Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on 1 Comment

Free Resource: Refugee Discussion Guide

During the past couple of weeks the news cycle has been dominated by heated discussion about immigration and refugees. When things like this come up we at The Youth Cartel begin to ask youth workers if the teenagers in their ministries are talking about these things to them and if they feel equipped to have a meaningful, Jesus-focused discussion.

Continue reading Free Resource: Refugee Discussion Guide

Posted on 12 Comments

Are You an Introvert In Youth Ministry? Me too.

Introvert in Youth Ministry-

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 arent an introvert! Look at how you love running around at youth group and do so much public speaking. Youre even good at it! You arent an introvert…”

Oh, but I am. And not simply in an I like to relax with a good booksort 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%. Im 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 heres 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 toostatements 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

Posted on Leave a comment

Fall Kickoff Hype: what are we inviting kids into?

Fall Kickoff Hype

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 were 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 schools 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 dont 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 dont assume anyone is being disingenuous when they say such things. But here is a sample of real life, actual hype Ive found in just the past few days:

  • A post on social media from a high school student imploring his friends to come to that evenings 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 Ill 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 didnt 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 arent there anymore? Do we hope theyll just say, Bummer! But heyI 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 its 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 doesnt the hype and promotion of entertainment and giveaways just feel a littleicky?

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 dont need anything extra.

Lest you think Im 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 heres 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 wasnt, like we didnt believe that Jesus was going to be enough. It didnt fit our groups 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 groups 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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Catching up with Brock Morgan

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?

Continue reading Catching up with Brock Morgan

Posted on Leave a comment

A Summer-y Interview with Jonathan McKee

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