Tag Archives: msmc

in the afterglow of the Campference

i got home from the 2nd annual middle school ministry campference sunday evening at about midnight. there’s something very, very special about this event. i mean, when i was leading youth specialties, i would certainly come home from the nywc on something of a buzz. but i think that had to do with the magnitude of the thing, the force of nature it was. but the campference isn’t that, certainly. instead, i think it’s the intimacy of this event that sets it apart.

certainly, if you put 100 youth workers of any stripe at a camp setting for a weekend, a special vibe could (and most likely would) surface. but i think there’s the added dimension that middle school youth workers often feel a bit isolated. i mean, we’re youth workers, and are peers with high school pastors and the vast majority of youth workers who lead both middle school and high school ministries. but sensing a specific calling to young teens is, well, sort of weird. of course, i mean that in a good way. i mean that in a great way.

a friend emailed and asked me about the weekend. as i was thinking about what made it so amazing, i was reflecting on the potentially counter-intuitive fact that meal times were the best parts of the weekend! that’s sorta different, huh? but it was at meals that we all sat as peers — speakers, rookies, veterans, event partners — and talked about each others’ lives and ministries. with that connectedness, our main sessions (we called them “tribal gatherings”) were less about whoever was speaking or any other element of the stage program than about a shared experience with people we cared about, people with whom we enjoyed a unique and rare heart connection.

free time was just a chance to get away. example #1: a bunch of attendees (and speakers, since the speakers are in the mix the entire time) went skeet shooting on saturday afternoon. it was one of the free time options spring hill camp offered us. but it wasn’t just a few people doing something for the activity; it became a shared experience of cheering each other on and chatting about other things. it was a synergy that had very little to do with shooting guns at clay pigeons (the new cover photo on The Youth Cartel’s facebook page captures a bit of the feel of that time). example #2: saturday evening, we ended our formal program at about 8:45. people naturally split into about three groups: about 16 people started a poker tournament; in the same room, clusters of people stood or sat and talked; and, about 40 people carpooled into the nearby town of seymour, indiana (home of john cougar mellencamp! which is why some smarty was hashtagging his tweets with #mellencampference) to watch the world series at a buffalo wild wings. of course, youth workers at any event might gravitate that way; but this was a “let’s do this together” experience, with 30 around one table and another 10 around another table — whether they came to the event together or not.

there was also a stunningly beautiful thread through the speakers at the tribal gatherings — 7 talks (including 4 soapbox rants of only 7 minutes each). really, it seemed like we had planned a theme around honesty, hope, fear, and the interplay of praise and criticism. we didn’t plan it; but i think the spirit did.

this is a decidedly unslick event. when the slides didn’t show up in the right order, we all just laughed. when i shouted from the back of the room that there was a video that seemed to be skipped, no one thought “wow, this is an unorganized event!” that said, the stuff on the stage was awesome, hilarious, deep, thoughtful, provocative, insightful, and encouraging.

yeah. i sure do like this tribe. a few more pics:

some attendee posts about the event: kevin libick, terry goodwin

today is the reg deadline for the MSMC!

Things you can’t get away with doing at the last minute:

  • Scripting your wedding vows
  • Climbing Mt. Everest
  • Convincing your church budget committee to double youth ministry spending

Things you can get away with doing at the last minute:

  • Taking the stairs
  • Converting (hey, just ask the dude on the cross next to Jesus)
  • Registering for the Middle School Ministry Campference, because TODAY is the registration deadline, and there will be ugly and itchy late fees starting tomorrow.

join us!

a now, an extremely manipulative video from The Youth Cartel…

a brand new video for the Middle School Ministry Campference, starring my son, max (in the middle) and his friends cody and katrina:

and here’s the fine print:

Here comes the Campference!

If you give a rip about middle schoolers, this event is for you. In fact, it just might be the only national youth ministry event focused exclusively on ministry to young teens (THE coolest people on earth). Our little tribal gathering — part camp, part conference, all awesome — is approaching quickly: October 26 – 28, at SpringHill Camp in Seymour, Indiana. It’s the one place you can do all of these things and more:

  • have lunch with Kurt Johnston and find out why he’s so dang optimistic all the time.
  • sit down with Brooklyn Lindsey and talk about junior high girls, about the pageant circuit, and about the mysterious ritual she leads her girls in each year.
  • ride a zip-line without wondering whether homeschool Bobby is getting into trouble while you’re harnessed.
  • meet others who, like you, know that ministry with middle schoolers is not babysitting or prep for better stuff, but is, in fact, the best stuff (and the most critical years).
  • see if the moonlight or campfire is more reflective off of Tic Long’s bald head.
  • run your fingers through Marko’s surprisingly soft beard.
  • and so much more!

Really, take it from those who were there last year: this one-of-a-kind event is amazing. But it will be better if you’re with us.

seminars and conversations for the MSMC

this just in!

we have finalized the seminars and conversations for this year’s middle school ministry campference (october 26-28, in seymour, IN). it’s a cool slate of options, with some more traditional seminars mixed in with guided conversations and active sessions. of course, in addition to these babies, we’ll have a freakin’ sweet list of free-time and late-night options. and, of course, since it’s a campference rather than a conference, there will be almost endless opportunities for all sorts of additional conversations on whatever topic you want to add to the mix!

