Category Archives: the youth cartel

middle school ministry campference, the time is now!

hey, my middle school/junior high ministry peeps. as i travel around the country and connect with youth workers, i’ve had so many tell me they’re jazzed about the idea of the middle school ministry campference. so many have told me they’re thinking of coming.

but… if i’m being totally honest with you… the current registration numbers don’t reflect that.

we never expected this to be a big event — in fact, we didn’t want it to be big. we wanted to create an intimate, open, dialogical tribal gathering. i’m stoked about how fun it’s going to be, and how unique. but the event is drawing near (october 14 – 16), and it’s time for action.

so, i’m hoping (and praying) that more of you will click through and join us.

all but one of our speakers/presenters/dialogue leaders is one of us – an in-the-trenches young teen youth worker. the one who isn’t is michael flaherty. you might not know michael’s name, but you’ve been influenced by him, as have every one of your middle schoolers. that’s because michael is the founder and CEO of walden media. walden is responsible for all the narnia movies, as well as holes, charlotte’s web, bridge to terabithia, journey to the center of the earth, and a host of other films. when the middle school pastor from michael’s church told me that michael might be willing to join us, i asked if he could speak about the importance and power of story, and i’m really pumped to hear what he has to say.

andrew, the middle school pastor at michael’s church, put together this little intro video for us:

hope you can join us!

help the youth cartel with the extended adolescence symposium

some time ago, i started to read and learn about the phenomena of extended adolescence. the short story is that adolescence, in the united states, is now considered to be close to 20 years in duration, from about 11 on the young end, all the way to about 30 (on average) on the upper end. of course, with the loss of high school graduation and the marker of turning 18 as fairly accepted ending points, the ‘normal distribution’ is very wide — there are young adults who are fully functioning as adults in their early 20s, and others who stay in adolescence into their 30s.

the inertia on this thing is around commodifying this ‘new developmental life stage’ — the upper end commonly referred to as ’emerging adulthood.’ culture at large, as well as businesses and churches, are quickly buying into this as the new normal. some are even saying it’s good.

but there are a few voices (in the minority) who are saying, “what a minute; maybe this isn’t good, and maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.”

i started to dream about an event where we could explore this tension, particularly around it’s implications for youth ministry and the church. i talked about it with my partner in the youth cartel, adam mclane, and he had a bunch of energy around it also.

we put together an A-list of who were would love to have — long shots, really. and we thought about how great it would be to offer it in atlanta the day after the YS national youth workers convention (monday, november 21). with the blessing of YS, i went after our long-shot A-list: Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, the author and academic who coined the term ’emerging adult’; Dr. Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0 and a leading dissenting voice; and Dr. Kara Powell, a brilliant youth ministry academic who we felt would rock it as a moderator (and youth ministry interpreter). somewhat to our surprise, they all said they would love to be a part of it!

so the EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE SYMPOSIUM was born… kind of.

the plan is for a one-day event, rich with presentations, dialogue, and moderated debate.

but we still had a significant problem: how to fund the thing. we’ve enjoyed seeing how kickstarter has become a very cool platform for people trying to fund creative ventures. steve taylor’s film adaptation of don miller’s book blue like jazz was, for a period of time, the highest funded project on kickstarter, after the film lost its funding and fans came to the rescue.

we’re not blue like jazz, or don miller, or steve taylor. but then, we don’t need to raise a quarter million dollars either. we only need to raise $6000.

we’re hoping you’ll help us. there are a cool variety of sponsoring levels, each with their own benefit to the donor. you can get an mp3 of the event, an abridged ebook of some highlights, a reduced price ticket, lunch with one of the speakers, a nice steak dinner with me and adam (!), or even become an official sponsor of the event.

but we only have a few weeks to nail down the funding, as the speakers have all graciously agreed to wait until then to see if we can pull it together. so september 17 is our deadline.

click through to our kickstarter page to learn more about the event and the various donation levels. spread the news — please — via your own networks (email, facebook, twitter, G+, etc).

we really think this thing could be significant in helping us all wrestle with this juggernaut of extended adolescence, and its implications for us in the church who care about teenagers and young adults.

will you help us? better yet, will you join us?

kurt johnston offers 5 reasons he’s excited for the middle school ministry campference

kurt johnston, who oversees all of student ministries, and is hands on in junior high ministry at saddleback church, is a key player in the formation of the middle school ministry campference. recently on his blog, he posted these 5 reasons he’s excited about the MSMC.


If you work with middle school students, and haven’t heard about the upcoming Middle School Ministry Campference, hosted by Mark Oestreicher’s new ministry, The Youth Cartel, let me be the first to tell you about it!

In short, it is a three-day conference in a camp setting…thus the title, “Campference”. I am really excited to be joining the fun, and am looking forward to it for several reasons:

1) It’s middle school specific. There just isn’t much (if anything) out there that targets the young teen youth workers. Every general sesssion, every workshop…everything about the event…is designed to encourage and equip men and women who work with middle schoolers!

2) Marko is the leading thinker and “banner waver” in the junior high ministry realm. Frankly, I just want to be part of something he is putting together because I know the conversations will be rich.

3) I want to hang out and rub shoulders with others who actually enjoy middle school ministry!

4) I’ve always wondered what camp would feel like if we could go to camp without students! And that is exactly what the campference will be. it will feature all the cool things of camp, but we won’t have to worry about our junior highers! Too good to be true.

5) October is the perfect time of year for a retreat. Fall is in full swing, and the holidays are still a few weeks away…a perfect time to set aside for some personal growth.

Please consider joining us for what promises to be an amazing event.


don’t wait! register today and join us for the party.


over a year ago, barefoot ministries launched slant33, a creative weekly online set of three responses, by three contributors, to a question that youth workers would find helpful. it was a great start, and mostly interesting. but it also got a big academic at times, and not quite connected enough to the real world of in-the-trenches youth workers.

so, after a nice hiatus (i think slant33 vacationed in cancun), barefoot came to the youth cartel, and asked us to reimagine it for a year, taking the lead on identifying a new slate of 20 contributors, coming up with the 52 questions for the year, and moderating the whole shebang. they redesigned the site, making it much more user friendly. i’m stoked about it, and really hope you’ll follow it this year, engaging in the comments and joining in the dialogue.

the newly re-launched slant33 went live yesterday! new slants will be posted every monday. you can subscribe via email or rss here.

the list of contributors is amazing, including a wide variety of youth ministry thinkers and practitioners with great diversity in every way. check out the list of contributors here.

the first slant, that went live yesterday, has responses from kara powell, ian macdonald, and tiffanie shanks, to the question: how do you pursue personal skill growth?

as a tease, the next six slants, going live on mondays in the weeks to come will be:

– How far out do you plan your calendar? Why? What’s your process?
– How do you determine the line between vulnerability and over-sharing?
– In what practical ways do you find solitude and rest?
– What time and expectation boundaries should be non-negotiables for youth pastors?
– How is the priesthood of all believers fleshed out in your ministry? How does that impact your role?
– How do you decide what to teach?

and there are 45 more questions following that!

i hope you’ll join us!

(oh, and i need a small handful of guest contributors for a few slants throughout the year. let me know if you’re interesting in writing one!)

GUEST POST: paul martin reflects on his YMCP experience

one of the highlights of my experience at leading the 2010/2011 nashville cohort of the youth ministry coaching program was getting to know paul martin. we’d met before, but didn’t really know each other. he’s such a gifted and thoughtful youth worker (and person, in general) that i often felt like i was co-leading the cohort with paul. at our last meeting (at the end of the cohort’s 6th and final 2-day meeting), i asked paul if he would consider writing a short reflection on his experience, as a guest post. paul’s blog, btw, is here.


As I drove home from my Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP), I struggled with another experience to compare it to. Conferences seem like high school pep rallies compared to it. Seminary wasn’t nearly as personally challenging. Cruising at a leisurely pace down I-65 and giving myself plenty of time to digest this rare opportunity, nothing seems to fit into a nice neat description of what has just ended for me.

