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Thanksgiving Encouragement

No one could have predicted that this year would have gone the way it’s gone. Here in the US we will celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and in 2020 fashion it may not be the celebration you are used to. No matter how you feel going into the holiday, Marko has some encouragement for you from Zephaniah 3:17

During this season of Thanksgiving, we want you to know how thankful we are for you and how much you give of yourself to teenagers. 

Your Friends at The Youth Cartel

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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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Youth Ministry This Season of Disruption – Dr. Andrew Root Interview

Marko sat down with Dr Andrew Root, one of the contributors to the new book Youth Ministry in a Season of Disruption. They discuss how it impacts our “youth groups” and what it means for youth pastors. 

Youth Ministry in a Season of Disruption helps unpack the unprecedented time we are living in.

This book dives headfirst into that space with you, bringing the voices (and thinking) of 28 unique youth ministry practitioners–consider them as your own little band of partners.

Broken into five sections, Youth Ministry in This Season of Disruption begins with two critical reminders–a historical encouragement from Sean McDowell, and a theological encouragement from Andrew Root. Section three pauses, asking us all to consider five critical issues as we pivot and adapt.

Section four includes entries from seven in-the-trenches youth workers willing to share how they’ve misstepped in this season, and what they’ve learned from that (ideally, helping you sidestep those same mistakes). And, finally, the dozen chapters of section five include a host of innovative and experimental wins from youth workers just like you.

This book doesn’t have all the answers. But it’s a snapshot from the brilliant and resourceful tribe of youth workers that you’re a part of. Between the lines, we hope you’ll get a sense of God’s Spirit whispering: Don’t give up; you can do it!

Buy Youth Ministry in a Season of Disruption.

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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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Youth Ministry Coaching Program New Opportunity

We are excited to announce a brand new way to participate in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program. We have a brand new online opportunity.

In these challenging and strange times we’re living through, we wanted to maximize YMCP for an online experience – YMCP Online. We believe a healthy, vibrant youth ministry needs a healthy, vibrant leader; so YMCP is less ‘skill training’, and more of a leadership development program. And excellent leadership is what our ministries need right now.

The Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP) is the oldest, most robust coaching program in youth ministry. With 600 graduates and participants, in 58 cohorts over the last ten years, we know how to nurture and deliver growth and transformative work in the lives of youth workers.

With YMCP Online, we created a lightweight, accessible, and affordable version of our trusted coaching program to meet the need. The six-month program includes a monthly 2-hour online lecture, a monthly 4-hour cohort/lab session, and 5 one-on-one 30-minute coaching session with your lead coach.

If you’ve already have been a part of the program, we’d love for you to share this new opportunity with your fellow youth workers who are leading ministries. 

If you would like to learn more, visit our info page to learn about pricing and how to: YMCP Online.

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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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Disrupting Teens with Joy

In this interview, Dave Rahn and Ebonie Davis talk about their new book and curriculum, Disrupting Teens with Joy: Helping Youth Discover Jesus-Focused, Gritty Faith.

Download a sample of the book HERE.

Learn more about the book.

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How to be the Best Volunteer Youth Worker in the History of the World

We are super excited about this new book coming out from Kurt Johnston. Marko sat down with him to get the scoop.

Order your copies by Aug 4 to take advantage of our pre-release savings.

How to be the Best Volunteer Youth Worker in the History of the World

From the back cover:

When it comes to the teenagers in our ministries, giving our best matters. The reason why is simple: “Getting better at youth ministry is worth the effort because teenagers are worth the effort,” writes veteran youth worker Kurt Johnston. With that in mind, he put together this compact, practical, and approachable book for youth ministry volunteers, brimming with insights and wisdom from his decades in youth ministry—including some memorable and hilarious stories of the mistakes that taught him along the way.

Broken down into ten essential topics, the contents here apply to all youth ministry volunteers, whether you’ve been involved for decades or days, and regardless of your age, gender, or the square footage and general awesomeness of your youth space. A roster of seasoned volunteer youth workers provide commentary to round out each chapter, offering perspectives and important lessons learned from their individual contexts.

Whether you read these words on your own or collectively with others on your youth ministry team, who knows: what you find here just might help you become the best volunteer youth worker in the history of the world!

Buy Now

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Free Resource from the Book of Everyday Prayer

So many teenagers are feeling ‘stuck’ right now, in so many ways. For many of them, that ‘stuckness’ extends to their prayer life. Throughout history, Christians have used written prayers to help put words to the longings of their hearts. And that’s why Jeremy Steele wrote the Book of Everyday Prayer. For this strange season of stuckness, we asked Jeremy if he could have teenagers from his church and a few other churches record themselves reading some of the prayers — specifically, a week’s worth of morning and evening prayers, and a few specific topical prayers that apply to the current lives of a teenager. These are our free gift to you and your ministry — post them for your teenagers in whatever online channel you’re using. Watch them together (at the beginning or end of a Zoom meeting or livestream), or post them for individual watching and reflection.