Thank You, YMX

Yesterday, we we went public with a decision to end Youth Ministry Exchange after about 5 years.

For the last couple of years it has been trickling and trickling… and so we figured, “Why not just have a celebration of life and let it pass now instead of letting it go from 200 members per day, to 100, to 20 (where it’s at now) to 10, to 5?”

I’m thankful for YMX and the hundreds of core people who made it a vibrant community. 200,000+ posts— yowsers! While there were a couple thousand members– there were 100-200 regulars who made it not just a forum, but a forum community.

Five years ago, about this time of year, I started to get an inkling of an idea that I wanted to create a new home for the defunct YS forums. There was a core group of about 20 youth workers who did an AOL group chat just about every night. And when YS closed their forums about 5 other forum sites popped up as substitutes… but none of them were run very well.

I talked to Kristen about it and she was kind of meh about the concept. “You don’t really know much about that kind of thing. And you really don’t know much about running an internet company.” Both were completely true but I took that as a blessing! Then, a few weeks later, I brought up the idea with Todd Porter after he visited our church. He got really excited– which added energy to the idea.

So, mid-November 2005, I put together a private chat with 5 people I thought were strategically the right ones to talk about this idea. That discussion generated even more energy. And in early December 2005, we were open for business.

I spent $72 to start the company. And the first 24 hours we made over $250. It was awesome!

As time went on, the company went about 1,000 directions as I tried various initiatives. Business plan? Um, I didn’t have one! How could I? I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it.

From 2005 to 2008 we continued to grow… this was really the peak for YMX. We published a lot of user-generated content, we pushed out a regular newsletter, we had a podcast, the forums were vibrant, and some of our satellite sites were doing pretty well.

In truth, I had no idea what was next. I was learning a lot about business along the way but I wasn’t sure I knew how to navigate YMX past a new hurdle. Subscriptions were declining, interest in the web content was skyrocketing, and the site was struggling to pay the bills.

Thankfully, in June 2008, Youth Specialties stepped in and ended all the angst. They bought most of the web properties and hired me to come help them figure out how to bring some of the flavor of YMX to YS.

About the same time Facebook took off. Then Twitter took off. And forum communities hardly seemed to be the wave of the future that they once were. We infused some serious marketing efforts into YMX as part of YS. But it was obvious that masses of youth workers were going to flock to Facebook and Twitter while the decrease of interest in YMX continued to decline.

Certainly, there are those who think that the forums could have prevailed if I had focused more attention on them. I don’t value my presence there quite that much. I only had 4,000 of the 200,000 posts. Hardcore forumites know full well that in the last year or so I’ve largely turned the reigns over to Patti Gibbons and the rest of the moderator team. It just wasn’t humanly possible to do the work I needed to do at YS while maintaining things day-to-day at YMX. I heard the grumbles but couldn’t really do much about it. I think if those people saw the world from my vantage point they would have invested energy in the same places I did.

It was a two-way street… I was doing the best I could in my new role. And the moderator team did a great job ministering to the forums.

So, long-story short, we went public with the decision yesterday. It was a bit more sad than I expected. It truly felt like the end of an era.

It was a good era and one I’ll be fond of forever.

Weblogs YMX

Best of 2005

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the archives. These are oldies but goodies.

Check Out YMX!

Hey, a buddy of mine and I launched a website lately for youth workers to connect up. This is filling the forum void left behind since YS closed their forums back in June.

Anyway, check it out at


This changed everything. As I look back on the last several years, no event changed my life more than creating Youth Ministry Exchange.

For years the youth ministry world was pretty self-contained. There were a limited number of players and it seemed impossible to get your foot in the door anywhere.

So we created a new door.

Within a month we created massive traffic for our new business. We had some sense that what we were creating was important– but the truth is we had no idea what we were doing. We were even afraid to call it a business. We didn’t have any of the legal stuff done. We never had a business plan. We never spent $1 on marketing. And the two original owners have STILL never met. 3.5 years later I was sitting in an office at Zondervan signing paperwork and waiting for a bank transfer as we sold Youth Ministry Exchange, LLC to Youth Specialties. It’s mind boggling.