Maybe this is similar to what the disciples felt after their time with Jesus. It seems like it, after a year of meeting with ten other people from various other places in the church. Like Jesus’ chosen twelve, we seemed to stumble through trying new skills, having our comfortable ministry lives tested for strengths and weaknesses. The result feels much like Jesus renaming Simon and calling him Peter. Jesus recognized something deeper in Simon that changed his identity. Each of us has realized a depth of our unique character inside us, that now surfaces in our lives.

This wasn’t just a learning environment, though. Each encounter was designed to force a confrontation between ourselves and our ministry practices. Though we read books and discussed them, the focus wasn’t on the always on the content, but rather how we interacted with the ideas. I was surprised at how much I got out of the group. As an idea guy, I’m used to new ideas. They way the group interacted with each other and the ideas created a depth that one person just couldn’t plumb.

there was freedom in the personal coaching time to talk about those ideas that were stirred up in our learning time, but Marko always challenged and affirmed how they would play out back in my own context. This is more than mentoring. I found that Marko’s longevity in youth ministry likely stems from his ability to recognize and encourage youth workers. Because of his experience, he can easily connect ideas to application.

I can’t wrap this up in a small package. The benefits are just too numerous and too complex to summarize. I do remember thinking going in that this was a big commitment with a sizable cost. Having completed the experience, it was such a bargain. The experiences of seminary and conferences, though valuable, just can’t compare. If you work with youth and can commit to the process, I can think of no better way to grow as a person and a youth leader.


we’re in the final weeks of filling this year’s YMCP cohorts. the san diego cohort is full; and nashville is very close to full (a spot or two may remain). there’s a good amount of room in the others. check here for details.

a big day for The Youth Cartel

let’s start with this: watch the video.

hopefully that video allowed you to chuckle a bit, and get an actual overview of our news today. i started The Youth Cartel several months ago. but for a while, it was just the umbrella under which i put all the stuff i was doing (including the Youth Ministry Coaching Program and the Middle School Ministry Campference). my friend and former ys co-worker, adam mclane, has walked with me through this last 18 months, meeting for coffee, being a sounding board, developing my websites. i trust adam completely, and we share so much similarity in terms of vision for youth ministry and the church.

recently, adam and i began a conversation about what it would look like to partner together. while we share vision and values, adam has a complementary skill set to mine, and i knew The Youth Cartel would be able to offer so much more with him on board. so, after a couple months of dreaming, praying, planning, and working out details, i’m stoked to announce that adam is joining me, officially starting september 1 (but doing some part-time stuff prior to then).

not only does this ramp up what The Youth Cartel can offer, it put me in a place to re-imagine the future. out of our discussions, a shared passion came out to help identify and lift up emerging voices in youth ministry. we’re going to do this in a wide variety of ways, many of which are only ideas at this point. but we’re stoked about Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry; and the reality is, we can’t do that alone, nor should we.

today, in addition to that snappy little video (which we shot in the california desert this past saturday!), we’re unveiling a new website for The Youth Cartel. we invite you to poke around on the site. you’ll find a much deeper and broader description of what we’re doing.

and we’re launching a bunch of ways for you to connect, becoming part of The Youth Cartel:

  • “like” our new facebook page here. that’s a place where you can stay up to date on new stuff, youth ministry discussions, and a community of people who understand you.
  • follow our twitter feed here. we won’t annoy you with tweets about what we’re eating or the location of our oil change, promise.
  • sign up for our e-newsletters here. our first, youtube you can use, will launch in september, and provide you with a weekly link to a youtube video, as well as discussion questions and creative ways to use it. other e-newsletters will follow.
  • add The Youth Cartel blog to your reader. in addition to my blog and adam’s blog, The Youth Cartel blog will be a place for conversation and revolutionary ideas.

oh, and would you do me a favor? tweet this (see the button below), or post it on facebook or google+ (both also below). help me spread the word!

shoot me an email or leave a comment with your ideas. we’d love to hear from you. my hope is that this won’t just be a big day for The Youth Cartel, but will be the start of something fresh for the people i love: youth workers.

youth ministry coaching program – calling all ‘growers’

ok, i know i’ve written about the awesomeness that is the youth ministry coaching program many times here. and i apologize if you, fair reader, think i use my blog to promote stuff too often. but baby needs new shoes, and without the muscle of a big marketing machine behind me anymore (what?), i don’t gots much marketing options besides my blog and facebook (or the graciousness of blogging and tweeting friends). what’s a former youth ministry bigwig to do?


