Tag Archives: youth specialties

a senior pastor reflects on ym3.0

former youth pastor, now senior pastor, steve nelson wrote a great little facebook note reflecting on why he read youth ministry 3.0, and what he’s thinking about…

Youth Ministry Steve.0

“Why are you reading THAT? I thought you were through with the youth ministry phase of your life.”

Very similar words have come at me from various friends and peers over the past couple of weeks, as I have recently read Youth Ministry 3.0, a new book by Mark Oestreicher (By the way, in my opinion, every Pastor, Youth Pastor, and parent should read this book). I suppose the statements and questions of my friends make sense. After all, in my twelve years of working with teenagers exclusively, I never once knew of a congregation’s Senior Pastor, or Lead Pastor, reading anything to do with youth ministry. Now that I am the Lead Pastor of a congregation of Christ-followers, I guess the “normal” thing to do would be to forget about youth culture, youth ministry, and the youth themselves. But when have I ever fit into the box of “normal”?

Reality: youth culture is now the driving force of all culture. We can deny it, we can run from it, we can throw hymnals at it and hope to scare it away… but it is here, and for the foreseeable future, it is here to stay.

Opinion: the church in general has ignored cultural shifts for too long. Back in the day, the church, or at least individuals who followed Christ, impacted culture – not the other way around… and they sure didn’t ignore the culture. Christ-followers should be merging our faith into our culture.

Fact: congregations have been compartmentalizing youth ministry (and other ministries) instead of having one clear vision as a whole body of believers to impact culture with the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Messiah. I, personally, have done this to the extent of building a “successful youth ministry” (meaning we grew it from a small number to a larger number), as opposed to making any lasting significant impact on the culture, or in the lives of students and their families.

Truth: teenagers are functioning members of a community of faith (as well as the “body of Christ”). Youth have much to contribute to the life and mission of the church.

I refuse to continue the trend of church pastors who are out of touch with youth culture, youth ministry, and the very youth themselves that I have the high honor and responsibility to shepherd. Hiring a full-time Youth Pastor (who is doing a fabulous job by the way) does not in any way “let me off the hook.” Being the “Lead Pastor” means that I must take the lead. So, yes, along with everything else there is to be, and learn, and do… I will continue to read youth ministry books, magazines, and articles… I will continue to seek ways to have significant influence on families and culture… and I will continue to sit down with our Youth Pastor and a group of teenagers and get to know each other over a full buffet of pizza (don’t forget the pizza)!

changes to the national youth workers convention

we’re hosting a monthly webinar on the nywc site, leading up to this fall’s national youth workers conventions. i did the first one this week, and talked (for a LONG TIME!) about the changes we’re making for this fall’s events. next month, mark matlock will talk more specifically about the open space day at the event.

here’s the new nywc website (reg is now open!)

and here’s a recording of that webinar (we had a few technical problems, but got through them)…

off to korea

ysk_logo2i need some seoul, baby.

so today, i fly to seoul, korea, for our first-ever ys youth worker event there: the next wave convention (feel free to check out the site, but it’s in korean).

i went to seoul a couple months back on a set-up trip, and had an amazing time. really looking forward to this event. we’re hoping for something around 1500 attendees. it will be a slightly different crowd than we have at our events in north america. most attendees will be paid church leaders, but will cross over from youth ministry to young adult ministry and some senior pastors (there are actually tracks for all of those). we’ve had wonderful partnership on this event, mostly from large churches in seoul, as well as some parachurch orgs. our host church is young nak church, and they’ve been very gracious with us.

our korean partners were insistent on a format with koreans doing all the seminars, and outside guests doing the general sessions. so the six general session speakers are: me, brian mclaren, len sweet, dave gibbons, mike pilavachi, and ralph winter (producer of wolverine!). tic long, from ys, is coming along with me, and i’m sure we’ll have a great time together.

please pray for us and those attending this event!

posting to my blog might be a little light while i’m gone, though i’m sure i’ll at least have something every day. but who knows, maybe i’ll post like crazy!

