Tag Archives: msmc

Tic Long will be at the middle school ministry campference

yup. big awesomeness.

many of you know tic long. tic worked at youth specialties for pretty much all of his adult life, well more than 30 years, until this past fall. he has given his life to youth workers. the dude is thoughtful, direct, articulate, insightful, creative, and–no question about it–fun.

many of you also know that tic and i have the friendship that shouldn’t have lasted, through the ups and downs of youth specialties. many of our friends have encouraged us, at various times, to not be friends. but somehow–by the grace of god, and by the grace of tic–we’ve weathered it. privately and publicly, we enjoy being together, and have great respect for each other. and i’m sure glad that’s the case, because these days tic is the executive pastor at my church; and i get a big grin on my face every time i see him on the church campus, or hosting a service.

so, a couple months ago when we were hanging out, i said something like this:

tic, last year at the middle school ministry campference, one of the fantastic surprises was the role michael flaherty, the CEO of walden media, ended up playing. sure, he gave one of the main session talks, and that was great. but the surprise was two-fold: first, he hung out with people. and second, he instigated fun.

kurt johnston and i talked about how much that added to the event, and how it would be great to find someone who could play that role again. but it’s not a role many could play. when adam and i were brainstorming, it struck me: there is pretty much no one on earth who could provide that combination of things better than you, tic. i’m wondering if you would be willing to come to the MSMC and do three things:

  1. give one of the main session talks.
  2. be our resident sage, someone that middle school youth workers can sit with and talk, someone who will listen and care about them.
  3. and, finally, i want you to mess with us, instigate fun, and be playful.

tic got a big grin on his face, and said he’d love to be there. he knows, as do i, that those are three things he will completely rock.

in addition, we’ve landed another absolutely brilliant presenter for a main session and other nefarious roles: mark dowds. many of you won’t be familiar with mark, but the dude is almost a savant in his brilliancy. mark is from ireland, where he was a youth pastor. after moving to canada, mark worked in a church for a while, and lead the staff of one of the largest camps in north america. then, he took a leap and started using his combination of natural insight and psychological training to consult with ministries and organizations, including both some of the biggest companies in canada, as well as a little company in san diego called youth specialties. mark worked with our entire staff, and provided leadership for about 10 leadership team retreats, shaping ys and each of us (tic and i maybe the most — in fact, we probably owe the continuation of our friendship to mark, in some ways). then mark jumped again, starting multiple companies himself, eventually moving to the san francisco bay area, and launching a series of tech start-ups.

bottom line: the dude is probably the most insightful person i’ve ever met (really). and, he’s an absolute blast. mark has also agreed to give one of the main session talks, and to hang out for the whole weekend, stirring the pot with his leprechaun magic.

i am off-the-charts ecstatic about these two guys–tic and mark–joining us for the MSMC; because i want nothing more than for this event to be the single most amazing and encouraging three days in the lives of people who work with young teens in churches; and i’m confident that tic and mark will dramatically increase our ability to do just that.

if you work with junior highers or middle schools in a church or other ministry context, i really hope you’ll join us on october 26 – 28, at spring hill camp in seymour, indiana (southern indiana). i hope you’ll bring a team, or recruit a few ministry friends to join you. it really is our tribal gathering, and you just can’t miss it. we need you and your voice. registration is open, so click through and check it all out.

registration for the middle school ministry campference is open!

i haven’t written much about the middle school ministry campference in a while, and i have some very exciting news taking shape (to be announced in a couple more weeks, hopefully). but in the mean time, adam and i decided to go ahead and open registration. we didn’t change the rate from last year — still the same absurdly cheap price for an all-inclusive event. in other words, get yourself to the campference, and everything else is included:

    – program
    – accommodations (in cabins, but still)
    – all meals
    – a flower necklace upon arrival (wait, no, that’s from the MSMC hawaii in my dream last night)
    – close encounters with marko’s beard (i don’t know what this means yet, but as i wrote it, i realized it’s going to need to be something more than five words here. i feel a crowdbreaker coming on.)

at the risk of sounding like a sales pitch (let’s be honest: i am pitching you, because i really want you to join us), most three day events cost around the price of this, or more, but don’t include accommodations and meals. which means that your cost easily doubles or triples.

the only reason we can price this thing so low is due to our wonderful partners: spring hill camps, christ in youth‘s jh believe, group missions tripsweek of hope, and simply junior high.

here’s what a few of last year’s attendees wrote on their evaluation forms:

The MSMC just confirmed the importance of middle school ministry and confirmed my calling from God to continue in this work.

MSMC was everything you love about camp – fireside chats, laughing until your sides hurt, worship, and the felling you’ve made an entire army of new friends who love random, awkward, authentic, and deeply impressionable middle schoolers. I left refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to go back and love middle schoolers and their parents to Jesus!

