Tag Archives: youth specialties

the end of ysmarko

this is a hard post to write, but an important one for me.

i’ve experienced some pretty significant a-ha’s in the past week or two, all around the sustainability of my lifestyle, my identity, and my most important relationships.

a month and a half ago, i started a leadership coaching process with john townsend. and i was asked to talked about myself at the first gathering. i wrote a bit about this on this blog (the whole plate spinning thing). since naming that, i’ve had a few more words to describe the dissatisfaction i’ve been feeling about my life; but i still felt way short of clearly understanding what i needed to do about it.

then, last week, on our ys leadership team retreat, we were spending some time talking about blindspots and roadblocks. to make a long story short, it became very clear to me that two things consistently eclipse the relationships and values that are actually most important to me (especially at this stage in life and work):
1. my family
2. the staff of youth specialties

the two imposters that constantly threaten (or supercede) the things that are most important to me are:
1. my travel schedule
2. being the voice of youth specialties (or, to put it in a more negative way, “nurturing my public persona”)

here’s a thought: our behaviors –> reveal our priorities –> which reveals our true values.

here are a couple photos i snapped in new zealand (ironically — mr. travel) of the “community lounge” on the back side of a church

i took these pics because i thought the sign and location of the “community lounge” said something significant about this church’s value of community. in other words: they might have a community lounge, but they don’t seem to actually value community.

this is a metaphor for why i’m making some big time changes.

i’ve been having a value stand-off, between what i say my values are and how i’m living my life. and it’s eroding (and threatening) my long-term happiness, and the life i really want.

let me get to the point:

1. i’m going to stop nurturing the whole “ysmarko” thing. which means, starting today, i’m going to stop using facebook (i’m planning on deleting my facebook account tomorrow), and stop twittering (i’m going to delete my twitter account tomorrow), and this is my last blog post on ysmarko (at least for the foreseeable future, though i’ll leave the blog sitting here for now).

2. i’m also reframing what “essential travel” is for me, which is allowing me to cut back 50 – 75% on my travel. i won’t be traveling internationally in the next year or two (or ever?), other than our canadian convention. and i’m cutting back on all other travel, other than a few truly essential things as well as family-related and personal stuff.

i know this is going to be hard in many ways, and i’ll likely go through some form of withdrawal. but i’m also excited about the new focus, extra time, and relational presence i expect to experience in the coming months.

i’ve enjoyed the interaction i’ve had with so many of you through this blog, and pray god’s blessing on you, as i ask you to do for me.

ys releases our first iphone app

a few months ago, a few of us from ys were in a meeting, thinking about ideas for our youth ministry publishing efforts. adam mclane was there. i don’t remember if it was adam’s idea or not (i think it was), but somewhere in the midst of that meeting, he got pretty stoked about trying to figure out how ys could create some helpful iphone apps for youth ministry. and in very little time, adam got it done.

as a result, the very first youth ministry iphone app is now in the apple iphone app store, and it’s a tweaked version of our “tough topics” discussion starter book.

here’s adam’s post from the ys blog:


Youth Specialties brings your favorite discussion starters to the iPhone and iPod. Now you can kick off discussions wherever you are, anywhere your ministry takes you. Turn downtime into relationship building time.

Tough Topics brings you over 600 thought-provoking questions that will challenge you towards a deeper understanding of the Bible, a richer relationship with God, and insight into his purposes in their lives.

Version 1.0 Features:

* 4 categories of topics: Psalms, Proverbs, Life & God, Jobs & Career
* Going deeper: Follow-up discussion suggestions and Bible references
* Favorites: Save your favorite questions to come back to later
* Recents: Easily go back to recently viewed questions


If you experience any problems with Tough Topics, please leave a comment here or go to our troubleshooting area.

Buy and rate now!



what an encouragment

man, so cool of this guy (john) to facebook me with this message — it so greatly encouraged me!

I met you almost 10 years ago, when you came to speak at the YFC UK national conference. You were awesome, and along with Mike Yaconelli who visited later the following year, you challenged me to accept the calling of Jesus to work amongst teens in church-based & community context.

10 years on and still going strong. The Lord moves in magnificent ways. I am currently in Birmingham, based in a CofE city church.

Anyways, thanks for your encouragement back then. It meant a lot….it still does.