Scott Rubin
Teaching Middle Schoolers (whether or not teaching is your #1 gift) (seminar)
Developing Sticky Faith in Middle Schoolers (conversation)

Kurt Johnston
Partnering with Parents (seminar)
How To Last For The Long Haul (conversation)

Brooklyn Lindsey
Middle School Missions: Moving from maintenance to mission in your middle school ministry (conversation)
Understanding Middle School Girls (seminar)
The Ministry of Writing (how to get started) (late night)

Four Hours of Early Adolescent Development in One Hour (seminar)

Katie Edwards
Creating a culture of Servant Leadership (conversation)
Empowering and Encouraging Adult Leaders (seminar)

Adam McLane
Managing your 3rd life: Balancing work, family and social media (conversation)
Becoming Good News: moving from a program to a ministry (seminar)

Johnny Scott
Principles of Programming (seminar)
Jesus, Calling, and Your Story (conversation)

Mark Dowds
Self-knowledge: How to Get It and How It Impacts Your Ministry (conversation)

Tic Long
Honest Leadership (seminar)

SpringHill Camp Staff
GWAPS (games with a purpose) (active session)
The top 10 Best team building games (active session)

time to register! if you give a rip about junior highers or middle schoolers, this is the one and only event for you, baby!

how to use $30, two options (burn or invest!)

Alternative #1:

  1. Take $30 out of your purse or wallet.
  2. Stand over a toilet (but keep your pants on).
  3. Light the money on fire.
  4. Before it burns your fingers, drop it in the toilet.
  5. Flush, and say out loud, “No big deal; I’m loaded.”

Alternative #2:

  1. Click here.
  2. Register for the Middle School Ministry Campference – the premiere event for middle school youth workers (which is easy to say, since it’s the only event for middle school youth workers) – before this Sunday night, July 15.
  3. Save yourself $30, since the prices go up after Sunday.
  4. Have an amazing time at the Campference.
  5. Honor the Good Lord with your thriftiness and the stewardship of the widow’s mite (that that we’re guilting you or anything).

Really, those are your choices! We hope, for the Kingdom of God, that you’ll be wise enough to choose Alternative #2. Register for the awesome, one-of-a-kind, tribal gathering of young teen youth workers known as the Middle School Ministry Campference today!

Middle School Ministry Campference 2012: “Do You Like Us?” from The Youth Cartel on Vimeo.

do you like middle schoolers?

check out the little video we made for the middle school ministry campference. had a blast making it with these middle schoolers (the middle one is my son, max). if you like the message, we’d sure love to have you join us — the early bird deadline is july 15 (just 9 days away). and it would be GREAT if you would share this on facebook!

MSMC12 ad

man, i love the ad adam created for the middle school ministry campference to go in Group Magazine (both Simply Junior High and Group Missions Trips are partners on the event, so they were gracious in giving us ad space). i think the ad makes The Youth Cartel appear to be a real organization! :)

and, if you a middle school youth worker, i sure do hope you’ll join us.

things i learned and/or observed at my 6th grade guys small group pool party

my small group of 6th grade guys had a pool party a couple weeks ago as our final meeting of the school year. we take the summer off (a good break for me and for them), and will resume in september. it was a great night of laughter, silliness, sharing, and food. a handful of things i noticed:

– ask 6th grade guys to all bring a snack, and their creativity comes out. surely, moms were helpful; but i was amazed at the diversity. one guy brought a pan of taquitos he’d heated up himself. one brought a couple pizzas. two brought rice krispie treats that they had a hand in making (one with marshmallow fluff on top, the other individually wrapped in little zip-loc bags). there were brownies and bags of chips. but the prize of the night went to the chocolate covered bacon.

– put a bunch of 6th grade guys in a pool or hot tub, and they seem more like kids than teenagers. their “cool factor” goes away, and their pre-pubescent bodies are revealed in all their glory. but they are keenly aware of their budding selves. during the game of “sharks and minnows,” motivation was much more anchored in avoiding looking dumb than in being competitive (which would be different if they were in 8th grade).

– my co-leader, gary, has been bringing his “waterproof bible” to our small group all year. and the guys have been mesmerized by it. all year they have wanted to put it in the sink or test it in some other way. but it didn’t take long, at the pool party, for gary’s bible to become a prop for funny posed photos, causing gary to have to say, more than once, “please don’t land on my bible; it’s not made for that.”

– while consuming a table-full of munchies, we shared what we’re looking forward to about the summer. i was once again reminded of the uniqueness of each guy, including both their unique interests and their unique family situations. examples:

  • “i’m looking forward to NO SCHOOL!” vs. “i’m looking forward to summer being over, because i like school better”
  • “i’m looking forward to going to the beach” vs. “i’m looking forward to going to england”
  • “i’m looking forward to seeing my dad” vs. all the plans that assumed dad was in the picture

– i learned that while i can still effectively compete in a breath-holding contest and win, my days of effectively competing in a “number of somersaults in one breath” days are over. i still won (12), but it ruined me for 24 hours. i had a headache and was nauseous, and my sinuses were jacked through the next day. ah: old, you taker of things.

(btw: if you “get this,” you should be making plans to join us for the middle school ministry campference, this october 26 – 28.)

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!