MSMC was a great experience! From late night silliness to deep discussions about the lives of middle schoolers, I truly feel energized and ready to do ministry.

This unique event allows us to learn in a conference style while at the same time getting to hash out application in the laid back camp feel. It was also an incredible time of sharing life, ministry, joys and sorrows with other middle school ministers.

if you genuinely care about junior highers and middle schoolers, come to our tribal meeting this october 26 – 28. here’s the website. just scroll down to register (and get the early bird rate between now and the end of june).

exciting stuff happening at the youth cartel

i’ve been thinking i need to write a summary of some of the cool new things going on in the youth cartel. but then i noticed that adam posted one the other day. so being the lazy slacker that i am, i’m going to repost what he wrote!

Lots of cool things happening with The Youth Cartel. Here’s some new things to point out.

Middle School Ministry Campference – Save the date. We’re doing it again. This time we’ve moved a few hundred miles south to Seymour, Indiana. And I’m using inclusive language because I’m going to be a part of it this year! link

A brand new look for the website. Simply put we had outgrown our first look/feel. That’s not unusual for a start-up. The plan all along has been to flex as we grow. Well, this new site has some serious design muscle to flex, at least I think so. link

Launching a job page. This week I started a job page for our site. Our hope is to connect revolutionary youth workers with revolutionary churches. link

Our first book in the iBookstore. On Tuesday, our Extended Adolescence Symposium ebook went live in Apple’s iBookstore. It’s been prominently featured on the Religion, Christianity, Health, and Psychology pages. We’ve got lots more planned in this department. link

We have a very busy events calendar. Marko and I have a lot booked in the category of youth worker training and family ministry. Like the iBookstore, we are dreaming about lots of cool stuff in this department right now. link

We’re continuing to serve ministry organizations. About half of my time each week is invested in serving behind the scenes with some amazing youth ministry organizations. I’m totally loving this part of what we do. link

Long story short, these are exciting days for our brand new little start-up. We are growing like crazy. Marko and I just keep looking at each other in awe– holy smokes this is a blast!

Pray for us as we deal with the realities of our growth. We have many massive decisions in the coming weeks/months.

announcing the 2012 middle school ministry campference

last year i took a big risk. well, i took a bunch of them; but one of them, for sure, was to put on the first-ever national event just for people who work in churches with junior highers. this is my tribe-within-a-tribe, my people. i love middle school youth workers maybe even slightly more than i love middle schoolers themselves.

four amazing organizational partners believed in the dream and took the risk with me (simply junior high, christ in youth, group mission trips, and springhill camps). i called in favors from middle school ministry friends (who, frankly, didn’t take much convincing, because they couldn’t stand the idea of missing it). and 75 people trusted us enough, or were desperate enough, to attend the event. honestly, i was worried — a month out — that it was going to be too small. but as the event drew near (last october), i had this deep sense that the size was going to be just perfect for the first time out. i still figured, at that point, that it was a one-time thing.

then the middle school ministry campference happened. and all of us who were there felt like we were on holy ground. we could tell we were onto something. every single one of my hopes and expectations were surpassed. it was like no other youth ministry training event i’d ever been to. “speakers” stayed for the entire event, hanging out, having meals and conversations and laughing fits with the level playing field of attendees. even michael flaherty, the CEO of walden media, instigated late night shenanigans.

people who attended said things like:

MSMC was everything you love about camp – fireside chats, laughing until your sides hurt, worship, and the felling you’ve made an entire army of new friends who love random, awkward, authentic, and deeply impressionable middle schoolers. I left refreshed, encouraged, and challenged to go back and love middle schoolers and their parents to Jesus! (elizabeth)


The MSMC just confirmed the importance of middle school ministry and confirmed my calling from God to continue in this work. (andy)


Wait! There are other people like me? I think this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed the campference. To hang, talk, laugh, pray and cry with like-minded people. (mark)

and, people begged us to do it again.

honestly, i kinda put out a few fleeces to god. i don’t know that they were hard-and-fast fleeces. but they were questions i needed god to answer for me.

first, i needed to know that at least a couple of the partner organizations would support the idea. i checked with them, and was thrilled to find out they were all ‘in’ for another year (that was a huge confirmation from god, actually).

second, i felt we needed to find a good location for the campference that was farther south. this was a conflict for me, because springhill camp in evart, michigan, had been such a generous partner, with a facility that rocked. but springhill came back and offered their south camp, in southern indiana. check.

finally, i wanted to hear from my inner core of middle school ministry peers (a.k.a., the “speakers”). 100% unanimous, they were all in, and certainly not with reluctance!

so, here we go! the 2012 middle school ministry campference is a reality, and the site is live. we’ll take registration live in a couple months (though you can enter your info if you want us to let you know when that happens, or keep you informed of other developments). just yesterday i invited a very special guest to join us, someone i would be so completely, off-the-charts stoked to have join us.

much more to come in the months ahead. but i hope — if you care about junior highers and middle schoolers — that you will join us this year.

ever seen conference rules like these?

in the first ‘tribal gathering’ (our main sessions) at the middle school ministry campference, i took the group through our “camp rules.” i’d like to think they are fairly one-of-a-kind for a youth ministry training event (or any church ministry event for that matter):


  • If you ask permission, you will be shunned.
  • Most things on the schedule are optional.
  • The rest of the things on the schedule are optional.
  • If you even think about breaking curfew, you will be praised.
  • If you sleep through breakfast or a meeting, you get spirit points.
  • A lack of interruptions during breakouts will not be tolerated.
  • For reals: We are peers here. Seriously.
  • The only thing that is not optional: it is not an option to be a dominating, arrogant, longwinded douchebag.
  • No one cares how crappy or lovely you sing. Bring it. We love you.
  • Play Hard. Try something new. Eat something bad for you. Unload something (it’s safe here).
  • This is Vegas.
  • Be here.

probably wouldn’t be wise to use these for a youth event; but, you know, this was for adults. :)

middle school ministry campference, day 3

sorry for the time delay, there, between my posts about day 1 and day 2 of the middle school ministry campference. day 3 was a blur of wrapping up the campference and traveling home, compounded by a laptop that died that morning. yesterday was a blur of sorting out said computer problems (which resulted in breaking down and getting a new laptop, in the end).

so, day 3!

after breakfast, we had our final round of breakout sessions, including a seminar by katie edwards on ‘developing volunteer leaders’ and a dialogue facilitated by brooklyn lindsey with the zippy-fun title of “brooklyn’s secret sauce: swapping recipes for what works”. springhill camp staff also led a learning experience called ‘freakin’ awesome games.’

in our final tribal gathering, we opened with an extended time of worship, punctuated by a sweet time of celebrating communion together. it was a deep blessing for me to see circles of middle school youth workers huddled up, praying together, arm-in-arm. we’d asked them to circle up and figure out how they wanted to experience communion together; but we hadn’t told them to spend time, arm-in-arm, praying together. so it was beautiful to see most of the circles lingering in that space and connection.

brooklyn read some final ‘camp mail’ letters (words of encouragement from senior pastors to middle school pastors attending the event), and we laughed our way through a hilarious game with nutty prizes. i woman with zero budget and zero salary (but who “works” full time) won a massive prize package from simply youth ministry, as well as a free registration to the symc — it was a beautiful moment. then, i spoke about what i called “eutychian middle school ministry.” i unpacked the story of paul and eutychus, from acts 20, suggesting that the first half of the story is a great example of bad middle school ministry:

  • paul is focused on his lesson plan above all else
  • paul likes the sound of his own voice too much
  • paul buys into the banking model of spiritual formation
  • eutychus is so relationally disconnected that on one notices his risk taking bahvior

and the second half of the story is an example of great middle school ministry:

  • the community SEES eutychus
  • paul gets awkward in order to connect
  • they shared life, not just teaching
  • they had an all-nighter! (’nuff said)

brook led everyone in a closing bit where they shouted out response completing the sentence prompt, “I believe…” beautiful and thoughtful and encouraging and hilarious statements poured forth about our identity, about the importance of middle school ministry, and about the impact of the weekend.

we shuffled off to lunch, and gave various hugs and handshakes and goodbyes.

i couldn’t be happier with how this event played out, in every way. and, reading through the evaluations, the positive response seems fairly unanimous. two or three months ago, i would have said i didn’t think we would repeat the event after this year. but now, with the 80 who attended almost begging for a repeat, and with my little soul so full of gratefulness and joy, i’m thinking we just might have to try it again next year. i have a few bridges to cross in figuring out if we can do that: but i sure hope and pray we can. stay tuned!

middle school ministry campference, day 2

ok, i know this event is my baby, and that i’m biased. but i really don’t think i expected the middle school ministry campference to go this well. it’s not that i thought it was going to go poorly; i just don’t know that i expected this.

jason hoffer, our wonderful host from springhill camp, was standing with me in the “game room” tonight, a large room full of booths, tables, ping pong and pool tables. and we were seeing dozens of clusters of middle school youth workers, just hanging out together and having fun. some were playing games. others were debriefing the day or getting to know each other better. and jason said, “this is what i always hoped this event would be.”

after breakfast this morning, we had morning breakout sessions, including dialogues on a cool variety of themes. people were totally ‘in’. my morning session was on the implications of recent adolescent brain research; and we had a lively discussion that felt like a group of friends brainstorming together.

