Free Youth Group Message/Discussion!!!

IMG_4647Every now and again I would have a “one-off” message between longer talk series in youth group. It’s good to have a change of pace from time-to-time. I do remember a few times when THAT one-off Sunday or Wednesday was suddenly upon me (and I had to quickly come up with a talk). Well, maybe that is you today (or this week). Well, may this post bless ya! Here’s a quick lesson I put together for you!

Lesson Title: Preview a Life (Free Lesson For Youth Group/Small Group)

  • Opening Discussion Question: If you had to choose one of the following super-human  powers what would it be and why?
    • The ability to see what others are seeing
    • The ability to hear what someone else is hearing
    • The ability to know what someone else is thinking
  • Introduce: Let students know they are about to watch a video in which several characters will be shown, the goal is to find a character that you would most like to speak to if you had the opportunity.
  • Watch:
  • Ask: Who would you speak to and why do you sense you were drawn to them?
  • Share: A story of when you were moved emotionally to meet a need (could be a story of obedience where you met the need or a time you failed to act)
  • Read: Take some time to read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40
  • Ask: What stands out to you about Philip?
    • (Possible Answers You May Hear)
    • In spite of great ministry taking place in Samaria, when asked to go, he obeys
    • He engaged the conversation
    • He had been listening to the Ethiopian so he knew he was reading
  • Ask: What stands out to you about the Ethiopian?
    • (Possible Answers You May Hear)
    • He was returning from a journey
    • He was humble enough to ask for help
    • He asked questions
  • Ask: If we could see a bubble next to the Ethiopian what would it say?
    • (Possible Answers You May Hear)
    • Don’t know the way to salvation
    • Rich, but not at peace
    • Wants to know the One true God!
  • Ask: If we could go back to watch the video right now, what would be some of the engaging things we could do to enter into spiritual conversations with the person you chose in the video?
  • Discuss: What are some of the “thought bubbles” we may see at our schools on our teams or even here in our own group?
  • Review: In the passage it says “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” He began sharing based on what the Ethiopian was experiencing right then. This is a key to evangelistic opportunities. We must:
    • Stop, look and listen (take the time to observe the other person/circumstances)
    • Start with where the person is (know their story and ask questions)
    • Share the story and your experience (share the good news about Jesus).

Tales From The Interim: Part Two

Michael Jordan… Brett Favre… Landon Donovan… Michael Phelps… Marshawn Lynch… Manny Pacquiao… the list of athletes who “unretired” goes on and on. Some had a hard time “hanging them up,” whereas others were talked into a return to the sport they loved. Analogies often fall short and in this case, mine will fall dramatically short, as these athletes are known by the masses, I am not— but I got to go one more round, start one more game and take the field again in my 18-month return to the youth pastorate. I decided to write a quick blog-series of things I relearned or prioritized. Before I relive another realization I invite you to check out the first post in the series here.

After a very short and intentional period reviewing what had been— asking some key questions of select students, leaders, staff and parents and taking some time to review recent events and curriculum used — a short-term, immediate plan needed to be named and claimed, leading to my second point…

Relaunch Realization Number TWO: Know and Name Your Short-Term Aspirations

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.12.44 AMTaking on an interim is different than a full-time permanent role, however, I believe the beginning stage can and should be the same, you have to figure out the immediate short-term wins before diving into the long-term strategy and vision. The low-hanging fruit for us at Faith (my church) was to establish a relational and communicational (is that a word?) base!  Pictured above is a screen shot of a slide I presented of our desires at our Parent Gathering two weeks into my interim period.

There were many contributing factors to why our group was where it was (church issues, leadership changes, graduations, etc.), but the immediate needs were clear to me. Our students simply needed a place to belong and become (with “belong” being the low hanging fruit). I believed this could be established during the summer months through a series of highly relational events with low or no program elements. In addition to being a win for the students, this low-program approach would give our leaders the opportunity to turn their attention to relationships (with students and parents alike).

It seems very elementary, but I prioritized naming the short-term aspirations with the three groups that mattered most; students, leaders and parents needed to all be on the same page with our short-term goals. I was intentional with these plans and began to communicate:

  1. IMG_6420I sent an invite to parents with two weeks notice come to a Parent Gathering where I shared the summer plans
  2. I sent an invite to leaders and hosted a Leaders Gathering/Dinner in our backyard where I could hear their hopes, goals and needs and share my hopes for more activity with less responsibility
  3. I sent and invite to students to an open-house coffee time, where I would simply listen to their hopes and dreams and plant the seeds for our simple and relational summer

My purpose in all three was to simply and intentionally name our short-term destination.

Are you intentional in naming where you’re going? If not, let me encourage you to consistently name the short-term destination, it seems most like to know where we’re going!

The What Ifs in Life!

1430509_78858177Yes, I am a HUUUUGE Seahawks fan. Of course I have asked the obvious “what if” questions about Super Bowl 49.

I can guarantee the coaching staff and players are asking that question more than me, a fan.

We can look back and get caught up with the woulda-coulda-shoulda scenarios… but what could be better is to use our history to help others forge forward by not repeating the things we would have done differently.

youth_pastor_what_ifs_brian_aaby_750x180I am excited by the response it seems the Youth Specialities blog is receiving after my post “5 Youth Pastor ‘What ifs'”

I’d encourage you check it out… maybe a few of them could help you as you forge ahead!

As I contemplate the question, “what if the Seahawks didn’t try a pass over the middle from the 1 yard line” perhaps you can get me out of that funk by posing a better ‘what if’ question?

What are some of your “what ifs” in ministry?

Building A Great Youth Ministry Team

coffee-shop-602704-mYou too may be a coffee addict if you know exactly which Starbucks you’d name for each of the following categories:

  • Most likely to be quiet
  • Best one to work in (AKA- the one with the most wall outlets to plug-in)
  • Fastest and/or best service

This morning I was impressed with how fast the line was moving. Not only was the inside line flowing, I watched as cars quickly passed through the Drive-Thru as well. The Barista team was clicking on all caffeine-coated cylinders.

Could the same be said of the way your team is functioning in your youth ministry context? Sure, they too may be addicted to caffeine, but are they clicking?

As I watched the baristas I watched them move in rhythm, I think all of them were serving in their own area of strength. From the friendly gal at the register who struck the balance of conversation, scanning apps and collecting cash to the barista handing the drinks to seemingly still-moving cars in the drive-thru; this team was cranking.

The Youth Ministry team in your church can also move in a rhythm, here are a few keys to building a great student ministry team.

1. Recruit To Areas Need, Gifts & Strengths.

bad-day-at-the-office-1380015-mEver heard, “want to serve? Well start by stacking those chairs.” I get the fact that we’re looking for people with servant hearts, but C’mon!, if I had a need for a 7th grade guys leader, I found the best recruitment tool was to recruit a person who was actually passionate about mentoring young guys— the chairs can get stacked by all of us together afterwards!

Identify some key missing areas in your ministry and look to recruit people to ministry specific purposes, you’re more likely to find someone when you can define exactly what it is you want them to do (and something they like to do).

2. Educate and Train in order to Sustain

I have found that the groups that feel “stuck” the most are the ones who invest very little in training their staff/team. There’s something about the team and time (together) investment that creates momentum. Whether it is a monthly meeting where you’re training in “all things cyber,” taking several to a national denominational conference or inviting your entire team to a regional event- look for opportunities to expose your team to what’s going on outside your four walls.

Unknown[NOTE] I’m honored to be part of the Youth Specialties Team Training events taking place this winter/early spring. Check out if one of these events is within a few hour drive for your team. This totally affordable Friday eve/Saturday event will help move your team forward.

3. Take A Night Off (get out of the way)

Whether you literally are gone for the night or just choose to not schedule yourself for any responsibilities, one of the greatest gifts you can give your team is to trust them with ALL elements of the ministry event.

You’ll immediately see the benefits of ownership when you have others responsible for the check-in, leading worship, delivering the announcements, giving the talk and facilitating the games!

Like a great coffee shop, I think we in youth ministry can create environments where things are clicking and people want to come back… but it takes smart recruitment, great training and selfless leadership to get there! Ready. Set. Invest!


CONTEST: What Am I Thinking? Farmland

This one I found scrolling through Facebook! My friend Geno, from Youth Missions International (a partner of Youthmark) has this as his profile pic. Classic.

WAIT (what am I thinking) is essentially a Caption Contest. You comment with your best thought and then I give you the finalists in a couple days. I haven’t done one in quite-awhile, so if you comment and it doesn’t post right away it’s simply that I need to approve them.

Have fun with this one, I’ll give a Youthmark T-shirt or book to the winner, your choice.


Let the comments begin…



In The Running (updated throughout weekend):

Low participation, but some funny stuff (I think I am suffering from low content = low readership):

“Jokes on you, there’s no contest.” – Jan A.  (this is so funny, seeing as how it was a few weeks for me to list these)

He falls for that “grass is greener” thing every time. – the wifey

I think the GPS was wrong. Hang on, I’m re-cow-lculating. – a little bit

Games two barnyard animals can’t play: Red Rover. – skinnyvanillalatte

Winner (To be announced after weekend):

She’s won it a few times, and you may say I am biased, but I just think she is brilliant!

He falls for that “grass is greener” thing every time. – the wifey

The Opposite of Closed

Do you like to be challenged? Are you one who wants open dialog? Maybe you’re even one who fears change, but embraces the fact that we must?

Or are you closed?




Not open.


shut – close

I understand the reality, in the youth ministry world, I’m pretty old. Somewhere around the age of 28 I was seen as a veteran in youth ministry. By 35 some probably saw me as one riding off into the sunset. Funny thing is, at 40, I don’t feel old and certainly don’t think I act old (hopefully some may consider me mature, but not “old.”). I’m still passionate and energized by all things Student Ministry!

One reason I believe I am not “old” is that I believe I am “open.” I love collaborative! Though I have convictions I welcome discussion. I have ideas, but live in the reality that mine might not be best. I understand that I can hold to my theological beliefs yet change my methodology. I’m open.

I hope you’re open too!

Snap from 2012 Open Seattle

Snap from 2012 Open Seattle

This fall I am honored to once again be a part of fantastic event for others in the student ministry filed. The Youth Cartel’s Open Seattle will take place on Saturday, October 26, 2013. I hope you’ll put it on your radar now! This one day event could prove to provide months worth of team discussions (especially if you strategically bring your volunteers).

Here’s the kicker… your voice is needed! Not only is your voice needed in each of the sessions (the last 10 minutes of each 40 minute session is set aside for real conversation/collaboration), but Open Seattle  is right now looking for presenters as well! You can submit your session ideas here.

Open presents a great mix of local, national and even international voices. But I LOVE that they favor the local voice (they want the majority of presenters to be from the northwest)! So, submit those ideas now. Risk a little! Be open!

I believe the youthmin world is shifting, you may be viewing it from a completely different angle, but it’s an angle I/we need to hear about, please bring your voice to the table.


Five Things For The Fall (it’s not too early)

I was recently near Des Moines, Iowa, consulting for Ministry Architects. When my evenings were complete I would retreat to my hotel and while channel surfing I found a football game on (in the spring?). The Big Ten Network was televising the spring scrimmages for the Big Ten universities. I caught a few minutes of the Black and Gold game for Purdue.

706735__transfer_It got me thinking, football is not until the fall, but these teams are already preparing for their autumn season. Much game-planning and preparations are already going on in order to prep for the fall. I think the same can and should be done in youth ministry.

Though five months out, I’d like to propose five things youth ministries can be working on right now to prepare for the fall.

  1. Prioritize A Prayer Movement: Why not have every student in your group be prayed for and prayed with? Not only will this propel your students, it will invigorate your congregation. Take the month (like September or October) and do something like Pray21 (a 21 Day prayer partnership between student(s) and an adult). *Begin dialogue with your Senior Pastor and do something special on Sunday, September 22, “Pray With Youth” Sunday.
  2. Recruit Your Staff: Use summer missions, camps and retreats to expose potential new volunteer team members to the ministry. One of the biggest mistakes youth pastors make in recruiting is miscommunication in what you’re asking for. Create volunteer position descriptions so that a volunteer knows what is expected of him or her.
  3. peers-leading-peers


    Consider a SLAMM Approach: Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry creates ownership not chaos! Begin dreaming, scheming, plotting, planning, praying and partnering with students now for what they want in the fall. When given the opportunity to operate in their gift and skill set you’ll see students excel. Mentoring is the key! I know several Youth Pastors who are thriving with a SLAMM approach, let me know if you want more info!

  4. Unite with Parents: Use this summer as an opportunity to build and/or strengthen relationship with parents so that come the fall you sense the momentum and power of being united in purpose to see teens being discipled and making disciples!
  5. Know Where You’re Going: We rarely get in a car with no destination in mind. Yet, we often begin a program year in youth ministry with an undetermined destination. There is no reason you and your team can’t have a full September-to-August calendar planned with all the major events and approximate costs so that all can see the year at a glance! You’ll be doing everyone a favor!

September is coming! With just a few hours of spring prep and summer action, you can be more prepared than ever going into your fall. Calendar your events, communicate with parents, develop teens in their areas of giftedness, prep adults for mentoring and connect your congregation with teens through prayer partnerships!


A Trip To Consider (meet real needs)

The moment you realize God just used you to meet the need of somebody else…

Seriously... views like this!

Seriously… views like this!

It’s mid-April and you’d think that most (if not all) youth groups have their summer plans laid out, but you never know? In the last week I have had two Montana towns (pastors) in need contact me to ask if I may know of a youth group that could come serve them this summer.  Great needs and they’re asking the Lord of the harvest to provide the workers…

If you’re in the northwest and/or interested in a trip to this region, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to do a VERY inexpensive mission trip! Seriously, you could likely do a trip like this for less than $200 per person! Because our mission product-line is less “sending” and more “all-inclusive mission prep/follow-through” I’m happy to show you how to do this in a super-affordable way!

Both of these communities in Montana will provide you and your group the opportunities to:

  • work with children (sports camp or Vacation Bible School)
  • serve with hands (service projects to bless Christians and the unchurched)
  • peer-to-peer evangelism (give your students practical opportunities for real-life outreach)
  • discipleship (Christian teens in community need to see the spark in your students)
  • food/housing (most, if not all, of your meals taken care of)
  • team time (not a scripted trip, you have great freedom to speak into formation and plenty of time to disciple your own group through evening debrief)
  • scenery unparalleled . Seriously, these places are beautiful
Guaranteed real-life impact with hands, heart and words!

Guaranteed real-life impact with hands, heart and words!

If you’re interested in some last-minute planning (that we’ll help you with), but a FULL IMPACT trip, please contact me here, I’ll get you in touch with the right people.

You may just be the answer to prayer for one of these two pastors who contacted me this week!


Social Media Reality Check- Are You Consumed?

1280072_keyboardThe month started with 34 items on the “to do” list. Each task varied in size & time needed to complete. Slightly overwhelmed, I took a deep breath and dove in… a few minutes later temptation crept in…

… “hey man, quick question” a ministry friend of mine, Brian Ford, was Instant Messaging me through Facebook. “What would you say about your Facebook use? You don’t really use it, you use it a lot, you tend to think everyone is going away from it… something else?”

Facebooking with Brian Ford was not one of the 34 listed items on the to do list. But somehow it became priority #1. If it weren’t Brian on Facebook it could easily be an alert on TweetDeck or an iChat notification. I do NOT consider myself nor have I been diagnosed ADD, however I am discovering how easily the notifications distract and consume.

I was honest with Mr. Ford and told him that I likely am on it too much. We ended up talking about this off and on the next few days and today we both have gone live with blog posts (his is here). Brian spends some time talking about some of the struggles it has caused in his heart, mind and relationships. My post tackles the moderation issue.

How Can I Stay Social & Networked But Not Consumed?

1030887_tweet_tweet___I enjoy Twitter, Skype, iChat, and Facebook and I easily justify the need to stay connected on them. Much of my livelihood has to do with staying connected, available and aware of what’s going on in the ministry world and with the ministers in that world. But the reality is, those I need to stay the most connected with have access to me via text, email or a call. I need to remind myself if I am needed, they can find me.

I do not want Social Media to become a hindrance to my family, faith and/or ability to get work done. So, I am experimenting with something I’m calling First 5, Last 5.

What is First/Last 5?

I am going to challenge myself for a season (a few weeks) to take the first 5 and/or last 5 minutes before or after major breaking times during my day to engage in social media. These natural breaks include breakfast, lunch, end of regular work day and before bed. Other than those times the apps will be off and the sites off my desktop.

I’m not going to be legalistic, but my general guide will be:

  • First five minutes as I begin my workday
  • Last five before lunch
  • First five after lunch
  • Last five at end of workday

My goal at home is to be to keep them off until the kids are in bed and Elisabeth and I are both at the point where we feel the freedom to relax (TV, web, Netflix, etc.)

I have found that I can too easily get sucked into my newsfeed and too quickly link to a blog, news site or become consumed thinking about a witty response to a persons tweet. Therefore, in order to protect my family, my ministry and my workload I’m going to give this First/Last 5 a whirl! Any other takers?


Are you Focused?

IMG_5101This last weekend I was privileged to partner with two of my good friends in ministry. Rob Townshend and I tag-teamed a Jesus Focused Youth Ministry (JFYM) Forum in Rutland, VT! We “partnered” in a sense with another great friends of ours, Barry St. Clair (though Barry was hanging out in Georgia)! Barry was supposed to be in Connecticut leading another JFYM forum simultaneously… that got a little disrupted!

By now, we have ALL heard about the NE Storm! It was quite the doozy, but fortunately for me, I was smack-dab in the center of the donut hole that didn’t get hit hard. In Rutland we had about 6-8 inches of snow, whereas 15 miles in any direction received anywhere from 1 to 3 feet of snow! AMAZING!

IMG_5118Storms disrupt in many ways, don’t they? There were 63 people from a couple different states and several different cities/counties that were signed up with their leadership teams from a variety of churches. Well, given that the storm hit on Friday and Saturday we were blown away that 36 people were able to make it to the all-day Saturday event!

IMG_5114Of course storms are not always physical. The very nature of this JFYM Forum is to call those in ministry back to a calling that is storm-resistant (I can’t say storm-proof, because I believe we are supposed to be effected by the storms of life). The JFYM Forums focus on 6 main areas of our ministry life, they look at ministry from an inside out approach. The six core principles we facilitated wonderful discussions on:

  1. Growing deep with Jesus
  2. Passionate prayer
  3. Building leaders
  4. Discipling those in our care
  5. Knowing, growing and reaching our culture
  6. Creating opportunities to reach the lost

IMG_5093I thoroughly loved the unity in the room from the 5 different churches and people groups represented. There were a few high school students and several approaching their 70’s. We had some who would consider themselves ultra-conservatives and others who called themselves charismatics! But all of us agreed on the one name that brought us together and the one focus we wanted to have as we scattered: Jesus!

IMG_5177Are you Jesus focused in your ministry? Start with praying for the desire for personal growth, let that extend in and through every aspect of your personal and ministry life! It will lead to ministry fruit if you take an inside out approach!