“Teens are not a problem to be solved, but a wonder to behold!” Mark Oestreicher, The Youth Cartel, shared this thought and a lot more at the 2018 Youth Worker Academy.
Twenty-one youth workers from churches across the Dakotas Conference gathered at Storm Mountain Center to learn from Mark Oestreicher, author and contributor to more than 60 books, including the much-talked-about Youth Ministry 3.0.
The Youth Cartel is passionate about encouraging and challenging adults who minister to youth through holistic professional coaching, strategic consulting, transformational events, and inventive resource development that advance youth ministry in new ways.
Mark Oestreicher, known mostly by the name Marko, has been involved in church ministry his whole life, particularly with teenagers and youth workers. Marko has had a broad experience working in churches in roles ranging from Junior High Pastor to Executive Pastor. For 11 years, Marko was at Youth Specialties in San Diego, an organization that trains and equips church youth workers – the last 8 of those years as president. Concurrently, Marko was also a part of the leadership team of Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI).
“He was wonderful,” said Ginger Phillips, the youth worker from Murdo and Draper. “His information was relevant for the times.”
Oestreicher presented information about how the teenage brain works and the challenges that bring to being a youth worker. There were terrific, collaborative discussions with fellow youth workers from around the Dakotas Conference. Teams came from Bismarck, Milbank, Mitchell, Huron, Pierre, Murdo, Spearfish, Lead, Piedmont, and Rapid City. Participants discussed how Marko’s content applied to their context and how to optimize the youth ministry at their church.
“I love how Mark described youth ministry: 'walking alongside teenagers on their journey toward Christlikeness,' " shared Rev. Karl Kroger, Piedmont Grace UMC. “He led several phenomenal sessions aimed at helping us improve our understanding of teenagers. The more we comprehend their development, the better we will know how to disciple them. Mark challenged us to think of teenagers and all the ways they grow and change as gifts from God."
Michelle Kroger, Piedmont Grace UMC attended and had this to say, "It was so helpful to know that whether you have five or twenty-five kids in your program, the challenges we deal with in doing youth ministry are things other youth workers are going through as well. It's just nice to know you're not alone; I appreciate events set up to make that possible."
Vicky Vetter and Sam Mettler, youth workers from Bismarck Legacy, drove 6 hours and 350 miles to attend. Vetter said, “It’s a long drive, but it was so totally worth it. We learned a ton of valuable information from Marko. One of his areas of expertise is in adolescent brain development. It was fascinating to dive into the stages and changes our teen's experience at these critical ages!”
Marko shared information on the importance of integrating teens into the life of your church with many intergenerational relationships. He described how students could sometimes live in an isolated teenage world; and how important it is to give them experiences of working alongside adults in an adult setting to help them learn how to become adults themselves eventually.
“Already this week I find myself tweaking some of my language or plans in light of this new information on adolescent brain development. I anticipate this knowledge will have a very positive impact on our ministries,” Vetter said.
Vetter is off to Denver this fall to continue her learning with Marko and The Youth Cartel. “Legacy has approved me to continue on a learning journey with Marko and his company, The Youth Cartel,” said Vetter. “ I am signed up for a full-year of community and coaching through one of the ministry cohorts they offer.”