we went straight to our morning tribal gathering. scott rubin and brooklyn lindsey led a hilarious game that only partially worked, which was part of the hilarity. we’d found these stuffed angry birds at walmart, and staged a large scale “angry birds live”, with youth workers launching angry birds using a slingshot aimed at a pile of boxes with stuffed angry bird pigs here and there. the ‘camp mail’ letters from senior pastors blessed everyone again, as did johnny scott’s worship leading. then steve argue gave an amazing talk about how we move (and how we help middle schoolers move) through fear and doubt to faith. he talked about faith as a verb, and walked us through peter’s steps on the water as an example of moving from one place of faith, through fear and doubt, to a new place of faith.

after lunch, we had another series of breakouts, and were then on to free time. now, since this is a campference and not a conference, free time included:

  • ziplines
  • horseback trail rides
  • paintball
  • climbing wall
  • high ropes course
  • a texas hold-em tournament
  • a dodgeball tournament
  • and lots of hanging out and talking

after dinner, we had another tribal gathering. kurt johnston and brooklyn led pingpongpalooza, we gave out a bunch of funny prizes, johnny led worship, i read camp mail, and we had a wonderful talk from michael flaherty. mike is the founder and CEO of walden media, the producers of all the narnia movies, as well as dozens of other films, including holes, bridge to terabithia, and charlotte’s web. mike told stories, which was awesome. he included much of his own story, and riffed a bit on the power of stories to shape us (and middle schoolers). he included lots of cool insider stuff, and responded to lots of questions. mike is the real deal, coming to the MSMC at his own expense, and staying with us for the entire weekend. his presence and engagement with people was a great gift.

then, free time again this evening, which included the game room i mentioned at the beginning of this post, as well as indoor high ropes and climbing wall, and a euro-bungie. we ended the night with a campfire, complete with campfire songs.

yup, another amazing day. oh, and the sun broke through the clouds today (which wasn’t forecast), which was a huge answer to prayer.

i came into this event wondering if we should repeat it. but i’m starting to think we simply have to find a way to do it again next year.

seminars, dialogues, and learning experiences at the middle school ministry campference

at the middle school ministry campference in a few weeks, we’ll have loads of fun, we’ll have some awesome tribal gatherings, and we’ll have a variety of smaller break-outs. in these smaller setttings, everyone’s voice will be heard. we’ve said it from the beginning on this event: you are needed, and you will be heard.

we’ve just finalized the 14 options for these break-outs, and they fall into 3.5 categories:
seminars: more content from the speaker, but still with plenty of time for questions and discussion
dialogues: the speaker will host a conversation that they’re passionate about (and have some specific knowledge about)
learning experiences: outdoors, active, participatory. you won’t just hear ideas, you’ll try them out.
(you’ll see the other 1/2 format below)

Kurt Johnston

• How can we move away from programs that isolate JHers without being reactionary? — dialogue
• Program vs. Relational vs. Missional (defining your ministry style) — dialogue

Katie Edwards

• Developing Volunteer Leaders – seminar
• How to rock it as a volunteer — dialogue

Brooklyn Lindsey

• Middle School Girls – seminar
• Trends that are impacting us, or should be — dialogue

Johnny Scott

• Creativity and Intentionality in Programming — dialogue

Scott Rubin

• Working with Parents — dialoginar (yes, i made up another word. scott and i were debating on whether to make these a seminar or a dialogue, and we decided to split the difference!)
• Middle School Guys — dialoginar

Me (marko)

• Implications of Adolescent Brain Research – dialogue
• Middle School Culture — dialoginar (yes, i’m going to use that too!)

SpringHill Camp Staff

• 15 fantastic community building activities that anyone can do — learning experience
• Time fillers (when you’ve got to kill a half hour) — learning experience
• Freakin’ awesome games — learning experience

it’s not too late to register! check out the website here; or go here to register.

this just in: katie edwards joins the MSMC speaker roster

i’m stoked — katie edwards has agreed to join us for the middle school ministry campference. i’ve known katie for a long, long time. she’s a veteran middle school youth worker, and is currently the junior high director at saddleback church. she’ll be with us for the entire event (as will almost all of the speakers), and will play a few key roles:

1. she’ll lead a dialogue for volunteers on how to rock it.
2. she’ll lead a seminar for team leaders (paid or not) on developing volunteers (this is katie’s specialty).
3. and — i’m pumped about this — katie will present one of our four ‘soapbox’ rants in the tribal gathering given to that. i can’t wait to hear what katie has to bring us!

you might also know katie from the old simply youth ministry podcast, now called ‘youth ministry garage‘ (along with doug fields, matt mcgill, and josh griffin).

we’re in the final stages of planning for this awesome event, which is less than a month away (october 14 – 16). i’ll have a post next week about the various seminars and dialogues and learning experiences that will be offered.

here’s the website; or go here to register!