Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.


805 Columbia Ridge Dr
Vancouver, WA, 98664
United States

51811 seattle 0202_2.jpg

Tales of Adventure Blog

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.


Filtering by Tag: Youth Ministry That Works

Father Boyle on Staggering Backwards into Something...

Matthew Overton

Father Boyle has been an inspiration to the ministry we are working on at our church and I am thrilled that somehow we have secured him to come and speak here next fall. I have no idea how that has happened!  I was struck this morning by reading this article in Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership publication. Whenever I read about Boyle I am usually struck by a few things he says, but this quote made me smile because it encapsulates the feeling I have had over and over again over the last year and a half.  The feeling of "How did this happen?" "Maybe this is a good idea?!" Is this really real ministry?! and "God, I am terrified because I don't know where this is going."  Here is what he said about how Homeboy Industries "happened":

"A lot of times, people ask, “How did you ever think this up?” And the truth is, nobody would have thunk this up. I certainly didn’t. But you evolve, and you walk backwards into things, and the next thing you know, “Oh my God, here we are. How did that happen? How did we get to a place like this?” It’s like what E.L. Doctorow said about writing a novel. You’re on a country road, there are no lights, it’s a moonless night, and you can only go as far as your headlights take you. And then you get there, and then you can only go as far as your headlights will take you again. And that’s kind of like the story of Homeboy."

That is how I feel all the time lately. I feel like this stuff that we are working on fell out of the sky on top of me and I can't decide whether I should run from it or go after it some days.  It is nuts. Last week someone called who had been reading my posts and said that he was trying to build his own teen mentoring program around fishing Pike out of the Snake River. The government will pay to have the fish removed. The connection was obvious. Adult fishermen/women fishing with teens, doing faith and life together. I was so floored that I didn't know what to do for the next hour after our conversation.

I think this kind of sense of "accidental" discovery is at the heart of all good missionary work and at the heart of social entrepreneurship/missional entrepreneurship. You inhabit a place and people and hopefully listen well and eventually God pushes you into the places there where the gospel can be good news to God's people.  I feel like I lived in a place for 6 years, started to get an inkling of what God MIGHT be telling me about how to be good news here, and then "staggered backwards" into something that I did not expect.  It has brought together strands of my life and ministry that I never would have bundled on their own and it would take me 3 hours to explain the terrifying beauty of it all.  It is so humbling to get to do this work.  I can't wait for the chance to get to watch God bless more students through this ministry.

I Learned Entrepreneurship from West Virginia...

Matthew Overton

     The home I grew up in as a child had much of its roots in West Virginia and Virginia.  One of the things that bled into our home because of that cultural history was story telling. Over and over again around our dinner table was always story telling.  Their were stories about miners, rogues, moonshine, and turn coats from way back.  Every night we revisited stories that brought our sense of family our "Overton-ness" deep meaning.  Many of the stories dealt heavily in humor and in mischief. Like the time my Dad and 5 friends stole a mail truck in high school to get cigarettes a 3 in the morning.  Or my Mom would talk about the compassion of her Dad when she skipped school one day and found him saying with a wink and a grin from underneath his silver hair, "I am finally glad you broke a rule, please don't do it again." I knew at a young age that this was a gift of my family. I recall vivdly that in 5th grade while other friend's year books were filled with lines like "Have a bitchin summer!", an acquaintance of mine wrote, "Keep telling those awesome stories man."

     It's these stories, and the One great Story, that combined to create a kind of narrative of deep meaning in our house and I think that story telling is at the heart of any kind of social entrepreneurship.  There is no way to get any crazy idea off the ground unless it is combined with a good story.  In my experience with what I am building here in Vancouver, Wa. I have begun to cherish even more my family's gift of good story telling. I feel at times I have told the story of what I am doing and how it came to be several thousand times.  And it is exhausting work.  But the reason that it is so exhausting is that it is such a good story to tell.  But, the reason it works is that people truly long in our world (I think) to be caught up in something bigger than themselves.  They want to suffer for something good.  Stories help people to do that.  So as we are thinking about launching anything new, we better be able to tell a story about it that invites people into our adventure. Here are some thoughts:

1. Humor: Humor is like the intermission at a play. People love a good idea, but it is 10 times better with some irony, poking fun at self, and pointing out the absurd in life. No matter how good a play is, people need a break in the action.  Your story better have some funny (see my first post on when I mowed a lawn "professionally" for the first time).