welcome to the new ysmarko

when i started ysmarko a little over four years ago, i grabbed a clean and simple free wordpress template called “benevolence”, with a cross-section of green grass sprouting across the header. a little while later, ys online dude at the time, will leingang, helped me a tweak it a tiny bit. but for the most part, i’ve had that same old template for four years straight. and these days, i see so many blog designs i love (and quite a few i really don’t like). i spoke with adam mclane, my coworker at ys, about redesigning the whole thing. adam asked me to identify a bunch of blogs i liked (the look of), so he could get an idea of what i was thinking. after looking at a few hundred, it was obvious i don’t go for the ones with lots of clutter and darkness. i like clean. and i knew i wanted a twitter feed, and a current reading list, and a few other things. so adam asked ys media scion ian robertson to whip up a little ysmarko logo, then adam presented me with a string of ever-evolving possibilities.

and here it is!

i hope you like it; but, ultimately, i chose it because i like it.

the tabs at the top give a few more biographical options. the right side has the twitter feed (it had a facebook status feed also, but that seems to not be working with facebook’s redesign; so it might be back later), a few other sets of unobtrusive links, and my current reads. clean, baby, but with some life to it. yeah.

there are a bunch of back-end changes also, like the permalinks are now the titles of the posts, rather than a number; so you should be able to find specific posts more easily (as should google).

anyhoo. thanks to ian and adam (and i think jonathan matlock also).

whatcha think?

dan kimball reviews ym3.0

so stoked to have my friend dan kimball review youth ministry 3.0, and call it out as a book all church leaders should read. dan is a great and unique mind, and has a quirky way of thinking and writing that i have often found almost as valuable as his friendship. here’s dan’s wonderful review:

Youth Ministry 3.0 = Church 3.0

Youth ministry 3.0 I just reread Youth Ministry 3.0 today for the second time. It is a book that is short, but it is not a book that is shallow. It’s written by my friend Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties. I met Marko in Colorado around 10 years ago at a retreat think-tank sort of thing we both were at. He was not yet on staff with Youth Specialties but was soon to be going there. I found an instant admiration of his unique hair style that he had at the time. I will say that his hair changes seasonally in ways that I am in awe of. It feels like every year at the Apple Convention the excitement builds for the unveiling of the new Mac products – and I feel that way about his hair. It feels like an annual event. You can sense it coming… the anticipation builds – and then there is the revealing of a new style.

I have had many fun days through the years with Marko and we went to Singapore together a couple of years ago (where he saw me with my hair drenched and flattened after a downpour).

But, this post isn’t about hair… I am writing about his latest book, Youth Ministry 3.0. I had an entirely different review written at first – and then changed it because there are many great reviews posted already looking at the content of the book you can read here. I wanted to write a different kind of review focusing on why I think this book is critically important not just to youth leaders but to church leaders in general. It really could be called “Church 3.0”.

When I read the book I had the strong “aha!” experience of when someone explores and discovers the underlying cause of a problem.That’s very different than just trying to fix the surface or exterior of a problem while the real problem still remains below. Marko addresses why we need to change, not just suggesting change for change sake, or change to keep up with youth trends. He makes a case that our assumptions may be wrong about how we go about youth ministry today. If we are entering into ministry with wrong assumptions, then we can go on and on and on in ministry building on incorrect assumptions. So this is a very, very big thing to consider and why this book is important and makes it very different from others.

Marko then does what a good historian and cultural anthropologist would do and goes back into time to trace the roots of where what we do comes from. I cannot overstate the importance of doing this. If we don’t go back to our origins to see when and why and how things developed, we then may be building on incorrect assumptions if the original reason we started doing something is now different. So he looks at the growth of youth culture first. Where did “teenagers” come from? When and how did youth ministry as we know it start? He goes through all this so we have a framework of understanding how we got to where we are today. He does it in a relatively short amount of pages which is amazing for the amount of content he covers.

From this Marko builds a sequence of phases uses a chart to track through time how we first had Youth MIinistry 1.0, then 2.0 and now entering 3.0. he breaks it down by Youth Culture Fixation, Cultural Influence on Youth Ministry, Key Themes, what drives the ministry and even a theme verse which was fun to see what he would select. As I mentioned, there are great reviews on Marko’s blog already which explore these three themes more. So I won’t repeat them – but I wanted to explore something else about this book.

