Tag Archives: youth ministry training

seminars for the 2016 Middle School Ministry Campference

i just finished finalizing the seminars and late nights for this year’s Middle School Ministry Campference. i’ve written this many times, but the Campference is the most fun youth ministry event i’ve ever attended or been a part of. we overlay an amazing weekend of content (great main sessions and seminars) over a retreat vibe, with lots of hang time and conversations and weirdness (in a good way).

AND, the regular registration deadline is almost upon us — just two more weeks. after september 30, the group rate goes away, and the regular rate jumps up another thirty-five bucks. but, heck, the event is October 14 – 16 — so you should be registering before the end of this month anyhow!

here they are — the AMAZING 2016 list of seminars and late nights, presented by some of the most amazing and brilliant young teen ministry experts in the world:

Friday Night

  1. Adam McLane – Understanding Teenagers & Social Media (seminar)
  2. Tom Shefchunas – Double-Dog-DareAthon on Inviting “Outsiders” to Church (dialogue)
  3. Katie Edwards – Walking Middle Schoolers Through Difficult Times (dialogue)
  4. Alan Ramsey – Growing to Love 6th Graders (and Seizing the Opportunity) (seminar)
  5. Matty McCage –Four key investments today’s volunteer requires

Late Night Friday

  • How-To Sharpie Tattoos (Crystal Kirgiss)
  • Let’s Talk Confirmation (Heather Lea Campbell)

Saturday Morning

  1. Kurt Johnston – 7 Sins of Communicating to Young Teens (dialogue)
  2. Heather Flies – Effective Ministry with Middle School Girls (seminar)
  3. Scott Rubin – JH Ministry with HS Ministry in Mind (dialogue)
  4. Kenny & Elle Campbell – Leveraging the Uniqueness of Middle School for Faith Formation (seminar)
  5. Crystal Kirgiss – Developing Talk Series for Middle School Retreats and Camps (active learning)

Saturday Afternoon

  1. Mark Oestreicher & Tom Shefchunas – Pastoring LGBT Teens (and those wondering) (dialogue)
  2. Heather Flies & Crystal Kirgiss – Being a Woman in Youth Ministry (dialogue)
  3. Scott Rubin – Next Steps for New Believers (seminar)
  4. Kenny & Elle Campbell – Our Best Games and How We Play Them (active learning)
  5. Kyle Whitcroft – What Your Middle School Ministry Can Learn from an International Nonprofit (seminar)

Late Night Saturday

  • Multi-Site Youth Ministry (Kurt Johnston & Tom Shefchunas)
  • How-To Tiny Books (Crystal Kirgiss)

Sunday Morning

  1. Adam McLane – Working with Introverted Teens (dialogue)
  2. Kurt Johnston – Leadership: What I Know Now That I Wish I’d Known Then (seminar)
  3. Katie Edwards – Leading & Developing a Team (seminar)
  4. Crystal Kirgiss – 9 Ways to Engage Scripture Directly & Creatively (active learning)
  5. Mike Branton and the CIY Team: Maximizing Ministry Through a JH Intentional Space

What Would I Do Differently If I Started in Youth Ministry All Over Again

my newest column for Youthwork Magazine (UK) is now in print. hope this stirs your thinking. what would you do differently??

Recently I was interviewing someone for a ministry position while noshing on a fantastic Monte Cristo sandwich. We had a great conversation about life and ministry; but it was one-sided: I was asking the questions and he was responding.

But at the end of our time, the other guy asked if he could pose a question to me. Then he asked, “If you could go back and start in youth ministry again, what would you do differently?”

Before diving into this, I should probably make it clear that “going back” wouldn’t merely be a year or two. I’m 53 years old, and have been actively involved in youth work since I was 18. For the mathematically challenged, that’s 35 years. It takes imagination for me to remember anything from 35 years ago that I haven’t recently seen in a photograph (and, yes, we had color photographs back then).

I thought for a minute while chewing on a tasty bite of that sandwich made of French toast, ham, Swiss cheese, and raspberry sauce (props to the semi-crazy chef who thought of that!).

