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.”

social media

Fall in love with your content

Every day I read all sorts of blogs. I follow hundreds of blogs with Google Reader and I’m constantly following links on Twitter and Facebook to various people’s blogs.

And I’ve gotten used to the mediocrity of most stuff out there.

There are very few people writing about what they love. But there are a whole pile of people writing about what they think will make them money.

You see, blogging is hot. Trendy even. Just about every company, church, start-up, and author I meet will quickly tell me… “I need to have a blog.” So the first thing people see is that blogging can somehow make them money. (Build a tribe, generate leads, sell product, sell ads) And in every marketing meeting in every corner of every market someone is in charge of getting bloggers to talk about their product. “User-generated content is what we need.” (aka free advertising!)

But they are missing the point. And their metrics always come back emptier than they’d hoped.


The reason people read a blog is because they connect with the content. A reader can tell the difference between a crappy post to promote a product or service and something they genuinely care about.

There are a lot of people, many of them my friends, who will sell you a big bag of tricks about how to make money with a blog. They will tell you it’s about design and whistles and SEO and mixed media. Most developers care more about the functionality of a site than they do the one thing that will actually work. (And make unlimited money.) Really, really good content. 

But the truth is that all that matters is that you love your content. You have to love it or no one else will. 

Church Leadership

Final thoughts on canceling church

My post last Sunday about megachurches (and their copycat little brothers) canceling services the day after Christmas generated a massive response. Apparently, there were a lot of people who also felt it was a smidge ridiculous that in America we found an excuse to take a Sunday off while those in other parts of the world risk their lives to worship Jesus publicly on any day. And a good amount of people, especially those who commented, thought the connection between the persecuted church and canceling services was unfair.

That’s OK. I’m a big boy and can handle people disagreeing with me.

There were several spin-off posts generated which I’d like to call your attention to as they are worth reading:

I learned three things from the post and its fallout.

  1. In general, American Christians don’t feel much of a kinship to non-American Christians. At least the majority of blog commenters would not put kinship above their individual churches rights to meet or not meet.
  2. Few people latched onto a central concept in the post that the church is our real family. I consider my community group part of my family, I’m left to assume that this family-feeling is not all that common. How can that be so?
  3. The priesthood of the staff is so deeply engrained that it was nearly 30 comments before someone brought up that churches canceling services could have just managed their resources/staff differently by empowering more lay people and depending on the staff less.

In the end, the post did more than I could have hoped for. Rather than simply getting a pile of people to agree with me or disagree with me… it seems as though the post generated the exact discussion I had hoped for. And getting church leaders to critically think about their ministry is about all I could ever ask.