All posts by Bethany Stolle

Creativity (and a Crowdsourced Bibliography)

Princeton Youth Forum banner

Right now, I’m at the Princeton Youth Forum in Santa Barbara, which features some really smart people who are leading thinkers in youth ministry and beyond. Last night, I gave a presentation on how design and design thinking methods can help youth ministers address the challenges (big and small) we face in our ministries. It’s drawn from the practices we use to create sparkhouse resources, as well as my experiences in ministry.

I’m posting a growing bibliography from my talk at Some other forum attendees will also be posted highlights and sources from the lectures and electives they go to, so we’ll crowdsource a more complete bibliography from the event. And if you have other references you’d like to add, just let me know!

I speak again on Wednesday afternoon, or if you want to catch it some other time, I’ll be leading a couple workshops at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza and co-presenting with Tony Jones at the Princeton Forum in April.

Immerse Journal Interview

Hey, that's me!

I’ve been honored to write for Immerse, a youth ministry journal that offers a great mix of theologically deep, thought-provoking, and practical articles by some great thinkers and leaders in the youth ministry world today.

When I was at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta back in November, I sat down with Aaron Mitchum for an interview about my article, “Imagination, Tinkering and Theology: Youth as Theologians” (Jul/Aug 2011). The interview was just posted to their site last week, and you can hear it here.

And then check out the Jan/Feb 2012 issue to see my next article, “Encountering the Messy Midrash.” And then subscribe–or give a subscription to your favorite pastor or youth minister. Because it’s a great publication. 🙂

Atheism 2.0

I found this TED Talk on “Atheism 2.0” fascinating. Alain de Botton makes an argument for atheists to borrow some of what he considers the best aspects of religion so atheists aren’t cut off from community, morality, culture, etc. He even brings up the positive aspects of institutionalized religion (which is especially interesting in contrast to the viral spoken word YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus“).

Worth checking it out. And then I’d love to hear what you think.

O Holy Night

Christmas Eve is here.

I’m spending the next few days celebrating with both sides of my family, but before I go offline, I wanted to share a choral arrangement of “O Holy Night.” My sister composed it, and it was performed by an area choir, From Age to Age. I listened to it again this morning as I’ve been finishing some Christmas preparations, and it brings me so much joy.


Blessings to you as we celebrate Immanuel. God with us.


On Cookie Monster…and opening my eyes

When I first saw this project by artist/graphic designer Timm Schneider, I busted out laughing.

And then I had an urge to dig out some ping pong balls and a sharpie.

And then I clicked through to read more on Turnstyle News. A favorite quote from the interview:

What do you find so fulfilling about putting eyeballs around the city?

Timm Schneider: That something so little can do so much. It transforms things into beings. It changes the way people see the world around them by shifting only a detail — the very same way humor works. The eyeballs explain something difficult like perception very easy. It changes the purpose of things: a trash bin can be the Cookie Monster. The world around suddenly isn’t something fixed anymore, it’s something you can change. People are realizing this very optimistic opinion with a smile on their faces, more than I ever could have asked for.

I think that’s what I like about guerilla art projects like this. Besides offering a moment of levity (and perhaps inspiration), they challenge me to see something that wasn’t there before. They open my eyes to new possibilities…and make it hard to pass a dumpster without imagining Oscar living in it.

(via laughing squid, images via Timm Schneider)

Symposium Ticket Winners! (And one more chance to enter)

Thanks to everyone who commented and helped get the word out about the Extended Adolescence Symposium on Twitter and Facebook. Three things:

1. Winners!
I just drew names from those who posted comments, and congratulations to Jim and Gavin Richardson. I’ll see you in Atlanta!

2. One more chance
If you didn’t win, don’t despair. There one more ticket up for grabs on the sparkhouse blog.

3. Breakfast
It’s always more fun to know a few folks before the conference gets started, so I’m thinking about putting together a little meet-up for breakfast before the Symposium starts. Anyone else interested? Or have recommendations near the Atlanta Marriott Marquis? (Thanks, Andy Cornett, for the inspiration!)

Free Stuff! Extended Adolescence Symposium Tickets (giveaway)

Extended Adolescence Symposium Banner

As a young adult who works with you and develops educational resources, I’ve been intrigued by the changing nature of adolescence. All I have to do is walk into the youth room on Wednesday nights to see first-hand that puberty is starting earlier for many kids than it did just 15-20 years ago. On the other end of the spectrum, I know a number of college graduates who have moved back into their parents’ homes and don’t exhibit many of the traditional signs of being an adult.

The path to adulthood looks much different than it did a few decades ago. And this shift has serious implications for youth ministry and how we navigate the realities of adolescent culture and the call of discipleship.

That’s why I’m excited to go to the one-day Extended Adolescence Symposium, featuring a dialogue (and probably some debate!) between Dr. Robert Epstein and Dr. Jeffrey Arnett. Dr. Epstein and Dr. Arnett come from distinctly different perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of this shift in adolescence, and facilitator Dr. Kara Powell will help us consider what it means for people in ministry. The event is being put on by The Youth Cartel, and it all goes down Monday, November 21, in Atlanta (after the National Youth Workers Convention). 

Do you want to join me?

Since I work for sparkhouse and we’re one of the event sponsors, I have two (2) tickets to give away (worth $100 each). Two ways to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment explaining why you want to go to the Symposium.
  2. Mention this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter, and then leave a comment to let me know you did.

(Comments must be posted by 11:59 pm CDT on Thursday, November 3. I’ll randomly draw two (2) winners and post them on Friday, November 4. Please note: This giveaway is for the tickets only—you are responsible for your own transportation and lodging.)

Want to know more? Check out the video on the Symposium Kickstarter project.

Miss Representation (in Youth Ministry)

Miss Representation 3 minute Trailer 8/24 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

I just saw the trailer for Miss Representation, a documentary that premiered at Sundance Film Festival this spring. The film looks at the media portrayals of what it means to be a woman, and how these messages hold women back from becoming strong leaders in American society. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I think it would be really interesting to watch, especially in context of youth ministry.

I know a lot of women who are pastors and youth ministers. But just flipping through the program book for a youth ministry conference I recently attended, I discovered men outnumbered women at least 3-to-1 in the speaking/presenting line-up.

Yes, many people across the church (including the leadership staff for that conference I attended) are working to lift up underrepresented voices. But we have a long way to go, especially since our actions send messages to young people in our congregations about the place and value of women in the body of Christ.

Which is why Miss Representation intrigues me. They’re asking what we can do to make sure girls don’t think youth, beauty, and sexuality are all they have to offer the world. Seems like that’s a question the church and youth ministries should be asking too.

Has anyone else watched this film? What do you think?

(Want to see more? Check out the extended trailer.)
(Video HT Cathy Zielske)