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.

18 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Don’t look now, but one of my volunteers will be running between the YS Atlanta convention and a cheerleading competition. Both events are in the Georgia World Congress Center. I fully expect to see the cheering event recreated for us in Hotlanta. I also fully expect you to use the advance notice to find a skirt.

Comment by Turff 11.05.07 @ 12:30 pm

My wife and I are bummed that we aren’t able to make any of the NYWC’s this year. They have been very sweet times for us the past 3 years but it just didn’t work out this time around.

Hopefully next year! Thanks for doing all the work to make it such an amazing time for youth workers.


Comment by Matt 11.05.07 @ 12:37 pm

Thank you so much Marko for the shout out! I really enjoyed getting to meet you. It is now so apparent that you have an amazing heart for all Christian youth workers, even us Catholics!!! Last year just really had me down but this years NYWC has been absolutely amazing! Thank you for all you did for me this year. You and the gang at YS are truly a class act!

Comment by Mark 11.05.07 @ 2:29 pm

doesn’t your kilt count as a skirt?

Comment by Eric 11.05.07 @ 3:13 pm

I saw you and Tic on McNutt’s blog. The wonders of technology.

Comment by Len 11.05.07 @ 4:21 pm

Thanks for all you do! Know you are loved!


Comment by Jason Raitz 11.05.07 @ 8:09 pm

lol … yeah, dude … check my blog … your cheerleading antics were caught by me in my front row seat …

Comment by 11.05.07 @ 10:23 pm

I am really sorry to hear Marko’s comments regarding Greg’s General Session on Sunday Night.

I think it is vital for us to remember that “the other parts of the story” Marko speaks of would have NO context if it were NOT for the work Jesus did on the Cross.

If we just talk about the “other parts of the story” and remember the centrality of the Cross, Jesus is no different than any other dead prophet or the great social advocates of the past.

I choose to remember what Jesus did on the Cross first and see how much more it magnified the “other parts of the story.”

Comment by John Birkhead 11.06.07 @ 1:59 pm

john — interesting. so, are you saying that the other parts of the story (including the cross) WOULD have context without the resurrection? or, without jesus’ role in creation? or, without the incarnation? surely, no.

Comment by marko 11.06.07 @ 2:54 pm

I would include the resurrection as an essential part of the Cross - they are NOT mutually exclusive actions.

What I am saying is the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension distinguish our beliefs as Christians from other faiths and belief systems put forth in the world.

What Greg spoke of and challenged us to make sure to incorporate into our ministries is a defining article of our faith. Not just another part of it. To quote the old Burger King commercial: “parts is parts.”

You are right that Greg’s message was tough. It is tough because in youth ministry it is soooo easy to forget what the essentials are. It is easy to forget that the purpose of the skits, games, events, camps, missions, etc. should be to direct students into a relationship with a Lord and Savior who did something incredibly unique for them “on the cross.”

I loved every general session speaker. Very good. I did appreciate Greg’s message the most because it brought each of us “back to the basics.”

Please be sure to invite him to do a general session again. I appreciate that he brings a different perspective and this comes from a Methodist who grew up Episcopalian and Anglican.

Comment by John Birkhead 11.06.07 @ 3:21 pm

john — i hope you don’t think i’m advocating for games and skits over the cross! :)

yes, i’m sure greg will be back. i trust him deeply and know his character, love his passion, and appreciate his friendship.

Comment by marko 11.06.07 @ 3:25 pm

Did not think so at all - but also understand how easy it is to lose focus in the youth ministry gig. I also did not want anyone else to take your comments as diminishing the message Greg delivered. I have been around you enough to know that was not your intention and wanted to have a clarifying conversation. Thanks for engaging with me in it.

Comment by John Birkhead 11.06.07 @ 3:28 pm

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I did work for D2S for 2 years ending in 2006. Prior to that, I was a youth pastor who took my youth group to D2S and experienced a transformation in our ministry. Now that I am back serving as the Director of Student Ministries in a local church, I will take my new group.

Just wanted to be open and transparent.

Comment by John Birkhead 11.06.07 @ 4:28 pm

I was in your “A New Vision for Middle School Ministry.” And I had a blast. Thanks for the tips and ideas. I had looked forward to this seminar all weekend and it stood up to my expectations. Thanks for your advice and encouragement to youth leaders around the country!

Comment by Josh Suiter 11.06.07 @ 5:28 pm

I was at NYWC in St. Louis with five other youth ministers - from five different churches and from 3 different denominations. As you were talking to the young couple about their new position, I began to think of our group. We do things together - rallies, DNow, etc. and we actually all get along. (Even with two different Baptist churches!!)
From previous experience, I believe our group is in the minority as far as interacting together with our kids along with getting together with one another. There are too many ministries doing things on their own and I understand the need for autonomy, but we are all (or should be) about sharing the love of Jesus and the importance of a relationship with Him.
The weekend was great!!!

Comment by Charles Spurlock 11.06.07 @ 6:27 pm

I don’t want to weight in on the negative side because that is not a very productive role to take, but I have to express that I was bothered by the seeming lack of depth to Greg Stier’s message. It is almost like taking the Bible and hitting someone over the head with it instead of using the richness of the whole story. Now, I know that this is not Greg’s approach because of the seminar that I sat in on by him ealier that day. However, that was his message on Sunday night and seems to be his message to youth whom he is teaching to evangelize. The simplicity of this approach seems to be one of the things that has led to a lack of youth who can articulate their faiths. In this way, while the basics are important they should be the starting point not the whole point in theological teaching.

Comment by Eric 11.06.07 @ 6:31 pm

I, too, attended your New Vision for Middle School Ministry and your general session.
The idea of contextualizing is life-giving. My ministry must reflect what God has created in me and that isn’t necessarily the same as my predecessors or my co-workers. Leading a large suburban and conservative middle school ministry as a small-church minded and not-so-conservative individual, I often feel I must conform, but your words on Sunday and Monday affirmed many of the tugs I’ve been feeling on my heartstrings.
I had today off to do laundry and let my thoughts marinate before stepping back into the office tomorrow. I hope you continue to develop the concept of contextualizing. I have the sense that it is going to be on my fingertips for a while.

Comment by alaina 11.06.07 @ 6:44 pm

we just need to express our thanks once again, marko, for the complete and uninhibited affirmation you gave us sun evening at the session. we didn’t tell you about the horrendous week we had been having the week before and how badly we just needed to get away, spend some time with each other and our Savior, and reflect on what the Lord has done in Lake City. it truly is miraculous that the Lord has done here among 5 churches what He called us to do as a church in the first place. we need to be reminded of that every day.

Comment by seth and crystal dady 11.07.07 @ 2:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: