2012 in review

marko 2012seriously, it was a great year. a busy year. even frenetic at times. but a deeply good year.

this being my last blog post of the year, i thought i’d take a few minutes to look in the rear view mirror. as this post goes live on my blog, my wife (jeannie) and son (max) and i will be in the air on our way to london. this is a very unique thing for us, spending christmas in london! i’m 49 years old, and i have never spent a single christmas season in any location other than detroit, michigan, with my family and jeannie’s family. jeannie has never had a christmas away from her parents either. my two kids (liesl is almost 19, max just turned 15) only know christmas with extended families in detroit.

but liesl is on a gap year trip. she and her friend stephanie spent the last three months in ireland (and the month before that in england). on january 3, the day after we fly home, liesl and steph fly to india for three more months. so we splurged. we cashed in a boatload of airline miles and booked jeannie and max’s tickets using those. a london youth worker friend of mine found an extremely gracious family to give us their home for free while they’re traveling over the holidays (we’re “cat-sitting!). we even have a little side-trip planned to wales, and another british friend hooked us up with friends of his who are letting us use their welsh seaside cabin for a few bucks to offside utilities. it’s still a splurge — considering food and fun. but it seemed worth it. and i can’t wait to see my little girl.

oh, and potential robbers: we have house-sitters at our place. so don’t even think of it.

now, for that look back.


we haven’t had such a significant year in our family life for a long time. highlights:

  • in the spring, liesl got accepted to a couple of the colleges she’d applied to, and declared for university of redlands (but deferred for one year).
  • in june, max graduated from middle school.
  • a day later, liesl graduated from high school.
  • the day after that, liesl left for a summer job at a camp.
  • at the end of the summer, jeannie finished the two years of course work for her master’s degree in psychology.
  • in early september, liesl left for 7 months in england, ireland, and india (with a few weeks on the front end of immigration hassles and plan-adjustment-panic).
  • that same week, max started high school.
  • a week later, jeannie started her practicum (basically an unpaid 3/4 job, counseling in the domestic abuse section of a community services agency).
  • toss in a wonderful family vacation in washington state during spring break, a family wedding in detroit in may (liesl and i went), a family wedding in colorado at the end of july (liesl, jeannie and i went), and a nice august week with friends at a home in lake arrowhead, california.

in many ways, i feel like i was the family member with the least eventful year (which was probably a nice change for all of us!)

personal stuff

i doubt i will ever again publish as much as i did in 2012:

beardy, decemberin addition to that absurd glut of books, i wrote three columns on middle school ministry for Youthworker Journal, 6 columns for Youthwork Magazine (UK), and probably another one or two articles i’m not remembering.

i also had about 28 speaking engagements, including:

  • youth worker training events in five countries
  • youth events across the US
  • and a nice handful of parent training seminars

at my church, i continued my weekly leadership of a small group of middle school guys (now 7th graders). i preached once in “big church,” and was involved here and there in other ways.

oh, and my beard got its own personality, as well as it’s own facebook page and twitter feed.

The Youth Cartel

since adam had just joined me in the last few months of 2011, 2012 was really a massive year of growth for The Youth Cartel. it really felt like it went from me doing my little stuff, to being a real start-up. we’re running at about 110%, and just hope that the two of us don’t become limitations to continued growth.

the year included:

  • three events: Open Seattle, the Middle School Ministry Campference, and The Summit, all of which were big wins and so much fun.
  • the launch of The Youth Cartel publishing line. we’d gone way down the road with multiple publishers about doing this as a partnership, but in the end, just decided to run at it ourselves. we released four titles this year: Good News in the Neighborhood, The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry, Masterpiece, and Leading Up. each was a labor of love, and would not have happened without a team of wonderful friends and editors and great authors.
  • photo (6)

  • late in the year, it was obvious that we were getting over our heads on the publishing thing, and added anne jackson as our very-part-time managing editor. she’s allowing me to breath.
  • our email lists have grown to over 3000 youth workers. these include product and event lists, as well as the popular YouTube You Can Use and Cartel Culture.
  • we’ve seen steady growth on facebook and twitter, which has been fun. and our fledgling blog made it to #14 on the list of top 25 youth ministry blogs.
  • we developed amazing partnerships with a whole bunch of great organizations. they are such an encouragement to us.
  • we loved serving a bunch of consulting clients. many of these are adam’s babies, and focus mostly on web development and social media help. but others — from biblica to world vision to thomas nelson publishers to a couple denominational groups have been shared efforts.
  • we launched our online store, and have been pleased with the traction so far.
  • the Youth Ministry Coaching Program had an amazing year. i had cohorts of youth workers meeting in san diego, nashville, winston-salem, and san antonio. and i lead a custom version for a handful of staff at a church in detroit. this month, i launched two beta-test groups of a new online version. and in early january i start a new nashville cohort.

i’m sure i’m leaving some stuff out. but that’s the bulk of the stuff for The Youth Cartel in 2012.

in summary

yup. it was an amazing year. i’m thankful to my god. i’m in love with my family. and i’m deeply happy and full of hope.

ok, 2013: bring it on!

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