Bless ya

a few korea pics

our time in korea last week was wonderful in so many ways. i’ll likely post more about the trip, but here are a few pictures:

tic and i with ralph and judy winter outside sarang church

judy with the debris from a typically wonderful korean meal

the stage of the convention. this group was a trip! they were a wild combo of traditional korean music mashed-up with a punk attitude, performance art, and a dash of rock music

me outside the korean folk museum

monday morning update, may 18, 2009

the weekend that was: got home from korea around noon on friday and had a wonderful family weekend (with a little work thrown in). had a nice lunch with jeannie and friday, then picked the kids up from school. in the evening, we took off as a fam and got pedicures (yes, it’s manly). i have a nice bright shade of glittery dark blue toe nails now (and very smooth heals, thanks to a paraffin wax treatment and some seriously filing and routing). then we ate dinner at one of our favorite family joints: bj’s. we dropped liesl off at home (she had homework), and jeannie and max and i went to see star trek, which we really enjoyed. i slept pretty good friday night, since i hadn’t really slept on the flight home from korea.

saturday, i did homework alongside max. he was working on a report on haiti, while i worked on final edits for the middle school ministry book. this took me much longer than i expected, and i worked on it on and off until 1:15 in the morning. in the evening, jeannie and i had our first date night in way too long. we tried out a great italian restaurant in the little village area near our home, then went to see angels & demons. we’d both read the book, and really enjoyed the movie. i liked it SO much better than da vinci code (both in book and movie form). in da vinci, the people of faith were all either idiots or had evil intents. and all the good characters were people of no faith. but in angels & demons, there were good and bad people on both sides. i stayed up late working on my edits, then still wasn’t tired (reverse jet lag!). so i watched tv until 3:30am, and made myself go to sleep.

sunday morning i was pretty tired, but we were off as a family to attend the baptism of the son of some good friends (beth and joe slevcove). then a reception at their house, followed by running a bunch of errands (mostly grocery shopping for our ys leadership team retreat). we had our home church in the evening, and watched an amazing short film called “the man who planted trees”. wow — just a stunning animated story about the invitation to us to join in god’s ongoing creation work in the world. i’ll have to blog about it in more length at some point. sunday night, late, i drove up to oceanside (the very north edge of san diego county), to join the others on the ys leadership team for a 4 day working retreat.

where i am at the moment: in oceanside, california, on a ys leadership team retreat. we have a lot to do this week, and it should be great. i go home thursday night.

on my to-do list this week: the leadership team retreat will take up most of my week. then i’m in the office on friday, and have to make some serious headway on packing my office for the upcoming ys office move (two weeks away!).

procrastinating about: now that i’m done with my middle school ministry book edits, i’m procrastinating about a magazine column i have to write (that’s already late), and packing my office.

book i’m in the midst of: almost done with what would google do?, and still getting going on stuck in the middle.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: nothing, really. i listened to very little music while i was in korea. oh, i did download the new green day album, and enjoyed listening to that on the plane.

next trip: after i get home from this retreat, i’m home for a week. i have a ys one day team retreat a week out, but it’s local, and i don’t think i’ll spend the night at the hotel.

how i’m feeling about this week: great! (though i wish i weren’t away from my family again so quickly.)

ys rummage sale


from the ys blog:

With just a few days left until we relocate to our new offices we are now looking to sell even more stuff! The Mystery Box sale helped us ship out about 1500 pounds of Youth Specialties resources to youth workers around the world while helping us raise about $3000 for San Diego-based Reality Changers. Believe it or not that barely made a dent in all of the stuff that we need to sell as we downsize to our new building.

Mandy Helton, our brand new office manager, has done a phenomenal job helping us sell a lot of things on Craigslist. Now its time to sell the stuff that can’t be shipped so cheaply or just didn’t sell on Craigslist. We have a wide variety of books and resources, computer cords and accessories galore, electronic equipment, office supplies, office furniture, fake plants, artwork, and tons of items that fit in the category of “miscellaneous.”

Here’s the skinny!

Date: Friday, May 29th

Time: Starts 9:00 AM – we hope to have everything sold by lunch

Place: 300 S. Pierce Street, El Cajon California

What to bring: Cash/check (no credit cards) A car/truck/van/bus/semi or your vehicle of choice. Everything you buy has to be taken at the time of sale, we can’t store or ship anything.

Who is invited: This is open to the public. Our hope is that local youth ministries will come and stock up. After all, there are a few benefits with putting up with YS in your neighborhood.

If you don’t live in Southern California but know a youth worker who does, help us out and please let them know.

interview about youth ministry 3.0

clinton faupel of web-based radio, remedy.fm, did an interview with me a couple weeks ago about youth ministry 3.0. it’s available as a podcast on itunes, here.

remedy.fm, btw, looks like a pretty cool resource for youth workers to know about. they stream music, and have a bunch of other shows, both live and in podcast form, for teenagers, and for youth workers (on that podcast page, “the er show” is a youth worker show). some of the shows are music-based, and others are youth issue call-in type shows. check ’em out, and it might be something you want to point out to teenagers.

not all ym3.0 reviews are glowing; some are wonderfully mixed

here’s a good, mixed review of youth ministry 3.0 from “the patrick challenge” blog:

Title: Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto Of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, And Where We Need To Go by Mark Oestreicher.

