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A Summer-y Interview with Jonathan McKee

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This week I had the chance to catch up with one of the busiest guys out there, Jonathan McKee. Jonathan is the author of a bunch of books, including The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers.
Adam: Jonathan, tell me what summer looks like for your ministry.

Jonathan: Spring and Fall are crazy full with travel, teaching parent workshops and speaking at events  but that always calms down during the Summer. So Summer provides a time to work on some writing projects. I’m working on a new parenting book.

Adam: Whats the title?

Jonathan: Working title is, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid. Summer gives me a chance to work on those projects and catch up on some much needed administrative crud.

Adam: Crud, huh?

Jonathan: I could think of other choice words… but I think crud will suffice.

Adam: I’m sure you mean “stuff” right? So, when you’re not writing or doing administrative crud, what are you up to that isn’t work?

Jonathan: Kayaking and hanging out with my family.

Adam: Sweet, I spend a lot of time kayaking, too. What’s kayaking look like where you live?

Jonathan: Smooth water, long and fast. I have a race in July where I run 6 miles, bike 12 and kayak 6. I’m dropping weight and training hard so I can beat my time.

Adam: I’ve seen some of your Instagram posts. You actually work out at the same lake you wrote about in your The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers, right?

Jonathan: Yeah, there’s this fun little island in the middle of the lake. Every time I passed it I couldn’t help but think, What a perfect spot to escape during a zombie apocalypse. So it made it into my book.

Adam: When I work out I don’t think about zombie apocalypse, my only thoughts are “How much longer do I have to workout?” and “What’s for dinner?” Switching gears– Summer is a time for vacations. What is your dream vacation?

Jonathan: I’m taking it with my wife Lori this coming February for my 25th wedding anniversary. Two weeks in Hawaii, being pampered in a nice resort. I’m counting the days!

Adam: 25 years, that’s awesome. Lori is a saint! OK, what’s your favorite summer youth ministry story?

Jonathan: Oh, wow! So many. This is random, but it’s hot here in Sacramento right now, so that reminds me of the time I had a van load of kids on the way home from church— I used to cart unchurched kids to church each week with my family. So we’re literally driving back from church in a 15-passenger van on a desolate road 3 miles from my house… and I ran out of gas. My wife and kids are with me, the kids are in car seats and the second the van died the AC turned off and we’re all baking in the van.

To make matters worse, my wife had asked me that morning, “Are you sure we don’t need gas?”

I told her, “It’s fine.”

I kicked off my dress shoes and ran home three miles barefoot and brought my other car with a gas can.

Let’s just say Lori wasn’t happy with me that day.

Adam: Ah, the real reason you’re going to Hawaii is to make up for previous sins. Got it!

Jonathan: She never said, “I told you so.” But she did make me change a 101 degree diaper when we got home. Whew!

Adam: What’s your least favorite part of summer youth ministry?

Jonathan: Besides that diaper? That’s a tough one. I like so many aspects of summer youth ministry. But one year my boss assigned me a campus two weeks before school started and said, “You’re in charge of this campus.” I had two weeks to recruit volunteers, raise a budget… and find some kids!” It was a wild ride. Fun experience to look back on.

Adam: Good times. Thanks for taking time to talk with us today.

Jonathan: Thank you. It’s been fun partnering with you on The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers. Truly one of the most adventurous projects I’ve worked on.

Learn more about our Zombie Devotional
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An Interview with Jake Kircher

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In youth ministry, the school year is pretty much the same for everyone. We have Sunday responsibilities, office hours, midweek programs, contact ministry, and stuff like that. But I’ve found that summer is highly unique.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Jake Kircher to ask him a few questions about his summer, both from a ministry perspective as well as what he’s doing with his family.

If you don’t know Jake, he’s virtually a Cartel staffer. He leads Open Boston, authored Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World, is the writer for our popular THINK curriculum, and starting this Fall will lead our first YMCP cohort focused on youth ministry in post-Christian contexts. Besides the stuff he does with us he’s also a pastor at Grace Community Church in Connecticut, a husband and dad. Pretty much the only thing I don’t like about Jake is his love of the Red Sox. That just doesn’t make sense to me. At all.

Continue reading An Interview with Jake Kircher

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An Interview with Mark Oestreicher

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We’re kicking off our summer series, Every Summer Has a Story, with an interview of my co-conspirator in The Youth Cartel, Mark Oestreicher. Even though we live about 2 miles apart we each travel enough that we actually don’t see one another regularly. Marko travels about twice as much as I do… he travels so much that Rick Steves asks Marko for travel tips. I caught up with Marko to hear a bit about his summer as well as his thoughts on summer in youth ministry.

Continue reading An Interview with Mark Oestreicher

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The WYMC Wouldn’t Be Possible Without…

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We are but two weeks away from the first ever Cartel Women in Youth Ministry Campference. Our team has literally been planning and praying since last summer. We can’t wait for everyone to get there!

The major scaffolding of this Campference (which is the best elements of a camp and a conference combined) is our two partners and one sponsor. I just love how they believe in what we are doing and want to support these women in leadership. Let me tell you a little about them, because you’ll love them, too.

Lake Junaluska

The Campference wouldn’t be happening without our accommodation, Lake Junaluska. They believed in this vision from day one and have worked with us on every level to make this event possible. They’ve given us lots of space as we created the contract. They’ve set us up in their best housing. I mean, look at these amazing new rooms!!They’ve provided us with a worship team to lead us into the presence of God. Lake J is infamous and is truly a gift in location and cost to allow us to be there!

Lake J Rooms

Lake Junaluska also hosts incredible youth retreats every winter and provides a myriad of great resources for pastoral renewal. We hope your time at Lake J at the Campference will give you a reason to come back!

Slingshot Group

The Slingshot Group were another organization that believed in this from the very beginning. They asked, “How can we get involved?” and put some serious investment behind the answer to that question. Slingshot not only offered financial backing but they also gave us Nancy Beach as our main stage speaker. Nancy is a big deal in the church world and Slingshot knew that she would add so much value in her presence, words, and coaching to be at the Campference. So, they made it possible for Nancy to be with us. Wow.

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If you’re not familiar with Slingshot Group, they partner with churches all over the U.S. for staffing searches and coaching. I also work with Slingshot in their youth ministry division, which is why I wanted them to partner with us at the Campference. Every week I get to see the positive investment of staffing churches and coaches candidates toward the remarkable. If your church is struggling, Slingshot can help you figure it out. If you are in a transition and need someone to help you walk through that transition, Slingshot is here for you. If your church needs a staffing position filled with a great candidate or you need some ongoing coaching, Slingshot has your back.

Judson University

Judson University is our sole sponsor at WYMC. Judson has believed in and poured into women for pastoral leadership for years. They graciously said “yes” to sponsoring this event – even when it wasn’t in their budget! – because they want to encourage YOU as a frontrunner in ministry. That’s why they are awesome! Plus, look how beautiful this campus is!

Judson University

For a couple decades, Judson has been training youth ministry students for pastoral ministry. I am a product of their youth ministry and adolescent development major. It equipped me for ministry beyond my hopes and expectations. They also have a Master of Leadership in Ministry that may be exactly what you need to do next.

We are grateful to these ministries – and the people who make them awesome! – for coming alongside of this to make it happen. You can find out more about our partners and sponsor here. We think they can greatly impact your life and ministry, too!

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The Final Frontier

8545176138_5b3d2744e4_kNot long ago, popular Christian author Annie Downs tweeted “Sometimes it feels like youth ministry is the final frontier for women in leadership.

A friend asked me what I thought of this. To be honest, I’m not sure I agree with Annie’s premise.

When I hear the phrase “final frontier”, I think of the last unexplored area in a particular region or industry. To me, that’s not what youth ministry is for women in leadership. Continue reading The Final Frontier

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Too Old to be a Woman in Youth Ministry

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old womanLiving in Michigan, I hear a lot of people complain about the snow or look at me with crazy eyes because I chose to move here from sunny California. I am not a grumpy winter complainer. I don’t complain about the cold, the snow, or the temperature that is too crazy cold to take kids to play outside.  I am not sure why, but  I love winter. Maybe it’s because I like actually being able to wear scarves, cute boots, and cardigans 7 months out of the year. Continue reading Too Old to be a Woman in Youth Ministry

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Why I’m Going to the Women in Youth Ministry Campference

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I have to be 100% honest: when I first heard about this campference, I dismissed the idea of attending. I had no desire to go to a women’s conference. I’ve been to several “women-only” events in the past and tend to find myself a bit judgmental of them. They sometimes lean heavily on crafts, quiche, and talking about how great it is to be woman rather than a man. I have walked away from several feeling hungry physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Over the years I’ve appreciated youth worker gatherings. Not only because they are fuel to my brain, but also because they’re fuel for my soul because of the relationships I have made with other regular attendees. These gatherings have turned into a meeting place of friends.

Yet, even though I love the camaraderie, the rest of the conference I catch myself trying to prove my credentials. I’d causally drop my professional position or years I have been in youth ministry as a sort of status when introducing myself. I secretly had a feeling that I need to prove to people why I belong there. No one ever asked for my resume. It sometimes was the pressure of hearing someone else’s experience level. Sometimes it was feeling out-numbered being one of the few females in the room.  Other times it was just rooted in pressure I put on myself both professionally and personally.

Recently though, I was doing some soul inventory. I had a longing for something but could not quite figure out what it was.  It wasn’t until I found myself praying aloud, “God, I need a place where I can just BE.” I desired a place I was not trying to prove myself.

At that moment, this campference re-entered my mind. I went back to the website and read the description of this event: “We may not know your name – yet – but we know you. We get you.  That’s because you’re one of us. You’re a woman in youth ministry and so are we.

That’s it!  That is what I need!

I NEED A PLACE TO JUST BE.

This April I am looking forward to entering a community to just BE. I am looking forward to a place where I will not have to justify who I am. I will not bring up if or how long I went to school. I will not preface a conversation with how many years of experience I have. I will just be.

Why? Because I am already gotten. I am already understood. I am already one of them.


 

Christina Robertson is currently the associate middle school pastor at a church in Southern California and has had a heart to serve middle school students for a number of years.  She is married and has three girls.

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The Passover

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I’m a young leader…ok…youngish. I’ve had the great opportunity to get to know hundreds of different young leaders over the years, and there is a common trait that most of us seem to share.

 A desire to be noticed.

 Whether it’s working inside a church, with a missions organization or in the corporate world, young emerging leaders want to be seen, recognized and given the opportunity to lead.

So being the kind of guy that I am, I asked the question why? And here’s what I’ve discover:

We young leaders are afraid.

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 We are afraid that we won’t be seen, we may not be noticed and we may not get the chance to lead. We’re afraid that at the end of our lives, we may have just been passed over. If we were really honest with ourselves, we might find the courage to not only recognize our fear, but figure out a way to combat it.

 

What If?

So what if we decided to be something other than afraid? What could that look like and what would it take? Here are three things I’ve begun to identify as growth areas for me as a young (ish) leader:

 

  1. Humility– it’s not all about me. The true measure of a faithful follower of Jesus, regardless of the setting or context, is not about personal development…it’s about kingdom development. When my motivation is to make sure that “my gifts are being used” or “my voice is being heard” I might actually be in the business of self-promotion. And if I am, I’m counteracting the work of Jesus. A wise leader is a humble leader. If we would humble ourselves and pray, what would God do in us and through us?

 

  1. Patience – timing is everything. It’s supposed to take 40 weeks of gestation for a human being to be grown (sometimes shorter, and other times longer). It takes time for crops to grow in a field. It takes time for young leaders to be recognized for their character, competence and commitment. There are no short cuts to influence. Being on stage with thousands of people tuning in to what you have to say doesn’t instantaneously make you relevant. If you want to be seen, stay in the game longer than you think is possible. Embrace the internal and external tension, it might just be a gift God is giving to you for a reason. The solution may not be running out to start a brand new hip church…it actually might be to weather the storm so that perseverance can develop the character God desperately wants you to obtain.

 

  1. Grace – no one is perfect. Sometimes all we are meant to learn from leaders who have gone before us is how not to lead. And sometimes we need to learn how to forgive and to forget. What if we took the time to think the best about others instead of the worst? How might our conversations about the people who “don’t see us” change if we see them with the eyes of grace instead of the eyes of frustration?

 

So what about you? Where are you at as a leader? Are you young and wanting to be noticed, or are you in a position to identify and develop the emerging leaders around you? What will your leadership legacy be? Let’s choose not to be afraid of The Passover…we’re not even certain it’s actually going to happen, are we?

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Sitting in the Ashes

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Last night I had the privilege of listening to a ministry friend of mine share his story of working through the reality of living with mental health related issues. Brett Ullman shared openly, honestly and passionately about this somewhat taboo subject, causing me to reflect on what my role is as a friend, father, husband and leader when it comes to mental health.

One of my favourite stories is the story of Job. It’s an epic tale of a man who had everything, lost it, experienced great pain, and saw it all restored over a series of different circumstances (read about it here).

As the story of Job unfolds, his friends gather around him to support him in this season of pain and confusion. They do something that I find extremely profound and the outset of this initial connection…they choose to sit beside him in literal ashes for 3 days.

Unfortunately after this point they attempt to counsel Job and offer their “wisdom” as to why he may be experiencing this pain.

Nonetheless, there is something very raw and powerful to be learned here. I’ve asked myself this question over the last 12+ hours, “What does sitting in the ashes alongside someone look like today?”

Here are some ideas that came to mind:

  • visiting someone in the hospital
  • sharing a meal with someone
  • laughing
  • giving your lunch to someone so they can eat a meal today
  • financially supporting a child through Compassion or World Vision
  • giving out free hugs (careful with this one…could get weird!!)
  • shovelling snow
  • praying for someone
Are there Jobs in your life? People who just need to know that someone is willing to sit with them in the middle of their pain? What would it look like for you to sit in the ashes alongside someone in need today?