First, I acknowledged the easy stuff: I was an immature punk, overly confident on my natural gifting and under-reliant on Jesus. With that framing, I would make changes to significantly shift the focus off of me.

More easy stuff: 35 years ago was a different era. I did what almost everyone else did at the time—focusing too much attention on hype and events and entertaining teenagers. So, sure, I would change that. But so would most others.

Then it dawned on me, what I would really change if I could go back 35 years and start over in youth work: I would change me, my values, my priorities.

I’ve come to see something that many others have articulated in other spaces: The quality of ministry is first-and-foremost dependent on God. But next to that truth is the reality that the quality of the ministry is integrally linked to the inner life of the leader (or leaders).

With that in mind, here’s what I would do differently: I would actively and intentionally develop two parallel tracks for growth.

The Spiritual Vibrancy Track

Over and over again, I’ve seen good (but not great) ministries lead by youth workers with massive skill sets and a lack of personal spiritual vitality. And over and over again, I’ve seen amazing ministries helmed by leaders with B-level skills sets, but an interior life that is overflowing from a growing intimacy with Jesus.

If I could start again, I would pursue spiritual vitality over skill development. I would retreat and pray and seek mentors and read books and schedule down time all to the end of Jesus overflowing from my life all over every aspect of my ministry.

The Leadership Growth Track

In the coaching work I do with youth workers, I regularly get a glimpse into the reasonable ways one might separate good youth workers from great youth workers. I could parse that many ways, I’m sure. But I find that more often than not, the differentiation boils down to self-knowledge and the ruthless pursuit of growth.

Simply put: you can become a great leader by growing in self-knowledge and pursuing growth in a host of leadership character traits. Conversely, a great leader won’t stay a great leader if they’re coasting, if they’re decreasing in honesty, if they’re lazy about growth. After all, the most important aspect of leadership isn’t leading others, it’s leading yourself. And you’ll suck at self-leadership if you don’t know yourself, if you’re not honest with yourself.

If I could start again, I would put bring others around me to help me grow in self-knowledge. Then I would chart an intentional course of growth – in character, first; then in understanding about how leadership works.

Honestly, I have zero desire to go back 35 years and start again. Instead, my challenge (to myself, and to you) is to put these values, these practices, in place now so that in 35 more years, I can look back in celebration about all that God has accomplished!



Youth Ministry Coaching Program options


2014 has been a banner year for the Youth Ministry Coaching Program, with 6 full cohorts operating in Nashville, Orange County, CA (Women in YM), South Carolina (UMC), North Carolina (UMC), Pittsburgh (PCUSA), and the new SoCal Presby cohort (PCUSA) kicking off in Pasadena, CA in a couple weeks. But we’re actively working to open up cohorts (a cohort is a word used for “learning group,” in this case, is 10 youth workers) for 2015.

YMCP, in case you don’t know, is a whole-life personal and leadership development program for youth workers. You’ll find a safe group of peers who listen and speak into your life, as well as training and personal application from the lead coach. it’s full of variety and customization. Most cohorts meet six times, for two days each time, with online interaction and coaching phone calls in-between meetings. After the current cohorts wrap up, we’ll have more than 200 grads who unanimously say it was one of the most significant growth experiences they’ve ever been through. Learn more about YMCP, and download an overview document, here.

Here’s what we have open now for 2015, with a few extras that we’re considering…

San Diego cohort
Location: San Diego (duh)
Launch date: Hopefully January 2015
Coach: Marko and April Diaz (two coaches for the price of one!)
Approach: full ‘open’ cohort (anyone can be in it), with 6 meetings of 2 days each (every other month)
Price: $3000
(We only have 2 or 3 spots still open in this cohort. Contact April Diaz at [email protected])

North Carolina cohort
Location: Charlotte area
Launch date: January or February 2015
Coach: Marko (but with the possibility of April Diaz leading a 2nd cohort in the same location, pending interest)
Approach: full cohort, with 6 meetings of 2 days each (every other month). Open ONLY to youth workers from churches in the Western NC Conference of the UMC.
Price: $500 (the Conference graciously covers the rest of the cost)
(This cohort is currently accepting applications. Contact Caroline Wood in the Conference office for details: [email protected])

Women in Youth Ministry cohort
Location: Orange County, CA, Asheville, NC, and online
Launch date: Hopefully January 2015
Coach: April Diaz
Approach: This is a hybrid cohort. First and last meetings will be 2 days in Orange County, CA. 3rd or 4th meeting will be attached to (and include) the Women in Youth Ministry Campference in Asheville, NC. 3 additional meetings (in between face-to-face meetings) will take place online.
Price: $2250 (includes registration for the Women in Youth Ministry Campference!)
(See more info here. We are currently accepting applications for this cohort. Contact April Diaz at [email protected])

Middle School Ministry cohort
Location: Orange County, CA
Launch date: Hopefully February 2015
Coach: Kurt Johnston and Katie Edwards (two coaches for the price of one!, plus Marko and April Diaz will lead sessions at some meetings)
Approach: full ‘open’ cohort (anyone can be in it), with 6 meetings of 2 days each (every other month)
Price: $3000
(We are currently accepting applications for this cohort. Contact Katie Edwards at [email protected], or April Diaz at [email protected])

Canadian cohort
Location: Calgary
Launch date: First quarter of 2015
Coach: Matt Wilks and Jason Frizzell (two coaches for the price of one!, plus Marko will attend 2 of the 6 meetings)
Approach: full ‘open’ cohort (anyone can be in it), with 6 meetings of 2 days each (every other month)
Price: $2250
(We are currently accepting applications for this cohort. Contact Jason at [email protected])

In addition to all that awesomeness, we’re currently in conversations about a few more cohorts, including:

  • New England cohort, led by Jake Kircher and Mark Orr (with Marko and/or April also involved)
  • Large Church cohort, led by Marko and April (this cohort would be limited to participants on staff at church of 2500 or more in weekly attendance)
  • SC/Holston Conferences cohort, led by Marko (probably) (this cohort would only be open to youth workers in the South Carolina and Holston Conferences of the UMC)

If you have interest in any of these last three, please contact April Diaz ([email protected])

So: who’s up for some growth in 2015?


youth ministry books i’m always recommending

recently, someone in one of my coaching groups asked me to give a list of 10 or so youth ministry books that everyone should read. there are SO many great youth ministry books that it’s tough to make a good list without knowing the reader’s context and what would be most helpful to her. but, i do find that there’s a certain list of books that i end up recommending the most.

what any individual youth worker should read might be a variation on this; but here’s my books i recommend most often:

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Almost Christian, Kenda Dean. difficult and long read, but definitely one of the most important YM books in the last 5 years.

Revisiting Relational Ministry, Andrew Root. calls into question how we’ve “used” relationships as a manipulative tool, and suggests a new way based from a theological framework.

As for Me and My (Crazy) House, Brian Berry. fantastic help for thinking about how to balance family with the demands of youth ministry.

Leading Up, Joel Mayward. about having influence in your church when you’re not in a position of power. allegory from the perspective of a new JH pastor.

Masterpiece: the art of discipling youth, Paul Martin. frames discipleship as a process of helping to uncover teenagers’ unique selves, rather than a program of content.

Woo: Awakening Teenagers’ Desire to Follow in the Way of Jesus, Morgan Schmidt. you could call this “desire-based youth ministry.”

Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World, Brock Morgan. what YM look like when teenagers are truly postmodern. EXCELLENT and provocative.

Redefining the Role of the Youth Worker: a manifesto of integration, April Diaz. the subtitle says it all. short and to the point.

Sticky Faith, youth leader edition, Kara Powell and Brad Griffin. research-based implications of faith that lasts beyond youth group (and teenage years).

A Tale of Two Youth Workers, Eric Venable. a short allegory about processing teenage doubt.

Hurt 2.0 (the revised edition), Chap Clark. understanding the hurt and pain of today’s teenagers, with a look at their isolation.

