Five years ago RIGHT NOW we were wrapping up the true beginnings of what would become Youthmark.
A Little History…
While serving as an associate pastor in Phoenix, AZ it became very clear that I was not the fit for the church I was serving. Elisabeth and I had prayed (a lot) and we just knew it was time to move on (and hopefully back to WA). The plan was for me to talk to the senior pastor during our one-on-one time late in the week, but I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit (or the quake of bad pizza the night before?) and on Monday afternoon I walked into the senior pastors office, sat down and said, “it’s not a fit.” He graciously responded, “let’s make this the best transition ever.” To this day, I am thankful for his response.
We didn’t know what was next, it was gigantic leap of faith, but we knew it was time. That evening I contacted a friend to find out if he knew of any northwest (preferably Seattle-area) openings. He did… the church he was serving! Only, they were down to their final three and IF I got my resume and cover letter to him the next day he would submit it.
We knew even then (2003) that Youthmark was in the future. I had already started writing some curriculum, but we just didn’t know the timing. So, I wrote a cover letter that stated that I wanted to help the church for their next phase of Youth Ministry, but also would be starting an organization, Youthmark at some point in the next few years.
In the Spring of 2004 I started work at the church and put the plans for Youthmark on hold for a few years.
In the fall of 2007 we had our first Youthmark event; a parenting seminar open to all in the Seattle area. It was awesome, but I knew it wasn’t time to go full-speed ahead with Youthmark plans, nor was the event or events like it going to be the sustainable financial model to get an organization like Youthmark off the ground.
But the event certainly got the creative juices flowing and an itch to start Youthmark needed to be scratched. I decided that the spring of 2008 would be my last as a Youth Pastor (the guys I was leading in a discipleship group were graduating that spring too). I was done the last day of June 2008 and on July 8 (after taking one week tour of baseball stadiums with my dad and brother) I began Youthmark as my full-time gig!
Today marks the day that we concluded our first ever Youthmark Mission Venture related event. I risked big time (like thousands of dollars big time) on an event, a Youth Pastor & Spouse Retreat to pitch Youthmark Mission Ventures to about 24 people. We rented out rooms and a conference room at a 4-Star hotel in downtown Seattle. Over the course of about 24 hours we ate well, laughed a lot and were able to share the dreams and vision of Youthmark Missions.
Here are some pics from that event:
View from our hotel
Old Spaghetti Factory!
The name tags made it feel official
gifts for each of the participants
packed with goodness
table discussions about what could be in the summer of 2009!
- God blessed us with 16 teams that first year.
- The next year we had 24.
- By the third year I knew the model was not sustainable, but there wasn’t much I could do to change course, I knew I needed to slowly turn the model without losing momentum. That summer we had 40 teams go out with Youthmark.
- Finally, the fourth year, I started to change the model and began sharing with other organizations the opportunity to partner with Youthmark, essentially saying “let us concentrate on the weeks outside the mission, you be the experts in the mission trip (Mission51).” That summer we still had 53 churches parker with us.
- This last year we have moved away from Mission trips (though Youthmark still does send a limited number of customized specific trips) and began partnering exclusively with ministry partners. Our premier partner, Youth Missions International, received the majority of our previous church partnerships and did a fantastic job serving them. All of these teams still get all the materials for before, during and after the mission.
Now Youthmark concentrates on Mission51 (hosting the Spring Retreats) and creating new materials for all things Youth Ministry (like Pray21 and many other new products due out in 2014), while I continue to do more speaking, consulting and training! What a journey!
I am amazed at what God has done in these first five years, I look forward to seeing what my 10 year post will look like!