“Open Paris, in a word”~ thoughts from Marko

*taken from the blog http://whyismarko.com/2013/open-paris-in-a-word/

This last weekend, Adam and i were in paris for The Youth Cartel‘s event called Open Paris. these “Open” events have been adam’s birth-baby, shaped by this short manifesto of vision. but each Open event is completely unique, since there’s a high level of ownership given away to the local organizing team.

i’ll admit something here: while i thought the vision of doing one of these in paris was fun, i was a tad skeptical that it would actually work.

but i was wrong. 100%.

50 youth workers from 7 or 8 countries came. by most event planning metrics, that’s not a win. for this event, it was totally a win. the event had a relational dynamic as a result. we learned from each other; but we also hung out together. like: i have new youth worker friends now who live in germany and holland and england and france.

so, Open Paris in 5 words: LOCATION WAS HARD TO BEAT


Open Paris in 4 words: OUR HOST WAS AMAZING




Open Paris in 2 words: CURIOSITY WINS


Open Paris in 1 word: LIMINAL*


* a thin place, often used to describe a spiritual thin place. in this case, a place where the kingdom of god and the world of humans overlapped.


Open Paris…in review

Open Paris

This past weekend, 50 youth workers from across the E.U., U.K. and the U.S converged upon Paris for the inaugural Open Paris.

We were tremendously blessed with a stacked lineup of diverse speakers and seminars including Mark Oestreicher, Andrew Marin, Chris Kidd, Chris Curtis, Gemma Dunning, Markus Eichler, Tabea Weiler, Tim Eldred among others.

Tim Eldred


For the full range of the schedule, seminars and vision for Open Paris you can check out the website here:http://paris.openym.org

Hosting was fun and I really enjoyed playing tour guide in the city of Paris and The American Church in Paris.

More importantly, I loved connecting up with such a wide array of youth workers from 6-7 different countries. Each person shared his or her unique story, context, struggles, successes, hopes and dreams for God’s work in the lives of their students.

Some of the highlights for me included a very delicious traditional French dinner served for all guests on Friday evening followed by a sacred time of worship in the church’s catacombs.

(photos courtesy of Tim Eldred and Andrew Marin)



Open Paris was highly interactive, participatory, inclusive and relational.

In my opinion that is the way forward for youth worker gatherings.

Though some well-known speakers were on site, Open Paris was NOT about creating a dichotomy between the “professionals” and the ordinary youth workers.  We were all together all the time, and this is unique among these type of conferences.

Open Paris was about taking some bold risks and opening up honest conversations about real issues facing youth workers today including ministering to the ever-increasing LGBT community, embracing ecumenicalism as a way forward,  and inter-faith dialogue in pluralistic contexts.


I applaud the vision of The Youth Cartel (Adam and Marko) for desiring to create this kind of atmosphere and am excited to see what the future holds for other Open events and also for the connectivity and friendship of youth workers across Europe.

We have much to learn from each other and I hope to see more of these gatherings in the near future!

ACP sanctuaryThe American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

Hosting “Open Paris”


In just over one month youth workers from across Europe and North American will be traveling to France for Open Paris.  This event is sponsored by The Youth Cartel and my church, The American Church in Paris, will play the host. www.acparis.org

I am really excited about this opportunity to get a variety of voices from a multitude of backgrounds, traditions, cultures..and countries gathering together to learn and embrace our experiences.

I appreciate the vision of The Youth Cartel’s “Open” manifesto   http://paris.openym.org/the-open-manifesto/

Here’s a blurb from their own words…..

“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.”

On a personal note, I have known Adam and Marko for over a decade now and our journey which began at YS conventions will now finds us within a stone’s throw of the Eiffel Tower sipping wine and discussing the latest theological and cultural trends impacting youth ministry.

The U.S used to have a market on all things “youth ministry” but the global community has much to say especially relating to shifting worldviews in secular societies.

Yes, our American counterparts (which I still include myself in) know how to budget and build bigger and “better” youth ministry programs at church.  European youth workers are navigating the often treacherous waters between secular and sacred within society. Ours are often the students who can speak 3-4 different languages, have fully stamped passports by the age of 12, feel more comfortable in airports than soccer fields, and are positioned to be the global leaders of tomorrow.  This is why learning how to minister to teenagers in a European context is crucial and a good lesson for all youth workers.

And Paris…well, to many it is still the heart of Europe and center of culture, fashion, cuisine and philosophy.  It is often said that what trends in Paris finds its way to NYC and then the world.  This is certainly true when it comes to fashion and probably the culinary world.

But ask any student of philosophical innovation, especially in the era of postmodernity, and the birthplace of these ideas….France!  This cultural phenomenon that scares the multitudes in America came from the minds of French thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and the like.  These brilliant minds arguably redefined thought, literature, culture…and religion… and similar minds are being educated currently in the same schools our students attend.

That being said, Paris is just one of many cultural centers in Europe which hold great influence on the rest of the global community.

I hope that Open Paris will just be the beginning of an European movement in youth ministry that brings together divergent views in a united passion of seeing God’s kingdom redefined in radical ways among today’s teens.

If you can, please come and join us or stay tuned to this blog for Open Paris updates, live feeds, and reflections as we celebrate new ideas in youth ministry and dream together what youth work can..and will be!

For more information about our location, speakers, seminars and to register please visit the Open Paris site:   http://paris.openym.org/

The Cartel is coming….

Open Paris

I am excited to re(announce) that the Youth Cartel will be organizing “Open Paris” in the fall here at The American Church in Paris.http://www.acparis.org

I have written about the Youth Cartel previously, so you can read my thoughts here:


We are in the beginning phases of speaker proposals, so if interested in coming to Paris and speaking at this gig, please submit your proposal here:


It is my hope that Open Paris will bring together youth workers from across continents and that these diverse experiences will greatly contribute to the youth ministry conversation happening now and shape its future.

It is exciting to envision youth workers from the U.K, western Europe, and the emerging fields in Easter Europe connecting with youth workers from all across the U.S.A.

Plus…Paris is a pretty sweet place to hang out and enjoy the beautiful back drop of Les Miserables!

So, I invite you all to venture to France and experience a whole new world in culture, theology, and youth ministry.

a bientôt mes amis

The American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

What is the Youth Cartel?

Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood (maturity).[1] Definitions of the specific age range that constitutes youth vary. An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals could exist at all ages.

Often youth is associated with vigor, freshness or immaturity

cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products. Cartel members may agree on such matters as total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories,  establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these.

These two definitions really have little to do with the Youth Cartel…

However, this new organization does specialize is providing innovative resources to youth workers of all kinds with their moto “Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry”

The founding partners are two of the leading youth ministry voices and have years of experience speaking, creating, writing, and working with teenagers.  They are wacky, funny, in love with Jesus and teens, and progressive enough to speak into the future of youth ministry. Here are brief bio’s on Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane.


I deeply appreciate their passion for youth and youth workers and ability to speak into the lives of many in diverse contexts.  I have the privilege of partnering with the Youth Cartel in hosting Open Paris this spring.

For more information about The Youth Cartel including resources and events please visit their website:


Announcing “Open Paris” with the Youth Cartel




I am excited to announce a partnership with the Youth Cartel in hosting “Open Paris” this May 10-11, 2013 at The American Church in Paris.





I have known the guys behind the Cartel for a number of years and have always appreciated their passion for student ministry and visionary leadership.


Adam McLean and Mark Oestreicher’s dream is to provide great resources for all youth workers and especially opportunities for everyone to have a voice in youth ministry.



I love the idea behind the Youth Cartel and these “Open” events….  “Celebrating fresh ideas in youth ministry.”


These are open sourced gatherings of youth workers and practitioners sharing and discussing ideas…sort of like a large think tank.  There are no “experts” since, to be fair, what exactly is an expert in youth ministry? It is certainly not someone who has written books or been in the field for twenty years. (although I have much respect for them)  Sometimes the youngest and least experienced have the greatest insight into youth culture and God’s active engagement.  These gatherings in Seattle, Boston, and then Paris will be a wonderful opportunity to explore a new city and culture while truly learning together in community.



Of course I highly recommend taking a trip to the City of Lights and join us in Paris.  We will have a great group of youth workers and theologians from across North America, the U.K. and Europe.  This will certainly give Open Paris an international flavor.  I will admit I have learned valuable lessons from my European colleages since arriving in Paris last year.  As American culture is trending towards Europe/Scandinavia is many ways, what better source for collaboration and friendships than youth workers from there!

