blogging from the austin NWYC
Thursday October 05th 2006, 9:55 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

here’s a list of bloggers i’ve found who are blogging from the austin national youth workers convention this week. let me know if i missed you! i’ll update this list as i find more.

rookie youth worker
(the maine respresentative on this season’s ‘the biggest loser’ — he says we won’t recognize him)
twelve string
lilly lewin
brian schulenburg
one canadian’s comments on life

tim schmoyer
tom cottar
(video blogs)
john mitchem
matt mckee
jamie osborne
stac’s blog
the mesh
todd’s takes
evan’s blog (video blog)
…one action…
kingdom adventure
and, well, me

feeling the pressure of convention season
Monday September 25th 2006, 8:16 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, youth work

i can’t believe the austin national youth workers convention is a little more than a week away. and this year, with four conventions, i’m expecting the fall season to be a bit of a blur. i have to plan my seminars, but that doesn’t feak me out too much. what freaks me out is figuring out what i’m going to say in my closing general session talk. i’ve had a theme in mind for some months, and have been planning to do a bunch of background reading and prep, but just haven’t gotten to it. now it’s crunch time.

let me know if you’ll be blogging from the austin convention.

all around the world
Wednesday September 20th 2006, 7:20 am
Filed under: church, youth specialties

adventures in missions is an amazing discipleship ministry, utilizing short-term missions and other means. i was on their board for five years, and have such a deep respect for their ministry, and their founder/pres seth barnes (who has a great blog, btw). when they launched their world race program a year ago, i was initially very skeptical, thinking it was gimmicky and potentially counter to the whole point of missions. but i got won over at some point, by the quality of the people involved, their deeper vision for this ministry, and the fruit of the work. i was won over long before i received these pics this week of a world racer named gary who sported his ‘i heart ys’ shirt in various exotic locales:

YS Gary Big Ben.jpg

YS Gary Big Buddha Bangkok.jpg

YS Gary Collesium.jpg

why i’m stoked about another jeanne
Friday September 15th 2006, 10:24 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, emerging church, youth work, emergent

jeanne1.jpgmy wife is jeannie. i dig her.

but today i’m posting about another jeanne i’m stoked about: jeanne stevens.

i first met jeanne when she was in 8th grade, and i was the junior high pastor at first baptist church in wheaton. she came to our group with friends, and quickly became a regular. she was a wonderfully fiesty kid — i used to call her ‘jean, jean, the dancing machine’ (a very old reference to the gong show — c’mon, some of you are the right age to remember this!). in high school, jeanne really connected with god and became a leader in the high school ministry. but i lost touch with her.

fast forward to three or four years ago, when our emergent convention planning team really wanted to add a sharp female leader, and doug pagitt suggested jeanne, telling me she used to be in my youth group. it took me a bit to remember who she was (last name change due to marriage and all). jeanne joined our planning team, and for the last two years of that sweet event, became part of our little family. at that time, jeanne was the youth pastor for the willow creek regional churches. i met many of her staff, and got to see through them (and her involvement on the planning team) what an amazing leader she is. jeanne is one of those leaders who is a fantastic leader whatever her gender, and yet is wonderfully feminine also. she’s a strong woman without an axe to grind; relentless in her belief that god has gifted her and called her to lead. she’s insightful, a great communicator, a stellar strategist, and a darn good friend.

jeanne and her husband jarrett just moved to atlanta, where jarrett has joined the staff of northpointe community church, as the leader of 722, the young adult group that louie giglio used to lead.

why am i gushing about jeanne?

because as of a couple weeks ago, a long-term goal of mine has been realized: jeanne is now on staff with youth specialties. her title is something like ‘ministry development architect’ (or something ron martoia-ish like that), but she’ll basically have four official roles for now:
- moving into leadership of the CORE (our one-day training seminar for youth workers), over the next year or two
- helping to give leadership at national youth workers conventions (she’ll be the third mc, will give input to seminars, and other stuff)
- provide leadership to our ‘women in youth ministry’ initiative (this is critical, because we’re committed to expanding what this could be; but it’s also critical to realize that jeanne’s role is not limited to ‘women’s ministry’)
- develop a one-day training event for girls (we’re all pretty stoked about this)

with karla yaconelli moving into a less-involved role around here, i was concerned about our leadership team tilting toward male dominance, a situation that wasn’t acceptable to me, and not healthy for ys. i could not be more convinced that jeanne will be a significant voice into ys, and out of ys into the youth ministry world, for many years to come!

in the oft-quoted voice of mike yaconelli: WOO-HOO!

