Tag Archives: ymcp

calling all youth workers who want to grow

ymcp leafi’ve written about the impact of the youth ministry coaching program many times here on this blog. it continues to be one of the most deeply satisfying things i’ve ever been a part of in ministry. the combination of youth ministry conversations and real-life sharing, support and accountability, simply put, brings the sort of whole life growth that i just don’t see happening in other contexts (conferences or grad school included).

here are a handful of quotes from grads of the cohort i recently completed in san antonio, texas:

YMCP impacted me in so many ways this year – motivation, inspiration, and a desrire to seek more for me, my vocation and the ministry God has called me to. Marko pushed me to think more, read more, and be more discerning in my life, and he helped me rekindle an enjoyment and desire for learning. One of the core values I hold most dear is the pursuing of deep, persistent, and authentic relationship. What Marko created and presented in YMCP is very congruent for me and this value that I hold so dear. He enabled us to not only gather as individuals to be fed, lifted up and encouraged, but he brought about transformational change at the core of each of us.
Mike Woods

I have been deeply impacted by Marko this year. His wisdom, experience, love for youth ministry, and for our Lord are so evident in all he has done for us and how he treats all of us. I am so thankful to have had this year under his guidance – especially because we share a similar background – I feel like this was so clearly God’s hand. I really needed someone who could understand they why behind so many of the things I have been struggling with and working through. I’m thankful Marko was so willing to walk with me through this, and so patient with the back and forth of trying to figure things out. I will be looking back at this year with gratitude for many, many years to come. I have a renewed hope for my ministry and my life because Marko cared and was willing to use the gifts God has so clearly given him.
Abby Richards

YMCP helped me put words to what I was thinking, feeling, and dreaming for ministry in general. YMCP is special because it doesn’t just affect one area of your life, it affects everything. What an amazing experience that will impact me for the rest of my life.
Trey McCarty

Participation in the yearlong coaching program has strengthened my ministry to the youth of my parish primarily by the outstanding guidance of the program’s coach, Mark Oestreicher. He’s an exceptional coach, leader and facilitator. He speaks truth in his experiences as a youth worker and a faithful follower of Christ. He brings excellent resources in the form of study materials, self-evaluation, and discovery.
Marilee Pankratz

and here’s a video that got me all choked up watching it. the evangelical presbyterian church is working on filling a couple YMCP cohorts of their own. and they produced this video as part of getting the word out, interviewing 3 EPC youth workers who have been through the program (btw: if you’re an EPC youth worker and interested in these cohorts, let me know):

i’m currently starting the process of launching one full face-to-face cohort, and two more online groups.

the full YMCP cohort will meet in san diego (6 meetings of 2 days each, over the span of a year). i’m hoping to launch this one in may if we get the minimum of 8 participants. if you’re interested in considering that, please contact me ([email protected]), or go to this page on our website and read the materials (including downloading the overview doc, with all sorts of details).

i currently have two ‘beta-test’ groups of the online version of YMCP 1/3 of the day through their 9-month program. and i’ve experienced enough of it to know that it works. the online version is not the same thing as the full experience. but, instead of just sticking the full, face-to-face version online, myself and a few graduates worked to create an online experience that embodies the same values, and many of the elements, while maximizing the opportunities of online and acknowledging the limitations. for instance, the online groups meet for 3 hours every month, for 9 months. and they are groups of 5 (instead of 8 – 10).

i’d like to launch two more online groups in the months ahead (not before mid-march). contact me ([email protected]) if you’d like me to send you the overview doc for that program.

of the 88 past and present participants, 87 completed the program. the only one who didn’t got a job that made it impossible. not one of the 87 would say that it wasn’t worth every dime.

i have a great sense of anticipation as i post this, thinking about the youth workers i will soon get to know on an intimate level that moves us all into life-long friendships.

a case study of developing vocational values

shawn kiger is one of my heros. he’s been the youth pastor at the same small church (in a small town) for something like 14 years. and he has zero “aspiration” to move on to something “bigger or better.” shawn’s humble tenacity has resulted in all sorts of beautiful strength, both in his own life, and in the congregation where he serves (a congregation which, since he’s been there so long, is very much his church, not just the place he’s employed). there’s a certain grounded influence one can only have when one knew almost all the teenagers in the youth group from the day they were born.

but shawn is not coasting. he’s a learner, and seeks growth in his life and church and ministry. he proved that by jumping into the year-long process of the youth ministry coaching program. and, recently, he posted on his church’s blog about one aspect of his year in YMCP — the development of vocational values. i loved his post, and thought i would share it as a great case study (btw: shawn’s the bald guy off my right shoulder in this pic of his YMCP cohort – click the photo for a larger view):

From September 2011 through August of this year I was involved in a Youth Ministry Coaching Program. This cohort was made up of 10 youth pastors from all over the country and our leader Mark Oestreicher. We met every other month for two days in Nashville. In the off months there was homework to do, books to read, and a coaching call from our leader. This program is what they call whole-life coaching which means that we not only worked on our youth ministry knowledge, but also on ourselves. This program was hands down the best training I have ever attended and well worth the time and effort that I had to put into the last year.

One of the main things we talked about over the past year was values. What are the values that we live by in our own lives and what values are leading our ministry. This is something we don’t think about very much. We usually lead our lives and our ministries by what we think is right. Most of the time we never take the time to actually sit down and think about why we do the things we do. That was one of the great things about this coaching program. We were given time to think about what is most important to us and how we live that out both in our personal lives and in our ministries. The rationale behind taking this time to do this is so that we have a clear picture of where we want to go and how we are going to get there. The following are my personal vocational goals I came up with for myself.

  • Family time is essential to my well-being. Meaningful time with my family gives me life to accomplish everything else.
  • The church is essential to our faith. I believe God created the church to help us grow and live out our faith. I want to help the church live up to that.
  • God has called us to love others and to serve with the poor. I believe Jesus showed us how to love others. We need to stop talking about it and start doing it.
  • Personal growth and change is required to be who God called me to be. Learning new things and trying new things is the best way for me to reach teenagers for Christ.
  • Becoming a disciple of Jesus takes a discipline life. Daily God calls me to learn more about Him and to come closer to following Jesus’ example.

These 5 values are what make me tick. If I live these out, I believe I will be living what God has called me to be. Now I don’t always do all of these very well and never do all 5 of these perfect at the same time. But by having these written out, I can see where I am giving too much attention to one and leaving out another and then make changes to correct that.

shawn used this post to announce that he’s launching the process of collaboratively discerning the values of their youth ministry, and to enlist the church in praying for that process. really good stuff. shawn’s values — and eventually, the ministry’s values — act as rudders. for all of us, spiritually discerned values function as rudders that steer our little dinghys through the choppy waters of change.

current reading list for my coaching program (and a question about a virtual cohort)

in my youth ministry coaching program cohorts, there’s a reading assignment for the first five of our six meetings (the last meeting has a TON of prep, so i don’t assign reading). i’ve modified the list a bit from the first year of YMCP to this last year. here’s my current list, and why i have participants read them (if you’re not interested in the list, skip to the bottom of this post and consider my semi-related question):

for the first meeting:
Youth Ministry 3.0, by some dude
my book is a bit dated in some ways (i wrote it about 5 years ago, after all). i keep thinking i should write a Youth Ministry 3.1: What I Wish I’d Said (though, i ended up covering quite a bit of that in A Beautiful Mess, though indirectly). however, i assign this book first because i want to have common language in the cohort for many of the issues we’ll talk about. in fact, i lead a conversation based on the content of the book for about 2 hours at each of the first two meetings (where each of the other books get about a 45 minute discussion). whatever its weaknesses at this point (and they are there), YM3.0 still provides what i believe to be an accurate description of the primary changes in youth culture over the last 60 years, and a bit of backstory to books like Sticky Faith and Almost Christian, as to how we got where we are.

for the second meeting:
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon MacKenzie
when yaconelli announced that i was going to be the president of ys, old ys insider (and wittenburg door staffer) craig wilson — now known as mcnair — sent me a copy of this book. i think it’s the only book other than the bible that i’ve read four or five times, all the way through. and i wish every book i would ever read would be like this one: full of amazing stories that act as perfect metaphors for concepts and ideas. in this case, the concepts and ideas are about maintaining your creativity when you’re part of an organization with red-tape and bureaucracy and constricting systems. the metaphor of the title is brilliant in-and-of itself: don’t get caught in the hairball, but don’t shoot off on your own trajectory. maintain orbit, staying connected to the hairball, and exerting your own gravitational pull. a freakin’ brilliant and wonderfully weird book, if there ever was one.

for the third meeting:
Teen 2.0, by Robert Epstein
i don’t know that i can think of another book — any other book — that i’ve ever read that has both shaped my thinking about adolescence, parenting, and youth ministry, while regularly pissing me off or driving me nuts. and, as about 70 people in my YMCP program have slogged through this long-winded but gripping diatribe, i could count on one hand those who wished they hadn’t bothered. you’d never know it by looking at him, but epstein is a freakin’ wild man, a voice in the desert, a logician and scientist who’s still very willing to use hyperbole and exaggeration. really, i’m not sure how else to describe this book (at it’s core, btw, it’s a description of how the “false” construct of adolescence came to be present and assumed as an unshakable non-negotiable). annoying? yup. longer than it needs to be? you bet. enlightening and perspective-altering? yeah, absolutely.

for the fourth meeting:
either Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, or Delivering Happiness (not the comic book version, by the way!), by Tony Hsieh
one of the central themes of my coaching program is the importance of values. i’ve blogged about this a bunch (here’s an example of that), so i won’t harp on it here. but we work on and talk about values quite a bit in YMCP. after the meeting where each partipant spends time crafting a first pass at their own personal vocational values, i have them read one of these two books (they can pick, or read both). both are amazing case studies of leaders who lead their organizations primarily by ruthlessly bringing alignment (and re-alignment) to the organization’s values. they lost revenue because they cared more about the values. the made tough choices. they messed (both admit where they got it wrong, and where they were tempted to compromise on their values). after reading these books, we talk about what it cost them to embrace their values, and what they gained. then we bring that around to our own contexts.

for the fifth meeting:
A Beautiful Mess: What’s Right About Youth Ministry, by the prince of Saturn
i added my new book to my cohorts this past year because it felt like a nice book-end to the opening of Youth Ministry 3.0 (like i said, it clarifies some things, and emphasizes some things that were barely mentioned in YM3.0). but while participants are reading it, i ask them to be ready for these discussion questions:

  • What theology is explored here? How do you resonate or react to it?
  • Where are you most encouraged by what’s happening in your youth ministry? What does that reveal about God?

i also keep almost adding Almost Christian, by Kenda Dean, into the mix (probably replacing one of the current books). i haven’t added it in the past, because i’ve normally assumed most youth workers have already read it. but i keep finding that only about 25% of my participants have read it, and it really is — in my opinion — the single most important youth ministry book in the last 5 years (though it’s a very challenging read). each cohort ends up talking about it in roundabout ways, as i reference it so often; and most of my participants added it to their own self-assigned homework at one point or another.

Question: i’ve been toying with the idea (because multiple people have asked for it) of beta-testing a virtual cohort of the youth ministry coaching program. i’m a bit hesitant, because i think a massive, irreplaceable aspect of the value of the program is that we meet, face-to-face, for two days, every other month. that face time fosters the formation of a safe little tribe. each cohort grows to love one another and depend on each other for growth and support and accountability. and that just can’t be the same with a virtual cohort.

however, i know that there are just people who either cannot or will not find a way to pay the $3000 for participation in the full program. so… i’m wondering: if i beta-tested a virtual cohort (we’d probably meet one day/month, for about 4 hours, in a G+ hang-out), would you be interested? we could still cover some of the same ground; and it would be substantially cheaper, of course (though i don’t yet know what that means). anyhow: comment below, or shoot me an email ([email protected]) if you’re interested in exploring being a part of this beta-test. if i get 6 to 10 peeps, i’ll probably give it a whirl.