How in the world does a guy go from being a no-name youth pastor at a church of 150 to shaking hands and receiving a check from the CEO of a major publishing company in 3.5 years? Simple: Looking at closed doors and building an open one to walk through.

Investing $72 in an idea changed my life.

Want my advice? If you have an idea that you are absolutely passionate about… do it. Do it now. The idea and the opportunity are never going to get better than they are today. But invest less than $100. If it’s a good idea it won’t make a difference if you invest $100 trying it out or $100,000. (Donald Trump may be good, but that guy has led his company into bankruptcy three times! Never finance an idea with debt. Pure and simple.)

Books YMX

Youth Worker Book of Hope

Youth Worker Book of HopeBack in January 2008 I was asked to participate in something out of character. Tim Baker, a well-established youth ministry author, emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in submitting a chapter to a book he was working on. My first few reactions were simple…

– I don’t want to write a book. (Kind of weird for a guy who works for a publisher, eh? Just not my dream.)

– I don’t have anything important to say.

– I don’t have time. (Besides running YMX and a ministry in Romeo, I had just dropped out of grad school because I was too busy.)

When I talked to Kristen about it she read through the concept of the project and gave me the look and said, “You need to do this.” As I looked at the project once again it became clear to me that I had to participate in this project, I did have something important to say, and I needed to make time. If there is one thing I want my ministry to youth workers to say over and over again it is that youth ministry matters, it changes lives, and no matter how bad it is, there is hope!

At this point, 16 months later, I am stoked to see this book come out in August. I don’t often get Perry Noble-stoked about stuff… but I am getting close with this one. There is a mega-pile of fresh authors, each sharing their unique story of finding hope when bad things happen. But let me be completely selfish here… I think you need to buy this book simply to read my chapter. My particular chapter is on, “How do I find hope for tommorow when the crap hits the fan?” And how many people in ministry haven’t had a moment when everything hit the fan?

So, here is the link. You can pre-order it now.


My new column at YMX

In December I was looking for some column ideas for a new weekly thing I’m doing for Youth Ministry Exchange. After a ton of discussion, brainstorming, and banging our head against the wall, Patti and I settled on the idea that I would write a weekly column called, Be Strong.

So far, I’m pretty happy with it. Here are the first three. Let me know what you think.

Start Small

Roll With the Punches

Disappoint Someone


Weekly Column Ideas

Over at Youth Ministry Exchange I’m going to be starting a weekly column. The question is, what should I write about?

I don’t think it should be just general youth ministry stuff. Let’s face the fact that right now I don’t have a lot of up-to-the-moment experience that is going to be useful.

For a long time I’ve wanted to do a “Dear Adam” kind of thing where people sent me ministry-related questions and I had fun replying to them. Kind of like Dear Abby for pastors.

I could do something on adolescent trends. I could do technology stuff. I could do interviews with ministry people.

But mostly I want to know what you think it should be? Please share your ideas in the comments. My hope is to write a few of these between now and the end of the year so the column can begin the first week of January.

family Travel YMX

The next few weeks


My fall travel season has arrived. When I took my job at YS I knew that this time of year would happen. In fact, one of the reasons why there are some really soft times in my year-round schedule is to make up for this time of year. Here’s the rundown, pray for Kristen and I.

October 9-13, NYWC Sacramento. Live blogging the convention and overseeing the smoking YMX booth at all three locations.

October 16-19, Planet Wisdom Chicago. No official role, but I’ve never been to one and I really need to grasp what goes on.

October 30-November 3, NYWC Pittsburgh. Same as Sacramento.

November 20-24, NYWC Nashville. Same as Pitt & Sacramento.

OK, so now that I wrote it out like this it doesn’t look that bad again. I think the stress comes from realizing I’ll be gone for about 2 weeks straight starting this week.