For more information on all of the Open events, please click the link below




The closer we get we will be posted more information and have an updated site for Open Paris.  Stay tuned!  à bientôt






To Save A Life

With more recent school and community shootings (Tuscon and Los Angeles) this past week we watched the movie

“To Save A Life”

To Save A Life movie

I must be honest, I was a bit skeptical about showing this movie.  We watch all sorts of movies with our teens, but I am hesitant to view “Christian” films with them.

For one, generally the production value is not very good

Second, they are usually very predictable, poorly scripted and acted

Third, these type o movies often portray an unrealistic view of life’s reality and the complexity of faith

Not so with To Save A Life

I was very impressed with the production value, story, writing, and acting.

More importantly, the theme(s) presented were very real and relevant.

Without giving away the movie here is a sampling of the themes/issues addressed (and often visually depicted):

teen suicide

school shooting


teenage sex


binge drinking and partying


drug use

teen pregnancy

And here is the thing- they were handled in a very realistic way.  Social issues and activities that most teens find fun were presented as just that in the movie.

Beer pong was played and enjoyed (and youth workers know that teens enjoy playing that game…doesn’t mean that they should)

Faith issues were handled in a similar fashion.

Personally, I felt that the youth pastor, youth group, and conversations about faith were honest.

Even the youth pastor was poked fun at and the corny games often played at youth group were shown for what they really are.

The writers pulled no punches trying to protect the church and youth groups, however also showed the redemptive side and hope.

The youth pastor came across as someone who genuinely cared about the welfare of students (emotional, physically, relational, and spiritual).  Though he believe in the power of faith to transform a life, he was not dogmatic nor pushy.

The main character Jake is the stereotypical popular athlete but instead of a happy-go-lucky conversion story, he struggles with his new faith and becoming a “Christian”.

The anger and feeling of betrayal by his friends is very real.

I have had a few “Jakes” in my youth group and their stories and journeys are very similar to the character depicted in the movie.

Becoming a Christian is not always easy, fun, or what it appears to be.  But the question the movie beckons to be answered is “Is it worth it?”

What I also appreciated about the main character and youth group was the diversity.

Often, youth pastors seem to target the popular students at school.  They are seen as key influences and the thought is if you can “win” them you can “win” the school.  History has shown certain ministries such as Young Life and Youth For Christ, F.C.A. and others specifically targeted that demographic of teenagers.

The negative is that one’s youth group can take on that perception and image, to the exclusion of many other students.

However, in To Save A Life, the main character did not leverage his popularity, but rather used his authentic charisma and confidence to work hard to include others, especially those marginalized in school.  This served as a great example.

If you had not figured out, the main theme of the movie is about saving lives of struggling teens.  This message could not be broadcasted any louder.  Our students and our communities need good resources, places, and communities of safety and refuge.  My hope and prayer is that the church and our youth groups can one day be known for that.

I highly recommended watching this movie with our students.  Let me know what you and your students think if you do watch it.

Here are some quotes and endorsements from the youth ministry world:

Teenagers are going to love the story and cast in To Save A Life. Super realistic portrayal of life on a high school campus — not all fake, like some movies, but the real stuff. This is a movie you’ll want to see with friends.”
—Mark Oestreicher, President, Youth Specialties

“To Save A Life flashes moments of genuine brilliance, and the multiple storylines all lead to a satisfying ending. While it has some doses of reality in it people might typically shy away from in a church setting (the film is PG-13 for thematic images), it is shown when story-critical and is tastefully done.”
—Josh Griffin, MoreThanDodgeball.com, High School Pastor, Saddleback Church

“To Save A Life portrays timely issues for today’s teens. Youth workers, parents, and teachers should definitely capitalize on this opportunity to take teens to the theater. Riveting conversations will follow.”
—Craig Detweiler, Director Reel Spirituality Institute & Associate Professor Fuller Theological Seminary

“As a middle school youth worker, I can see the lonely students in my ministry going unseen and unheard until someone says yes to being a friend. This movie is one more catalyst to helping our teenagers understand the power of that sort of love.”
—Brooklyn Lindsey, Youth Worker & Author, Confessions of a Not-So-Supermodel

“This movie is awesome. It conveys the raw emotions of life, and is a gritty testament to the ups and downs of high school. To Save A Life shows that life isn’t easy and relationships can be messy. My friends who have seen the film are already talking about it and encouraging others to go see it.”
—Zach Hunter, Teen Author & Speaker

Here are some great resources following the theme of the movie:

To Write Love on Her Arms

My Broken Palace

Need Help links and resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline