Youth Ministry is a great resource for women in all levels of youth ministry leadership, from volunteers to youth pastors. You’ll return to it over and over.”
Emily Maynard, Blogger & Speaker

“I’ve never read another book like this. A Woman in Youth Ministry is a next-level glimpse into the journey of a youth worker—who also happens to be a woman. It’s a raw, heartfelt, practical guide to navigating the ups and downs of the youth ministry world. If you’re looking for a guide to longevity in youth ministry–you’ve found it!”
Katie Edwards, Saddleback Church

The Youth Cartel is unapologetically feminist. while we love our youth ministry friends in complementarian churches, and are committed to serving them, we stand very emphatically in a place of affirming women in youth ministry as equals.

honestly, i am really proud of this book. it’s an important book. and i deeply hope that lots of my youth ministry friends will read it and be both blessed and challenged by it: encouraged and equipped and made uncomfortable.

purchase A Woman in Youth Ministry from The Youth Cartel store, or download a free sample
purchase A Woman in Youth Ministry from Amazon.com
purchase the Kindle version of A Woman in Youth Ministry from Amazon.com

women in youth ministry, and april diaz’s ymcp cohort

the brou-ha-ha over the last couple weeks about the under-representation of female voices at christian ministry events (see here for starters, but there’s lots more) has had me thinking a bit about women in youth ministry. i know that, for a segment of the church, this is mostly a non-issue. their traditions have long viewed women as equally gifted for and called to ministry. but i also know that so many of my sisters in ministry continue to be viewed as “limited” in what they can or should do, and what roles they can or should embody. and for those women, there’s an additional layer of complexity in that it’s often not safe for them to talk about it.

this made me think of two particular women in youth ministry that i’m partnering with these days (two of many, to be clear): gina abbas, a wonderfully gifted youth minister, newly the JH Pastor at mars hill bible church, and currently writing a book for The Youth Cartel for women in youth ministry; and april diaz, a very longtime friend of mine who is one of the most gifted leaders of any gender i’ve ever met (who, coincidentally, also wrote a book for The Youth Cartel!).

that made me remember a lament april wrote for me a couple years ago. i was working on a large multi-author project, and specifically asked april to write a lament to god about the place of women in church leadership. i asked april because i know her to be gracious to peoples’ stories and not demanding or rude in how she talks about these issues. april wrote this wonderful “prayer” based on psalm 40:


Lament for Psalm 40

Waiting. No one likes waiting. Maybe me least of all. I’ve waited my entire life to see your Church reflect your heart to see men and women lead your people. Equally. “With skillful hands and integrity of heart” (Psalm 78:72). I’ve waited for your Church to wake up and get it that we have as much to contribute to the Kingdom as men do. I wish your Word were painfully clear about our contribution equality.

Too many times I’ve seen women in the pit of despair because they have not been allowed to use their voices, their gifts, their experiences, their calling to build the Kingdom. You have not stopped them from leading and teaching, Lord; your people have.

My sisters and I have cried when we’ve been told “no”, “be quiet”, “this is not your place”. We need your rescue, God. We desperately need you to bring good news in places where we are pushed down, snuffed out, and negotiated around. Your Kingdom suffers when we are relegated to roles and ministries and places where we are not gifted or passionate. How long?

You are solid and steady and trustworthy. When your Church fails me, I can still be amazed by who you are. I will find my hope in you, not in an outcome – a promotion or a platform or power. I will receive a new song that you give me and sing to the rooftops of who you are and what you’ve done. I will serve you fully and contribute my best to your Kingdom, even in the midst of broken systems. Give me the courage I need to be faithful today.

How long will we sing this song? When I grieve for what your Church is not yet, I must remember that you are a God of justice and have called ordinary people like me to bring justice on earth as it is in heaven. Help me not be afraid to speak out and speak for those who do not have a voice, but to do so with humility and love.

You have written your calling upon my heart and I will not forsake you. I will take joy in following you no matter what anyone else says. Help me listen to you more and more and follow you obediently. Thank you for my calling, even if it’s not honored among others.

and here’s the killer, that points out the problem and almost caused me to pull out of the whole project: we weren’t allowed to use this piece, because a major, conservative, christian bookstore chain would not carry the project if april’s lament was included. april was as gracious about the whole thing as one can possibly imagine.

yc-all-black-300x68and this is one of a hundred reasons i’m glad april will be leading a cohort of my youth ministry coaching program for women in youth ministry. the women in all my other coaching cohorts have been equal in every way, and have added so tremendously to each group. but some, i realize, would particularly benefit from being a part of a cohort that allows them a sisterhood, a place that’s truly safe to not only think about youth ministry and leadership, but also to lean on each other. april’s cohort will be a modified version — 2 face to face meetings of two days, and 4 shorter online meetings. we’re limiting it to 8 participants, 5 of whom are already committed. april’s really hoping to get the remaining spots filled in the next few weeks, so the cohort can look for an early-2014 launch date. if you’re interested and would like more information, please email april directly, as [email protected] april has blogged about this cohort here and here and here.

Open Paris, in a word

this last weekend, Adam and i were in paris for The Youth Cartel‘s event called Open Paris. these “Open” events have been adam’s birth-baby, shaped by this short manifesto of vision. but each Open event is completely unique, since there’s a high level of ownership given away to the local organizing team.

i’ll admit something here: while i thought the vision of doing one of these in paris was fun, i was a tad skeptical that it would actually work.

but i was wrong. 100%.

50 youth workers from 7 or 8 countries came. by most event planning metrics, that’s not a win. for this event, it was totally a win. the event had a relational dynamic as a result. we learned from each other; but we also hung out together. like: i have new youth worker friends now who live in germany and holland and england and france.

so, Open Paris in 5 words: LOCATION WAS HARD TO BEAT


Open Paris in 4 words: OUR HOST WAS AMAZING




Open Paris in 2 words: CURIOSITY WINS


Open Paris in 1 word: LIMINAL*


* a thin place, often used to describe a spiritual thin place. in this case, a place where the kingdom of god and the world of humans overlapped.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker

cover-concepts4dat last year’s Summit, april diaz gave a talk on a topic i’d asked her to focus on: Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker. i knew she would do great. but i didn’t know she’d be THAT great (like, one of the best talks at the event). instantly, i knew it had to become a book.

now, slightly less than a year later, april’s book of that same title has released this week! i’m going on record and saying that every youth worker has to read this book (yeah, i know i’m the publisher, and we benefit if you believe me — but that’s not the reason i wrote that sentence!).

here are a few paragraphs from the end of chapter 1 (actually, you can download a longer sample here):

May I begin this book with a confession? In my church context, we were fairly content with being insane. We knew we weren’t operating at full capacity, but students were still showing up. It’s not like we’d totally destructed. We were tweaking things here and there, yet we still weren’t seeing tangible results. I felt a holy discontent that things were not as they should be, and that discontent would not let me go. The catalyst for us in reimagining the role of the youth worker was a staffing transition that presented an opportunity for real change. But honestly, the catalyst should have been the names and stories of graduated teenagers who were deeply struggling in their faith or no longer walking with Jesus.

In each of the first three Gospels where Jesus discusses fasting, he speaks some haunting words, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38 NLT). I wonder why Jesus declares these words in a discussion on fasting? What do fasting, prayer, and wine have to do with each other? My hunch is that Jesus was hinting at the ancient truth that with any necessary change and maturing growth, a period of fasting and reflection must come.

What we are considering requires more than fancy programmatic tweaks or human ingenuity. We require something new, given to us by the Divine Creator. To be given new wine and a new wineskin is beyond us, beyond our human knowledge or finite experience. Jesus hints that this need to fast—a need to create space in which to evaluate the old—contains deep, yet difficult wisdom that will transform our very souls and then impact our leadership and the teenagers we love.

May we begin our reimagining with the humility to confess we’ve messed up a few things along the way—despite our good intentions—and we are in need of the Great Sommelier to make some new wine for us to drink from a new vessel.

and here are JUST A HANDFUL of the long list of people who have agreed with me that you have to read this book:

In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz invites us on a journey of ministry reformation, as she translates the findings of the Sticky Faith research project into a model that actually works in the real-life trenches of youth ministry. There is little doubt that now is the time for bold experimentation around the dream of building student ministries that actually build life-long faith in the next generation, and April is one of the early cartographers of the future landscape of youth ministry.
Mark DeVries, Author of Family-Based Youth Ministry, founder of Ministry Architects

I read this book immediately after wrestling with some Youth For Christ veterans about needed shifts in a ministry leader’s job description and just prior to interviewing candidates for my church’s open position in youth ministry. The timing was perfect, bringing sweet clarity to my own gnawing convictions. As a bonus, the book reads like a caffeinated conversation with your spunky, irrepressible and street-wise friend. April and Newsong Church are onto a really important course correction for God’s people and I’m grateful that she’s made the effort to share her insights with us all.
Dr. Dave Rahn, Sr VP, Chief Ministry Officer, Youth for Christ/USA, Director, Huntington University’s MA in Youth Ministry Leadership

For years many of us have known that something wasn’t quite right with how we’ve been ministering to students all these years. In Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker, April Diaz has taken us one step closer to providing us with a clear and compelling vision for a desperately needed new vision for youth ministry. April’s extensive history and experience, keen mind, and love for kids, families and the church all combine to help the new-comer or most seasoned veteran take the leap into a more theological, long-term and practical world of our ministry to our young.
Chap Clark, PhD, Author, Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture, Fuller Seminary

April passionately reminds us of the heart of our work–relationships with and within the Body of Christ. Her steps toward redefining the role of the youth worker are echoed in the words of others who have also experienced similar “holy discontent” with status quo youth ministry. If you’re hungry for more…see a link that might be missing…are frustrated in the way the church and youth ministry segregate…then you’ve found an exceptional place to begin, right here, with April.
Brooklyn Lindsey, Youth Pastor, Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, Lakeland, Florida

so, go here. download the sample. order your copy or five or twenty (ok, that was the publisher part of me talking there).

my renewed commitment to diversity (one of the reasons i’m stoked about The Summit)

annie lockhart croppedmost people reading this blog would already know that i co-lead a little pot-stirring youth ministry organization called The Youth Cartel. and most would know that one of our most focused chances to stir is our event The Summit. if you’re familiar with TED talks, then you have an idea of what this event is like: 18 carefully selected, unique and brilliant presenters bringing laser-focused 12 – 15 minute talks specifically designed to spark your youth ministry imagination. in the spirit of TED (and, very much in the spirit of the wonderful and fun little book, The Medici Effect), The Summit includes presenters you’ve mostly never heard of offering provocative ideas or suggestions or challenges or prophetic words that are intended to help you dream big dreams; new dreams, even.

there are 50 or 100 uniqunesses about this event that get me pumped about it. i’m not alone in that; and it’s not only because i’m hosting this baby. in fact, those reasons are probably why april diaz, a seasoned youth ministry veteran who’s been to her share of national youth ministry events wrote this about last year’s event:

The best “youth ministry” conference I’ve ever been to! The format was provocative. The content was challenging. The community high caliber. Just incredible.

BethanyStolle-headshot-croppedit’s why marti burger, the head of youth ministries for the evangelical covenant church (denomination), wrote:

Loved the variety of voices, the challenges, the opportunity to dream, vision and create new concepts moving forward. This isn’t a conference where you will walk away with something you can use on Wednesday but a chance to discern how to re-image ministry. Such a gift!

bryan lorittsso, yeah, i’m pumped. but there’s another reason.

a few months ago, my friend efrem smith shared an image on facebook that showed how little progress we seem to have made on reflecting the diversity of youth ministry leaders when it comes to the “stage” and “page.” in other words, we haven’t been intentional enough about finding and raising up both women and non-white youth workers. now: i’m a white dude. add to that: i turn 50 a week from friday — so in the youth ministry world, i easily qualify as an “old white guy.” i still have something to say, and i don’t want to be sidelined because of my skin color or age.

Christy Lang Hearlson Headshot 2012but i’ve really come to see that the church (particularly the evangelical wing of the church) doesn’t have much of a “farm team” system for raising up speakers and writers who aren’t white dudes. i wouldn’t be speaking and writing today, honestly, if i hadn’t given a whole lot of mediocre talks and written some “just ok” stuff when i was younger.

my interactions with efrem about that post (we had a fantastic four hour lunch, and a bunch of emails) convicted me that The Youth Cartel’s value of finding new voices simply must include those who are often marginalized. and in the spirit of The Summit, the best new thinking often comes from the margins. (i have also been reminded of my interactions with dr. soong-chan rah from north park university, who challenged me and mentored me years ago in this area.)

crystal kirgissi’ve had an interesting a-ha. when our criteria for finding presenters isn’t “who’s really well known? who will be good for our marketing efforts?” the process of finding diverse presenters who will bring significant contribution gets reframed. it’s still work. but it’s not an almost-impossible task.

as a result: while the topics planned for presentations at this year’s Summit have me totally stoked, the mix of presenters has me even more so.

holly rankin zaher-croppedwe currently have 14 of our 18 presenters locked in. there are only 5 white dudes in that mix (and only two of us — me and mark devries — would qualify as “old white dudes”). there are 6 women. there are 5 non-white presenters. we’re actively pursuing 5 more presenters this week (with the ideal of landing 4 of them), and those 5 include 3 women. those 5 include 3 people of color.

jeffrey wallacethis effort (and success!) is much more than some sort of a politically-correct marketing ploy. this is core to the DNA of The Youth Cartel. and it’s core to The Summit being an event where you still truly have your imagination sparked. and it’s why you won’t hear a bunch of ideas or thoughts that you’ve already heard in one variation or another sixteen times before.

it was a very happy moment for me at last year’s event when, as Anne Jackson was getting ready to go up on stage, she whispered to me, “i just realized that of the 6 presenters in this session, i’m the only white person!” yeah: and that session totally rocked it.

we hope you’ll join us at The Summit. but we also hope you’ll join us in looking to the margins. it’s pretty rare that fresh stuff comes from the middle.

lem usitatheresa mazza

(oh, and by the way: if you register for The Summit before June 1, you get a VERY sweet bonus. you call ALL the audio and video of this year’s event for FREE!)

win a free “Cartel Panda” t-shirt from The Youth Cartel and WhoopTee

the fine people at WhoopTee asked us if we’d like to give out some free t-shirts. “heck, yes!” said we.

then months went by, because we’re distracted sorts of fellows here at The Youth Cartel.

eventually, i whipped up this playful wee design, with a little help from Banksy. we call him the “Cartel Panda.” and we’re going to give away five of them, completely free!

cartel panda tshirt photo

if you want one, here’s how you enter: tell us (promise us!) where you’ll wear it if you win. we’ll pick five from comments here on whyismarko and The Youth Cartel blog. it’s that easy!

deadline for entries is this thursday (tomorrow!) at 1pm, pacific.


adam and i laughed our heads off reading the entries. it was TOUGH to narrow it to five. actually, we realized we have six. so here they are:

D. Scott Miller
I will wear it in November at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. Not only will I wear it where 20,000 youth are gather, but also where thier adult leaders are also present. Most importantly, ReBuildMyChurch partner Tony Vasinda will be there dying of major jealousy that I am wearing the shirt!

David Van Dyke
I will wear it to a Wheaton faculty meeting in the psychology department.
They (we) need the cartel!

Sam Halverson
I will wear that amazing shirt with pride at the Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry in April where I will be attending various ym training with many, many youth ministers as well as the mentor ship training (also at Princeton) AND at the Bahamas Methodist Habitat mission trip in June FOLLOWED BY the North Georgia Annual Conference (also in June) where many North Georgia UM leaders will be hearing about youth ministry in our conference. I will also wear it at the NYWC in Nashville in November, followed by The Summit in Atlanta (also in November). Whew.

Jill Laufenberg
Visiting the Panda’s at the Philadelphia zoo with water guns in both my hands.

I would wear it while preaching int eh main service. Oh man, I will get in so much trouble…

I would wear it in a house.
I would wear it with a mouse.
I would wear it in near and far
and on a train and in a car.
I would wear it here or there.
Heck, I would wear it with my silk underwear!
I would wear it, though it’s weird,
I would wear it AND Marko’s beard!

each winner needs to do two things:
1. fulfill their promise and send us a photo (or post a photo on facebook and tag the youth cartel).
2. send adam your address and shirt size ([email protected])

media from the 2012 summit is available!

you know that time when you had everything all planned for the perfect youth group night, but it relied on a video clip, and the projector would just not cooperate? yeah, GIANT ministries like The Youth Cartel (ha!) have those problems too. we thought we were going to be able to offer video of last year’s uh-maze-ing event, The Summit, within a week or two of the event. but we experienced a perfect storm of tech problems.

finally, after months of shipping strange-format videos around the country, borrowing and buying new ways to play them so we could transfer them (only to find that those ways didn’t work), and asking multiple people for help, we finally have all 18 videos finished.

i watched all of them again in the last two weeks, and was once again thankful and stoked and stirred up. it’s quite the collection of 12 – 15 minute TED-style talks, all geared to spark your youth ministry imagination.

here’s a free sample: amanda drury’s wonderful presentation on Congregations Where Teenagers Have a Voice…

the audio of the event has always been available in our store. but now you can buy video of individual talks, or full sessions (5 or 6 talks), or the whole kitchen sink.

this is the sort of thing you’ll get:

session 1 — the here + now

  • mark moore — Acknowledging our Dependence on God
  • aaron arnold — Global Shifts in Youth Culture
  • nikole lim — Teenagers We Overlook
  • rhett smith — Anxiety in Teenagers
  • brock morgan — Activating the Hearts of Teenagers Who Don’t See a Need for Jesus
  • amanda drury — Congregations Where Teenagers Have a Voice

session 2 — peripheral vision

  • charles lee — Where Good Ideas Come From
  • bobby john — Risk & Faith
  • marah lidey — Best Practices in Activating Young People Around Causes They Care About
  • lucas leys — What We Can Learn from Latin American Youth Ministry
  • ben chestnut — Creating an Environment for Creativity and Empowerment
  • anne jackson — The Process of Creativity

session 3 — the horizon

  • chris folmsbee — Hopeful Imagination
  • andrew marin — Ministry Within Theological Tension
  • seth barnes — Ruining Teenagers and Young Adults for Jesus
  • greg ellison II — Learning to Notice Marginalized Teenagers
  • april diaz — Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker

session 4 — panorama

  • mark oestreicher — Transformation: Resistances and Resources (this one’s a half hour long)

once you purchase the videos, you can stream them (for quick viewing), or download them for viewing at another time or using them to instigate conversation with a volunteer team.

so: click here to see the page on The Youth Cartel store were you can get these babies.

oh, and we’re hip-deep in planning The Summit 2013 (november 8 and 9, in atlanta). i’m completely stoked about our theme and plans for this year’s event. we have 8 of the presenters confirmed so far, and more locking in all the time. we’ll have lotsa info to share on that very soon. you can click here to RSVP for the event, and we’ll notify you the minute registration goes live.

Open Boston

happy 2013! i’m home from a wonderful family trip to london and wales (more on that in a separate post, maybe). i’m jet-lagging pretty hard, but today just feels like a clean-up day, like a lazy saturday where i’ll catch up on a little email and unpack. jeannie and i even watched a movie this morning.

i also just realized that we are just barely under one month away from the next event by The Youth Cartel: Open Boston!

Open Boston
Saturday, February 2, 2013 from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
3 Tracks of Training for Youth Workers

The Life in Ministry – Practical Youth Ministry Training

The Life of a Youth Worker – Soul Care & Looking Inward

The Future Life of Ministry – Innovation and Looking Ahead

Visit the website for full speaker listing & sessions

The Manifesto

There aren’t many places in the church where all ideas have the same opportunity to be presented. Everything is editorialized, shaped, and packaged. Every idea is filtered through a lens.

We think something is wrong with that. Deep in our souls we know the solutions to the problems we face today are already out there, waiting to be discovered.

Open is just that. Open. The Youth Cartel sets the table, plays host, and invites anyone and everyone who has an idea to the table for a day where we all have equal value for our ideas. Whether you are a big dog with 20,000 people writing down your every word, a college student with some crazy ideas, or somewhere in between, the table is open–we will give you your shot and equal time to share your idea.

Read the rest

What to Expect

If you’re thinking of attending an Open event, you may be wondering what to expect. Though each Open will be different (based on the organizers, speakers and attendees of each event), there are some general guidelines that all Opens follow, as well as some things you can expect at your Open no matter where it is.

It’s about everything Youth Ministry.

What makes something Open, as opposed to [insert-name-here] youth ministry event? The content of sessions is firmly focused on ideas, concepts, and best practices for developing a youth ministry for your context. Expect presentations that cover issues around working with high school students, middle school students, and every combination of adolescents in your community.

The general idea behind Open is that we believe that the best ideas in youth ministry are “out there” being tried–right now–by youth workers just like you. But most other events don’t give those voices an opportunity to share what they’re learning.

Open is exactly the opposite. We exist to celebrate innovation, discover new ministry ideas, and hopefully inspire the collective us, the tribe of youth ministry, to dream about reaching students in new ways.

The best bargain you’ll get all year.

Open is not meant to be a big, fancy, expensive conference. Open is meant to be a low-key local gathering that is affordable—cheap, even—to allow people from all walks of life to attend, meet, share, and learn. Sponsorships and donations make this possible, keeping ticket prices low. You’ll likely meet Open speakers who are featured at expensive national conferences, but you might just meet a youth worker in your zip code, too.

Open is designed to be one of the best bargains around.

Open to all, content galore, shared with community.

Open does not discriminate, and youth workers of all shapes, sizes, denominations, and employment statuses should all feel welcome at Open, regardless of their experience level.

Sessions will hopefully span a variety of formats, including lectures/presentations, Q&A, workshops, interviews, and any other format you can imagine. Presentations are shared with the broader community by posting session slides/audio to the Open community on the openYM site.

Making connections, promoting collaboration.

Getting to meet and learn from other youth workers face-to-face is one of the main reasons we hope you’ll attend Open. When space allows, we hope to set up an informal space staffed with experienced youth workers who try to help fellow attendees with their questions. Maybe you’d just like someone to sit and pray with you? We’ll create space for that.

In addition to learning from each other, we hope you’ll find new collaborators and potential co-conspirators at Open.

Locally organized and focused.

We’re in the Alpha testing of something we hope will pop up all around the country and around the world. Each individual event will be organized by local youth workers. We provide guidance, but the elbow grease is local. While there may be speakers and attendees from all over the region, we will be sure to flavor the program with lots of local speakers/presenters. It’s fun to hear from the big names in our world, but Open is not meant to be a lecture circuit with the same speakers at every event, so expect each Open to be completely unique.

Volunteers everywhere.

It is our hope that Open is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to give something back to the youth ministry community. Each Open will be operated by tireless volunteers, from the organizers who plan it, all to the volunteers who work the event, and the speakers who donate their time to teach you new things. It takes a lot of people to make Open happen, so remember to thank the volunteers who made it possible.

It’s not about the money.

Trust us, Open is not about making a boatload of cash. Most of the sponsorship & ticket money will get eaten up by the cost of putting it all together. Each Open will have an open balance sheet. So you’ll be able to see where your ticket money went. If there’s a surplus, the profits will be divided equally by the local organizer, The Youth Cartel (so they can keep this movement going), and a organization that ministers to teenagers in the host community.


Though it’s not mandatory, we hope to use some of our budget to create commemorative t-shirts or other swag and/or provide food and beverages to attendees at the event. These things should definitely be considered potential perks rather than guaranteed entitlements, as we haven’t decided exactly how to spend the money raised from sponsorships and ticket sales, and we just don’t know yet! Information about what’s included with each ticket purchase will be listed when tickets go on sale.

Fun. Fun! More fun!!

We almost forgot to mention the most obvious part of Open: It’s fun! Getting to geek out for a day or two with other people just as obsessed with youth ministry as you are is just plain awesome. You’ll meet people who are crazy smart, insanely inspired and inspiring, and maybe even a handful of talented singers. We will follow the conference with an afterparty at a nearby location where you can have a few drinks with your new friends and hatch your plots for world domination.


Leading Up: Finding Influence in the Church Beyond Role and Experience

i’m so excited about the release of joel mayward‘s new book, Leading Up: Finding Influence in the Church Beyond Role and Experience, published by The Youth Cartel. i’ve worked with joel on this book, in one way or another, for almost two years. it sprung out of a conversation we had in the very first youth ministry coaching program cohort (that joel was in). later in that year, he presented thoughts on it, in the form of a rough book outline, to that cohort; and the whole group spoke into it.

it’s a leadership fable, in the style of patrick lencioni’s books. and joel really pulled it off with excellence. not only for youth workers, the book would be helpful to any church leader not in the driver’s seat (that said: the main character in the fable is a youth worker).

here’s the back cover copy:

Far too many church leaders find themselves frustrated, floundering, or fired because their dreams for the church reach beyond the job description they were hired to fill. Whether you’re a pastor, an intern, or a volunteer, you’re not the one in charge of the congregation. Thankfully, neither is your boss; Jesus is the lead pastor for every church. His Spirit moves in each of us, and those gifted in leadership can find Christ-honoring practices for leading up- having influence that goes beyond role or experience. This isn’t about manipulation or rebellion, but about humbly participating in the mission of God in your church.

Leading Up is a leadership fable that unpacks a paradigm and practical tools for leading up in your church. Logan is a young pastor with a big vision for Evergreen Community Church, but cannot seem to move any of his ideas beyond wishful thinking. At a significant breaking point, a mentor comes alongside to mentor Logan on his journey of leadership, transforming both of these leaders and the church in the process. Logan’s affecting tale will offer compelling insights for any church leader wanting to expand their leadership skills.

until the book officially releases (which should be in about a week, i think), we’re offering a special pre-release discount of 25%, making it only $9.74 (instead of the $12.99 it will be very soon). pre-release sales are on the physical book only, but ebook versions will be available soon also (on The Youth Cartel store, as well as the kindle store and the apple ibook store). click here to order now at the pre-release price.