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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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What Lemonade Actually Looks Like


When life hands you lemons…made lemonade.

We’ve all heard the expression. Even more, if your temper resembles mine, you’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to tell people what to do with those lemons exactly. Or where to put them.

That being said, we all know that life is messy. Things rarely go according to plan. The last week was a perfect example. Continue reading What Lemonade Actually Looks Like

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Test Drive “The Real Jesus” by Jen Bradbury

The Real Jesus - Test Drive

The Real Jesus - Front CoverOn March 15th, we’re releasing a brand new student devotional, The Real Jesus.

We think it’s really, really good. And we think it’s really, really important that your students get to know The Real Jesus.

And since it’s a book we think you’ll want to put in your students hands we want to do something a bit unorthodox: We’re giving it away before it even comes out. Not a sample— the whole deal. 

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Are You Celebrated or Merely Tolerated?

A number of years ago, I was volunteering in a youth ministry and it didn’t feel right. There were small issues all the time, nothing big, but enough to cause frustration. It made me doubt myself, my skills, my calling.

I never could quite figure out what the issue was, until years later when I happened to see this ‘advice’ on my Facebook timeline:

celebrated or tolerated quote

All of a sudden it hit me. There’s a big, a huge difference between being tolerated and being celebrated. And that’s exactly what was happening in that church, in that volunteer position. I was tolerated, for whatever reason, but I was never celebrated. Ever since, I’ve looked at my position in churches and ministries differently.

Now, I’m not big on following your feelings. I know we live in a culture where following your heart has became the mantra and where ‘do what feels right’ is about the highest priority. The Bible shows us a different way, however, a higher way. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good. On the contrary, fleeing from sin for instance may not feel good at all and neither will persevering in the midst of pressure and oppression. Christianity is not and will never be a feel-good-faith. So the first part of that quote is debatable, as far as I’m concerned.

Where Is God Calling You?

That being said, I do believe in serving where you are meant to be, where God is calling you. That can be a place where you are celebrated. I’m a volunteer with Youth for Christ right now and I love it. I work with both middle schoolers and high schoolers and the pastor who is in charge of the after school clubs we run had happily delegated all of the teaching to me. He celebrates my passion and gift for teaching and there’s such freedom and empowerment in that.

But sometimes our calling is to be merely tolerated, because that’s exactly where God wants us to be. I’ve been that trailblazer before, especially as a woman. I was the first woman on staff in my church in The Netherlands, the first woman to speak regularly in Sunday morning services, the first woman who was allowed to do weddings. I was only tolerated at first, and sometimes not even that. There have been times where I wanted to quit because I was so tired of the struggle to be treated equally.

Yet I was exactly where God wanted me to be. He used me to open doors and make a way for others. I started being tolerated, but I left being celebrated. Every time I’m back in The Netherlands, that church invites me to speak and I’ve done a number of weddings and special services sinceI left!

I hope that you’re in a place right now where you’re being celebrated, where people love you and value you for all you are. If you’re not, make sure you are where God wants you to be. He may call you to serve in the desert for a while, but you’d better make sure that is indeed your calling. How I pray that you will end up being celebrated as well…

p.s. No matter where you are in life or in your ministry, if you are a woman in youth ministry, the Women in Youth Ministry Campference is the place to be for you. Check out more info here and register soon, ’cause it’s only a few weeks away!

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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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What my All-Girls Education Taught me About Women in Leadership

woman in youth ministry

I am the product of an all-girls Catholic high school.

Without a doubt, I got a good education at the all-girls Catholic high school I attended. Beyond that, though, my all-girls education gave me all sorts of leadership opportunities – opportunities that, quite honestly, I’m not sure I would have had or taken in a co-ed environment.

Surrounded by all-girls, I was taught – over and over again – that I could do anything. Because guys simply weren’t around, I was free to speak my mind, without having to worry about trying to impress them. I was encouraged to solve problems creatively and never once had to worry about mansplaining, that awkward moment when a guy tells you all about one of your own ideas or explains something to you that you already know. I was mentored and guided by other powerful women.

By the time I graduated high school, I was a confident leader convinced I could lead anyone.

Four years later, I entered professional youth ministry where as a woman, I suddenly found myself in the minority. Although I remained confident in my leadership skills and abilities, I quickly encountered others who doubted them, simply because of my gender.

At conferences, people assumed I was a volunteer, not a paid youth worker.  

On mission trips, people assumed my husband was the paid youth worker and I, the dutiful pastor’s wife.

At staff meetings, I’d regularly get mansplained.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m thankful for my male colleagues. I’m thankful for the men who serve as leaders in my youth ministry. And I’m thankful for guys who work as paid youth pastors.

The Kingdom of God needs us all.

But unlike my experience of all-female leadership in high school, I’m also aware of just how lonely it can be when you’re a female in a male-dominated world.

I know how frustrating it can be to have people question your calling simply because of your gender.

I recognize how tempting it can be to try to lead like the male youth pastor down the street in order to gain the approval and acceptance of others.

Having experienced the unique challenges that come with being a woman in youth ministry, I’m super excited to be part of The Youth Cartel’s Women in Youth Ministry Campference, April 13 – 15.

At the Women in Youth Ministry Campference, we’ll gather together with other people LIKE US. We’ll link arms with women who understand us because they’ve been where we are. They know the unique joys and challenges that come with being a woman in youth ministry.

During the Campference, we’ll learn and collaborate with other women in youth ministry; laugh together and cry together; and share our deepest joys and sorrows without having to worry about being misunderstood.

Campference will provide us with what my all-girls education provided me with all those years ago: support, affirmation, guidance, and confidence. After three days together, I have no doubt we’ll leave feeling better equipped and energized to return to our ministries knowing that what we uniquely bring to them as women in youth ministry is indeed a gift.

Jen-Headshot-250x250Jen Bradbury serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. She’s the author of The Jesus Gap. Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal and The Christian Century, and she blogs regularly at When not doing ministry, she and her husband, Doug, can be found hiking, backpacking, and traveling with their daughter, Hope.