argentina update
Saturday September 09th 2006, 12:07 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, youth work

thanks for praying - the pass through the andes opened up yesterday, and the excited mob of chileans made it to the convention. i made it through my general session (with disappointing translation — i had to repeat so many sentences for him, and i found out later he translated my statement “we have to stop raping the bible” as “we have to stop reading the bible”), and things seem to be moving smoothly! of course, the crowd is wild and wonderful and full of energy. brian mclaren is here (he’s on a one-month central and south american trip), and it was good to sit and get caught up with him today. he’s speaking in a general session tomorrow morning.

please pray!
Friday September 08th 2006, 10:49 am
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth specialties, youth work

even though it’s uncommonly warm here in mendoza (winter just ended here), and about 75 today (expected to be in the mid-80s tomorrow), there was a snow storm up in the pass through the andes (very close to here). the pass closed yesterday afternoon to all traffic. we’re expecting about 600 or more chilean youth workers at this event; but they are all driviing over the mountain pass in busses. if the pass doesn’t open today, they’ll miss the convention.

oh, and pray for me. i’m doing a 2 1/2 hour seminar this afternoon that i’m not ready for yet; and i’m speaking in the opening general session tonite. i knew i was doing a general session, but didn’t know it was the first one. i came semi-prepared, so spent the morning finishing that up; now i have about an hour to prep for the seminar before i go down to give it.

made it to argentina
Thursday September 07th 2006, 4:21 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work

after 22 hours of travel, i’m in my hotel lobby in mendoza, argentina. whew. i’m a tad sleepy! but there’s free wireless here in the lobby, so life is good.

i’ve been slowly moving toward a mostly vegan diet in the past few weeks — just getting my feet wet to see if i can do it. but my favorite cut of meat in the world is bife de chorizo, a steak here in argentina that we don’t have in the states. i could eat it at every meal here, and likely will at most. pause-button on veganism.

the amazing news about the youth workers convention is that it has sold out, with 2400 pre-registered. that just doesn’t happen in latin america. can’t wait for tomorrow!

now i’m gonna take a nap…

season turn
Wednesday September 06th 2006, 10:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, youth specialties, personal, family

we closed down our office at ys yesterday for our 5th annual staff sabbath day. we all head up the coast to mission san luis rey, where beth slevcove (our director of spiritual formation), and this year, karla yaconelli, lead us in a day of rest, prayer and reflection. it’s become a wonderful tradition, with a culmination, at the end of the day, of celebrating communion together.

then, my family met at the beach for ‘last day before school’ picnic and play. we stayed until the perfect sunset dropped below the water line.

today, the kids both start school. our public schools here have been in session for 2 1/2 weeks already, but max and liesl are at a waldorf school (a private school). liesl attended there for a month at the end of last year, but this is new for max. she’s pumped, he’s nervous. i asked him how he felt about it, and he said, “well, i don’t want to go, but i know i have to, so there’s no reason to say anything about it.” wise kid.

and, today i fly to argentina. we’ll have our 5th or 6th convention there, in mendoza, at the foothills of the andes, on the western edge of argentina. i’m doing a couple seminars and a general session, with translation.

so who did i tick off?
Tuesday September 05th 2006, 10:33 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, books, youth work

i rarely look at my customer reviews on amazon (for the youth ministry books i’ve written). i don’t think i’ve looked at them in a year. but i went to one of my books listed there the other day to get some info, i noticed these two really harsh review with one star (out of five, one is the lowest the rating system allows):

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
This reminded me of most of the lightweight jr. high curricula out there. It lacked a spark of creativity and originality, and seemed more the work of someone who was just trying to generate books to supply his publishing company.

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
When I tested a few of these lessons with my Jr. Highers, they gave me a lot of blank stares. The games rarely rose above the level of tag, the activities were something like cutting pictures out of magazines, and there is zero content. I’d never buy an Oestreicher book again.

i was a bit stunned, a bit taken aback. i mean, i’m totally fine with someone not liking stuff i write. i’m not narcissistic enough to think that the stuff i write (especially the middle school curriculum in the wild truth series) would be everyone’s cup of tea. but these seemed oddly over-to-top to me. so i looked at my other books. here’s a sample:

from other wild truth books:

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
This is such a repetition of the first book, I’m not sure why they came out with a sequel. And the first one wasn’t that effective. After trying it, I decided not to use Oesteicher’s books.

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This book belittle the intelligence of Jr. Highers. Our group was was too mature for most of the activities here. I wouldn’t use Oestreicher’s work again.

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This is an unneccessary addition to the Wild Truth book. It’s just a way to make an extra profit off of a so-so book. I wouldn’t recommend buying this if you’re on a limited church budget.