Youth Ministry sets the path for the whole church to follow

I have a theory that perhaps what Marko is saying here is not just regarding youth ministry. These 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 phases definitely apply to youth – however, I am pretty convinced that they really speak of “Church 3.0” as well. That is why I think that this book should be read not just by youth leaders, but by anyone in vocational ministry as it effects every aspect of every church we are in.

When Marko talks about what influenced youth during these phases, I would make a case that these same shifts influenced the church at large, not only youth. If I am looking at what he says about “Cultural Influences on Youth Ministry” being in 1.0 we had “Language and Topics” and in 2.0 we had “Models and Success” and in 3.0 we have “Contextualization” – the description of the shift from 2.0 to 3.0 is exactly what I find myself thinking as a church planter of a church entering year 5 of our existence. Yes, there are applications of these changes that apply to specific ages such as youth. But as I am reading what he is writing, I am thinking “This book could be titled “Church 3.0”

Something I have been wondering about and this book stirred this up in my thinking again, is how influential youth ministry is to the church at large. What I mean by that is wondering if what youth ministries do now will become what churches are like in the future. I have been interested in looking at in particular the rise of some “adult” churches in the Bible belt. This may just be my perspective and incorrect – but some of the very large ones, look almost identical to youth ministries of the 1990’s. The lights, the bands, the smoke machines, the whole shebang in what the worship gatherings are like. God sure seems to be using them in their contexts and am thrilled reading about how God is using these churches. As I read Marko’s book, I wondered if what is happening in these areas is that the adult churches are to some degree to the 2.0 approach of what youth ministry was doing. Maybe California and the west coast is more moving into 3.0 earlier? I don’t know, but as I have been a youth leader for many years and then young adult leader – Marko is writing down the shifts that I saw with youth and young adults with the 2.0 to 3.0. So maybe some of the youth ministries pave the way for what the adult church does and some areas of the country accelerate faster than others or slower than others in this latest phase.

Out in California and some other places, I have seen some “adult” churches now adopt what young adult ministries were doing 10 years ago. You could take what a young adult worship gathering looked like in 1999 and the main gatherings of the church now look like that in 2009. So maybe the youth ministry paves the way for young adult ministry who paves the way for the whole church to some degree. I am drifting here, but when you read Youth Ministry 3.0, it gets you thinking about these very types of things. That is why it is such a great book. It doesn’t wrap up the ending with conclusions of what to specifically do – but it leaves you with optimism and makes you think.

I would get this book even if you aren’t a youth leader and be looking at your church through the lens of what Marko raises. I believe we should always be watching what is happening in youth minstries, as to be out of touch with them – to me, means we will lose touch in our churches as they progress to the future. I have always felt that youth pastors and leaders are the pioneers of creating the future church. They take a lot of risks and experiment with things and deal with cultural change first – and then the rest of the church seems to catch up later. So when Youth Ministry moves from 1.0 to 2.0, the church is just becoming 1.0. Then as Youth Ministry moves from 2.0 to 3.0, the church is moving from 1.0 to 2.0.

OK. Long review and thoughts. But that’s what the book does and why I think it is really “Church 3.0” in addition to Youth Ministry 3.0. It is one of those books which makes you think about a lot of things as you read it.

I would like to end this post with some Marko photos highlighting three of the various phases of hair styles that he has had since I have known him.


Marko 1.0 ………………….. Marko 2.0 ………………….. Marko 3.0

ys mystery box

In about a month Youth Specialties is relocating a few miles to the east in El Cajon, California. As part of the move we have to purge a lot of books. And when I say a lot of books, I literally mean tons of miscellaneous Youth Specialties resources!

Typically, a company would just fill a dumpster with this and send it to a landfill. But we looked at this mountain of books and DVDs and recognized that we could give them to people who would use them AND we could help benefit a Christian organization in San Diego that is doing amazing things mentoring inner-city students to become first generation college students. (If you went to NYWC 2008, you may remember when we highlighted their Seriously Ridiculous story.)

With that, the idea of The Mystery Box was born.

