Last year we had a our first Women in Youth Ministry Campference near Asheville, NC. We didn’t entirely know what to expect, but we believed it would be awesome. It was.
My name is Brad. I am a youth worker and I am an introvert.
People are often surprised when I confess to them I am an introvert, usually responding with some form of, “But, but, how can you be an introvert when all you do is hang out with people?” Or, “You aren’t an introvert! Look at how you love running around at youth group and do so much public speaking. You’re even good at it! You aren’t an introvert…”
Oh, but I am. And not simply in an “I like to relax with a good book” sort of way. My reality as an introvert is much more in the vein of “nearly-constant headaches after a day of sustained human interaction that even occasionally leaves me curled up on the bathroom floor vomiting.” (OK, that’s only happened twice, but it’s totally happened!)
I often find myself frustrated at my introversion, especially when my job is one that demands both recurring face to face interaction in addition to the hours spent with those lovable, energetic, noisy, brilliant, hilarious, energy sucking leeches that are apparently the reason I have a job in the first place!
In the worst moments, usually when I see pictures or hear stories of the stereotypical extroverted youth worker seemingly excelling at their job in ways foreign to me, I feel like a youth ministry unicorn. A creature so rare that it is simply known to be a myth. Except maybe unicorns are far too joyous and vibrant to be an apt metaphor for an introvert. In those moments I feel far more like a youth ministry Eeyore. Still mythical, but far more well… Eeyore-ish.
But the truth is that I’m far from the only introvert in youth ministry, and my personality rarely is anything like Eeyore’s. Some recent studies have even put the percentage of introverted adults in our population at around 40%. I’m sure the percentage of introverted youth workers out there is a bit lower than that, but I know you are out there!
Anne Lamott famously said, “The most powerful sermon in the world are the words ‘me too.’” I love my job. I am even pretty dang good at it! I am passionate about it dream of being the old guy in a wheelchair still playing dodge ball surrounded by high school kids. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone say, “me too.” So here’s to you, my fellow introverted youth workers:
- Have you ever let your emails or text messages sit unanswered for days because even a simple reply of “sure, see you then” felt impossibly hard? Me too.
- Were you aware of a student who really wanted to hang out and talk—but you just. did. that. yesterday and two days in a row seems impossible? Me too.
- Have you ever ditched brainstorming meetings and instead gathered information through guided journaling and reflection and had it turn out far better? Me too.
- Do you secretly look forward to Monday mornings where a chance to simply sit quietly in your office and catch up on administrative stuff is both necessary and expected? Me too.
- Have you ever hung out with a student and had it be incredibly life giving and sacred and wonderful, inspiring you to do it more often—then woken up the next day to find the simple thought of more human interaction made it hard to leave your house? Me too.
- Do you find that sometimes the you were able to actually listen to the Holy Spirit during a time of solitude and realize you just stumbled upon the most amazing ministry idea ever? Me too.
- Do you have endless energy and pure joy and appreciation for your time spent at youth group, and then need to unwind by yourself for hours sucking your thumb in the fetal position afterward? Me too.
- Ever text a kid to hang out hoping they’ll already be busy? But, hey, at least you tried!? Me too
- Have you ever spent the morning after youth group just laying around doing as little as possible because the idea of setting foot back in the church, or running into another human, before noon sounds like probably, definitely, the worst thing that could possibly happen to you? Me too.
- Have you ever let a voice message hang out in your office phone for days before you even listen to it, since you know it’s only either a sales pitch or an unhappy parent? Me too.
- Ever spent the hours leading up to youth group fantasizing about an excuse, or an illness, so you could just go home and watch Netflix instead? Me too.
- Do you know you are called to this job filled with human interaction and wouldn’t change a thing? Me too. Me too.
Feel free to add your own “me too” statements in the comment section!
Brad Hauge is a lifelong resident of the great Pacific Northwest and has survived this youth ministry thing for 13 years in spite of crippling introversion. He is currently the Director of High School Ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA and is part of the team that brings the Youth Cartel’s VIVA! curriculum to life each month. You can follow his ministry and baseball thoughts on Twitter @bhauge
Fall Kickoff Gatherings! Invite Nights! Welcome Back to Youth Group Events! It’s the time of year that is filled with both genuine excitement and, if we’re being honest, soul-crushing anxiety. Are people going to show up? Do we have a ministry that kids care about? What if we scheduled our kickoff on the same night as the school’s freshman orientation? DO I EVEN DESERVE TO HAVE THIS JOB?!?!?!
Many of us tend to overcompensate for these insecurities by hyping our kickoff events to insane levels. And yes, I hear you already: “Brad, we don’t hype our events because we are worried no one will come! We hype them so kids will come and hear the gospel and come to know Jesus!”
And yes, I get it. And no, I don’t assume anyone is being disingenuous when they say such things. But here is a sample of real life, actual hype I’ve found in just the past few days:
- A post on social media from a high school student imploring his friends to come to that evening’s youth ministry event. The caption read something along the lines of, “Tonight! Come to ________ and find out more about camp this fall. You all should come and if you say you came with me I’ll get $10 off camp for each friend that came.”
- Free t-shirts to wear at school throughout the week that promote the kickoff event.
- Promoting their fall kick off with promises of free food, iPod raffles, and other giveaways just for showing up.
- A group that was bringing out all sorts of inflatables: bouncy castles, sumo wrestling, ZORB balls, etc.
- A multitude of “Invite Nights.” taking over social media (seriously, check the hashtag) and bombarded kids with information on the coolest, hippest, most exciting night of ministry any youth group has ever created. And how we need to invite our friends to this unforgettable night.
But what happens when the kickoff night is over and they return to their normal entertainment-filled lives the next day? What happens to the kid who came to win an iPod but didn’t win? What about when Johnny finds out his friend made $10 by getting him to show up that night? What happens if the night feels successful because kids do want to come back the next week, but the bouncy castle and food aren’t there anymore? Do we hope they’ll just say, “Bummer! But hey… I got a free hot dog last week! I’ll go back and find out more about Jesus!!!”
I understand that sometimes it takes a little something extra to get a kid to show up to a church event. And that sometimes it’s that something extra that helps them connect to a place and people that love them and grow them in the name of Jesus—and in that case, hallelujah!
But doesn’t the hype and promotion of entertainment and giveaways just feel a little… icky?
What if instead we all work toward creating a community of kids that feel compelled to invite their friends and peers because Jesus is just that compelling. Because they get to participate in something that is bigger than their day-to-day lives of stress, academics, and achievements. Because Jesus is enough and we don’t need anything extra.
Lest you think I’m writing this from an ivory tower of judgment, just last year I helped plan, promote, and execute a kickoff night that included a BBQ, a luau, a 4-square tournament, and a glow in the dark dance party—all taking place within a two-hour time frame. I know what it is to try to keep up with the cooler ministry down the street or to look for my worth as a youth pastor in the level of excitement drummed up by a room of teenagers. But here’s the thing: after the luau-dance party-BBQ-tournament night was over, I felt gross. I felt like our community had tried to be something it wasn’t, like we didn’t believe that Jesus was going to be enough. It didn’t fit our group’s context of high school kids full of doubters/believers/partiers/atheists/missionaries/jocks/nerds/etc. who had coalesced around the love and hope found in following Jesus—who had not come together because we put on a better show than the youth group down the street. We now want to make sure our kickoff events feel like a chance for people to reconnect, not to be impressed.
Now, hear me loud and clear. I am NOT anti-fun. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making fun a hallmark of your ministry. We should, however, check our motives for the uber-hype that often accompanies our kickoff events. Are we promoting something that is unsustainable? Are we simply attracting kids who are involved in other ministries in town? Are we ignoring our group’s context in exchange for hoping for something bigger and better?
What we have continued to find over and over, at least in our context, is that youth are currently looking for an antidote to the hype.
They are looking for something that is bigger and more meaningful than their entertainment and achievement filled lives. And the obvious thing that we can provide, the very reason our ministries exist, turns out to be entirely compelling. If we don’t trust that Jesus is compelling enough, if we feel we need to add cash incentives and dance parties to our Invite Nights, then maybe we need take a step back and reevaluate what exactly our ministries are presenting. Because the Jesus of love, hope, grace, purpose, forgiveness, beauty, understanding and peace should be more than enough.
May you have fun in your ministry. May you attract new youth to your community. May you take time to discern the specific, God honoring context of your ministry and not feel the need to make it anything more than that. May your youth find something worth being a part of. May your community grow into the sort of group that is attractive to the world around it because your students have found something compelling and worthy of their time—and may that be the person of Jesus.
Brad Hauge is a lifelong resident of the great Pacific Northwest and has survived this youth ministry thing for 13 years in spite of crippling introversion. He is currently the Director of High School Ministry at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA and is part of the team that brings the Youth Cartel’s VIVA! curriculum to life each month.