Reviewer: Janice Smith (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
I read through this book from cover to cover and decided it wasn’t going to work with my group. Since the book has little content, it tries to compensate with fun activities which aren’t really that fun. This book probably isn’t going to be an effective resource for anyone.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
Mark’s work is pretty immature. I’d say junior highers are all pretty much beyond this stuff.

from the two ‘great talk outlines for youth ministry’ books:

Reviewer: Brad Steffens (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This is a collection of very rough outlines from Youth Specialties celebrities. However, it seems like it means to give them one more book with their names on it rather than to produce worthwhile curriculum for youth. I didn’t find this helpful at all.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
While it’s a good idea, the outlines are too sketchy to be worthwhile. I wouldn’t order this book.

on “help i’m a junior high youth worker”

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
I have no idea why this book got published. There are just a few words on any page and the advice is shallow and obvious. I bought copies for my youth group volunteers and every single one of them said they didn’t get anything out of it. Just use the one from Doug Fields, which is virtually the same thing.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
This book is just riding on the coat tails of the one that came before it. It is again a bunch of shallow advice from someone who is trying to make money off of volunteers.

on “every picture tells a story”

Reviewer: Barth (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
This is really just a collection of pictures, less than 50 of them, and it sells for nearly $20. It’s a creative idea that doesn’t go anywhere. You could download 50 discussion pieces off the internet for free. I didn’t find it worthwhile.

Reviewer: dan k “dan k” - See all my reviews
This seems like a book written by someone who thinks he is more profound than he is. I picked it up but didn’t find it useful enough to buy.

so, here’s what i’m wondering: “barth”, “dan k”, “brad steffens” and “janice smith” (none of which had the amazon “real names” identifier, btw), are these the same person, or really four people? the reviews all have the same vibe, roughly the same length, are all one star, and are on multiple books.

and, whether this is one person or multiple people: what did i do to tick you off? this seems about much more than resources for middle school ministry. (seriously, if this is you, and i’ve hurt you somehow, i’d love you to contact me so we can talk). i don’t care about the reviews — i care about the fact that someone is clearly pissed at me.

photo in need of a caption, dcla version
Wednesday August 09th 2006, 3:28 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work


recently, a former junior highers of mine (who’s now about 30!), sent me this photo from DC ‘91 (before we added the LA). yup, that’s me on the little stage, with the day-glow pink cap, the shorts hiked a bit too high, and the odd boat shoes. gimme a break, it was 15 years ago!

anyhow, sitting here at DCLA, i thought it would make a good caption contest. rules are the same as always:
- contenders are those that bring an audible response from me when first reading them (groan, laugh, chortle, and so on)
- i’ll post the contenders list, adding to it daily
- i’ll choose a winner on friday.
- winner gets a free ys book of their own choosing.


Help!… I have been smiling so much my lips are stuck to my teeth! (eric)

“You’re not wearing shorts in the office, are you?” (ed) [marko comment: i’ll explain this if it wins, which is highly likely at this point]

15 years ago:
Fox Broadcasting is the first network to permit condom advertising on television.
Seattle band Nirvana releases the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the LP Nevermind and enjoys national success.
Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) is arrested in a Florida movie theater for indecent exposure.
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.25
15 years later:
Fox employs you - this photo could be used as a visual abstenence campaign.
While there is absolutely nothing grunge about you in the photo, I would bet you smelled like teen spirit.
The look on your face is oddly PeeWee-like - your height….well I will not comment.
price of a stamp now: 39 cents
Value of you posting this picture of yourself: priceless (bob carlton)

From Dude in Blue: “That hat is mass rad Marko, but I don’t think anyone will ever start wearing shorts that go down to their knees” (brian aaby)

After being teased about his pink hat, Marko immediately goes and buys a pink guitar and then responds by subconsiously changing his hair style, color and length, once a year for the next 15 years. (riddle)

With the new purchase of Youth Specialties, Zondervan decides to be on the cutting edge of dress codes and goes retro and shows the new dress code seen here by this past pic of Marko, now President of ZonderYouth Specialvanties. (gman)


it’s a tie:

riddle’s “After being teased about his pink hat, Marko immediately goes and buys a pink guitar and then responds by subconsiously changing his hair style, color and length, once a year for the next 15 years.” this totally cracked me up. now i have an explanation for my compulsion for changing my hair.


ed noble’s “You’re not wearing shorts in the office, are you?” ed is the teaching pastor at my church. but years ago, he was my boss, and the high school guy at the church in omaha that fired me (ed tried to defend me, but it was a lost cause). the senior pastor of that church had a huge problem with shorts. he made a dress code that said we all had to wear business casual or nicer in the office. when us youth guys pushed back, he admitted that there were times when it made sense for us to ‘dress for ministry with youth’. i interpreted that as, on a day when i’ll be mostly with teenagers, it’s ok to be in the office in nice shorts for a bit. one summer day when i was going to be with students most of the day, i wore a pair of khaki shorts (i think they were likely the ones in this photo, as it was the exact same time frame). he stopped by my office and yelled (yes, yelled), “i don’t want to see your knobby knees around the office!” ah, good times.

riddle and ed — any ys book i can send ya?

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