Youth Ministry Coaching Program update

i’m in winston-salem, north carolina at the moment, leading the 5th of 6 meetings with my YMCP cohort here. tomorrow i fly to nashville, for the final meeting of that cohort. my san antonio cohort is halfway done, but will soon be my only current cohort.

as i’ve written here before, i’m looking to launch a few more cohorts this fall. a couple of them are denominational groups, and will be “closed” (in that they pick who’s in them). but i’ve been shooting for a handful of other locations. here’s an update on those:

  • nashville. this cohort looks very likely to fill. i have 5 confirmed (out of 10 spots), and about 8 more people figuring out funding and timing. but, if you’re interested in joining a cohort — this is the one to jump on. i hope to launch this one in late september or early october.
  • canada (vancouver and calgary). i’m still hoping this cohort is going to fill. i’ll be co-leading with matt wilks. we’re on the edge, and need to get a few more participants to make it work. if you’re interested, please contact matt or myself soon!
  • greenwich, CT (NYC). i have 2 confirmed for this one, which i would co-lead with brock morgan. but we’re working on some potential scholarship funding, which could make it possible for a bunch more people. waiting to see if that works out.
  • san diego and atlanta. well, i don’t think these cohorts are going to fill. there doesn’t seem to be enough interest for either of them, unless there’s an unexpected response in the next few weeks.

one of the denom cohorts i’ve been working on is with the evangelical presbyterian church. they’re hoping to launch two cohorts in 2013 — one east of the mississippi, and one west. they put together a video with two senior pastors of previous participants, talking about the experience of their youth pastor. this was shown at the EPC general assembly a few weeks back. nice endorsements!

if you’re interested, please contact me: [email protected] click here for more info.

paul martin connects coaching and real discipleship

i just returned home from nashville, where i had the 5th of 6 meetings with my youth ministry coaching program cohort that meets there. such an amazing group of youth workers, and we had an amazing time together.

recently, YMCP grad paul martin riffed on the connection between coaching and discipleship on his blog. i really loved the post — not only because he affirms me and YMCP, but because i hadn’t really thought of YMCP as discipleship before. but, in many ways, it is. here’s what paul wrote:

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Mark Oestreicher’s Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). As an graduate, I have posted and talked to church leaders and youth pastors about the many benefits of coaching. If you’ve never heard of it, definitely go check it out. There isn’t a better opportunity for new and old youth workers out there.

I’m not writing because of the benefits of coaching programs. This is about the church. Simply, the church has failed in doing its primary function of making disciples. It reminds me of the beginnings of organizations like Young Life. If the church were doing what it should have been doing to help teenagers in the first place, there wouldn’t have been any need for Young Life. Likewise, if the church were discipling young people (and old people too) into coworkers in their communities, coaching wouldn’t be needed.

The church downgraded discipleship into a system of education. It now has measurable outcomes based on life stages and spiritual maturity. This removed it’s mission replacing it with the mindset of a factory foreman. I said in another post that the church had castrated itself. I wish that were true. At least then this mindset would have died, and the church could have been reborn. Instead, the church has courted people through one-off prayers of conversion leading to an epidemic of illegitimate children. It’s shameful.

There are many cures needed to help the church steer out of the mess it has made. Coaching is the best I’ve seen. It’s hard, glorious, slow, painful, redeeming, Biblical and proven. Why would any church seeing the constant failures of the current system hesitate to make use of a coaching program? It’s way cheaper and less time consuming than seminary. On the other end of the spectrum, it infinitely more effective than small groups, conferences or, as in the case of most leadership development in churches, nothing. This is a no brainer.

cohorts are now forming for the fall of 2012, with plans for san diego, nashville, and three other cities. click here for more info.