Register for any of our events this week and we’ll send you 10% back as a store credit that can be applied towards the purchase of anything in our online store.
- Register 2 people to Open Seattle or Open Denver and get a $5 store credit
- Register 4 people to The Summit and get a $67.60 store credit
- Register 100 people to the Middle School Ministry Campference and get a $3200 store credit!!!
- You get the idea, it’s 10% back for each registration. 🙂
In other words– this is a great week to register for one of our fall events! But hurry, this offer expires Friday, September 11th 2015 at midnight Pacific time.
I (Marko) was chatting with a middle school pastor this past weekend. He’s bringing a group of 10 to this year’s Middle School Ministry Campference, and considering adding to that number. Some combination of people from his church have attended all four previous Campferences. He said something like, “I’ve been to all sorts of other events; but there’s just nothing like Campference. I can’t imagine being in middle school ministry and NOT attending!”
While everyone who has attended in the past knows that the secret sauce of the Campference is everything that happens in-between and around the official schedule, we’re still very intentional about bringing the best training you’ll find anywhere on our work and calling. And we’ve always been intentional about having almost completely new content every single year (rather than just repeating seminars over and over, year after year). So, not only will attendees this year get to network like crazy, have meals with speakers, and enjoy all that secret sauce, they’ll also get to choose from this mind-blowingly amazing list of breakout sessions.
a little interpretive key:
SEMINAR means 2/3 teaching and 1/3 conversation
DIALOGUE means 1/3 teaching and 2/3 conversation
ACTIVE LEARNING is a seminar where you actually DO stuff
ROOKIE means it’s a seminar or dialogue that’s ideally suited for volunteers and rookie youth workers
LATE NIGHT CONVERSATIONS are informal gatherings around a specific topic
Here’s the plan for October 9 – 11, 2015! (This is subject to change, but basically final)
- Kurt Johnston: Surviving in the Local Church: 5 things that really don’t matter and 5 things that do. (SEMINAR)
- Heather Flies: Authenticity in Teaching/Sharing Your Story (ACTIVE LEARNING)
- Tom Shefchunas: Partnering with Parents Without Killing Yourself (SEMINAR)
- Mark Oestreicher: What Every MSM Volunteer Needs to Know (SEMINAR/ROOKIE)
- Scott Rubin: Critique of my JHM, by High Schoolers: the Good, the Bad, and the Frustrating (DIALOGUE)
- Tom Schefchunas: Youth Ministry and the Cell Phone (DIALOGUE)
- Gina Abbas: Growing Your Ministry By Doing Less (SEMINAR)
- Eric Woods: Engaging the Difficult Student (ACTIVE LEARNING)
- CIY JH Team: Bug Fixes and Stability Improvements for your Youth Ministry (SEMINAR)
- Elle Campbell and Tom Shefchunas: 5 Rules (and 5 Exceptions) to Teaching Middle Schoolers (SEMINAR)
- Alan Ramsey, Kurt Johnston, and Katie Edwards: Raising a Family in Youth Ministry (DIALOGUE)
- Gina Abbas: The Best Idea Wins: 20 years of collecting, copying and creating middle school programs and events (DIALOGUE/ROOKIE)
- Eric Woods: Why you should stop doing mission trips: Turning Teens into Missionaries Instead of Travelers (SEMINAR)
- Katie Edwards: Engaging Middle Schoolers in Leadership (SEMINAR)
- Kurt Johnston: Communicating to Young Teens (SEMINAR/ROOKIE)
- Heather Flies: Creating an Environment Where Chaos and Structure Can Coexist (SEMINAR)
- Kenny & Elle Campbell: Creating a Better Teaching Strategy for Middle Schoolers (SEMINAR)
- Alan Ramsey & Mike Sheley: Pre-Teen Ministry (SEMINAR)
Late Night Conversations
- Gina Abbas and Heather Flies: Being a Woman on Staff with Dudes (for paid youth workers)
- Alan Ramsey: Growing Older in MSM
- Eric Woods: Designing Better Graphics
- Tom Shefchunas and Tim Mauriello: Multi-Site Church MSM
Pretty amazing, huh? Check out more info here.
Brock Morgan is a long-time friend of Marko and I. He’s a Cartel OG and our first presenter at The Summit to make a return visit this Fall. Brock has published two books with us (Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World & The Amazing Next) which are both top sellers.
Recently, I caught up with Brock to hear how is summer has been going. Here’s our interview.
TYC: What’s summer look like in your ministry?
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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 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!
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!