How to Create Relationships with Unchurched People

Timing is everything…

I am honored to be a blogger for my friends at Dare 2 Share, through D2S I write four posts per month but never know when one may go live. The timing on a blog post this month couldn’t have been better.

On Thursday of this week I received an email from a youth pastor friend of mine who has been attending the Youthmark Mission51 Retreats I believe since they began. His letter virtually mirrors the Dear Aaby question I received a couple months ago for the D2S blog. 

Both questions were essentially asking, “how can I, as a pastor, create relationships with unchurched peers?” 

Check out the letter & question on the Dare 2 Share blog here.

Here is my video response!



Five Things You May Have Forgotten

1328012_agenda_4When asked “what do you do?” most youth pastors can identify some major areas of his or her week (church meetings, youth group and message prep). Obviously there are other small areas that require more thought. However, many are forgetting some very basic but BIG areas. My hope is that this post will serve as a simple reminder.

Some things you may have forgotten to put on your schedule (in no particular order)…

Did you forget to encourage (and inform) your team members?

An early-week (short) email to your team (lay leaders) goes a long way. Share the wins from the weekend, the schedule for the next program event and give praise for the role your leaders play!

Did you forget to “read your Bible and pray?”

1415262_bibleThis may seem like a “duh” category, unfortunately I have to list it. I am discovering an increasing number of youth leaders who are only spending time in the Word to prep a message and MANY admit to not really spending any time in the Word itself, most just glance at the verses provided by curriculum. In addition, few of us are scheduling time to just listen to God and respond in prayer.

Did you forget to program as if someone new could be coming?

Take a minute to think about your Sunday School, youth group and small group settings from the perspective of the new kid. Would a new person know where to go upon arrival? Would he/she be greeted? Are people even trained in how to greet? Would you even be able to capture the new persons information so that proper follow-up can be done? Believe it or not, these things take time.

Did you forget to set the example in the areas of application that matter to you the most?

If I were to sum up my youth pastor-passion it would be to have students fall deeply in love with Christ, showing/sharing that love with the lost and propelling their Christian friends. But, I can only lead students/staff as far as I am able to go myself. Part of my weekly rhythm needs to include time prioritizing my own (peer, my age range) time with the unchurched and personal time with Jesus.

Did you forget to give others permission to develop and exercise their gifts?

Calling it as I see it: too many youth pastors spend too much time doing their own thing (agenda/direction for the ministry) rather than taking the time to equip and empower others to do the better thing. Even though it takes time, schedule times to collaborate (with students, staff and parents) and make space for others to use and develop those gifts!

Do these five things and you’ll see immediate results and long-term fruit!

What else would you say are areas we may be forgetting to schedule?



Full Circle

This weekend has been a fun one for me.

I’m doing some behind the scenes stuff for the Dare 2 Share conference, namely doing some pre-work for the blog I write for them (here).

Not only is it fun seeing my many friends at D2S, it’s great to hang out with my friends from the band Everfound. Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to share in ministry with them (we’ve done camps and events together).

After my first event I did with them (2010) I got in touch with D2S and told them they needed to get Everfound on the radar. Here we are three years later and they’re touring together! It’s come full circle!

Two summers ago I had my family with me for a camp in Colorado that I spoke at and Everfound was the worship band (my kids fell in love with them). Since then we have had them up to the Northwest for a couple Youthmark events as well. My kids were stoked to see them today.

The Aaby kids with Everfound

The Aaby kids with Everfound

As I gear up for the main part of our Mission51 Training Retreat tour, this has been a fun weekend to sort 0f get ref0cussed on the task at hand and be encouraged by good friends.



Things That Bug Me Most About Youth Ministry

I’ve been involved in youth ministry for over 20 years! I absolutely love it, so please don’t let the title of this post be an invitation to a Debbie Downer moment.

IMG_5177God is at work and there is much to rejoice about when it comes to student ministry. The following is simply a list of stuff that has gotten under my skin… the good news, every one of these is fixable! I’m praying that naming these may be the first step towards the solution rather than just naming the problem.