2. Passion: Passion at its root means, "to suffer". If you didn't suffer for your enterprise and can't call others to suffer for the idea that you think is so good then forget it. I tell my students regularly that a significant part of the Jesus life is NOT about finding something to live for. It is about finding something that is so good that you would die for it (Luke 9:24). It's at that intersection that meaning and life tend to spring up.

3. Zeal: This is different than "passion" which has to do with suffering. A good story should be told with at least some zeal. It need geist, gusto, and elan. Even a sad story when it pivots to its telos should be delivered with some zeal.  People's time and attention span come at a premium these days. If you don't care enough about your idea or vision that it doesn't come bursting forth from you like new wine in old skins than you are wasting their time. I always think here about the time when David Hume the Scottish Skeptic got up early one morning to hear George Whitfield preach. Someone saw Hume in the crowd as Whitfield was belting forth and said, "David, why are you here? You don't believe this." Hume's response, "No, but HE does!" If it's worth telling, tell it as though it must be told.

4. Resonance- Every time I have told the story of what I am working on I can see the light bulbs going off for people.  It's like a flash bulb Disney parade. If our stories don't easily connect with the stories of a good number of others than whatever our entrepreneurial idea is might not have the legs to run. It's a clue that tells us we are on to something.

5. Transcendence- This overlaps with passion a bit, but the story has to get us to a higher or deeper truth about life, faith, or something! I almost never tell folks about lawn care when I talk to them about the stuff that I am working on. I don't usually talk about youth ministry either. What I talk about is the experience of teenagers and what they are wrestling with and how adults have an obligation to help them navigate the world we have created for them. I talk about kids coming alive!  I talk about the higher purpose of these project. People not only will listen to that, they will go after it.

These are some things that help me as I share stories, work on projects, and even as I preach my sermon. I hope they help you as you hatch crazy ideas worth dying for.

Here are two articles from the Duke faith and leadership publication that are also really good about story telling. Here and here.

The Freedom To Flourish

Matthew Overton

Some mornings when I am exhausted and tired of thinking about Youth Ministry that Works or this "new" way of doing ministry I like to watch this video. I am not sure that I would like all the ideology behind it and it uses to many masculine pronouns for my taste. But,  I do like the way it gives honor to different kinds of good and honorable work. I think God is in the midst of all kinds of work in our world and that is partly why I am trying to build an arm of youth ministry in the United States around this idea.  Maybe it will inspire you as you work today.  Enjoy!

On Millennials and Moralisms....

Matthew Overton

This week I was able to meet with a couple folks from a regional building supply company about possibly serving as a feeder for teen jobs. Essentially they want to see if teens working their way through our fledgling mentoring program can hire out to work for them.  It was the second conversation we have had and it seems very promising. I cannot think of a more ideal company to work with when I hear and see their ethos towards their employees.

As often happens when I talk about teenagers with folks from older generations I end up talking about demographic trends that I both read about and experience.  To some degree demographic trends are stereotypes and we all hate being categorized, but they are helpful lenses most of the time.  They often help put a name or term to gaps between generations that would otherwise simply feel confusing.  Sometimes the folks I work with are familiar with millennials and generation Z and sometimes they are not.  But always, they resonate with some of the issues that I suggest they might be confronting when they feel frustrated with the "younger generation".  You might think this is an old folks sort of problem, but I have watched folks from the younger end of Gen X do it as well.  It is a natural reaction to what we find confusing.

Whenever I am in these situations I try to stress one thing: The issues you are facing with millennials in your work place are not primarily moral ones.  We have a nasty tendency in our culture to see everything through a moral framework and it can often be really unproductive. Maybe it's our puritan roots. Some people attribute this to solely religion, but the truth is that I know many folks who place themselves outside a network of belief who moralize in the same way.

