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The Youth Cartel

Celebrating the Collective We

Saturday was one of those rare experiences where you witness a vision reality.

Something that existed purely by way of imagination, aspiration, and hopeful preparation took physical shape resulting in a day I’ll always remember.

It started to get real when I picked up the t-shirts. Brian Aaby had connected me with a local screen printer who not only did a great job but passed along a beautiful price. When Kevin popped the lid on a massive box of antique cherry red t-shirts emblazoned with a white “Open Seattle” logo– I was taken aback. It was like that box pinched me and woke me up. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The Friday night speakers dinner was next. 30 speakers & their significant others enjoyed a meal together. Again, it was one of those things that was just on the calendar… it was a thing I knew would be cool but had no idea how fun it would be. Though most of us had never met face-to-face, everyone had a great time getting to know one another. There were lots of hugs and laughter mixed with our spaghetti and cheesecake. Perhaps the quality of the night was best exhibited in the volume of the group. It was so loud in there!

After a sleepless night I got up before dawn to head over to Seattle Pacific University. I was the first car in the lot. The campus was silent as I unloaded my rental car and schlepped boxes of stuff into Upper Gwinn.

Then it all kind of started to go in fast-forward. Sponsors started showing up to set up their booths. No sooner did I get stuff unpacked before the early birds started to arrive. And seemingly 15 seconds later it was 8:57.

I grabbed Mark Moder… “Um, can you help me? I need someone to do a little welcome and mixer.

Literally, I needed that 2 minutes to shift my brain. The build up had been so long but the morning so short. I needed to capture the moment, gather my thoughts, and say this:

It’s because of you. We do this thing for you. The world needs you. And we need you to not just love Jesus and love kids. Today is an expression of the collective we. When we gather, we share what is working and our ideas… we begin to welcome in a new, bigger collective we of adults who minister to adolescents.

(Or something like that.)

I’ll share more about the day later. But it was a great day. It’s one thing to dream dreams. But it’s another thing to see your dreams become a reality. And what was really fun for me is that it wasn’t a celebration of a kooky idea that I somehow snookered 125 people to being a part of. It was a celebration of something that we can all stack hands on, own, and say… “That thing belongs to us, the collective we.”

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The Youth Cartel youth ministry

Join us for Open Seattle

I’m getting really pumped for Open Seattle next week. If you live in the Pacific Northwest we’d love to have you. Yesterday, we extended the regular registration deadline until next Monday– so you can still get in for $25!

What’s Open Seattle?

Open is an experiment. It’s asking the the youth ministry world the question… “What would happen if we completely flipped the script on a youth ministry training event?

  • What if a national organization gave leadership to local organizers?
  • What if front-line youth workers were favored in speaker selection over those on the speaking circuit?
  • What if we took chances instead of playing it safe on the stuff we present?
  • What if The Youth Cartel didn’t have to fly its name out front, but instead lifted up the names of its partners?
  • What if none of the speakers got paid? What if I didn’t have to get paid to help organize it… I just did it for a fair share?
  • Speaking of money, what if a local YM charity was benefited financially?
  • Heck, what if we just posted the full event budget online for anyone to see?
  • Why not record everything and then share all the sessions with the community on a central website… so no matter where you live you can have access to training resources and the freshest ideas out there on the ground?
  • What if we perfected the thing and just kind of open-sourced THE WHOLE THING so we can help people who have been to one organize one themselves?
My hope for the answer to all of those questions is… I think that the best ideas will be given a voice. My hope is that when front-line youth workers get an opportunity to share what they know and even their big, crazy ideas with a group of people just like them… that it’ll spur on more ideas and spark new innovations with the net result that we’ll reach more teenagers with the Good News.

So yes, it’s an experimental thing. Originally there was a lot of risk. It was really hard to explain the overall concept to the first few partners– Jeff at SPU, Brian Aaby at YouthMark, Mark Moder at Youth Dynamics. But as we kept talking about it this idea really took off. They made the idea even better.

At this point in preparation– I’m not feeling this is as big a risk anymore. Actually, when I look at the people who are presenting and the folks who are coming I don’t see a lot of risk. Now I just see an awesome, affordable, innovative event. 

We’ve got two tracks of learning. One is training, it’s full of great stuff as a refresher for the paid person and covering a lot of bases for your volunteers. The second track is all about ideas. It’s got some stuff in there that’ll cause you to scratch your head or write stuff down or just plain want to wrestle the speaker at the after party.

For $25 You Get

  1. 16 sessions
  2. A free t-shirt
  3. The ability to say you were at the very first one of these. (We’ve got two more planned for this school year, one in Boston and one in Paris.)

In 2013-2014 we hope to add 6 more of these as we beta test the concept… 4 more in the United States, 1 more in Europe, and 1 Lord willing, in Canada.

I hope to see you next weekend on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. And if you can’t make it there, I hope to see you at an Open event soon.

Categories
The Youth Cartel

The Open Manifesto

There aren’t many places in the church where all ideas have the same opportunity to be presented. Everything is editorialized, shaped, and packaged. Every idea is filtered through a lens.

We think something is wrong with that. Deep in our souls we know the solutions to the problems we face today are already out there, waiting to be discovered.

Open is just that. Open. The Youth Cartel sets the table, plays host, and invites anyone and  everyone who has an idea to the table for a day where we all have equal value for our ideas. Whether you are a big dog with 20,000 people writing down your every word, a college student with some crazy ideas, or somewhere in between, the table is open–we will give you your shot and equal time to share your idea.

Now that doesn’t mean you will automatically be appreciated or celebrated. It’s an open table and you have the chance to play with the big boys. There will be winners and there will be less-than-winners. Just like everyone has the same shot, everyone undergoes the same scrutiny. The point isn’t that everyone will be equally received, the point is that anyone can have the platform.

No one gets paid to present at Open. Why? That wouldn’t be fair, would it? Those making presentations submit a proposal and chances are good that if they’ve got something to say that’s on topic, they will get a shot. Their only compensation is the chance to present their ideas, and free entry to the day.

So what does it cost? We’ve kept it as simple as possible. Tickets start at $25 for the day. If we sell out early then that’s it. But as we get closer to the day, tickets will naturally get a little more expensive.

True to the premise of Open, we aren’t out to make a lot of money. We are splitting any proceeds for the day equally with a local organizer and a local ministry recipient. We think that’s fair, and we will be 100% open about the money so you know who has made what.

From top to bottom we want Open to be a different type of event. We set the table, invite all, and provide a day where the best stuff filters to the top. Why? Because we trust you. We are in this together. We care deeply about impacting the Kingdom and we know you do too. And we know that low control, high trust openness is the way to get there.

Join us.

Being your ideas, bring your voice, and let’s dream.

Backstory

This is the driving document for Open Seattle, a new youth ministry event we just announced today. This is the first of what I hope will become a movement of Open events which gather all over to collaborate, celebrate, and innovate within our beloved tribe of youth ministry. The plan is to do two more as an alpha test, one in the Northeast and one in Western Europe. (Hosting info)

A fun story about this manifesto is that I wrote it about 6 months ago. I kind of woke up with this from a dream. It was one of those things that dragged me out of bed and I typed it as fast I could. For weeks I had been thinking about Open, I’d had conversations with about a dozen people about it, but I couldn’t put the whole thing into words until that morning. It’s crazy how creativity works. Sometimes you have to dig to find it and other times it attacks you and you just try to keep up.