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Youth Ministry Coaching Program Stories

When I beta tested the Youth Ministry Coaching Program’s first cohort back in 2010, I had no idea how it was going to transform lives. I thought it going to be cool training. I thought it was going to help youth workers grow in the depth of their thinking. I thought people would be able to share honestly with each other and see real growth in their lives. But it’s far surpassed my expectations and over these last 10 years. 

YMCP has become the premier coaching program in the Youth Ministry world with 600 people going through this year-long process. I have seen crazy awesome, only God stuff – marriages saved, youth ministries reinvented, countless youth workers staying in ministry, and quite a few deciding it was time to get out. It’s much more than a training program, it’s a growth and transformation program.

I asked a couple of people to share their recent experience with the YMCP, and you can watch what they had to say:

We are currently filling cohorts for the spring of 2021, and you can see the opportunities here: https://theyouthcartel.com/faq-item/cohorts-currently-forming/.

We also have a new online opportunity that completely reimagines the program to work digitally. Learn more about that https://theyouthcartel.com/ymcp-online/.

I would love to see you consider joining us in one of those programs.

Marko

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Twelve Things I Love About Middle School Ministry

A number of years ago i wrote a post listing reasons why i love middle school ministry. and recently, i re-wrote that post as a column for youthwork magazine (in the UK). here’s my list (realize that “middle school ministry” doesn’t mean anything in the UK, so i use their term “11 – 14s” or young teens instead):

  1. Young teen ministry is about shaping. What an opportunity! Everything I learn about young teens continues to affirm and re-affirm that this is not merely a holding period until the good stuff of older teen work.
  2. 11 – 14s are easy to connect with. Years ago, a youth ministry mentor shared this simple observation: 11 – 14s, in their decision as to whether they’ll allow you into their lives, are only asking the question, “Do you like me?” Older teens complicate it more by adding, “Do I like you?” And university students ramp up the complexity by layering on the additional question, “Do I like what you stand for?” 
  3. They’re willing to try anything. The young teen years (in a post-puberty parallel to the first few years of life) are all about discovery or sampling. Young teens, in the earliest stages of self-conscious identity formation, want to try everything. They don’t start testing conclusions until the middle teen years. This is a wild ride of unpredictability, of course, and can feel very scattered and capricious. But there’s willingness—even desire—to try things that makes young teens prime for creative and participatory youth work.
  4. The wonder of abstract thinking. 11 – 14s are far from experienced with abstract thought. But the capacity is there (I like to think of it as God’s puberty gift). And they’re dipping their toes in the water, checking it out.
  5. The process of doubts and faith development. Tied to the development of abstract thinking, young teens are on the leading edge of stumbling onto doubts about their faith. This is a critical aspect of faith development and should never be shamed or shut down. Wrestling with complexities is the necessary detour from childlike, inherited faith to a more robust, owned faith.
  6. They’re unpredictable. Maybe you find this frustrating, but I love it. Young teens regularly and consistently surprise me. They surprise me with their random questions. They surprise me with their hidden talents. They surprise me with their insight. They surprise me with their interpretations (often different than I expect). The unpredictability of 11 – 14s keeps young teen ministry fresh and untamed.
  7. Parents are still involved. Sure, there are plenty of older teens with involved parents. But there’s a drop-off in parent involvement throughout the teen years, as many parents retreat out of fear, exasperation, or a misguided understanding of what it means to give their teenagers independence. We know that parents have a significantly larger shaping role in the lives and faith of their teenagers than we do, so this higher level of parent involvement creates an easier path to coming alongside parents, partnering for greater impact.
  8. They have more time than older teenagers. Yes, young teens are busier than ever; but they still have more time and availability than their older peers. Mix this in with their #3 above (their willingness to try anything), and you’ve got a potent pot of “let’s do stuff!”
  9. Most are not yet jaded. 14 year-olds can start to get a little jaded (some of ‘em). Older teenagers—holy cow—can wear cynicism and “been there, done that” as comfortably as Lady Gaga wears a meat suit. But most young teens possess wonderfully low levels of cynicism and naiveté that looks a lot like hope.
  10. They’re passionate. I love the “all in” attitude of most 11 – 14s. It’s not only their willingness to try things (mentioned in #3 above); they’re also passionate about the things they try, the opinions they voice, the beliefs they hold. The funny thing is: they’re passionate about things that, often, they won’t be passionate about in two months or two years.
  11. They’re forgiving. When you mess up, or have an off night in your teaching, or plan a lame event, or say something dumb, young teens are quick to forgive (particularly if you ask for it). The travel time back to normal (whatever that is!) is extremely short.
  12. They’re fun! Young teens keep me feeling young (not so easy at 50 years-old). They’re playful and hilarious, goofy, and unselfconscious. Young teens remind me, regularly, of what a joy-filled life should look like.

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Why We Love Praying Pelican Missions

Marko here. My memory is a little blurry (‘cause I’m old), but I think I’ve been on roughly 27 youth ministry short term mission trips. I served on the board of one org for five years. I’m friends with people who work at a half dozen other mission orgs; and I’ve interacted with hundreds, maybe thousands, of youth workers about their mission trip experiences.