I think this is an important thing for us to remember as we think about how to do ministry to youth in new ways.  What we see in teenagers is mostly a mirror of the adult world (and its priorities) that we have surrounded them with. Whatever they are, they are because of the framework in which they have grown up.  And as with all generations, some of their traits will need to be softened, but others are simply sign posts of how the world is moving forward in new ways.  The point is that if we don't dull the edge of our generational attitude as we look to innovate and create new ways of doing ministry among these teenagers, we will end up creating systems and structures that are less than productive...and might even be destructive.  Worse, yet those ministries will be absent of hope and grace.

What I hear underneath all the moralisms, about millennials in particular, is a tone of fear.  There is a sense of fear among the conversations because businesses and churches don't know how they will keep their current models running with new generations. And there is fear among parents in these conversations about how their children will "turn out".  This of course bleeds into ministries in the church as well.  Many of us know that fear sells.  Many of us find it detestable when it becomes a kind of fear huckstering.  And many of us can recognize it when it manifests itself from the pulpit in the flaming forms of damnation and condemnation and a picture of the Kingdom that has been reduced to angels, clouds, and harp filled repose.  However, we are much more blind to the other forms of that same fear  when we are buying it or selling it in the curriculum we purchase and the smaller and more localized conversations we have with parents, fellow ministers, and folks in our business communities.  We might be even more blind to that fear when we are trying to innovate and create new things with our own hands, hearts, and minds.  As most of us have experienced in one way or another, a gospel that is rife with fear tends to produce ministries filled with anxiety, control, subtle manipulations, and narcissists.  When we are afraid, we will do anything and listen to anything.  See: Donald Trump and Mark Driscoll. So what is a subtly afraid soul to do?

As we sail out into new ministry directions I think we need to think about how hope and grace might characterize our new ventures.  All generations benefit from the wisdom of those who have come before them and both the old and young need to adjust to one another in order to thrive, but as the creators of millennial culture our older generations need to focus on helping millennials where they need it and harnessing their talents in other areas.  We might ask whether what we are building and innovating with comes from a place of hope for the future that God has promised or a place of anxiety and terror.  What if we kept asking the question, "What's possible?" Isn't that a question for Kingdom people?  It might be good for instance to mine our teenagers for their feedback on whether we are answering the right questions as we try new things out.  Are we speaking to the hopes that God is building within them?  Are we helping them confront their own vacuums of trust and hope or are we simply foisting our present fears on their future plans?  Good missionaries after all, figure out what the gospel has to say to the people they serve by listening at length before doing anything.  If we want innovations that produce good fruit, then we need innovations based on hope, not moralisms. May the Lord of Hope and Grace be with you as you speak, write, minister, ponder, and innovate! May God's perfect love cast out all your fears and mine!

Holy Cow! Talk about Innovation and Initiative!

Matthew Overton

Yesterday, I learned about one of the coolest initiatives I have ever heard of through Princeton Theological Seminary's youth division.  Basically, Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry has started a new initiative called the Youth Philanthropy Academy and they have partnered with an organization called “Giving Point”. The link is below. Giving Point tries to mobilize the gifts, talents, and passion of teens to change their world (Kingdom Work!).  Theoretically, we could develop a philanthropic idea of one of the students and then our other students could help develop it.  The program requires that adult mentoring be involved.  Here is how it works:

1.        Teens from your church submit applications to Princeton.

2.       A student is chosen based on their passion for the idea and their individual drive to achieve it.

3.       That student then goes to Princeton in July and receives intensive coaching for 1 week about how to communicate the vision of their idea and develop a 1 year plan to execute on it.

4.       They go back to their church and are required to assemble some adults to help them execute that plan.  (I love the inter generational aspect of this! Boom!)

5.       They are given $500 of seed money to execute the idea if the church matches with $500.

6.       If they make sufficient progress they are invited back to Princeton in 1 year for a dinner gathering with business folks from around the country who listen to their pitches and offer funding for the organizations.

*The Student must be a Freshman or a Sophomore

My church is considering whether we might participate in this process. We scrapped our usual Sunday morning program a little over a year ago and started working on what we call, "The Project". Essentially it is an attempt to missionally engage our community.  My suspicion is that some of you have teenagers with unbelievable ideas out there. Places where they have sensed a gospel gap that needs to be filled long before our adults have.  Mine those teens and get them to apply!!!

A.       Giving Point-

B.      Joshua’s Closet, which is an example of a Giving Point Project-

C.      Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry’s new project called the Youth Philanthropy Academy: