Youth Ministry Sherpas

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Sherpa Legends — Heather Flies

January 17th, 2019

Welcome to our new show, SHERPA LEGENDS!

Each month, we will present a conversation with a Youth Ministry Legend. Our conversations center around their story. How did they get into youth ministry, what has kept them in it, and what were some of their favorite adventures along the way? We hope you will tune in each month for the next SHERPA LEGEND!


Our first legend: HEATHER FLIES

Heather is the Junior High Pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN, where she has served for over 22 years. She's a frequent conference speaker, and was co-host at the National Youth Worker's Convention in St Louis this year. In 2018, she was named Bethel Seminary Alumna of the Year. (We didn't know alumna was a word, either, but apparently it is)

Despite never realizing her dream of marrying a Viking's offensive lineman, Heather has helped many others realize theirs. She has been one of the leading voices for junior high ministry, for women, and for longevity during her amazing career. Anyone who's ever had the chance to meet her, hang out with her, be hugged by her, or arm wrestle her, will agree that she's a force of nature and a true legend in youth ministry. Heather has a gift for encouraging people, and she loves junior high kids even more than she loves the Vikings.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Heather Flies!





YMS Episode 39 — Burning Out, Falling Down, Drying Up

January 15th, 2019

Welcome to 2019!

We're back after a nice Christmas break. The McCabes enjoyed their frozen pizzas, days spent in pajamas, and their house guest, Clark W. Griswold (courtesy of Amazon and Steve). The Andersons enjoyed time with their adult children in their new favorite gathering spot, the backyard hot tub. Alas, now it's time to get back to work.

Speaking of New Year's, what resolutions do you have? Mathew wants to Cheetos for cheese sticks and protein so he can shed a few pounds. Steve wants to become sort of Jewish and pretend the day begins at sundown instead of sunrise. Our success in these endeavors is yet to be determined.

Which brings us to this episode. We wondered, "What will be be like one year from now? Will we be spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy? Will we still be doing youth ministry? What do we have to do this year to avoid burning out, falling down, and drying up? What do we need to practice in order to still be here doing this thing we love in January, 2020?

We hope this is helpful as we start a new year together.

Episode 39--Burning Out, Falling Down, Drying Up


Show Notes
If you are wondering what the heck Steve was thinking when he connected the Rockefellers to Clark Griswold, this will clarify. There's also a book about the story which is highly entertaining.

Feeling like you might be burned out? Here's a quick quiz we mention on the show:

Here's a link to the book by Carey Nieuwhof that Mathew read on sabbatical:

And here's a picture of Steve and his wife in their hot tub! (Not really)


YMS Episode 38 — A Very Sherpa Christmas

December 18th, 2018

It's Christmas!

Time for lots of cookies, parties, and ugly sweaters. It also marks the end of an amazing year for us! At this time last year, the Youth Ministry Sherpa Podcast was still a dream. 65 full- and short-length episodes later, we're a thing! Who knew llamas would be the mascot of youth ministry everywhere?!

We are both ready to celebrate Christmas. We have our favorite Christmas movies to watch, and are looking forward to time with our families. Mathew is going all Clark Griswald (remember to ask him afterwards what he got from Amazon), while Steve, though he loves Clark, is more of a George Bailey kind of guy. He even met Jimmy Stewart once (sort of). Anyway, other than a youth ministry Christmas party or two, the days of filling Christmas break with youth activities (dare we say, Lock In?) are over. Take a break. Give your volunteers time off. Relax and plan....nothing.

We already have great plans for 2019 -- including a new season of episodes starting January 8th and a new series called "Sherpa Legends." Look for us in 2019! Until then, have a very merry Christmas and enjoy...

Episode 38 -- a Very Sherpa Christmas!


YMS Episode 37 — My Third Decade Meets Youth Ministry Sherpas

December 11th, 2018

Batman meets Superman
Brady meets Manning
Dickens meets Twain
James meets Jordan
Stallone meets Schwarzenegger
Lincoln meets Washington

...Or 88-year-old Clint Eastwood meets 96-year-old Betty White?

It's the first-ever crossover podcast with our friend Derry Prenkert of My Third Decade!

Derry is a veteran youth worker from Indiana and host of the My Third Decade podcast, another great youth ministry podcast dedicated to longevity. He has been at his church for 22 years, having started as an intern and now serving in a fresh role as Next Gen Pastor. He started My Third Decade about the same time we started Youth Ministry Sherpas. Together, we have 54 years of youth ministry experience in 3 churches (about 82 years overall!). It's all part of this new wave of old people doing youth ministry podcasts! Just kidding. Derry is only in his 40s; we are the ones who are old here.

Anyway, we've wanted to do an episode together for a while, and we finally pulled it off. We talk about some of our most significant moments in our ministry life, about the challenges of transitions, and about what we've learned this year. It's a great conversation, proving it's never too late to make new friends and you are never too old to do a podcast.

Episode 37 -- My Third Decade Meets Youth Ministry Sherpas

Follow Derry's Podcast here:

Derry's show is part of the Download Youth Ministry Podcast Network. There are a whole bunch of great shows here!

Also mentioned on this episode:



YMS Episode 36 — The Many Moods of Youth Ministry

December 4th, 2018

First, we apologize if this episode puts you in a bad mood. It was just one of those days.

Steve was in a really bad mood when we recorded. It had something to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers losing late the night before. We take our football teams pretty seriously, and when things don't go our way, we get a little salty. A lot salty, actually. You might even say pissy. Hey, we might be shallow, but at least we're honest.

This is why we try not to watch football when we know we are going to be around students. We don't want our mood to be affected when we are trying to lead a youth ministry. Who wants a grumpy, angry youth pastor?

But the truth is, we all struggle with the various moods that ministry and life bring our way. Being a youth worker doesn't make us exempt from being angry/frustrated, disappointed/sad, tired/apathetic. In fact, ministry itself is often the number one factor making us feel this way. Welcome to life shepherding people!

In today's episode, we lay it all on the table. We don't always feel like doing youth ministry. Sometimes our mood is not good. After all, we're human. But we have to carry on anyway. We are adults -- we have to carry out our duties, even on the days we'd rather bite someone's head off, or disappear to the couch with our blankie.

We hope you don't mind us unloading a bit. In fact, we hope you will be able to relate, so that you can process your moods. We promise no dogs were kicked in the recording of this episode.

Episode 36 -- The Many Moods of Youth Ministry


Maybe this will make you feel better. It works for Steve!



YMS Episode 35 — Your Answers to Our Questions at NYWC 2018

November 27th, 2018

We made it!

After waiting for four months to see if we could raise enough money to make it happen, and waiting for four hours on the tarmac to see if the airline could remove enough ice to make it happen, we made it to the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC) in St. Louis! We set up our booth in the Exhibit Hall and spent the next 96 hours meeting people, giving away t-shirts, and hearing stories of what God is doing in youth ministries around the country. Nearly 5000 people were there. "These are our people."

I don't think we've ever had more fun!

While we were chatting with folks and hawking the podcast, we also set up our "studio" and asked people to join us for a few minutes. We recorded nearly 30 responses to questions we made up. The results are interesting, encouraging, and funny. Here they are for your listening pleasure.

We're already excited for NYWC 2019 in Tampa. Can anyone say, "SHERPA HOUSE??!!"

Enjoy Episode 35 -- Your Answers to Our Questions at NYWC 2018


Also mentioned in this episode:

National Youth Workers Convention

Our cool and generous neighbors at the booth behind our "craps table":

Josh Griffin and Doug Fields, founders of DYM:

Frank Gil of the "15 Minutes with Frank" Podcast:

I don't think our two dice qualified as official craps:



YMS Episode 34 — Being Grateful

November 20th, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from two turkeys with a podcast!

It's Thanksgiving Week -- one of our favorite weeks of the year, because it means the end of the fall youth ministry sprint and a chance to relax, spend time with our families, eat, watch football and take a nap. That, folks, is a good combination!

We just got back from the National Youth Workers Convention in St. Louis. Wow, what a great time! It was wonderful being with our "tribe" of youth workers from all over the country. It's like a family reunion without the crazy uncle and awkward third cousin. Oh wait...

Anyway, we had an absolute blast hanging out in the exhibit hall, meeting people and introducing them to this podcast. It's hard to believe we just started this thing in January--two joes from Maryland--and there we were with a giant banner like we were a legitimate thing!? What a privilege to meet so many faithful youth workers. Thanks for stopping by to say hi. We got some great material for a future episode, and we also discovered that people love llamas. A lot. A little insanely so, if you ask us. If you got a t-shirt, congratulations on your great luck rolling snake eyes of double sixes. If you didn't win, well, hey, thanks for playing and be grateful for your stickers. 

In this episode, we thought it would be good to take some time to express our gratitude. It's easy to get grumpy (someone might use the word "pissy") and complain a lot. Sometimes we need it. It's good to vent. But more often, it's better to be thankful, to live and lead from a place of gratitude for the fact that we get to be youth workers, to love students, and to live this amazing life in a calling that is a joy and a privilege!

We are also thankful for YOU. We're only 10 months into this, and we are incredibly blessed for all the opportunities and relationships we've discovered along the path.

So put the headphones on and listen to this episode while you fall asleep for your Thanksgiving nap! It's Episode 34 -- Being Grateful!

Mentioned in this show:
You might want to binge watch this

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

Send us pics wearing your shirt!!


YMS Episode 33 — Our Mantras

November 13th, 2018

"Measure twice; cut once." - Every Dad Ever
"The standard is the standard." - Mike Tomlin
"Lock-ins are the devil." - Youth Ministry Sherpas

What do Dads, successful NFL coaches, and healthy youth ministries all have in common?

They all have MANTRAS, defined as "statements or slogans repeated frequently."  They are like rules for living, second-tier theologies, subtle truths that permeate everything we do. Mantras are stated, repeated (sometimes ad nauseam), and repeated again until they become a permanent part of the culture we are creating.

We have mantras too. In today's episode, Steve and Mathew reflect on some of the "Mantras" that are near and dear to us. Without really thinking about it (before today), here are some things we say all the time that have become a major part of our youth ministries. We didn't learn these in some textbook, although some are informed from Scripture. But they reflect our passions and our perspective. Some of them are theological truths; others more practical. All of them are deeply embedded in our unique youth ministry cultures.

What are your mantras? We'd love to know. Please share them with us on Instagram or Facebook.

You need to listen to this episode--no excuses--because, as Mike Tomlin says, "Excuses are the tools of the incompetent!"

Also mentioned:
Walt Mueller, Director for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and host of the Youth Culture Matters Podcast.


Here's a sample of a Mike Tomlin press conference:






YMS Episode 32 — Hitting the 4th Decade (holy cow; we’re old)!

November 6th, 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen, by the time you read this, both hosts of the Youth Ministry Sherpas Podcast will be (gasp!) IN THEIR 50s!

Steve has been doing the senior adult swim for a few years already, but Mathew is just getting into the pool, turning 50 on November 1. And guess what? We're not dead yet! We might even have some gas left in the tank. It sure smells like it.

Anyway, the years sure have flown by. Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Mathew's 40th birthday at a hotel in Pittsburgh during a Youth Specialties conference. Steve bought the margaritas; Mathew dissolved into a puddle of tears. It has been a good ride, my friend. But that's a story for another episode. 

Anyway, it's amazing to look back and see how we've grown through each decade--from destroying kids in dodgeball and seeking legitimacy in our 20s, to pioneering and building healthy programs in our 30s, to hitting our stride and becoming more intentional in our 40s, to entering the "sage stage" in our 50s. It has been quite a journey, and our story is still being written (along with the prescription for that prostate medication). 

We thought we'd use the occasion of Mathew's 50th birthday to reflect on what youth ministry was like through each decade of our lives. What did we learn? Where did we grow? What were the struggles and the joys of each stage? We share it all -- at least what we can remember.

What was this episode about again?

We hope you will hang in there long enough to make it to your 4th decade of youth ministry. Who knows; maybe there will even be a 5th? That's what the Youth Ministry Sherpas podcast is all about!

Episode 32--Hitting the 4th Decade (holy cow, we're old)!


In honor of #32:




YMS Episode 31 — Our Spookiest Episode Yet

October 30th, 2018

It's Halloween! It's also Episode 31. Is that a coincidence, or are there darker forces at work?

In this episode, Steve and Mathew share our stories of the times we were scared in youth ministry. We've both lost kids on trips (well, almost). We've both scared them as often as possible. And we both have crazy stories to tell. Steve's youth group used to meet in a haunted house (for real). For some reason he thought it was a good idea to terrify middle school girls with a re-enactment of Jesus raising a little girl from the dead. (It was worse than a scene from the Exorcist.) Mathew once hosted a Halloween party that was crashed by an inappropriately bulging Ninja Turtle and a risque Naughty Nurse. He also left his students on the hayride while he fled for his life from a costumed shotgun-toting maniac. Not our finest moments.

Oh well, we're not monsters, we're just knuckleheads. All that matters is that we get to eat all the candy leftover on Thursday.

So turn off all the lights and enjoy the spooky fun with Episode 31 -- Our Spookiest Episode Yet!

Yes, Steve's group actually met in a haunted house and there is a Ding's Dock

Mathew is right! There is a Ding's Dock. (Watch how you say it)

Thanks to all the people mentioned in this episode who gave to our Indiegogo Crowdfunding Effort. See you at NYWC!