blogging from the atlanta national youth workers convention?
Thursday November 08th 2007, 7:27 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

let me know if you’ll be blogging from the atlanta convention this coming week, and i’ll add you to a linked list i’ll post on thursday.

pushing my buttons
Wednesday November 07th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth specialties, personal

i received this email today, from which i’ll remove the sender’s name:

I recently attended the conference in St Louis. I can’t help but think Yac must be rolling in his grave. Having attended the event in the past I was troubled about the path this event has taken to the extreme of being the fundemental evangelism at its worse. I was troubled with the
tenor of presentations that claimed as a standard guilting our youth into being members of the body. Disavowing their own worth because they are sinners destined to hell if they don’t mend their ways. And it was all topped off with a slamming of Lesbians in a general session. I suspect I will not be an attender in the future and will be hard pressed to recommend this to any of our denominational youth ministers.

i post it here because i’ve heard quite a few complaints about greg stier’s talk. this email, however, was the strongest, and really offended me. this was my response:

Thanks for writing with your concern.

That said, I need to start by saying what a cheap-shot it is to suggest that the founder of our organization, whom we all knew and loved so dearly, and who died four years ago last week, would be rolling in his grave. Ironic, that you were frustrated with what you saw as manipulation and guilt, yet you try the same thing with us, throwing on the addition of emotional abuse.

Clearly, you are referring to greg stier’s talk. A couple things:

1. we intentionally invite a wide variety of speakers to our convention. We hope our diversity both honors god, challenged homogeneity, and provides everyone present with the opportunity to have their feathers ruffled. There are plenty of other youth ministry events (conservative and liberal, protestant and catholic) that provide a uniform slate of speakers who would all agree with each other. That’s never going to be us.

2. I really like greg. He’s the real deal; honest and pure. His character is impeccable. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says. I did not like much of his talk.

3. I think you either misunderstood what he said in his illustration of the lesbians, or you are over-reacting. His example was of how he engaged a group of people with whom he had a theological difference in a conversation of respect. He mentioned how he sent away the other christian who was there to condemn them. He mentioned how he was a sinner also. The only “joke” was that he said he had something in common with them, as he lusts after women also. If THAT little comment is what caused such great offense for you, then you need to lighten up.

I believe yaconelli was jumping for joy over this convention, relishing in the diversity of the attendees and the speakers, as he always did (yac was the one who brought jerry falwell and ralph reed!).

I can confidently say you are completely wrong about your impressions of any “turn” the convention has taken. Nothing could be further from the truth.

then, this exchange softened things up a bit:

> Mark,
> Thanks so much for the prompt response. You are correct with your
> impression that it was a cheap shot and I beg your forgiveness. That
> certainly was not the intent.
forgiven, of course. thanks.

> I would like to address the points you
> proposed.
> 1) While the perception on your part is that you provide a variety of
> positions, theologies, ideologies, and agendas I found the presentations
> somewhat of the more evangelical bend. Maybe it is just me. I just found
> myself more uncomfortable at this conference than in the past. Perhaps
> this is just a spiritual crisis for me. I known worship is to comfort
> the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That being said I was
> comforted by Lynn’s talk (but a little long).
This is interesting to me, since lynn is so decidedly evangelical! Did you hear ralph winter (clearly not an evangelical), or me (an ex-evangelical)? Of the three cities this year, the other two are MORE diverse than STL was — but sometimes we get what we get (we ask two or three times as many people as we get!).
> 2) Regarding the ‘talk” by Greg it was much more than the little joke. I
> couldn’t help but sense in a convention of more than 3000 individuals
> that perhaps more than 150 might be going through issues related to
> homosexuality. Did his talk welcome them into the community or push them
> further away? By his own actions of claiming that they would not agree
> on the issue of sin and sexuality wasn’t he condemning them?
Well, that’s greg’s belief, that homosexual practice is a sin. But that wasn’t his point at all! His point was that — EVEN THOUGH he believes the practice is a sin, that’s what binds him to this group of lesbians (that other christians would dismiss), because he is a sinner just like them! Surely, you would not suggest that no speaker should ever express their beliefs, or that YS should filter them. For someone who would believe homosexual practice is a sin (which is a total given, of course, for an obvious conservative like greg), I thought his point was actually the exact OPPOSITE of what you are suggesting it was!
> I really don’t anticipate a response but would welcome one. Thanks again
> for your post, and I will attempt to lighten up, but perhaps that is
> something YS needs to do as well.
Truly — YS does need to lighten up! That message came to me this weekend loud and clear. We’ve been too tame of late.

