“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.


“I loved Open Paris”….thoughts from Adam McLane


Statement of the obvious post title, right? I mean… Open Paris was kind of my baby. So of course I loved it.

But I mean that from a bigger perspective, too. I mean that I literally loved Open Paris. In so many ways its exactly what is needed in youth ministry. Risky, collaborative, relational, vision-casting, and informative.


Every single person who was part of Open Paris took a risk. Dan and the host church. All of the presenters. All the attendees. All of the sponsors. A first-time event is inherently risky. But the level of risk was a little higher because very few people knew what to expect.

The result of all of that risk was a sense of anticipation and dependency on God to make it work.

At times, it felt like organizing Open Paris was a wild animal. For me there were simple barriers like time zones. But there were cultural complexities that made it hard to know what was and what wasn’t going to work. About 2 weeks away from it I just gave up trying to tame it. We just let it roll and enjoyed the ride.


One thing that is working really well about all of the Open events is that it’s highly collaborative. It has to be. When we are planning, my role isn’t to dictate how it all goes down, instead I keep pushing the vision that it’ll work best when we all work together.

This was on full display with our panel discussion on ministering to LGBT youth. (Not the theology, the practical realities.) I knew Chris Curtis would be masterful in moderating it. And after meeting Gemma Dunning on Thursday night I had a great feeling that her practical experience would mean a ton. But there were two people that Dan arranged to have attend that I knew nothing about and only hoped would add greatly to the conversation. And, in the end, it was an amazing time. (I’ll post the audio soon.)


For the first time we added a 2nd day to an Open event. We had intensives all afternoon on Friday, a dinner for everyone, and a time of worship. Together with a full-day on Saturday, meals, and an evening activity, and we all got to know one another really well. Friday evening I went on a walk with some folks before dinner… and it was 15 youth workers from 5 different countries all sharing so many of the same experiences and heartaches. So cool and uniquely relational.

Vision Casting

Open, by nature, is flat. You could say this of our other Cartel events… but it’s even more flat at Open than the Campference or The Summit. Over and over again I’m challenged by the simple upside down vision of Open. When practitioners share with practitioners, new stuff is born.

One byproduct of that, for me, is how much I learn. Another is that the vision spreads.


Youth ministry is highly contextual. Something that works in one part of a community won’t necessarily work in another. I think one of the “meta” things people experience at Open is the importance of studying your own community (ethnography) and then looking for ideas/solutions/programs to adapt. Long gone are models of ministry that you can attempt to implement without much contextualization.

One of my favorite sessions in Paris was with Markus Eichler talking about the Youth Church movement in Germany. To me, the idea that the church could decide that a solution to disinterested youth and young adults could be a church just-for-them felt foreign to me. (Even though we have youth ministry ghettos all over the United States.) But to look at the data and see that it worked a little bit better than what they’d done in the past, that was really interesting to me. Another part of that presentation which peaked my interest was that it was intentionally temporary. So they tried Youth Church for a few years, systematically, but didn’t continue it after the experiment was over. That was interesting, as well.

Beyond Sightseeing

Of course, you can’t go to Paris without sightseeing. I think it’s impossible to do so as everywhere you look is something you’ve seen in a movie or read about in a book. But to intersperse the sightseeing at night and during breaks with the relational parts of exploring with new friends as well as the unique content… all of that combines in my mind to a single phrase: I loved Open Paris.

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

Top 5 youth ministry sites & resources

Here is a very simple list of my personal Top 5 websites for youth ministry ideas, resourcing, training, and networking.

The Youth Cartel  http://theyouthcartel.com

Barefoot Ministries   http://barefootministries.com

Youthfront  http://youthfront.com

YouthSpecialties    http://www.youthspecialties.com

Sparkhouse  http://wearesparkhouse.org/

emerging youth ministry recommended resources

These are not listed in any particular order. I hope you may find some of these resources beneficial in the ever-changing climate of contextual youth ministry.

I have benefitted from these organizations, curriculum, and networks both in New York and now in an international setting in France.

Barefoot Ministries  http://barefootministries.com/

Recommended:  “Missio Life”, Immerse Journal, Credo, “A World Unbroken”



Sparkhouse    http://wearesparkhouse.org/



Re:form curriculum (Confirmation, Ancestors, Traditions)

Echo the Story

The United Church of Christ  http://www.ucc.org/

“Our Whole Lives” Justice and Sexuality Education series


Paraclete Press  http://www.paracletepress.com/

The Jesus Creed (student edition)  http://www.paracletepress.com/the-jesus-creed-for-students-loving-god-loving-others.html

YouthFront– spiritual formation and camps


The Youth Cartel


“Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry”


The Good News Curriculum


Open YM events


Short-term missions:

Envision   http://envision-culture.com/

Habitat for Humanity   www.habitat.org

Group Work Camps  http://groupmissiontrips.com/workcamps

Academic and Theological Training:

Princeton Theological Seminary

*Institute for Youth Ministry  http://www.ptsem.edu/iym/

Fuller Theological Seminary

*Fuller Youth Institute http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/

International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (IASYM) http://www.iasym.net/