How it Works

1. Make a donation of $20 (or more) to Reality Changers. [Learn about Reality Changers here. Make your donation here.] < – WIN FOR REALITY CHANGERS! 2. Youth Specialties will mail you a box of at least 4 resources. (May include books, curriculum, DVD, or other YS resource.) <– WIN FOR YOUTH SPECIALTIES! 3. Your donation helps a student participate in a mentorship program that prepares them to be a first generation college student. <– WIN FOR A STUDENT! 4. You get at least 4 Youth Specialties resources. <– WIN FOR YOU! Our goal is to ship at least 100 mystery boxes and raise $2000 or for Reality Changers by May 15th, 2009. Please help us reach this goal and make a difference! Youth Specialties isn’t making a dime on this. 100% of the proceeds of the after-shipping costs of the sale go directly to Reality Changers. Which is why we’re shipping everything as cheap as we can! (More money for Reality Changers) Also, we’re only guaranteeing you will get 4 Youth Specialties resources. We can’t guarantee which ones, sadly we can’t fulfill special requests. How Can You Help? 1. Make a donation and get a Mystery Box! 2. Blog about this, share this on Facebook, make a video about it and post it to YouTube, email other youth workers this blog post… help us spread the word!

earth day, recycled

adam asked some of our staff at ys to report what we’re doing in our homes to try to be more environmentally friendly, and pulled some of those responses together into a post, which i’ll just copy here (’cause i think it’s cool):

At Youth Specialties, we lean into our company principles. The first one is, “Youth Specialties will be a good steward of what God has entrusted to us, recognizing that this company is a gift from Him.” On first read that might not seem like a tie-in to Earth Day. But in many practical ways we see part of our stewardship of the company is to help ensure that we do little things that can make a big impact on the world we live in.

Of course, this stewardship attitude also carries over into our personal lives. Living in the San Diego area, a coastal community in Southern California, means that recycling, water conservation, and car emissions are a very big deal. It isn’t hard to see the connection between our actions and the immediate impact on the fragile place we love to live. Last week, I asked my co-workers if they would share new things that they are doing in 2009 in their households to lessen their negative impact on our environment. Here are some of the responses:

Dave Palmer– VP of Marketing

My family has been fine with one car in the past year – mildly inconvenienced, but nothing horrible, and aside from the massive expense a new car would bring, driving something older and reliable means that the emissions from a new car won’t reach the atmosphere. We’ve also ratcheted up our recycling, and not just our trash, but in looking for second, third and fourth lives for our stuff. We find homes for kids’ clothes and old furniture with friends, and have been dabbling with freecycle as not only as a way to find things and homes for things, but to meet other people obviously interested in the concept. Either that or I’m just cheap.

We also try our best to monitor energy usage – leaving heat & ac off as much as possible, unplugging stuff that isn’t in use like a toaster, a microwave, and power strips that serve multiple appliances. my wife is way better than I am at remembering cloth bags for trips to the store, and we’re trying to leave one in the car trunk at all times.

Susie Anders– Keeper of the Books

This year my family has replaced ALL our incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs in both the house we are selling and the house we live in! We have switched to cloth diapers to reduce the impact of disposable diapers on the landfill. We purchased additional trash cans to be able to separate the recyclables paper/cardboard from the trash (we already separate cans & bottles). We also use a countertop filter for our drinking & cooking water to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

Roni Meek– Managing Editor

I feel passionately about preserving our planet. I have several earth friendly practices in place that have become second nature in our home. Several examples are using earth friendly cleaning products, using cloth napkins (even in school lunches), decreasing the amount of “disposable” products we use, and growing a vegetable garden every summer.

Brittany Marsh– Customer Service

This year I have been purchasing all of my produce through local farmers who practice environmentally friendly farming.

Marko– President

We moved to a smaller house to reduce our costs and footprint. I sold my car and skateboard/take the train to work. We buy produce from an organic farm co-op weekly. We bought a lo-energy washer/dryer. Most lights are now fluorescent. Oh, and yeah, we separate the recyclables. I’ll admit, while I like doing all this stuff, my wife and kids take the lead on it (of course, I’m the one taking the train to work).