and, finally, this:

> One more thing. From your response. If I was to decide to return would I
> be welcomed?
First of all — anyone is welcome at our convention. That’s exactly my point!
Second — you even moreso, would be welcome, because you got bothered about something, expressed it poorly, apologized, and had a good discussion with me. Shoot — now we’re friends!

vote for zach hunter
Wednesday November 07th 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: church, youth specialties, books, news

51XJ4qCc9TL-_AA240_.jpgwe at youth specialties just found out that zach hunter has been nominated as a cnn hero in the youth category. the winner is determined merely by vote (which, since zach doesn’t have a big organization behind him like some of the other nominees, is unfortunate). but we’d love to get the votes going!

winning would allow zach to appear on a prime time special with anderson cooper, to talk about modern day slavery, and how he (zach) feels god is calling his generation to bring freedom. there’s a cash price also; and zach has already said he would donate it for aftercare and education of rescued child slaves.

help us get the word out — to your churches and youth group and friends.

vote here (btw, the info is wrong: it says zach has raised $20,000 to end slavery. that’s how much zach has personally given, from speaking fees and book royalties. he has raised well over 10x that amount.)

you can vote as many times as you like until monday at noon.

when the mocker becomes the mocked
Monday November 05th 2007, 11:08 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, personal, humor

so, there was this cheerleading competition going on all weekend at the st. louis convention center. and all of us at the national youth workers convention had to walk through their midst over and over again: swarms of tiny girls in little matching outfits, with horribly too much make-up and embodying pretty much the worst of america. i kept thinking my youth worker’s heart should be going out to them. instead, i was merely repulsed, and wanted to smack their mothers.

so we mocked.

tic and i — thanks to some convention volunteers who made the effort to “outfit” us and “do our hair” and such — felt compelled to mock, which resulted in this:

sorry. i hope i haven’t scarred you forever.

i should tell you, i almost knocked tic off the stage with that belly-bump.

st. louis NYWC, monday morning
Monday November 05th 2007, 11:40 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work

sitting in my room, slurping on my eggs bennie, avoiding my prep work for the closing general session.

yesterday: a mostly wonderful day, really. at one point in the evening, rich van pelt from compassion asked me how i was feeling, and the word that came to mind was “fulfilled.”

really fantastic general session yesterday morning. lots of great worship and fun and all, but what really nailed it for me was ralph winter’s talk about the power of story, the role of story in our lives, and the critical nature of darkness in good stories (which, he said, was why so much christian storytelling sucks). he read his talk, but it didn’t matter (interesting how that does matter sometimes, and doesn’t other times). he used clips from the tv show heros and the the movie x-men 3, and i think one or two others (oh, he actually started his talk with a mash-up movie trailer of “brokeback to the future” — a smash of scenes from back to the future with music and themes from brokeback mountain).

i had a nice break for a couple hours around lunch time, and actually sat in my room and did nothing. i channel-surfed on tv. it was great!

taught my seminar called “a new vision for middle school ministry” in the late afternoon and had a riot. i was low energy going in, and worried i wasn’t going to engage at all. but something kicked in, and i had a great time (i think the attendees did also — they seemed really engaged). then i had an interesting dinner: last year, i got an email (i think that’s what the contact was) from a catholic youth worker who attended one of the conventions and left in the middle feeling the event was anti-catholic. he was really frustrated — angry, even. we emailed back and forth quite a few times, as i tried to understand. i think the primary issue had been a mainstage speaker who made reference to his own story as, “i used to be catholic, before i became a christian” (or something like that). i had remembered cringing for my catholic brothers and sisters when that had been said. anyhow, i asked the guy to return this year as our guests and give it another shot, which he graciously accepted. he was having a good experience this year, which i was glad to hear. but i also enjoyed getting to know him and hearing his story. as a young 30-something retail store manager, with an offer of a promotion on the table, he heard his church was going to hire a youth pastor. he’d never been in a youth group as a teenager, never volunteered in one as an adult, had no youth ministry experience whatsoever; but sensed a nudge. after a wild confirmation from god, he applied for the job and got it. and the group had 2 kids. one girl — who was shy and wouldn’t talk — and one guy. for six months, those were the only two kids. that was five years ago. he senses now that youth ministry is a life-long calling (and the youth group has grown and is healthy).

at the evening general session, tic and i decided to further mock the cheerleading competition we’d all had to walk through saturday and sunday to get to our space in the convention center (hundreds of little girls in cheerleading outfits, with massive quantities of make-up, and freakish bow-things in their hair). some of the volunteers went out and bought outfits for us. tic had the traditional little cheerleading skirt and all. they couldn’t find a skirt they thought would fit me, so i was dressed more like a guy cheerleader, in running pants and shirt: but i pulled the waistline of the running pants up all the way over my (large) stomach, to create an absolutely horrifying visual. in a moment of gender-confusion, the volunteers put my hair in a single ponytail on top of my head (a fountain of youth, one might say). we pranced out to the stage and jumped around. i almost knocked tic to the ground when we “belly-bumped”. we did a short, irreverant cheer, and tossed to a comedian. lots of photos were taken, though i’ve yet to see one surface.

greg stier spoke last night. greg is a genuinely good guy. pure character. pure motives. pure passion. i don’t always agree with everything greg says (his passionate plea for us to preach christ and christ crucified alone was tough for me, and seems to minimize christ to only the work he did on the cross, not the work he did at creation, incarnation, living, resurrection, or other parts of the story). but i love greg’s passion, zeal and affection for teenagers and youth workers. i also got to affirm a very cool young couple in the general session last night. they have been jointly hired by the five churches in their small southwestern colorado town. get this: the churches are catholic, baptist, presbyterian, episcopalian and non-denominational. yes, you read that correctly. those five churches came together to hire one couple for youth ministry. not for 5 youth groups. but for one youth group. amazing.

ok. i have to prep for my talk.

st. louis NYWC, sunday morning
Sunday November 04th 2007, 10:08 am
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth specialties, family, youth work

another wonderful day yesterday, in every way.

didn’t have to get up too early, which was a great start. morning general session was good, with lynn hybels (she went a bit long, but had some really great stuff to say; and i loved her attitude). then a had a great lunch with 18 national leaders from the catholic youth ministry organization, lifeteen. we’ve been friends with lifeteen for about 6 or 7 years, and continue to love their hearts and friendship and how similar we are in our organizational values. we’ve talked about partnering for years and years, but have never really done anything. but this lunch might be a catalyst into some cool stuff.

after lunch, i had a fascinating mtg in my suite. our ys exec team pulled together a few trusted friends of ys (jim hancock, mark riddle, ginny olson, michael novelli, eric venable, scott burkes, and scott kail) to ask them to assess us a bit. i lead the discussion, asking them to share stories of ys past, then to put themselves IN the past, and talk about what ys was like, from their perspective, at that time. we moved forward and had them talk about ys now. i asked them to speak as ys present, addressing ys past, and cautioning ys past on some things to come. i asked them to complete this sentence: it’s a shame that ys has become ___________. then, we looked toward the future — not in a predictive way, but in a possible way. first, we walked down a road to a preferred future, and talked about that. then we backed up, and walked down a road to a negative potential. ouch. interesting stuff.

then, i was off to a short dinner reception for graduation seniors of youth ministry programs (who are attending the convention as part of the youth specialties academic support network). always enjoy being with that crowd: they’re energetic and optimistic. the evening session was fantastic. michelle tolentino, a compassion kid (now grown up) from the philippines shares again, and slayed everyone. i was on stage with her, and had to talk after she finished (she received a massive standing o), and i couldn’t. i started a word or two, and they stuck. weird thing to be standing in front of 3500 people and not be able to get any words out due to an emotionally-constricted throat. doug fields spoke, and brought it, big time, again. his talk was on ministry envy. during the talk, i was in a conversation back in the green room (backstage); and at one point, i noticed that max (my 9 year-old son) was sitting on a couch watching doug’s talk on the monitor we have back there. as this continued, i was surprised to see max sit throuh the entire 40 minute talk, watching and listening. i heard his phone ring at one point, and could tell it was jeannie checking on where he was. i heard him say, “yeah, i’m watching a guy talk. no, not dad. some other guy.”

after the session ended, max said to me, “i need to go ask that guy a question.” doug was out in the room, with a crowd of people around him. max went out and waited — about 15 minutes, i’d guess. i made my way out there eventually, and sat nearby waiting. max got doug’s attention at one point, but doug didn’t realize max had a question, and after saying hi to max, went on to the next person waiting to talk to him. max waited again. then, i saw doug fields bent over, having a full-on conversation with max (with about 30 more youth workers circled around, waiting to talk to doug). on the way back to our hotel, i asked max what he wanted to talk to doug about. he said, “well, he talked about how sometimes we hate people, even though they’re nice people. but hunter, in my class, i don’t like him, and he’s really mean. and i wanted to know what he thought i should do about that.” “oh,” i said (pulling him on his healies, as i walked), “did he have anything to say?” “yeah, he told me what to do. so i’m good now.” thanks, doug.


st. louis NYWC, friday night
Saturday November 03rd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work

we’re off and running. had a good day yesterday, with the first half the the critical concerns course i’m co-leading with scott rubin on middle school ministry. walked the exhibit hall last evening. then jet lag overwhelmed me. so, after tweaking some media for a seminar today, i climbed in bed very early for convention: 10pm. of course, jeannie and max arrived from san diego at 11, so i was up for 45 minutes again.

today was a full day: the 2nd half of the CCC, then the opening general session, followed by the seminar i’m co-leading with mark riddle called “the expectations that killed the youth worker” (which went substantially better here than it did in SD, after we re-organized the entire thing). dinner with some old friends, then the evening general session, which just ended. chris hill was bringing it tonite, and duffy robbins did a nice job of opening the convention earier today. crowder was brilliant as usual, and flatfoot 56 and jars of clay were wonderful today.

i had a major computer issue just before my afternoon seminar. my computer would not fire up. luckily, one of zondervan’s IT dudes happens to be here (for a store software thing), and he was able to come over and help me get it fixed JUST in time for my seminar to start. but now, i’m noticing, after all of that, that various system things (like, at the moment, the title of this webpage) are in arabic. seriously. i’m getting extremely tired of having font problems with my new mac. it’s massively tainting my mac experience.

tomorrow’s a slightly lighter day for me, but not by much. less presentations. but meetings filling in the blanks.

i got a fun gift today from blogger marty estes and his wife erin. i was in the midst of my computer crisis at the moment, and kind of gave marty a brush-off (sorry, marty! i was in a panic!). he brought me a cute (dorky, jesus-junky) gift bag full of dorky jesus junk, in honor of my semi-regular “jesus junk of the month awards” here on they included a nice encouraging note also.

i also got a bit freaked tonite just before i was going to walk up on stage to introduce jerod hall (the illusionist). i very nice looking middle-aged woman came up to me and touched the sides of my head and said, “i think this is the sexiest look you’ve ever had.” i laughed nervously and backed up two or three steps. i’m sure she meant nothing by it other than to compliment me on my fabio hair; but it totally unnerved me!

loved it when, after crowder talked about having a hoe-down, chris hill (an african american) took the stage and said, “a hoe-down in my neighborhood means something completely different.”


making the most of the convention
Friday November 02nd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

love this list from steve argue about how to make the most of the convention. very closely lines up with what i share in the opening session.

Go to a seminar you disagree with… to understand.

Sit in a different spot each session… try to see from another perspective.

Talk with someone different than you… to learn.

Seek out a youth workder half your age or twice your age… buy them coffee.

Spend time being quiet… resist perpetuating busyness in your life.

Sleep in or stay up late… jolt your natural schedule.

Support local restaurants, avoid places you could eat at from home.

Take the long way… let go of efficiency.

Summarize your notes… share them with someone when you get home.

Walk around the block. Don’t say you’ve been in St. Louis until you’ve done so.

Sing nothing during worship… listen as though you were hearing the words for the first time.

Share with someone what the Spirit was saying to you as you listened throughout the plenary gathering… avoid critiquing the message.

Embrace a quote of the day, image of the day, song of the day, surprise of the day, conversation of the day. Journal them.

Avoid at all costs saying, “When I was here last time…”


blogging from the st. louis national youth workers convention
Thursday November 01st 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

the following list are people who i exect (because they said so, or because i know they’re attending) will be blogging from the national youth workers convention in st. louis this weekend. i’ll update the list regularly.

mike king

jason raitz

andy sahl

jake bouma

lewis polzin

steve argue


mike kupferer

tash mcgill

sean meade


mark riddle

tim schmoyer

carol ann kelly

william hartz, with vlogs here, and twitter updates



brent lacy

eli roogles, and twittering

nic burleson

and, yup, me


mike’s 4th
Wednesday October 31st 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: youth specialties, personal

the other day (the 30th) was yac’s 4th anniversary with jesus. miss ya, mike.