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Helping Students Thrive into Adulthood

thrive-into-adulthood

By Brock Morgan

Normally when Marko calls me it’s a good thing. So far he’s asked me to speak at The Cartel’s Summit event twice, he’s asked me to write three different books, and he asked me to “potentially” go to Africa. But when he called me about a year and a half ago to ask me to write a graduation book, I thought, “Um, not interested.”

I remember getting graduation books as a senior in high school– they all sat in my room for years, unopened, and then eventually passed on to younger siblings or friends as white elephant gifts.  So I thought, “these are books students do not read.  Why would I want to write one of them?”  But then Marko said, “What if you wrote a book that students actually would want to read and a book that would help them in the next steps of their live and be a launching pad into college life.”

Hmm, well, OK, now we’re onto something!

I’ve always had a passion for seeing students have a sustainable faith. I was a youth ministry major in college (yes, there is such a thing) and my senior thesis was all about helping students think critically and live faith out in a way that it truly makes a difference in every aspect of culture.

So when Marko asked me to write a book helping students to live out the faith in college and on into adulthood, well, that’s a completely different thing all together.  The Amazing Next came out about a year ago and since then I’ve gotten emails from students, parents, and youth workers from all over the country thanking me.  Honestly, I’ve been blown away by it all.  But what happen next was even more of a surprise.  I was talking with my friend and he said, “Brock, you should turn this book into a youth conference.”  What?!  Again, this also initially sounded like a bad idea.

I’ve been a youth worker for 25 years now and I’ve taken students over those years to countless conferences.  My experience has been that these events have had very little lasting impact. Now what I have found was that many of the conferences we’d take our students to led to great bonding for us as a group, many students were inspired, and maybe even experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. But inevitably students go back home with their same questions and struggles, and back to the noise, the patterns, and the life that drowned out God’s presence in the first place.

Plus, in my humble opinion, we all go back to a youth ministry routine and cycle that just might not be the most effective anymore.  Now I’m not a pessimist at all. In fact, I’ve been called a delusional optimist at times.  But after 25 plus years of doing this routine, it has pushed me to wonder if we could come up with a new strategy around camps, retreats, mission trips, and conferences.  My friend’s question about possibly turning The Amazing Next into a conference led us to ask some important questions:

What if a student conference began a communal conversation that addresses the Christian faith’s current cultural stumbling blocks that keeps this generation from thriving?  How can we make this experience a building block for youth workers and their teams?  Could there be a conference that is deeply intellectual (not afraid of the big questions or the answers students land on) but also deeply spiritual and rooted in the work of God’s Spirit?  Could it move groups from youth ministry to youth in ministry?  And what if we wrote a curriculum that each youth group could take home to continue the conversation and journey that began at the conference?

That conversation led us to this idea:

A holistic conference that creates an environment of grace, where students are not necessarily told what to think, but are given the tools that help them grapple with the tough questions.  A place where we reengage with the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study, pray, discuss, and worship.  And an event that includes training and encouraging youth ministry teams so that whole youth group leaves on the same page, recalibrated and ready to go home commissioned and ready for change. Honestly, we want whole youth groups leaving thinking, “we just can’t function the same!”

Another Phone Call

I remember sending Marko our plan.  Honestly, I was afraid of what his response would be.  Marko is known to be a blunt fella. sSo I reluctantly got on the phone with him to find out what he really thought about this conference idea.  To my unexpected delight he said, “Brock, you have to do this!  No one is doing anything like this!

So we launched our new ministry June 1st of 2015 and our first Amazing Next Conference is in Oklahoma City in September. We’re also booking around the country for next school year.  I cant believe all that has happened this year.  We have produced 10 months worth of curriculum (first one comes out May 15th), we’ve written scripts and we’ve gathered an amazing speaking team. If you’re at all interested or if you have any questions, please let us know.  You can also find out more here.

Now for extra credit, here’s our Manifesto:

We believe in this generation. Many have written them off, but we believe.  We believe they can actually live this thing out.  And we are not naive in thinking that this world is an easy one to grow up in.  But we know that they are dying for a life worth living.  So we want to help get them ready!

We are about the Heart & the Head and there are not many places or times where students can be challenged both intellectually and spiritually.

So we’ve decided to do something about that.

As youth workers we have always been searching for a place where both can occur.  A place where students can grapple with the big questions of life and see how the gospel rings true, while at the same time encountering the power and presence of the living God.  We don’t think these should be mutually exclusive and we know we aren’t alone in thinking this.

We feel you.  We are you.

It’s been frustrating finding a more holistic approach. We long for students to experience the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation more fully and we believe they are ready for it.

That’s what the Amazing Next Conference is about.

We provide a space for students to experience God emotionally, sensorily, and intellectually within the context of community.  We are open to their questions and believe that we can and should teach our students how to think and how to ask great questions.

We want to empower them to better engage their culture with the Good News of the gospel of Christ.

And this news really is good and it is for them. Not when they’re older, not when they’re more mature, not when their hormones aren’t raging.  But NOW.  The gospel is a beckoning call for them to join this ragtag group of misfits who are salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.

And we believe in youth workers.  That’s why there will be training for your whole leadership team throughout the conference. Plus we’ll be handing them the resources they need to continue the conversation.

Ultimately we, like you, long to see a movement.

A movement of young people who are ready to step into the Amazing Next.  They are wide open to the work of God in their lives and ready to live life to the fullest.  That’s our prayer, to help develop and create young activists and to see the germination of a sustainable faith that thrives into adulthood.  That our youth will be like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what they should do (I Chronicles 12:32).

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Equipping to reach the other 90%

equipping-90-percent

It’s late April. 

It’s a dangerous time for vocational youth workers. Interest & attendance is typically waning a little as the school year winds down. Youth workers, especially younger ones, start feeling as though things aren’t going well because fewer teenagers are coming. Things that worked in October just aren’t working.

Continue reading Equipping to reach the other 90%

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How the Youth Ministry Coaching Program Impacted a Whole Church

ymcp-impact-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:

Continue reading How the Youth Ministry Coaching Program Impacted a Whole Church

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What Lemonade Actually Looks Like

Lemonade

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. 

Continue reading Test Drive “The Real Jesus” by Jen Bradbury

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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.

Continue reading How I Grew in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program