Youth Dynamics – Scholarship Video


Take 3 min to watch this and help a teenager. Other than a missions trip, nothing in my 28 years of youth ministry has as much impact on a teenagers life as an extended adventure trip in the wilderness!

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Youth Dynamics Infographic


Youth Dynamics Infographic

Here is a brand new infographic with some very interesting stats about teens. Did anything surprise you? Help YD with their scholarship campaign to get 2500 teens in need on adventures this summer.

$41 million judgement for teenager on a foreign trip with school


Youth Pastor, if you take teenagers overseas you better pay attention to this lawsuit.

5 years ago, Cara Munn, then a 15 yr old girl at her boarding school in Connecticut, contracted a tick-borne illness while on a trip to China with her school. (an excerpt from the linked article is below)

“On the trip, Munn and fellow students visited an area considered high-risk for tick-borne illness, and, upon her return, she was hospitalized for the disease that ended up ravaging her system and inflicting permanent brain damage.

Antonio Ponvert III, a lawyer for Munn, said of the $41 million award that the school was negligent in not only failing to manage students and protect them but also for neglecting to notify the woman’s family of the extent of her illness.”

“Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care … I hope that this case will help alert all schools who sponsor overseas trips for minors that they need to check the CDC for disease risks in the areas where they will be travelling, and that they must advise children in their care to use repellant and wear proper clothing when necessary.”

Ponvert added: ”Cara’s injuries were easily preventable.”

While you cannot and should not ever guarantee safety while on a trip, negligence by definition IS preventable. Make sure you (over) communicate to parents and teens about the risks associated with the locations you are attending as well as the activities you will be doing, so that both can make an informed decision regarding their participation and the precautions they may want to take as attendees.

It’s hard to believe that something as simple as bug spray may have prevented both the $41 million judgement, and more importantly, Cara’s health. Save yourself some grief while you’re helping save the world.

Lead well,

~Mark

Teen Gets Sick On School Trip, Awarded $41M – link to original article

“The None Zone” – a 3 min video about the unchurched Northwest


“Video -The None Zone – click here”– 3 min

Teenagers are my mission field.


Today I am leading a team from Youth Dynamics to Urbana 2012 in St. Louis. With 16,000 young adults in attendance, it is certainly the largest missions conference of its kind in the U.S.

But why would Youth Dynamics be at Urbana? We are a stateside youth ministry. What business do we have at a missions conference? Conventional wisdom might say we don’t belong, that we should be at Youth Specialties or some other youth ministry conference to recruit staff. So why are we at Urbana? Simply this… we are missionaries. Here’s why:

1.       The U.S. is a legitimate mission field; the Northwest is as dark as any region in the States.

We are constantly battling with the Northeast as the most unchurched region of the U.S. In fact, the Northwest is called “The None Zone” because of it unbelievably high % of people who have no religion or religious affiliation at all. (See our new 3 min video on the “Rise of the Nones”)

2.       Teenagers are an unreached tribe.

I just finished reading a book by Vincent Donovan, the first missionary to work with the Masai tribes in Tanzania. Another one of my heroes is Jim Elliot, missionary martyr to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. I imagine I see Northwest teenagers in the same way they both saw the people God called them to reach ….  I see them as lost tribes. Teenagers need missionaries to live among them, to be Jesus with skin on, to a people who have never met Him.

3.       We raise our own salaries.

I speak at regional and national Youth Ministry Conferences. When we try to recruit staff there, youth workers come from a paradigm that says: “How much will I make?”  “What will my salary be?” However, at a missions conference, those who are answering God’s call to missions have already crossed that mental barrier. They know that they will have to raise their own salary to follow God’s call on their life. The questions then become… “Could God be calling me to be a missionary in the U.S.?”  “Could I see myself using adventure ministry to reach lost teenagers in the Northwest?”