Adam McLane– Online Community Dude

Our new house doesn’t have automatic sprinklers so now we water as needed as opposed to watering by schedule. Also, we’ve been very conscious to replace light bulbs with those fancy compact flourescent deals. We bought these really cool bins which help the kids get involved in seperating recycleables. Like Dave and Marko we’re proudly a one car family. To cut down on the amount of driving and running around we do I’ve recently started taking the trolley.

What about you? What are you doing in your household and ministry to be a great steward of God’s creation? Share a comment! We’d love to celebrate with you and share ideas.

short reflection on ym3.0

a nice, short reflection on youth ministry 3.0, by paul kelly:

In his recent book, Youth Ministry 3.0, Mark Oestreicher calls for a dramatic shift in youth ministry. He says youth leaders have emphasized events and activities–our youth ministry program–in a hope to reach youth for Christ. However, that just doesn’t seem to be working any more (if it really ever did). Marko suggests we need to adjust our approach to youth ministry to be more personal. He suggests we may need to do less activity so that we can invest more in relational ministry with students.

I couldn’t agree more. And, for the small church, this emphasis is not just a good adjustment to our culture. It is really at the core of what a small church is . . . family.

In most youth ministry conference over the last ten years or so, conference leaders have asked youth leaders to invest more and more energy in planning and implementing lots of programs. Believe me, I have led many of those well-intentioned conferences. However, I have come to believe that your students need less planned activity . . . and more of you.

Being a youth leader is not really about planning activities. Being a youth leader is about discipling youth. I don’t mean to imply that there is something wrong with developing a youth ministry program. Youth need opportunities to dig into Scripture. They need opportunities to invest in the lives of other people . . . to have ministry demonstrated and to practice it. They need opportunities to build relationships with each other. However, if your investment in your youth ministry program means you don’t have time to spend time with students–to see how their Algebra test went or find out how they are working through a problem they shared with you or invite them to talk about their new commitment to prayer–you are planning too much.

Perhaps the most important skill a youth leader can learn is how to be present with teenagers. Jesus was an amazing teacher. He did great things. But, I somehow believe the greatest impact he had on the lives of his disciples was his presence.

monday morning update, april 20, 2009

the weekend that was: my whole family was still struggling with jet lag from our spring break trips, so the weekend was pretty low key. we got caught up on some tv recorded while we were gone, did the laundry, and hung out. saturday night, jeannie, max and i went to see 17 again, which was predictable (shoot, it’s even predictable to say it was predictable), but cute enough. sunday was church, then i took a nap while my family went to an earth day thing in san diego (i was going to go also, but have a massive head cold setting in, and needed some sleep). and sunday night was our home church. pretty low key, all in all.

where i am at the moment: at my desk at ys. i’m here for three days this week, before heading to orange county to check out some of catalyst west coast.

on my to-do list this week: we’re in the final stages of nailing down details on ys’s move, and there are lots of details to cross off the list this week.

procrastinating about: cleaning up my office. and with the approaching ys move, i’m going to have to get rid of a good 50% of the crap in my office — major purge ahead.

book i’m in the midst of: same two.

burakamusic that seemed to catch my attention this past week: got two great, but very different albums from amiestreet this week…

black diamond, by buraka som sistema. this portugese group sounds a lot like MIA, and is a mixture of pop, club, electronic, hip hop and world beat. whatever it is, it’s just so pickin’ cool. i listened to it for days.

theheavygreat vengeance and furious fire, by the heavy. i’d downloaded a couple ep’s by the heavy before, and was stoked to see they had a full-length album on amiestreet. they’re a groove-heavy rock, funk and soul band, that sounds like they could have been making urban soul in the 70s (funny, they’re british). an album review i read says, “They combine Isaac Hayes with Gnarls Barkley, Curtis Mayfield with Jimi Hendrix, Mike Skinner’s elastic delivery with Prince’s falsetto vocals.” yeah, baby, that’s what i’m talkin’ about. (caution: some of the tracks are not “radio versions”).

next trip: driving up to OC thurs and fri for a taste of catalyst west coast, then fly to grand rapids for a one-night trip to the mothership next monday/tuesday.

how i’m feeling about this week: fine, if it weren’t for this head cold, which is just KICKING MY TAIL.