The Point of Youth Ministry Coaching

quite a while ago now, the fine peeps at Canadian Youth Worker, asked me to write a short article on youth ministry coaching, highlighting the youth ministry coaching program for their Canadian Youth Worker Resource Guide (pdf).

i have to say, this journey of coaching youth workers is interesting. after 63 participants over 7 cohorts:

  • i’ve not had one person drop out
  • i’ve not had one person think the program wasn’t worth every penny
  • i’ve seen more life change and transformation (skill, maturity, character, leadership, ideas) than anything else i’ve ever been a part of in youth ministry training, by far

and yet, it’s SO tough to fill new cohorts. i know the price level is a big hurdle for many, though i also know i’ve seen people move heaven and earth and re-arrange their lives to get the growth they want. so i’m struggling a bit to understand why these new cohorts (2 i’ll lead, in san diego and nashville, and 3 i’ll co-lead, in atlanta, NYC, and canada) aren’t getting more traction. part of the struggle, i’m sure, is my extremely limited marketing reach; and part of it, i’m sure, is how difficult it is to explain what YMCP really offers (which is why the current and past participants are so much better at putting words to it than i am).

here’s what current participant tom clutter had to say:

This program is an oasis in the lonely desert that youth ministry often feels like. Somehow I come away from each meeting feeling affirmed, called out, and hopeful all at the same time. Plus, after being in the same room with Marko’s beard for two solid days, deacon boards and staff parish committee’s seem much less scary.

and dan jones:

The meetings and months of our cohort have been some of the most intensely challenging and rewarding ones of my life. I did not expect the amount of personal growth that I’ve experienced; this has hurt, in all the right ways. Professionally, I’m also convinced that no conference, training, seminar or class I’ve taken has had as significant an impact on my ministry day-to-day as these hours with Marko and my fellow participants.

well, i’d love to chat with you, via email or skype or phone, if you have any interest or questions about YMCP. i’d also be more than happy to hook you up with a current participant to get the spin-free perspective.

here’s what i wrote for our friends up north:

Off the Bench: The Gift of Getting Coached

One of the trends i’m greatly encouraged by in the world of youth ministry is the rise of coaching. there have been lots of training options for a long time; but most of those have, by their very format, relegated attendees to being passive observers, learners by listening only.

But we all know, from our own lives and from our youth ministry efforts, that the best learning is more experiential and dialogical. that’s the beauty of good coaching: it’s contextual (not assuming a one-size-fits-all approach), it’s rooted in conversation (which ramps up application and learning a hundred-fold), and it’s small (big is great for hype and motivation, but not the best for growth).

i experienced a major “grace of God” gift a few years ago. My boss, the CEO of Youth Specialties’ parent company, decided to pay for coaching for all of her executive team. She paid a huge chunk o’ change for me to participate in a leadership coaching program with a gifted Christian psychologist who specialized in leadership development. the cohort model (a group of people, meeting regularly and traveling a learning journey together) provided both a safe place to hone in on my baggage, and to experience massive personal growth in almost every area of my life—including my ministry context. that was the year i got laid off from my job; but the coaching fee had been pre-paid, so i got to complete the whole thing (talk about a blessing, given what i was going through!).

Out of that profound learning and growth experience, i fashioned the Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). it’s a whole-life cohort-based coaching program, designed exclusively for youth workers. i’m leading my sixth cohort right now, and am continually blown away by the deep, beautiful growth i’m seeing in all the participants. a Canadian cohort of YMCP, may be starting up this fall. whether you join us in this opportunity, or find something else (there are other options), i could not more strongly encourage you—based on my own experience—to find a coach who will point you towards growth.

