Mark Oestreicher ((or “Marko” as I like to call him)) is a youth worker at-large and founder of the Youth Cartel – an organization that is seeking to instigate a revolution in the world of Youth Ministry. You can connect with him on his blog at www.whyismarko.com
I caught up with my friend, Marko, recently to see how things were going at The Youth Cartel. I asked him 5 questions about the upcoming Summit in Atlanta, GA. I thought I would share with you his responses:
1. What is the Summit?
It’s a youth ministry training event; but our intention has always been to do something very different than the many other excellent training events offered in the youth ministry world. For those familiar with TED (http://www.ted.com/), you can probably see how it was somewhat of an inspiration for The Summit. We want to stir imaginations and spark creativity in thinking about each attendee’s unique context. We’re not promoting a particular approach, or suggesting a methodology, because we firmly believe that–today, more than ever–those approaches and methodologies need to be spiritually discerned, unique, and contextually appropriate. So, think of The Summit as the “chemical agent” intended to bring about a combustable reaction leading to change!
2. How does the event set itself a part from other Youth Ministry conferences?
To be clear, The Summit is not a “skills training” event. It’s an IDEA event. We believe that by bringing together a group of carefully selected presenters, each giving short, concise talks based on ideas that should shape our thinking and practice, youth workers will leave buzzing with applicable and unique thoughts about the “new things” God might want to do in their ministries.
To that end, each of the first three sessions will have five or six presenters, each giving a 12 – 15 minute talk on an area of expertise. Each session is grouped under a theme umbrella; so there’s a sense where the presenters in each session will each share a unique facet of the same cut gem. After each of these sessions, attendees will self-select one of the presenters with whom to spend another 45 minutes in what we’re calling “Digging Deeper.” The presenters are preparing these times not as further lecture, but as a guided interaction toward contextualization for everyone in the room.
3. I love the theme “Panorama: A Big Picture of Youth Ministry — Past, Present, and Future.” I noticed many of the speakers aren’t youth workers. Do you think these presenters will be able to help discern where youth ministry is at or speak to where it needs to go?
Actually, the session themes are “Here and Now: Naming our Current Reality,” “Peripheral Vision: Voices from Other Fields,” and “The Horizon: Where We Could or Should Be Headed.” In the first and third of those, all but two of the presenters are youth workers (of various sorts). It’s just that second session where we were intentional about bringing in voices from other fields of study or practice that we think have something we could learn from. So, on one hand: yes, itotally think these presenters can help us discern where youth ministry needs to go. But on the other hand: I don’t think it’s the role of the presenters (or me, or any other youth ministry speaker or youth ministry organization) to, ultimately, tell youth workers where they need to go. Youth workers need to exercise their own spiritual discernment, listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what God is calling them to do in their unique context. The event is an aid to that process, rather than the answer(s) to that question.
4. I really like how a couple of the sessions are followed up by time to have teams wrestle with application to the big ideas shared at the event. What do you hope this will accomplish? Any expectations?
I suppose I mostly answered this one already! But, yes, we really wrestled with how to make the event more than just hearing from 18 gifted presenters. With that many ideas flying around, it could easily feel like drinking from a fire hose, right? So, we came up with those Digging Deeper sessions as a way for youth workers to, well, dig deeper on three of the topics that really caught their attention or heart or curiosity. If those unfold as we hope they will, I think they’ll massively multiply the take-home value of the event.
5. Any last minute notes for those who aren’t registered?
It really isn’t too late! The event, in Atlanta, is next Friday and Saturday. If you’re in driving distance, deciding to attend at this late date is totally do-able. There are cheap hotels very near the event location. And, heck, this amazing event–even at this late date–is still under a hundred and fifty bucks (plus, everyone will be getting freebies worth about $50!). And, hey, if you want to attend, and can’t even afford that, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll do what I can to help you out.
BONUS: What is next for the Youth Cartel? Do you plan to bring these special events back next year?
Man, we have so many things going on, it’s just crazy! We’re publishing now, and have our 3rd and 4th books coming out at The Summit; and we have another six or so titles coming out in the next 6 – 9 months. The Middle School Ministry Campference (http://middleschoolministrycampference.com/) was a massive success last weekend (its second year), and we’re definitely repeating that. Our Open events (http://openym.org/) kicked off with Open Seattle a few weeks ago (which surpassed all expectations); and we have Open Boston and Open Paris in the first half of 2013. The Youth Ministry Coaching Program is moving forward: I’m close to wrapping up a cohort that’s been meeting in San Antonio; I’m starting a new Nashville cohort in January (there’s still space for one or two people, btw); We’re launching a Canadian cohort in December; and I have two online groups starting in December with the beta-test of the new YMCPv. I’m still writing lots of stuff, and have a couple more books coming out with Simply Youth Ministry in the next few months, plus a JH Bible I general edited coming out with Thomas Nelson mid-year 2013. Plus, our consulting roster is full of wonderful organizations we’re honored to partner with.
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