By the way, I’m totally looking forward to being on site at these events. It’s going to be super awesome fun exhaustion encouragement time.

management YMX

Goodnight Gospelcom Alliance

I was pretty excited to have Youth Ministry Exchange join the GCI Alliance back in 2006. In fact, we made a big deal about telling people with over 100 guesses as to what the big surprise was all about.

I sensed in the last few months things weren’t going well… staff leaving for other places and not getting replaced, stuff like that.

Yesterday I got news that the Ministry Alliance will cease to exist in mid-December. For the 200+ organizations who look to GCI for assistance and encouragement this was a huge shock.

Here’s parts of the email I got.

As the result of a number of factors, the Board of Directors of Gospel
Communications has decided that the ministry of Gospel Communications as we
have known it is coming to a close.  This was, obviously, not an easy
decision, but our commitment is to carry it out in the best manner possible.
We are currently involved in trying to find good stewards for the various
ministries of Gospel Communications who will be able to carry those
ministries forward.

I wanted to let you know that the decision talked about above means that the services offered to Alliance Ministries (hosting, technical support, training, etc.) are coming to an
end. Although this is not the path that any of us would have necessarily
chosen, we are committed to making this transition as smooth and as
God-honoring as possible.

Right now it looks like our date for “end of service” will be December 15,
2008. We are contractually obligated to give Alliance Ministries 60 days of
notice. The December 15 date will make the transition period approximately
90 days.

Here’s my personal opinion. I think that the need for the Alliance may have passed. When it was created back in 1995 this thing was totally needed. Ministries struggled to find decent hosts, small ministries had no practical way to create an online presence without spending tons of cash, and there wasn’t a lot of technical support out there for people just learning. Boy how times have changed! Speaking as a member, having been to the conference, I just don’t see the need for this type of Alliance.

With that said, I do think there is a great need to keep ministries together. I think that things like traning events and sharing resources is always going to be needed. Further, I think that as ministries get more sophisticated and as high capacity people look for work in this field there will be a greater need for the networking that something like GCI could provide.

In other words, a retooled version of the Alliance could and will still work. Fewer hoops, increase the help, and loads of churches and ministries will flock to it. Hint: Make it for-profit, ask people to pay to be a part of it, but make it worth their while to pay. Another hint: Dump the hosting and technical support. No need to compete on that playing field with hosts that are so cheap and so reliable.

What about the Gospel Communication sites? All I know is that there’s no way sites like or will go away. They are simply too popular to let go.

family hmm... thoughts YMX

We’ve landed

Yesterday Megan and I made it to San Diego with about an hour to spare. Our plan worked out perfectly! We were able to drop off all the stuff from the car at the new house just in time to head to the airport and pick up Kristen, Paul, and Lovely as they arrived from Detroit. From there we headed back to the house to do a little “nesting” and get everyone settled. Everyone is having a good time exploring their new surroundings.

Personally, my surprise joy came when I went grocery shopping. It may sound like something silly to get excited about… but it was a blast! Since there are so many ethnicities in our community the grocery store is packed with new flavors and things to try. I think I came home with 20 different juices that we’ve either never had or have not had access to in a long time.

The truck gets delivered later this afternoon. So we’ll have the weekend to unpack the truck and start getting organized. Yup, it feels really real now.

One cool thing that happened yesterday is that we started meeting our neighbors. Although the house is a lot smaller I can tell we are going to like living here a lot.

video update: It’s going to take me a few days to get all the videos online. We took so much video… getting days 4 & 5 of Travels With Stoney done is just going to take me a little bit. Plus, I’ve got a massive backlog of work!

hmm... thoughts YMX

YMX Acquired by YS

Today, at 4:47 PM EST it was official. My mouth has been shut for weeks since I couldn’t talk to anyone outside of my family about the deal with YS. But it is now done and I couldn’t be happier. YMX partnering with YS is, in my opinion, the perfect place for YMX to fit into the youth ministry landscape. As Marko said, it’s only natural.

We’ve truly enjoyed being the independent source of youth ministry stuff. And we hope to continue on with that flavor.

There are a hundred reasons I am excited about this deal. The most obvious thing to be excited about is that I get to run YMX as part of my new job with YS. How cool is that? I’m also jazzed about the massive door of opportunity that was just swung open to us from the YS/Zondervan family. There are too many cool things to talk about with this. For now…

Here’s the press release

And here are the FAQs we posted in the forums about “what happens next” for YMX/YS.

How will this effect the way I use YMX?
One of the coolest parts of this is that the YMX community will mostly stay the same. The same people will be running it and Youth Specialties is taking a very hands off approach to YMX. YMX will benefit mostly from access to tons of resources to grow the site in a way that helps fulfill the community’s long-term vision.

Will this effect the way the forums operate currently?
Yes. Eventually, the forums will shift from a subscription based forum to a free forum. In other words, there will no longer be “premium level” areas of the site which require payment to utilize. The terms of service, the community accountability, the emphasis on self-moderation, will all continue.

Will the forum community be under a new and/or revised terms of service?
Not right now. If the terms of service ever change we will contact you to let you know.

What about the privacy issues? I thought the forums were secure and now they will be open to anyone?
We share your concerns. Starting in January 2008, YMX changed the method of registering new members so that new members have to provide personal information that is verified before we allow new members to access the forums. We will continue to utilize this option as a way to prevent trolling and keep the community safe. This meets the same need in protecting your privacy on the forums fulfilled.

Will the forums be indexed on search engines?
No. Since the forums require a registration to see anything, the search bots are prevented from searching forum content. This is not changing.

Will the forums be managed by different people and/or different moderators?
YMX, including the forums, will continue to operate as we always have.

I am a charter/premium subscriber, what does that mean for me?
Most of our premium/charter subscribers have been with us a long time. You guys are awesome and we thank you for your support. We will soon contact you to offer you a store credit with Youth Specialties. If that doesn’t work for you, please contact

Will the Oasis still be available?
Absolutely. The private Oasis area of the forums will still be available upon request, with a team of caring, youth ministry-understanding people to listen, pray, and confidentially walk with youth workers through tough or tricky situations. In fact, we hope to bring even more hope and help through the people being part of YS makes available to us all.

Does this mean that you won’t be accepting and publishing user-generated content?
Not at all! Actually the opposite. As a property of Youth Specialties we will be increasing the frequency of content for the community. While you may see some new authors on the site, we’d love to continue to work with new and emerging authors.

How much money were Patti and Adam given to make this happen?
We can’t answer that at this time. Adam and Patti are currently on the Youth Specialties jet on their way to FerrariWorld in Roma, ciao!

Will YMX still be appearing at the conventions to promote the community?
Yes. Look for us at all the National Youth Workers Conventions this fall.

What about Raising Lazarus and the community’s desire to help hurting youth workers?
Raising Lazarus has always been a separate entity of Youth Ministry Exchange, LLC. YMX will continue its partnership with Raising Lazarus to offer practical support for those who need help. In addition, with more time dedicated to running YMX, Adam and Patti will be more available to help.

Will the site continue to place ads?
Yes. The site will largely operate as it has.

Does this mean that YMX will only promote resources that are Youth Specialties products?
No. The site will largely operate as it has. If we review a resource or report on a news item, we will include a disclosure stating that our our parent company is Youth Specialties when it is relevant. This is similar to the way you see reporting on mainstream media.

Doesn’t YMX own other sites? Are those part of this deal as well?
Yes, YMX will continue to operate the blog ad network, Youth Ministry Tips, Youth Ministry Pro, and just like we are today.

Your thoughts?


Skypecast at 2:00 PM

I know this may come too late for many of my readers. But you are invited to come and watch/participate in Tim’s skypecast with me.

Click here to go there.