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!

jeff goins on the youth ministry coaching program

last year, in my first nashville cohort of the youth ministry coaching program, i had a participant who was a little bit of an anomaly. he wasn’t a youth pastor (as most YMCPers are). instead, he was a ministry minded guy who happened to work for a short-term missions organization, trying to connect with youth workers. he boss paid for him to participate in YMCP for a combination of personal growth, and to get a better sense of the real needs of real youth pastors.

i hope we accomplished the 2nd of those goals. i know we saw the first one take place.

jeff goins is a gifted a brilliant leader, writer, and ministry mind. so i was thrilled to fantastic post on the value of coaching (really not about YMCP, but — c’mon — by inference, it is!)


Why You Need a Personal Coaching Program

We weren’t meant to do life alone. Without a good team — and a good coach — we’re left with little direction or guidance.

Many of us have believed the lie of the self-made man or woman. But in order for us to become our best selves, we need a quality support network to challenge, affirm, and empower us.

I just finished up my year of being a part of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). Although I’m not a vocational youth minister, Mark Oestreicher was kind enough to allow me to be a part of his cohort.

It was the best professional and personal development decision I’ve made in a long time. Maybe ever.

I thought I’d sit in a lot of long meetings that would be informative, but relatively boring. I should’ve known better.

I was blown away by times of teaching, prayer, and personal sharing. I connected with the other ten members of this group in ways that I’ve seldom done with other groups.

I made lifelong friends. I was encouraged to pursue my dreams and walk more confidently in my identity. Oh, and I learned a few cool things about youth culture and ministry.

Everyone should pursue some kind of professional coaching program. Here’s why:

Good coaching challenges you

This group called me out when I was wrong or asked more of me when they knew I was holding back.

I learned that I can be arrogant and dismissive from this group. I learned that I still need to grow in my inner life and that while I know a thing or two, I don’t know everything.

I was challenged to be humble, open, and honest with others who are different from me.

Good coaching affirms you

The first time we met, someone asked me what my dream was.

“I guess it’s to be a writer,” I said, questioning myself.

“That’s ridiculous,” someone said. “You already are a writer.”

I’m not a big sports guy. I was on the golf team in high school for a year and was in a lot of spelling bees. That’s the extent of athletic, competitive involvement.

When I did do anything remotely athletic, I sensed that the coach was embarrassed by me. In fact, he occasionally would say so. It made me never want to try. So I didn’t.

In this group, conversely, I learned to believe things about myself that were already true. And I started living into them. This blog is a direct result of my involvement in the YMCP. There’s no other way around it.

That’s what good coaching does.

Good coaching empowers you

Perhaps my favorite part about this group was the “confession” time.

Now, this is not what you may be thinking. Clear your mind of images of sitting in a dark cathedral confessing your sins to a disinterested priest.

Every time we met, we would circle up our chairs, look each other in the eyes, and whoever had something they wanted to talk about, they would share.

We shared triumphs and disasters in our lives. Sometimes, we gave each other advice. Other times, we shared a moment of silence together. Deep dark secrets were divulged, and beautiful healing happened.

This kind of openness allowed us to feel safe enough to begin making important changes in our lives. As a result, we did things we never would have dreamed of this year.

That’s what a good coaching group does. They help you do your job better by first changing you. I love how we did it — collaboratively and in community. It was powerful.

Your turn

If you can find something like the coaching program I did in your own town (or even if you have to travel far to find one), I heartily recommend doing it. It’s well worth any investment of time or money you spend.


btw: jeff has written a few excellent ebooks (and his first — also excellent — traditionally published book coming soon). his latest ebook, which i’m not sure would have become a reality were it not for YMCP, is a fantastic charge and practical steps for would-be writers, called “You Are a Writer: So Start Acting Like One.”

announcing the 2012 plans for the Youth Ministry Coaching Program

over two years ago, when i was trying to figure out what to do with my post-ys life, one thing was pulling at me more than anything else: starting a coaching program for youth workers, built on what i had learned about myself in the coaching program i had been through with dr. john townsend. so, in early 2010, i launched the beta group of the youth ministry coaching program, with 9 youth workers in san diego (who traveled to our meetings from 5 different states). very quickly, i could see that i was really onto something: a whole-life coaching program rooted in personal and professional growth, wholeness, and leadership. a safe community where honesty was prized. accountability and customization, providing what each person needed for practical growth.

six months later, i started a second cohort with 10 youth workers, meeting in nashville (that group is having a reunion late next week, with all 10 attending, from 9 states). i’ve discovered much about myself in the process of leading these groups, including the reality that i love this more than anything else i do. i feel like i was made for this.

this year, i’ve been running four more cohorts of 10 people each, in san diego, nashville, winston-salem, and san antonio, plus a modified cohort for some of the staff of a church in detroit. here’s what some of them are saying:

Emily Capes, Pensacola First UMC (Pensacola, FL)
I am so thankful to have been invited to join such an incredible group of people that make up our YMCP. Marko is so intentional to hear and be present to each one of us but also allows us to listen, challenge and encourage each other. Every time I head home after a few days together I am overwhelmed with what a gift we all have in each other. It is rare to sit with men and women in the ministry who are willing to be so vulnerable so quickly. I wish everyone had the chance to be a part of YMCP – to know what it is like to be heard, valued and allowed to sit as part of our incredible Body of Christ in such a beautiful way.

Christopher Freeman, Ward EPC (Northville, MI)
Mark has a profound depth of intuition when it comes to understanding both a person’s strengths and weakness…it is an unmistakable gift of his. Every time I have been with Mark he has used this gift to bring the best out of me, and in such unexpected ways. I am not exaggerating here when I say that I would NOT be leading with the confidence I currently have had it not been for the insights and tools offered to me by my times with Mark.

Rocky Supinger, Claremont Pres (Claremont, CA)
There’s really no way to overstate the value of the YMCP. The interaction with a cohort of dedicated and creative youth ministry leaders is invaluable, and the one-on-one coaching and spiritual direction grounds the learning in practices and actions. It’s the most valuable youth ministry development opportunity I’ve ever had.

Mikey Pitts, Bay Pres (Bay Village, OH)
I was searching the youth ministry job boards and on the verge of resigning my church. My wife and I had already begun punching the numbers for a season of transition. When my church agreed to support my cohort participation, we felt it was God giving us a chance to step back and breathe. The cohort for me has been invaluable and life changing. It has been a year of sanctuary, presence, growth, clarity, and learning sustainability. For once in my ministry career there are people more concerned about my health and my growth then the ministry I am leading. It was a cohort of people like me who understood me. They were looking for the same things I was looking for and on the same path to be figure out what it meant to be the sustainable youth workers God called us to be. Once I was able to step back and heal, I figured out that my church wanted the same thing for me.

this year — 2012 — i hope to launch a handful of new cohorts, starting in august, september, or october. i’ll be leading two on my own. and i’ll partner with a few very carefully chosen co-leaders for a few more. depending on what fills up, the plan includes:

  • san diego
  • nashville
  • atlanta (which i’ll co-lead with paul martin)
  • greenwich, CT/NYC (which i’ll co-lead with brock morgan)
  • vancouver/calgary (which i’ll co-lead with matt wilks — this cohort will meet 3x in each city)

each cohort meets six times over the span of a year for 2-day meetings, filled with rich discussions, problem solving, personal sharing, one-on-one coaching, spiritual direction, and other components. you can download a PDF of a more detailed program overview here.

the cost for the two i’m leading on my own is $3000; and for the ones i’m co-leading (where i’ll be at 2 of the 6 meetings), the cost is $2250. i realize this is a steep hurdle for some; but i can honestly tell you that every single one of the 59 past and current participants would tell you it worth every penny.

a few more unedited quotes from current participants:

Shawn Kiger, Lane Memorial UMC (Alta Vista, VA)
The YMCP has been the best and most helpful professional development I have experienced in my 14 years of youth ministry. The love and support I have received not only from Marko but all the other members of the cohort have helped me to not only be a better youth minister but also a better husband, father, and Christian. I have recommended this program to every youth minister I know!