4.       We are all about the Gospel.

Yes, we take teenagers on all kinds of amazing experiences. White-water rafting, kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking, mountaineering, etc., and I would contend we have some of the best adventure guides in the wilderness industry. But for us, adventure ministry is not an end to itself. It’s a tool. Our aim is NOT to convert young people from being indoor people to being outdoor people. Our staff uses adventure ministry to introduce teenagers to Jesus and to go deeper if they know Him already. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if they love the outdoors, they still go to Hell without Jesus.

5.       Lastly, the Church has stopped seeing youth ministry as missional.

It used to be that pastors and church boards saw youth ministry as a key strategy piece in reaching lost families in our local communities. That’s changed. Tragically, some are even questioning its legitimacy in the local church. This may be a bit of an overstatement but I contend that for the most part, youth ministry in the church used to be a place where we reached the lost; now it’s become a place where we take care of the saved.

Missions has always been my first calling. I remember the service as a Bible college student where I went to the altar, knelt, surrendered my will to His, and said “Wherever you send me, I’ll go.” I fully expected that meant I would be living in a mud hut in Africa soon after. But surprisingly He never asked me to go overseas to do missions. He asked me to do youth ministry in the States. And 27 years later He continues to ask me to reach lost tribes of teenagers in the unchurched Northwest. I’ve taken students all over the world on short-term mission trips. And every time God rocks their world. Inevitably on the ride home some of them begin to ask the questions… “What if I knew their language?”  “What if I understood their culture?”  “How many more could I reach then?”

Then I remind them, “You do know a language. You are a native to a tribe and a culture that others do not understand, the American Teenager.”  And I challenge them:  “Whatever your end up doing with your life, wherever you end up… Be missional with your life.”

We are all missionaries, we just all don’t get paid to do it.

~Mark

­­Is 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Who’s chasing whom?


A professor friend recommended a book to me the other day. It’s over 30 yrs old and I have no idea how I missed it. It’s called “Christianity Rediscovered” by Vincent J. Donovan. He was the first missionary to introduce Jesus to The Masai tribe in Tanzania. He found he had to strip the Gospel down to it’s bare essentials. He discovered that much of what most missionaries were peddling was not really the Gospel, but something else. Just what is the Gospel? What would you communicate to a culture that did not know of Jesus, Father God or the Church? I think this discussion is very relevant to the post Christian culture we now find ourselves in in the United States. I believe the tribes of teenagers that we are called to in the Northwest are perhaps nearly as ignorant of the real Jesus as the Masai were when Donovan encountered them.

Here’s a cool story from the book I thought I’d pass along to you.

“Months later when all this had passed, I was sitting talking with a Masai elder about the agony of belief and unbelief. He used two languages to respond to me – his own and Kiswahili. He pointed out that the word my Masai catechist, Paul, and I had used to covey faith was not a very satisfactory word in their language. It meant literally “to agree to.” I, myself, knew the word had that shortcoming. He said “to believe” like that was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal with his gun from a great distance. Only his eyes and his fingers took part in the act. We should find another word. He said for a man really to believe is like a lion going after its prey. His nose and eyes and ears pick up the prey. His legs give him the speed to catch it. All the power of his body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck with the front paw, the blow that actually kills. And as the animal goes down the lion envelops it in his arms (Africans refer to the front legs of an animal as its arms), pulls it to himself, and makes it part of himself. This is the way a lion kills. This is the way a man believes. This is what faith is.
I looked at the elder in silence and amazement. Faith understood like that would explain why, when my own was gone, I ached in every fiber of my being. But my wise old teacher was not finished yet.
“We did not search you out, Padri,” he said to me. “We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You followed us away from your house into the bush, into the plains, into the steppes where our cattle are, into the hills where we take our cattle for water, into our villages, into our homes. You told us of the High God, how we must search for him, even leave our land and our people to find him. But we have not done this. We have not left our land. We have not searched for him.  He has searched for us. He has searched us out and found us. All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God.”

Of course he is the Lion. It’s so easy for me to think this evangelism thing is all on me… I forget that “the Hound of Heaven” is also pursuing us with a vengeance.

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