— senior pastors, looking for a way to invest in your youth worker’s growth and longevity (rather than cycling through a new youth pastor every few years)?

— youth pastors at larger churches, looking for a way to fast-track the growth and health of a younger team member?

— rookie youth workers, looking for a way to learn how to ‘lead up’ and gain some perspective and maturity that help you succeed?

— veteran youth workers, tired of ‘information dump’ seminars and events, and looking for a relationally-focused, fully customized program that helps you grow even if you’ve been around the block a dozen times?

here’s the dealio: i’ve never seen anything quite like the YMCP for creating growth in all areas of a youth worker’s life (youth ministry thinking, youth ministry practice, career goals, staff relationships, personal relationships, spiritual health, emotional strength and growth). i’ve had 19 youth workers go through the program so far, and would have expected that a few wouldn’t have connected with the approach. after all, if any program like this has a 75% “success rate”, that would be truly rare. but i’m tellin’ ya: every single participant has told me it was one of the most — if not the most — significant thing they have ever participated in for personal and professional growth. i’m a fan of grad school, but every participant who has also gone to grad school or seminary tells me they have learned more and grown more in YMCP than they did in their academic program.

luke macdonald, youth pastor at harvest bible chapel in the chicago area said, “There are lots of places to learn about the ‘what’ or ‘how’ of youth ministry. Mark Oestreicher’s YMCP leaves you with such strong sense of ‘why’ that all the other questions seem to fall into place. By focusing on personal growth and values, the YMCP has left me with a fresh view of ministry, a dozen lifetime friendships, and a wealth of knowledge. Truly nothing I have done in my life has ever brought more healthy introspection and growth towards the future. If you are wondering if it is for you, the answer is yes.”

nikki lowery of first baptist church in stockton (CA) said, “The Youth Ministry Coaching Program is more than learning how to lead a small group or finding out the 10 best ways to use a pool noodle. YMCP has been designed to sharpen, challenge and encourage you personally, professionally, spiritually and relationally. This holistic approach is what makes this experience unique and successful! YMCP challenged me down to my core and I am a better Youth Pastor because of it.”

and brian berry of journey community church in la mesa (CA) said, “The YMCP has been more fruitful and transformational in my understanding of ministry and leadership than any of my seminary classes or youth ministry conferences I’ve attended to date. As a 17 year veteran of youth ministry, I cannot think of a better way to stretch your leadership quotient or challenge your personal ministry philosophy than a year invested in the YMCP.”

so here’s why i’m writing about YMCP again.

i’m trying to fill 9 cohorts this year. 7 of them are open to anyone, and 2 are “off the radar,” funded by denominational groups who are populating them with their own peeps. of the 7 open groups, i’ll be leading two (in san diego and nashville), and i have amazing, carefully selected and trained coaches leading the other 5 (see here for coaches and locations). we need a minimum of 8 partipants (max 10) in each cohort to launch. and at this point, i have between 4 and 7 in each cohort. so none of them are launching yet. the ones that are closest to the tipping point are the two i’ll lead myself, in san diego and nashville. others are close to filling also; and unless you live in the pacific northwest, there’s a pretty good chance one of the cohorts is within driving distance.

i’d hate to cancel these when we’re so close to filling them; and because i’ve seen the impact of the program. i long to see youth workers grow in depth of thinking and character and spirituality and emotional intelligence. i long to see youth workers grow so they can stay a long time at their churches, or know that they need to move on. i long to see youth workers engage in the kind of safe and supportive sharing that is so rare to our worlds. heck: these 19 graduates are now 19 of my close friends (i’m not kidding or exaggerating), and i long to develop some more meaningful friendship with youth workers, like that.

here’s a sample 2-day schedule (all our meetings — 6 of them over the course of a year — are 2 days):

i’d love to get these cohorts off and running in september or october, which means scheduling meetings long before then. if you have any interest, please let me know ([email protected]).

i now return you to your normal, non-promotional blogging…