Pages: 155.

How it was obtained: Ordered it with some other youth ministry books.

Time spent on the “to read” shelf: None. I read it right away. (I just didn’t write my review right away).

Days spent reading it: 1 afternoon.

Why I read it: I’m a youth pastor, so I figured I’d like to hear what Mark Oestreicher had to say about where youth ministry needed to go. Mark Oestreicher (aka Marko) is president of Youth Specialties, a leading company in youth ministry resources. I heard about this book through Marko’s blog (www.ysmarko.com).

Brief review: Youth Ministry 3.0 is Marko’s attempt to talk about the previous, current, and future direction of youth ministry. The book includes a brief discussion about adolescent development, a brief history of youth ministry since post-WWII, and then a few suggestions on how we can take youth ministry to the next step.

The center thesis of this book seems to be that youth ministry has gone through two phases already, and is about to enter the third phase. Phase one was driven by proclamation. It was centered around evangelism and teaching. Phase two was driven by programs. “Bigger is better” would be a favorite slogan. This phase focused on discipleship. Many churches are in this phase right now. But as youth ministers we know there is something wrong. Kids are dropping out at ridiculous rates (it is not uncommon to hear statistics that 80% of kids drop out of church after high school, this number seems to be inflated, but you get the picture). We know somethings wrong, so what do we do? Marko proposes phase three which would not be driven by any particular motivator. Instead it is present (or incarnational).

So the question is obviously how do we get to an incarnational ministry from a program (or even proclomation) driven ministry? Marko offers up a few solutions. We can focus on smaller groups, and literally have a youth group for each sub-culture in our youth. We could focus on making our youth ministries a place for a supra-culture–where everyone comes together and no one group is better or dominate over the other groups. Finally, we could have hybrid of the two. Perhaps a large group for some events, and a small group for others.

Honestly, Marko’s ideas are aimed at larger groups. Although he addresses the question of how smaller groups can incorporate this kind of thinking (on pgs. 95-96) it seemed forced. Seeing that I work with about 20-30 students, many of his ideas on how to move to Youth Ministry 3.0 seemed impractical or unnecessary.

I’m not convinced Marko has the solutions, but at least he is willing to think outside of the box to create some discussion about this topic. It is important to wrestle with, and I think this book has created great discussion and thought on where we need to take youth ministry in the upcoming years in order to stay relevant to a culture that changes every single day. One great thought Marko has at the end of the book is that youth ministers need to begin to consider themselves missionaries. We are becoming more and more distant from the culture we are attempting to reach. In order to be effective we need to begin thinking like missionaries. We need to begin studying youth culture like we would other cultures around the world. (Should youth ministers begin to take missions courses in college? That’s probably not a bad idea…)

Every youth leader should read this book and wrestle with the thoughts, problems, solutions, and overall structure of their youth ministries. There are many great little gems in this book. I underlined a lot of it as I read and digested the ideas. It only takes about 2 hours to read through. The book is short, the typeset and spacing are large. It is definitely worth the investment.

Favorite quote: “We must live incarnationally, positioning ourselves humbly and openly on the somtimes cold, dark, and scary stairwell to the underground of youth culture.”

Stars: 4 out of 5.

Final Word: Challenging.

christian post reports on nywc changes

apparently someone from “the christian post” watched the podcast we did last week about the changes in the nywc for this fall. other than me being quoted as saying “pissed off” (which sounded ok on a live podcast to youth workers, but seems a bit edgy for the christian post!), i’m pretty pleased with this summary:

Youth Specialties, one of the largest organizations equipping Christian youth workers, will be making some dramatic shifts this year at their popular convention.

One of the major changes includes featuring main session speakers who won’t push the buttons of a theologically diverse crowd.

For years, Youth Specialties had brought in various speakers to the National Youth Workers Convention to cater to youth workers from different denominations, theological backgrounds and contexts.

“I think part of how we pursued that (serving a diverse crowd) is, to put it in a negative, we’ve almost built a convention where everybody has the opportunity to get pissed off or to get bugged by something,” said Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, in a webcast this week.

“It’s like celebrating those differences was actually becoming divisive rather than bringing us together,” he added.

Oestreicher explained that the organization received “so much more critique,” some of which were ugly, from convention attendees last year who felt the youth workers organization was pushing an agenda of some sort.

One of last year’s main sessions addressed the issue of homosexuality and youth. The featured speaker was Andrew Marin, president and founder of The Marin Foundation, an organization created to build bridges between the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and religious communities through scientific research, Biblical and social education.

Oestreicher insisted they were not trying to push any kind of agenda but realized that the convention was creating more contention that unity.

So this year, the organization is looking to shift their approach from presenting a “variety show” during the event’s main sessions to focusing on what they all have in common.

This year’s featured speakers will “address the heart and soul of youth ministry rather than hot button issues,” Oestreicher said.

“We’re trying to be very intentional to choose speakers that are not there to push buttons or raise issues as much as to speak to your soul as a youth worker, challenge you in areas of leadership or carrying out your calling but not like hot button theological topics,” the YS president stressed.

Speakers for the main sessions (now termed “Big Room” rather than “General Session”) this year include Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley; Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries; and Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz.

While controversial topics such as homosexuality will not be discussed in the main sessions, Oestreicher noted that participants will still have the opportunity to engage in such discussions during the “labs” or seminars portion of the convention.

“It’s not like we’re trying to make this a vanilla event that is lowering the bar to the least common denominator so that we can all agree on everything and create some kind of false utopia,” he stated.

The point of the shift this year, he said, is to utilize the main sessions that everyone attends to encourage the soul and to challenge youth workers in their faith and leadership. Other topics are being saved for the labs.

Among other changes, this year’s youth workers convention will also include an “unconvention open source” day where attendees who want to lead their own discussions will have the opportunity to do so. Rather than have attendees choose from Youth Specialties’ own hand-picked list of speakers and discussions, the participating youth workers will be able to shape the day themselves.

“We really felt it was time for us to move away from only YS picking all the speakers,” Oestreicher said.

The changes to the 2009 convention come as Youth Specialties is undergoing some internal changes, Oestreicher noted, including relocating its headquarters which is currently in El Cajon, Calif.

“YS needs to continue to evolve and change and grow, or we shouldn’t exist anymore,” he stressed. “We have to become a new organization so we can serve you guys in ways that are timely and meaningful in the culture that we live in, not in the culture of 1978.”

Every year in the fall, Youth Specialties hosts three conventions. The 2009 National Youth Workers Convention will be held in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Atlanta, respectively, beginning in September. More than 3,000 attendees are expected to attend each event.

monday morning update, may 11, 2009

ysk_logo3the weekend that was: i’m in seoul, korea, for our yskorea event. got here friday evening, and the event didn’t start ’til monday morning. so it was a weekend of great food and jet lag. we had varying forms of korean barbecue every night (fri, sat, sun), and other wonderful stuff along the way. ralph winter (producer of all the x-men movies, fantastic 4 movies, and so many other) and his wife judy, arrived saturday morning, so we’ve spent much of our time with them. they’re wonderful people, and we’ve had great conversations about film, faith, church and everything else under the sun. henneyone of the stars of wolverine is a young korean-american actor named daniel henney (originally from michigan!), who lives here now. he hosted a dinner for us saturday night (because of the connection with ralph). i sat next to him, and it was fun to get to know him a little bit. really, really nice guy, and surprisingly normal and unjaded by huge fame. people say he’s the “brad pitt of korea”, which was fairly obvious as our dinner was regularly interrupted by people taking photos and asking for autographs (which he graciously gave).

where i am at the moment: yup, in seoul. it’s actually monday afternoon as i write this in korea, but sunday night back in cali. our event started this morning, and i was the speaker for the opening main session. i was a little concerned, because i’d taken a strong sleeping pill last night (i’d not slept well saturday or sunday nights), and was still feeling really groggy and disoriented this morning. but the fog lifted, and i had a good interpreter, and i think it went well. our attendance isn’t what we’d hoped, but the word is many people were going to start coming tonite.

on my to-do list this week: i’ll be in korea until friday, so that’s most of my week!

procrastinating about: at the moment, i’m seriously procrastinating about getting ready for the full-day critical concerns course i co-lead on thursday. not ready in the slightest bit! i also have to do the final checks on the middle school ministry book this week, and write a magazine column.

book i’m in the midst of: making progress on what would google do?, and re-started “stuck in the middle” (a collection of cartoons about the middle school years).

bluegrassworshipmusic that seemed to catch my attention this past week: haven’t had much chance to listen to music, but i’m listening to a very fun album called “bluegrass worship” as i write this, and it’s cracking me up.

next trip: i get home friday noon from korea, and am home a couple days. then sunday night, i drive up to oceanside (the very north edge of san diego county) for a ys leadership team retreat, through next thursday night. it’ll be a bummer to leave my family again, but i’m really looking forward to this strategic time with the ys leadership team.

how i’m feeling about this week: pretty good, though i’ll feel better when i get some plans in place for the critical concerns course i’m teaching on thursday.