  • Low standards bug me. Check out the dichotomy of messages we send students: We recruit teens to defend our country. We see those naturally gifted/talented in their sport and push them to the limits so that as a teen they can sign multi-million dollar contracts.   We lead them to believe that if they work hard enough, take AP classes and keep their grades up they’ll receive massive scholarships for school. Yet in the church and youth ministry I don’t think we believe students are capable of so much more. We keep the standards low, we entertain them rather than include them in the development. Too often I hear, “they’re so busy with everything else we just want youth group to be a retreat for them.” When it comes to priorities, which one is winning, the areas that students are being pushed in or the refuge and retreat ministry?
  • Celebrating “growth” bugs me. I love when youth groups (or churches) grow! But the growth that should be celebrated is when someone who was not connected (to Christ or to a body of believers) begins to attend and be discipled. When a person comes from a different church or a different youth group our first reaction should be to protect the bride (unity). If your group is growing with already committed believers transferring in understand that another church/group is shrinking. This isn’t to say there aren’t reasons for people to leave, but please take the time to speak to those issues, seek reconciliation in the relationships involved even if it means your “numbers” are growing as rapidly. Equip your teens to seek and to save that which is lost! Sheep stealing is not growth.
  • 1198058_teenagerExpecting teens to do something you aren’t even doing yourself REALLY bugs me. We (youth leaders, parents, pastors) become discouraged when students don’t do what we’ve asked them to do. “Read your Bible.” “Pray about that.” “Invite your unchurched friends.” “Get discipled.” “Be committed.” These are all things that we seem to expect of our teens, but are these things that you’re doing? I interact with a lot of pastors and  youth pastors, many volunteer leaders and scores of parents of teens and I can tell you, the apple does not fall too far from the tree. The very expectations we have for teens are the very things that are NOT prioritized in the lives of adults. Are you pouring over Scriptures? Is prayer a priority? When is the last time you prioritized sharing Christ with your own peers?

On one hand I’m terrified about the future of student ministries, the very things I named can become an uncontrollable snowball that leads to entertainment only, numerically judged, low standard youth ministries. Or, through prayer, a recommitment to relationally driven, biblically based and Spirit-driven responses we could see a generation of teens lead the cause of Christ!


April (No) Foolin’

Move: Mission Prep Workbook

Move: Mission Prep Workbook

This is an INCREDIBLE deal we are offering throughout the month of April. It represents a $40 savings for the Strategy or Strategy Pack Plus deals!

For just $59 per person you will receive a complete package to train participants for before, during and after a mission trip!

By ordering for a team (8 or more) you receive for each person:

  • A Mission Prep Workbook (10 studies and 10 applications)
  • A RoadGrip Devotional for the mission trip
  • A HomeBase Guided study for parents back home
  • A Merge Book; 18 studies through a book of the Bible after the mission

3BooksIn addition, youth leaders receive a complete Leaders Guide which covers all the admin and fundraising as well as 10 outlines for teaching the entire youth group through the core Bible section of Acts the mission team is dealing with.

Many will want to take advantage of not just the curriculum but will want to do the Strategy Plus Pack which gets participants to one of our Mission51 Retreats. You get all the curric and the retreat for only $110!

To take advantage of either the $59 or $110 deals, click here.


Mission51 number one, done.

IMG_0428This last weekend was spent at Indian Hills Camp in Jamul (near San Diego), California!

The REAL LIFE themed Mission51 Retreat was an absolute win. Though there are several little kinks that need to be worked out for the next event in New England, I consider this retreat the best “first” event of the spring in our five year history.

The big wins from my perspective (not in any particular order):

IMG_0433The Group Interaction/Broken Down Walls- The programming elements of REAL LIFE get the students interacting with folk from other groups far more than any of our previous retreats. Doing just a little investigation on Facebook I can already see many students from different youth groups interacting and following up online.

Clusters- We introduced a new training method to the groups this year. I am absolutely STOKED about these and how well they worked! This put participants in the most realistic opportunity to practice real-life entry points into spiritual conversations.

IMG_0435Double Vision- The guys  (Mason and Micah) were a hoot to be with and did a fantastic job leading in worship but the most telling thing to me was that they were so much more than great musicians and worship leaders- these guys love Jesus and want others to know him! They took leadership in other areas of the retreat and it truly became a SLAMM (Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry) setting.

I’m looking forward to five other retreats with DV, (click on that and “like” them) the mentoring side of this is such a fun side of the ministry. I literally watched these guys grow in confidence and grasp the different concepts and opportunities we were giving them. The great thing, God has been at work in and through these boys for a long time. Matt, their dad/manager/agent/mentor was along for the trip as well!

IMG_0439In addition to our time at the camp, I was able to preach at one of the participating churches (Pine Valley Community Church) on Sunday after the M51 Retreat. I love this church and have a great history with them. They invited Double Vision to lead worship as well!

I believe God is going to use these retreats to really make a difference in the lives of teens and adults throughout the country. Your prayers are needed and much appreciated!

IMG_0440And of course there was one other huge win (that literally almost made me miss my flight because of how crowded it was, the delay it caused and the traffic we then encountered): IN-N-OUT Burger!

Mission51 number one, done!


Students Aren’t The Only Ones Asking…

Our small group (full of us “older peeps”) had a great conversation last night about the days following the crucifixion.

Questions arose…

  • “If you were one of the disciples, what would you have done after he was killed and buried?”
  • “Would you have believed it when someone said ‘He’s alive?”
  • “What would it be like when you really did see him alive?”

Then the doozy of all questions became the topic of conversation for the rest of our time…

  • “After seeing Jesus alive, who would you tell and how would you tell them about Jesus?”

Our questions has less to do with back then and more about today. Who are we telling about the resurrected Savior of our sins?

I love that the small group with folk in their late 20’s through people in their 50’s is asking the same question teens are asking. As I gear up to train students this spring through Youthmark’s Mission51 Retreats I was pleased to see that my friends at Dare 2 Share just posted a video in which a gal coming off of weekend retreat was essentially asking the question “how can I talk about Jesus after I’ve been to camp?”  You can see the question and read my answer at the D2S blog here. Here is the quick (45 seconds or so) video.

I hope you’re thinking through real-life spiritual conversations just like Joy is. I hope you’re asking the question “whom shall I share with?” and “how shall I share?”


Spring Forward Announcement #2

As I stated in my last post, this week I am posting two successive posts pertaining to partnerships and announcements that have me pretty jazzed!

In my last post I introduced the readers to Double Vision, a band we have partnered with for our Mission51 Retreats.

c_40Youthmark is not the only organization who believes in this concept I have deemed SLAMM (Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry). My friends and partners at Youth Missions International are among the others who believe in this and are partnering with Youthmark to make this venture a reality. 

YMI Blue LogoYouth Missions International (YMI) uses all of our curriculum and training elements for before, during and after a mission venture. In addition to partnering with us through the curriculum, YMI is helping make this partnership with Double Vision a reality. Do you believe in giving teens the opportunity to develop their gifts, skills and talents? Perhaps you’ll partner with us as well?

I had the opportunity to speak at YMI’s annual banquet this last weekend. Beyond the short-term mission trips (STM), they send individuals on longer STM’s, run internships and also have an extensive Sports Camp ministry. YMI is growing rapidly- they recently entered into a fabulous agreement with AWANA which will open up a world of opportunity for both orgs.

IMG_4634I’m seriously pumped up about these partnerships as I believe through Youthmark and YMI we’ll be able to advance God’s kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel through students faster and farther! With teens like Micah and Mason (Double Vision) leading their peers!

Speaking of proclamation, through YMI we are looking for others to believe in this training and support this cause through the Proclaim Campaign. 

Double Vision will be flown to all of our seven Mission51 locations this spring. In addition to the twin boys, their manager (who happens to be their dad) will be traveling with. Flights, lodging, rentals and food are among a number of costs, but it’s a cause we believe in, but certainly would love to see others support it as well and offset some of the costs.

If you’d like to donate to this (or other YMI causes) please click here (and scroll to bottom). There you’ll see you can give directly to the Proclaim campaign simply by giving in the fifth box down.

I’ll be sure to post many-an-update and keep you posted on how Micah and Mason are doing and how Youthmark and YMI are encouraged by the hundreds of teens and adults we get to train to share the gospel in Real Life (the theme for the Mission51 retreat).

Thanks for your prayers and for considering a gift!


P.S. I have one more really BIG announcement in regard to this next week!


Spring Forward Announcement #1

I’m very excited about two successive blog posts I have going out this week (both “announcements”). These posts speak to a couple partnerships we (Youthmark) have developed over the last year.

Let me start with a few of my soap-box issues…

  • I understand that some teens can come across as punks (just like some adults can be unkind, not classy or mean as well), but I firmly believe that far more young adults are phenomenal and simply need the opportunity to discover and hone their crafts, skills and talents!
  • IMG_5177I know some churches believe that the youth pastor should be the primary person influencing the spiritual formation of the teens. While I believe a youth pastor can have a great role, I believe parents should be the main disciplers of their sons and daughters. BUT I also know that teens influence their friends decisions more than anyone else. The church and parents need to gain a better understanding of this fantastic fact! We in the youth ministry world need to allow students to use their God-given gifting far more frequently!

The Back Story

IMG_4634While in Kansas City scouting mission locations for a Youthmark trip I began a friendship with my contact, Matt Marrs. I found out that his then fourteen year-old twin boys were part of a band appropriately named Double Vision. Matt shared their music with me. Long-story-short, Double Vision will be leading our worship and participating in the training at Youthmark’s Mission51 Retreats this spring!

During our training times I am consistently saying to teens that they should be the best missionaries that US has ever had. I firmly believe that. 80% of those who place their trust in Christ will do so by the age of 18. Teens have a captive audience of their peers on their campus, at their clubs, in their community and while at church.

In addition to “mission” (read: evangelism), students have other gifts, talents and skills that bring glory to God and influence one another. I simply believe we needed to model that this year by giving the students the platform from time to time. This is not to say adults aren’t to lead. I believe if you have the gift of mercy you should show it. If you’re gifted in admin, you should administrate and if you’re gifted in leadership you should lead (regardless of age).

Mason Marrs

Mason Marrs

I believe Micah and Mason Marrs should lead. They’re gifted musicians, but they’re so much more than that! I cannot wait to see them facilitate worship, but dive in to the training aspect as they challenge their peers in Real Life, conversational, relational influence! These guys love Jesus and want to make him known!

Micah Marrs

Micah Marrs

Please join me in praying for these young men! Check them out and like them on  Facebook  and check out their website. I cannot wait to see how this Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry (#SLAMM) opportunity works out!

In addition to a post likely to go live on Thursday (another announcement) I’ll have an additional blog post specifically relating to Double Vision next week!