Kimberly Clarke, St. Matthews UMC (Greensboro, NC)
I was hesitant to join this cohort because I felt it would overlap with my master’s program in youth ministry. In actuality, it has turned out to be the perfect compliment! This cohort has encouraged me to reevaluate and improve my whole health–spiritual, physical and emotional–so that I can best minister to others. Marko’s wit is deceptive and masks a truly sharp mind. He is quickly able to hone in on the root issues, offer you the opportunity to make tough choices about self and ministry and guide you to resolution. Being able to bond and share with my cohort members is icing on the cake. Truly a God send.

Jonathan Odom, Beavercreek Nazarene (Beavercreek, OH)
When it comes to professional development, there are many options from which to choose. However, if your experience in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program is anything like mine, there’s no debate. YMCP is truly great because it isn’t solely about professional development. It focuses on whole-life transformation that will help you develop professionally, but more than that, you will grow as a Christ-follower. If you believe that value-driven, whole-life formation is the most valuable commodity you have to offer your ministry, then YMCP is for you.

Jesse Oakes, Lake Avenue Church (Pasadena, CA)
After nearly a decade of service and training in the church, parachurch, and seminary, YMCP is easily the most formative personal development program I’ve ever experienced. The chance to grow as an individual in community is wonderful. The return on investment makes YMCP a bargain.

i’ll be taking applications and filling spaces on a first-come, first-served basis, starting immediately. if you have any questions at all, please email me ([email protected]).

YMCP, NYWC, and the Symposium

what a week this is. tomorrow, i start a two day meeting with the san diego cohort of my youth ministry coaching program. it’s only my second meeting with this cohort, so we’re all still getting to know each other. i can’t wait — it will be a particularly great time, i’m sure. when we met last, one of the (many) things we did was brainstorm a list of topics they would like to discuss at some point throughout the year. two of the top subjects (we voted), were “balancing family and ministry” and “handling criticism.” well, it just so happens that my good friend and youth pastor (who also happens to be the youth pastor at the church we meet at, and a YMCP graduate himself), brian berry, has done a bunch of thinking on those two subjects. he’s done seminars on them at the NYWC and SYMC, and is writing books on both of them. so, brian is joining my cohort one morning to lead discussions on those two themes.

thursday, i head to atlanta for the national youth workers convention. i’m leading three things while i’m there:

– a panel on ‘the future of youth ministry.’ i’m moderating, but the amazing panel includes: brooklyn lindsay, steve argue, brock morgan, and andy tilly. friday, 4 – 5:30.
– a learning lab on ‘how teens think.’ sunday morning (yawn!), 8 – 9:30.
– a learning lecture called ‘toward a ministry of belonging.’ sunday afternoon, 1:30 – 2:30.

i have a crazy full schedule during the rest of the event — current and potential client meetings for The Youth Cartel, old and new friends, publishers and partners. in short: a blast.

then: monday: the extended adolescence symposium. yup, i’ve been blogging about this one for a while, and it’s finally here. two leading thinkers and a brilliant moderator, helping us understand the strange phenomena that is extended adolescence. it’s just a one day dealio — 8am – 3pm. and it will be nicely intimate (probably about a hundred of us); so lots of opportunity for conversation and questions. there’s still room, btw.

but here’s a cool thing (if you’re still reading this blog post all the way down here!). my good friend luke macdonald believes in this event. luke and i, by the way, shouldn’t be friends, my many peoples’ estimation. he’s in a very conservative, reformed church of the stripe that usually doesn’t trust me. but luke took a gutsy risk and joined the youth ministry coaching program last year. in the midst, i came to greatly respect, trust, and enjoy him.

anyhow: luke believes in the extended adolescence symposium, and wants to support it, even though he can’t attend. so luke texted me and told me he wants to pay for two tickets, and that i can give them away to anyone who can’t afford them. first person to comment telling me you want to come but can’t afford it gets them. let me know if you want one or both tickets.