Well, friends, we’ve just about reached the end of this Cabin in the Woods series. I’ll be posting one final little bonus session tomorrow, but today is the last major topic of conversation from the 2013 Middle School Summit.

We’ve covered a lot in the last two weeks. Parent ministry, rites of passage, developing mission-minded teenagers, leading volunteers… and today we’ll wrap it up with one last conversation.

I’m pretty excited about this one.

Because Kenny and I are a little bit obsessed with the idea of partnership in the Body of Christ. Thanks, in large part, to the influence of our pastor, we’re big believers that the Church must work together if we want to be effective for the Gospel. As church leaders, we need to collaborate. We need to help each other. We need to swap ideas, compare notes, brainstorm, and troubleshoot together. We’re one Church, and we need each other.

That’s how Stuff You Can Use got started, actually. Kenny and I found ourselves sitting on a ton of resources and tools that we had created and thought, “Hey – if these were helpful to our church, maybe they could help someone else’s church, too.”

The sharing of resources is a great step toward greater partnership and unity in the Church. But it’s got to be more than that. We’ve got to cultivate relationships with each other, too. We need to experience leader-to-leader conversations where we push each other to be better, share what’s working, dissect what’s not, and dream about what could be.

Kind of like what we did at The Middle School Summit.

So here’s a look at our final Summit conversation. And it’s all about…

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(Psst… if you haven’t already familiarized yourself with the folks who are participating in this conversation, check this out. It will give you some context for this conversation, and introduce you to some new Youth Pastor friends you definitely want to be following.)

  • ELLE | Fostering partnerships across denominational lines should be a priority especially for Middle School Ministry. Our niche in the ministry world often gets overlooked and undervalued.
  • KENNY | It seems like the west coast has some great church partnerships, relationships, and networks happening, but it seems like the rest of the country does not.
  • NATE | Networks seem to work well when they’re not being spearheaded by the large churches. The Unconference was successful because an outside organization came in and facilitated it.
  • KENNY | For a lot of people, it’s not even on their radar to think about partnering, networking, or sharing ideas. 
  • SCOTT | He started a middle school ministry disc golf network. Find something fun to build relationships around, and start there.
  • ALAN | The problem with networks is when guys come in with an agenda, want to sell themselves or their products, or aren’t interested in others’ opinions. Many people will not commit to meeting regularly with other youth pastors because they’re just looking for a place to promote themselves. Remember that there will always be churches who won’t want in and who won’t be on the same page as everyone else.
  • KATIE | When you think of a network, do you feel like you need to have a ton of people in the network in order for it to be considered successful?
  • NATE | No.
  • KENNY | The need isn’t for numbers but for partnership and unity for the sake of the mission. They’ve seen it happening in Buffalo with different joint partnerships, projects, and events where different churches (and denominations) collaborated. There was a Good Friday service in the downtown hockey arena with more than 200 churches involved. There are networks happening, both casually and formally.
  • NATE | Youth for Christ used to lead a network initiative. A network that is regionally specific is really healthy – even if it’s just once a year, getting everyone together is helpful. Maybe it doesn’t have to be so much about sharing ideas, but about sharing life and experiences related to that region. He wants to know the experiences of area youth pastors (regardless of denomination) with various schools, with different principles, and trends they’re observing on a large scale in their area.
  • KATIE | The tough thing about networking within middle school ministry is that there is so much turnover with Middle School Pastors.
  • SEAN | In networking, there’s the local piece (kids seeing their youth pastors together hanging out is really healthy), but then there’s also a national piece. How do we utilize the Internet to help encourage others and stay connected? Facebook?
  • KATIE & ALAN | How can we go regional with those networks?
  • ALAN | What do you do about the agenda and game-playing when it comes to real-life networking get togethers?
  • DAN | He puts together regular meetings just to encourage and feed people who are doing ministry in the area. His wife is trying to create a network of wives to get together too.
  • SEAN | What if we just tried something? Maybe mini “summits” by region, hanging out, with no agenda.
  • ELLE | What about Facebook groups to bring life and day-to-day interactions to populate and drive traffic to those gatherings? As an example, youthmin.org has a really vibrant online community happening.
  • NATE | He would jump in on online conversations easily.
  • DAN | Online networking is great, it’s how he’s connected with a lot of people.
  • SEAN | He’d like to chew on the idea of regional networks through Facebook.
  • KATIE | The problem with online networking is that people can be jerks online. Thinks she could do twice a year in person but doesn’t feel a sense of community in online forums. For her, online interaction is great for idea sharing but not authentic community.
  • NATE | Sometimes we feel intimidated by other leaders. Walls need to be broken down somehow.
  • KATIE | People in small churches especially need strong local connections, not just national.
  • DAN | Sometimes when you try to connect with others in your area, people assume you want to steal or sell something. Especially if you’re a big church.
  • SEAN | You need to invite those relationships and be aware that there will be different levels of relationships and partnerships. Maybe we need less of a strategic plan and just be more aware of this moving forward?
  • KATIE | Maybe we need to see some new models of networking. 

When it comes to partnerships and networking in Youth Ministry, what do you think is working? Are you a part of any networks that you think are successful? What kind of network would you like to be a part of?