announcing: ys middle school ministry summit

for a number of years, i’ve gathered together yearly with a group of about 25 middle school pastors from around north america to dream, build relationships, exchange ideas, and think in new directions. word about this little group has gotten out, mostly because many of us have blogged about it; and a bunch of wonderful middle school ministry leaders have asked about joining that group.

so a few of us started dreaming about how we could open up an experience that would offer the same thing: an intimate setting, no comparisons, peer relationships with those who are passionate about middle school ministry, idea sharing and challenge. we’ve come up with something i’m really excited about, and get to announce here for the first time!

introducing: the ys middle school minsitry summit.

the hard facts:
when: monday, september 17 (starting with dinner), through wednesday, september 19 (ending after lunch).
where: spring hill camp, in evart, michigan (more on this below).
hosted by: hosted by mark oestreicher, kurt johnston, and eric venable.
for whom: paid middle school-only church staff with a minimum of 2 years of experience.
how much: $225, including meals and housing.
limited to: a maximum of 70 attendees.

what’s the vision? we want to create a peer environment, with youth ministry staff who are committed to middle school ministry only (sorry, we know there are many people who care about middle schoolers, but have much broader responsibilities). the vision for a peer environment means this is not a seminar. the three hosts will be guiding conversation, but our hope and expectation is that everyone who attends add to the conversation, help create the discussion plan, and contibute as equals.

why spring hill? we wanted to keep the costs down on this adventure. and spring hill has graciously offered to partner with us, giving us a greatly reduced rate in order to be a part of providing a space that ministers to middle school ministers. the upside of this is that, with meals and accomodations included, we are able to offer this summit for only $225. the “downside” (for some — others will love this!) is that we will be campers. in other words, you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag, and accomodations will be in camp cabins (spring hill has decent cabins, though).

why three hosts? first, let me make sure you know the hosts. i’m marko, and while i spend my day job at ys, encouraging youth workers, my youth ministry passion has always been middle schoolers. after a long time (i’m old) as a full-time middle school ministry pastor, i’m now a middle school ministry volunteer and small group leader, creating all kinds of problems for the poor middle school pastor at my church. kurt johnston is the middle school pastor at saddleback church in orange county. he’s written a bunch of books (including four with me). eric venable, after many years as a middle school pastor in a handful of churches, is on staff at youthfront in kansas city, where, among other things, he encourages middle school ministry in the kc area. our reason for having three hosts is that we want to be able to break into smaller discussion groups. all the hosts are attending without receiving an honorarium, because they are passionate about ministering to other middle school youth workers.

how will i get there? that will be up to you. spring hill is about a 90-minute drive from the grand rapids airport, a little less than 2 hours from the lansing, michigan, airport, or about 2 1/2 hours from the detroit airport. drive up. carpool with others who are attending.

how do i register? stay tuned for that. this post is the official “hold the date” notice. we’ll get info out on the reg process very soon!


27 thoughts on “announcing: ys middle school ministry summit”

  1. paid middle school-only church staff

    I understand the minimum experience, but why only paid staff? Some of us volunteers can contribute, since the majority of the churches in the US are small and only have volunteer leaders.

  2. jeff — i can totally understand what you’re saying. and there’s no question that there are volunteers in middle school ministry who have MORE to “contribute” than some paid middle school youth workers.

    but we’re trying to create a peer environment at this event, and there are dynamics of being employed by a church in middle school ministry that are truly unique (even for someone who might not have as much experience as some volunteers).

    re-stated: it’s not about who has something to contribute and who doesn’t. it’s about commonality of experience(s).

  3. Scott Rubin & the willowcreek folk hosted a branch off of your yearly gathering this past january for midwestern big church people. it was the most beneficial training thing i’d ever been to, as it required so much less contextualization than the average gathering. thanks for continuing to help organize swell stuff.

  4. Okay 2 things…

    SpringHill is only 40 minutes from my Church. YEAH!!!

    I can arrange for travel pick up for anybody needing a ride from the airport. Which is only 10 minutes from my church.

    Thanks Marko and team.


  5. Or the Detroit Airport. Most flights don’t come into MBS (midland, bay city, saginaw).

    But I’m available for anybody that needs help getting here.

  6. This looks rad! I’m going to send my MS guy Curt. when are we going to do a HS one?

    I’ve also hired a 5th and 6th grade guy this year. Would he be able to come?

  7. Marko,

    I am the full time paid MS pastor at my church, BUT I also do HS too. Is it still available to me or am I penalized for being both?

  8. jonathan — hmmm, i’m not sure about the 5th and 6th guy. it will really be middle school peeps, not pre-teen peeps.

    scott — i’m not clear what you mean. if middle school is your primary responsibility, but you also oversee hs, that’s fine. but if you’re saying you do ms and hs; sorry, this event isn’t for you, bro.

  9. Cool Stuff- is this an annual thing, you have been doing a while? How do we get more info. and register, etc.. Especially if you are only taking 70!!

  10. dan – this is a spin-off of something that’s been going on for years. i’d like to think it will be annual – but since it’s our first time, we’ll have to wait and see! more on reg very soon.

  11. The “paid staff” is a big turn off and is elitism and an insult to volunteers.

    I’n not “paid staff” and have not been “pad staff” for the nearly 30 years of volunteering 30 hours a week, a large part of it to JH aged youth.

    “paid staff” means nothing more than 1. you were hired by someone because you needed a paycheck to perform your ministry. 2. you’re one of the many out of touch church “paid staff” who collect the paycheck but lack the passion. 3. are of the YS mindset that “paid staff” run ministry when just the opposite is true.

    YS has always been elitist and condescending in their approach to ministry, supplying “paid staff” with an easy out to not prepare or build a unique ministry.

    Since I am not “paid staff’ I doubt my opinion counts for much.

  12. Jim,

    I am a full time paid yp and I find your remarks troubling. Do you think it is fair to group all paid staff yp’s into a group and define them as passionless? It seems to me that you are lashing out because you feel as though you’ve been dicriminated against, but haven’t you also done the same with your comments?

  13. Jim
    Hey bro…sounds like you have some anger built up there. Did you not read they are trying to get people together based on “commonality”? There’s a massive difference in what we deal with, versus what an unpaid volunteer deals with. It’s not elitism, it’s not biased or racist – it’s simply trying to get some people together who all deal with the exact same issues and letting them talk. Chill out.

  14. wow…so three guys put together an event, design and lead it for free, a retreat center joins in and charges pennies on the dollar to nurture some youth pastors and then get hit with a criticism that they devalue volunteers?

    I’m confused…an attempt at loving on youth workers has turned into questioning the motives of YS. I think over the last 7 or 8 NYWC I attended I recall that the group who gets the loudest cheers from attendees and most kudos from the stage are volunteers.

    Maybe a constructive next step might include intentionally inviting these 70 paid folks who are invited to attend this event to make themselves available at NYWC in the fall so that regional groups might be able to offer the peer environment that volunteers are looking for.

    I am really sorry that anyone has experienced YS, Marko, and others as elitist. Be encouraged, Jim, your impression of YS is atypical.

  15. I would have to agree with the question about why paid? I work in the Catholic Church, I have maybe heard of one Full Time Jr. High Youth Minister….

  16. I am only 22 and I have worked specifically with junior high kids for the past 4 years. I have been paid (a small amount) for some of that time. I certainly am not in junior high ministry (or ministry in general) for the paycheck! To me, the money is a necessary evil. If I don’t get paid, I can’t pay my rent and I can’t spend as much time doing ministry because I have to have another paid job (which is the scenario for me right now).

    I don’t think this event is meant to be an “elitest” group by any means. I simply think that middle school ministry is a very specific ministry to a specific population of people, and youth ministry is often catered to high school students. So, this could be a very helpful resource for “paid staff” who can, in turn, relay what is learned back to others who minister to junior high students.

    I hope I can go!

  17. Wow, Jim…you sure seem to care a lot about a program being put on by a group who has “always been elitist and condescending.” I applaude your 30 years of ministry, but YS has a target audience for this gig, and sorry, you’re not it. (And neither am I.)

  18. I just have a question as to if Middle School people feom para church would be included. I am paid staff at a church right now, but by the time this happens I will be on staff with a para church organization. Would we be included, too. I only ask because I am very interested and have a deep passion for middle school ministry, this is where I have been called to for now, though.

  19. I am a part time paid jr hi minister. Are you requiring only full time, or is part time paid ok? This sounds like something i am really interested in!

  20. sorry for the delay in responding (been in a cabin on a mountain this week!)…

    jim — i am so sorry to hear that’s your impression of YS. i’m sorry that we’ve done whatever it is we’ve done to give you that impression. and, truly, it is so far away from our hearts. we love being champions of volunteers and champions of small churches also. if you would like to call me, i’d value a chat with you about what has given you this impression of ys (my number: 619.440.2333). as to this event, i have no hesitation that a 30-year vet like yourself would have much to add to any discussion of middle school ministry, and that you would know much more than some of the 3 year punks who get a paycheck from a church. that’s not at issue here. with this event, we’re trying to create a safe place for those who employed in ministry to young teens. it’s not at all an issue of being elitist: it’s about the commonalities that come from being in a staff position (usually one of the least appreciated positions on a church staff, but also a fairly unique position, as so many churches don’t have a paid middle school specialist). part of what we’re trying to do is encourage those people to see the value of this ministry and stay in it, rather than viewing middle school ministry as a stepping stone to some other sort of ministry (like, high school ministry).

    donna: yup. part-time is fine. hope you can join us.

    jessica: you can decide if it’s the right fit for you.

    jeremy: i’ve known many paid middle school people who are catholic. in fact, we’ve had two attend the “jh pastors summit” that spawned this event. admitadly, it’s not as common in catholic churches as it is in protestant churches; but then, neither is having a youth minister at all.

  21. As a pastor with primarily middleschoolers in our small church youth group, I am excited about the sharing that will be done. I look forward to the outcome of this gathering. I look forward to this growing into a much anticipated yearly event from which much is derived for us to use to assist us in our own unique settings. I understand your limitation to just fulltime middle school workers;however, there are a ‘whole ton’ of us who work within churches that are smaller than many middle school groups. I hope that this gathering causes for the NYWC to have even more classes in this age bracket.

  22. Please send me the information on sign up. ([email protected]) I am VERY interrsted in attending. I was promoted to the MS ministry only 4 1/2 years ago after serving in youth ministry for a little of 10yrs. However, I am struggling and would love to be with some like-minded (old) middle school pastors.

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