Join us at the 2014 Middle School Ministry Campference!

my-tribe-square– Customized learning about Middle School Ministry.
– Conversations with people who understand you.
– Rubbing shoulders with JH Ministry vets and experts.
– Worship.
– Laughter.
– Dialogue.
– Ziplines and skeet shooting and nature and camp food and silliness and lip syncing and late night secret sharing and rest.

What’s the only place you can experience every single one of those in one weekend? The Middle School Ministry Campference, of course. Come join with your tribe.

Here’s what a few of last year’s attendees had to say:

The MSMC is like getting one-on-one training focused on Middle School Ministry all day long. From the speakers on stage to the person sitting next to you, every person brings it at the MSMC. Every time you start a conversation you know it could be the best one of the weekend.

It’s unlike any other youth ministry conference. Not only do you get great content, but the laid back camp atmosphere creates a great environment for building relationships with other middle school youth workers.

Middle School Ministry Campference isn’t about all the hype and pizzazz of other conferences. It’s about being together with the strange creatures that Middle School Pastors are. It’s not about showing you creative things; it’s about inspiring creativity in all of us. The connections that you make here are 1000x better and more useful than the handful of notes you’ll take anywhere else and never look at again. If I had the choice between Campference and any other conference, I’d choose this every time.

The Campference site is now live, and registration is open! We work hard to keep our all-inclusive rates crazy-low. And thanks to our partners, we’re able to offer Early Bird registration, including LODGING AND ALL MEALS at these great rates:

  • $320 – Early Bird Single Registration (register by June 30, 2014)
  • $295 – Early Bird Group Rate, per person (groups of 3 or more, register by June 30, 2014)

As added Early Bird perks, we’re throwing in more than $50 of extra goodies, FREE:


The Summit website is live

marketing-headertoday is a big day in Cartel-land. we’ve launched the website and opened registration for The Summit 2014. this is our third year of this truly unique youth ministry event that’s sort of like TED for youth workers.

what is it, you ask? is it pretty much the same as other youth ministry events, you ask?
HA, i say. and then, i stand aside and allow some of last year’s attendees to answer your questions:

The Summit inspires your passion, stirs your mind, and awakens raw and new thinking. You come away with excitement to take on a new challenge or a fresh creativity for the road that you are traveling.

The Summit challenges and sets the stage for a future of ministry that we are about to find ourselves immersed in. It is freeing to have a map and concept for the realities of future youth ministry.

The Summit deliberately provoked my imagination and ministry innovation. Loved it!

and one of my favorite quotes about last year:

The Summit is not a pep rally, group therapy, or a pissing contest of who’s better. It makes the assumption that youth workers are smart people who liked to be challenged and stretched mentally. Thank you. It’s nice to know that not everyone thinks what we do is for dumb-asses in skinny jeans (though skinny jeans were well represented).

here’s the way we describe it on the website:

A Creativity Sparker. An Idea Stirrer. An Insight Inviter.

That’s what The Summit is all about.

We’re all for practical training, but training is not really the focus of this event (there are other events that do that really well). Instead, The Summit is intentionally designed to stir your youth ministry imagination and assist you in discerning God’s leading for your wonderfully unique expression of youth ministry.

each year at The Summit, we pull a thematic thread through the whole event. this year’s theme:


Doing youth ministry in church means we’re part of systems and history and expectations. Good or bad or indifferent, those forces can easily subjugate us into doing things the same way, year after year. But context changes; and teenagers change. Staying true to our calling beckons us to lace up our hiking boots and set off on an adventure of discernment, experimentation, and dreaming. Like adventurers climbing Mountains, diving into Seas, and reaching into Space, let’s lean into: Exploration.

filling out the presenter line-up for this event is a year-long process. at this point, we have 10 of the 18 presenters locked in, plus two “session framers” (a storyteller and a theologian)–new roles this year. check out the current line-up here, and know that we’ll be adding to it in the months to come!

register early for $3.01! (sorta)

if you register yourself or your group this month (by june 1), we’re not only giving you special pricing, but we’re adding a whole combo platter of early reg perks:

Early Bird Price
$149 per person
$129 for groups of 3 or more

Pre-Summit Session of your choice – $40 value
Video of all sessions – $50 value (register by June 1)
Audio of all sessions – $25 value (register by July 1)
Good News in the Neighborhood –$25 value
Viva – Genesis – $5.99 value

That’s correct. If you register by June 1st we are giving you $145.99 in perks. So basically, it’s $3.01… which is absolutely hilarious and crazy.

hope you can join us!! as a wee appetizer, we released David Crowder’s talk from last year’s Summit yesterday (btw: David’s new album, Neon Steeple, started pre-selling on itunes this week).

Nashville, San Diego, and SoCal/Hawaii PC(USA) cohorts of YMCP

ymcp leafhere’s an update on the Youth Ministry Coaching Program

we now have four full cohorts going (each have met at least one time so far). three are “closed” groups for denominations: south carolina UMC, western north carolina UMC, and pittsburgh presbytery of the PC(USA). the fourth is our “women in youth ministry” cohort led by april diaz (meeting in orange county, CA, and online).

but we have three other options at this time:

2014 Nashville Cohort

this cohort is off and running in the lead up to a first meeting in august. we’re just now starting to schedule that meeting and deal with other preliminary administrative details. but, while the cohort has its allotted 10 spots filled, i’ve started taking an 11th person in most cohorts. this is primarily in case someone has to back out; but i’ve done a few cohort with 11 people in them now, and have found they’ve been fine. so, if anyone is interested in grabbing that 11th spot in the nashville cohort, it’s first-come, first-served.

2014 San Diego Cohort

filling this cohort has been a challenge. we only need 8 to make this one work. and for two years, since the 2nd San Diego cohort finished, we’ve added people and lost people. we were at 5, and added two awesome people in the last month; but then two of the people who had been waiting forever had to pull out. so we’re back to 5. i’d sure love to see this one make it. there are awesome people in the mix already, but we need 3 more. if you’re interested, jump in!

2014 SoCal/Hawaii Synod of the PC(USA) Cohort

this presbyterian synod approved, last week, funding for a full cohort. participants will only be responsible for $500 of the program cost, plus their incidental expenses (travel, books). the location is still being finalized, but it will definitely be in either LA, Orange County, or San Diego. obviously, in order to qualify for this cohort, you have to be an employed youth worker in a PC(USA) church in the SoCal/Hawaii synod. we’re opening an application period for the month of april. we may or may not have spaces remaining after that period; but if you want in, you need to jump on it (as it will likely fill during the application period). to get an application for this cohort, email rocky supinger ([email protected]), the YMCP grad who had the vision for this and worked the proposal through approval by the synod.

we’re so excited about how YMCP continues to grow and impact lives!

Youth Ministry Coaching Program: New Cohorts Forming Now

Adam sent this out in a nice email to our Cartel email subscribers. thought i’d post it here also!

New San Diego & Nashville Cohorts

YMCP is a year-long, whole-life coaching program for youth workers. It’s built on a cohort approach: Each cohort has 10 youth workers, which provides a shared learning environment, a variety of inputs, and a team of ministry friends who’ve got your back. Full cohorts meet for two days, every other month, over the course of the year. In between meetings, we interact on a secret facebook page, as well as coaching phone calls.

There are still two “open” cohorts (not denominationally-focused or funded) with a few spaces in them:

The 2014 Nashville cohort has five confirmed participants and five more spaces available.
The 2014 San Diego cohort has three spaces available.
Both of these cohorts will launch when we fill them up (and all participants get to vote on meeting dates). For more info, check out this page on our website, or email me and I’ll send you the program overview and other stuff.


What Youth Workers are Saying about YMCP

Here’s the thing about YMCP. You sign up thinking you’re in for some good youth ministry insight and discussion (you are), and maybe the people will be cool (they will). But what you can’t know until you’re in the midst of it is how you’ll grow to look forward to each meeting as a time of sanctuary, how the room full of strangers will be friends by the end of the first day, how your heart will drop a bit at the end of each cohort because you know there are only a few left. My year in YMCP helped me grow as a youth worker, for sure. But what I am truly thankful for is the way it helped me define who I am – as a person, as a follower of Christ, and THEN as a youth worker. The insight and personal development that came out of YMCP for me go way beyond my professional life. I’m more confident in my decisions, my abilities, and my passion than ever before. And I have nine awesome, crazy, amazing friends in ministry and in life that I can call on at any time.

Brandi Manes

The Youth Ministry Coaching Program is hands down the most important program I have participated in my 13 years of youth ministry. The holistic approach and balance of training, inward reflection and spiritual growth allowed me to be stretched not only into being a better youth leader, but also into being a better person. YMCP is of great benefit for the veteran or rookie youth worker.

Brian Mateer

YMCP with out a doubt saved me from leaving youth ministry. I was in a tough spot without any direction. This program helped facilitate a safe place to work out and through the situation. It was an absolute highlight of my life so far to be in such a dark place, and over the course of a year with the program be restored with grace through great coaching.

Christopher Dinnell

After transitioning from full-time ministry to a volunteer position, I couldn’t see how I would effectively live out my calling. YMCP helped me regain my passion and find direction to help me move forward in my ministry.

Bethany Butterfield


Youth Ministry Coaching Program update

i’m in Charlotte, NC at the moment, launching a brand new cohort of YMCP. YMCP is a year-long, whole-life coaching program for youth workers. it’s built on a cohort approach: each cohort has 10 youth workers, which provides a shared learning environment, a variety of inputs, and a team of ministry friends who’ve got your back. full cohorts meet for two days, every other month, over the course of the year. in between meetings, we interact on a secret facebook page, as well as coaching phone calls.

the NC cohort is made up of all UMC youth workers, and is hosted by the western NC conference of the UMC. in december, we started a similar UMC cohort in SC. and in the spring, we’ll be launching a PCUSA cohort in pittsburgh (hosted by the local presbytery).

in march, april diaz and 8 women will launch the first-ever Women in Youth Ministry cohort, with a combination of online meetings and face-to-face meetings in orange county, CA.

nash cohortthere are still two “open” cohorts (not denominationally-focused or funded) with a few spaces in them:

the 2014 nashville cohort has five confirmed participants and five more spaces available.

and the 2014 san diego cohort has three spaces available.

both of these cohorts will launch when we fill them up (and all participants get to vote on meeting dates). for more info, check out this page on our website, or email me ([email protected]) and i’ll send you the program overview and other stuff.

Open Boston and Open Grand Rapids (and Denver, and Paris, and Seattle, and Bay Area)

the Open Youth Ministry events hosted by The Youth Cartel and a growing cluster of regional youth ministry organizations is such a cool collection of local, contextualized events. each one or two-day event is local in the sense that the organizing team is at least 75% (or more) local (only adam mclane, from The Youth Cartel, is a non-local on each team); the speakers are almost all local; a local youth ministry organization receives a third of the ticket sales; and each event has a unique feel and format, decided on by the organizing team.

all this is built on the belief that the best ideas often come from local, in-the-trenches youth workers.

add to all that goodness: each Open event costs a ridiculously cheap twenty five bucks!

in 2014, we have six Open events officially happening (and a couple more under consideration). two of them are coming up VERY soon, and registration is live and cranking.

open bostonfirst up is Open Boston, on february 7/8, at Gordon College. this is Open Boston’s second year, and the organizing team is fired up. the main event is saturday; but the team decided to add an early day on friday with a couple intensives, dinner, and a time of worship (all still included in the $25 cost!). i’m actually going to Open Boston this time, and am super pumped about it. see the website here, and register here.

open gra couple weeks later, the first-ever Open Grand Rapids will take place on february 22, at Cornerstone University. the speakers have been chosen and plans are ready to go. we’re really stoked about adding GR to the list of Open host cities this year. see the website here, and register here.

coming up later this year:

  • the first-ever Open Denver on september 13
  • the 2nd Open Paris on october 24/25 (we’re adding housing options this year!)
  • the 2nd Open Bay Area (CA) in november (date still being finalized)
  • the 3rd Open Seattle (date still being finalized, but in october or november)

mark the dates on your calendars if you’re within driving distance of any of those cities and plan on bringing a team! and if you’re near Boston or Grand Rapids, get to it!