And that’s the context with which I write:

Short term missions in youth ministry are the best and the worst things we do in North American Youth Ministry (my “North American” qualifier there is due to the fact that youth min STMs have become something of a cottage industry in the US, and are often approached very differently, if at all, in other countries).

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the majority of youth ministry short term missions are problematic, at least partially. They may have some value for the participants; but they often inadvertently teach bad theology and worldviews that are more about imperialism than the Kingdom of God.

But, when done well, with thoughtfulness, humility, and an informed missiology, all recipients can benefit in profound ways that build up the Kingdom. I chose “all recipients” very intentionally in that previous sentence, as the best in STMs are not about us who go as “givers” and those we visit as “receivers.” Instead, we are all receiving, and hopefully experiencing something that smells a little like heaven.

And that’s why I (and The Youth Cartel) only put our eggs–when it comes to short term missions–in one basket: Praying Pelican Missions. Lots of my peeps (ooh, eggs and peeps in subsequent sentences) ask me what I like about PPM. There are plenty of reasons, but one above all: their missiology. When PPM says that their approach is to develop long-term relationships with local church leaders and serve under their leadership, they mean it. I’ve seen it, over and over again. Sometimes that can make things a bit messier than a pre-packaged trip led by college students with work concocted with only the best of colonialist intentions. But I’ll take it any day.

SO: come with me on one of three trips (or just go with PPM without me–i won’t be hurt):

1. A leader trip to Jamaica in March. I mean, come on: this is literally a trip to Jamaica and it’s limited to me and a small handful of youth workers. That’s it. The point, really, is for you to see PPM’s work. But it’s still a four-day trip to Jamaica with me as your travel buddy! There’s a small cost (really small), but 100% of that gets credited to a future yet-to-be-decided-on trip you might take with PPM. (btw: we’re watching ye ol’ Covid sitch closely; and if we have to pivot and go somewhere else, we will.) (oh, also noteworthy: Jim Noreen, PPM’s CEO, and a darn nice fella, is coming with us.)

2. A youth trip to Alaska in July. Yup — bring your group. I’ll be your evening speaker, and i’ll be there to encourage you (and hang with your students). Sure, there’s adventure in this destination. But the ministry will be freaking awesome. AND, Alaska has insanely low Covid numbers.

3. A youth trip to Memphis in July. Same dealio: I’ll speak to your students in the eve, we’ll hang, your group will do meaningful work. And have you had those dry-rub ribs they have in Memphis?

Click here for deets.

Let’s do this. I would love to have you join me. Feel free to contact me with any general questions; but if you want further details about these three trips, or any of the hundreds of options PPM has all over the US and the world, do contact them. And tell ’em Marko sent ya.

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Viva, Next, and First Testament now available at Download Youth Ministry

As we at The Youth Cartel are streamlining and refocusing, we’ve partnered with our friends at Download Youth Ministry to be the exclusive place to purchase lines of curriculum we developed: Viva, Next, and First Testament. We’re happy these excellent resources will get the broader exposure they deserve!

And, your favorite Cartel still has, and will continue to develop, unique and helpful downloadable curriculum and creative interactive resources.

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My Youth Ministry Projections

When I get asked about the future of youth ministry (as I have often been asked in these last weeks), I usually start by acknowledging, “I am not a futurist.” I’m actually not all that gifted at prediction. But I’m pretty good at observing current trends. And with that in mind, I’m going to make a few projections. Sure, maybe that’s semantics. But I’m calling these projections (of what I’m currently observing) rather than predictions. And I could be completely wrong.

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How the Youth Ministry Coaching Program Impacted a Whole Church

By Mark Oestreicher

I got an email the other day from a YMCP grad named Mike Henry, from Souix City, Iowa. He had a couple questions (we tell our grads that we’ll always be available to them, even after their year in YMCP is finished). But then mike graciously took the time to write a little about the impact YMCP has had, not just on his youth ministry, but on his entire church.

With mike’s permission, here’s what he wrote:

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How I Grew in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program

Slide1Recently, at the closing meeting of one of our Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohorts, I (Marko) was having participants reflect on growth they’d seen in themselves over our year together. One of the participants had written the following statement, and read it to us. I asked her if i could share it publicly (making it anonymous, since it refers to some conflict in her church), and she graciously agreed.

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Do you have a Hopeful Imagination?

Chris Folmsbee: Hopeful Imagination

Chris Folmsbee, the leader of Barefoot Ministries, and author of a handful of fantastic books (my favorite is Story, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry) presented some soul-stirring thoughts about a Hopeful Imagination, and what it has to do with youth ministry, at The Summit last fall.

Give yourself a 12 minute break and watch this video. Then tell us what you’re thinking or feeling… (by the way, Chris was sick as a dog when he gave this talk).

(Oh, and don’t forget that the early bird pricing for The Summit 2013 runs out in a few weeks. join us for the most pot-stirring, spirit-awakening, creativity-sparking, diverse slate of speakers at any youth ministry event.)