That’s Tweetable!

TYM_ICONToday is a big day, I finally launched my first MailChimp campaign. It was a few weeks (well months) in the making as I put together a strategy that met a few essential criteria.

  1. Give something and possibly get something (give insights, wisdom, experience and inspiration and in return we may see readers take advantage of resources that Youthmark or our partners offer, but do so at a rate they can’t get anywhere else)!
  2. Contribute to a greater cause (I believe student ministry is three pronged- student, staff and leaders, my hope is that all the posts contribute to that three pronged focus and then see the fruit of unity in Christ can bring).
  3. Less is more (though I won’t limit myself to 140 words or less on brianaaby.com, all posts in the TweetableYM brand will be concise, 140 words or less, proving that most of the time, less is more)!

We launched the TweetableYM (tweetable youth ministry) brand today. The TweetableYM branding consists of:

Playing with the 140 character theme from Twitter, we are producing a resource (blog/newsletter) where all of the posts will be 140 words or less! Then connected to the featured (hash-tagged) post we’ll give links to additional writings and resources on that subject.  In addition we will (most always) have a featured resource with an exclusive discount available ONLY to those subscribed to the newsletter).

Check us out on any/all of the above… be among the first 140 to subscribe, like and/or follow and you’ll be entered to win one of three Youthmark hoodies!

We appreciate you getting the word out, feel free to r/t this post, share on Facebook, etc.!

Grace,

Brian

An Open Letter to Senior Pastors

NOTE: The below letter is not specific to any one pastor or a specific situation, rather, it stems from years of being a youth and associate pastor, a lay person in the church and now an elder. 

Senior Pastors,

I admire you. You have chosen and been called to such a challenging position. Thank you. Though Hallmark likely created it, Pastor Appreciation Month is not often recognized the way that it should be and you’re not appreciated nearly enough.

714639_16139136You pour many hours into the Scriptures preparing your weekly messages but because you seek to meet the needs of your flock your study time is often cut short. You’re called upon to counsel, you’re asked to perform weddings and you’re expected to attend way too many fellowship lunches. You need to be at too many meetings and the one that you miss will NOT go unnoticed. I don’t envy your position, but I’m thankful you’re in it.

I hope you sense the sincerity of my above words. 99% of the Sr./Lead Pastors I have dealt with in my roles fit the above descriptions and I believe you need to hear more words of encouragement because your job is extremely difficult. I have a different form of encouragement for you as well… an encouragement to consider doing a few things I believe will help you and the people you care for. These suggestions may seem elementary, but please examine your leadership style and ask yourself and/or others if these things are true of you.

Collaborate: Your leadership is needed, but ownership in the values and convictions for  the church will rarely come from your decree, rather by the discoveries of your leadership team (staff, elders, lay volunteers, etc.). Don’t tell them the direction, collaborate on the values and then lead them in the collective vision.

Develop: Steward your staff and your lay leadership well. The Rich Young Ruler walked away sad because he could not give away his riches to others in need. I believe a number of pastors would walk away sad if Jesus asked you to give away some of your gifted people (staff/leaders). Take the time (and allow your other pastors to take the time) to develop others under you with full knowledge that God may call them to be pastors, leaders and influencers to others elsewhere.

643259_40588454Get Unchurched: You spend 99% of your time with people who are or who think they are Christians. Many under your care have no idea how to bring Jesus into an everyday conversation. It won’t matter what you tell your people to say until they know that you’re being intentional about it too! I challenge you to fall in love with the lost, not just fall in love with the idea of the lost!

Again, I’m thankful for you and believe in you. My simple hope is that you’ll believe in us (your staff, your leaders and your congregants) a little more. Believe that we have good ideas and let us give them. Believe that we can be developed and give us the chance to mess up a bit and then catch us as we stumble. And last, believe in us enough to do life with us. Join us and set the example when it comes to loving and spending time with people who don’t yet know Jesus!

Grace,

Brian

Finding the Entry Points into Spiritual Conversations

I am not gifted in evangelism.

Though many of the speaking opportunities  I am blessed with deal with equipping teens (or any age) with tips, strategies and tools for sharing our faith, I can honestly say that evangelism is not found at the top of any spiritual gifts inventory test I have ever taken.

Not #1, #2 or even #3 (most of the time it does fall around 4 or 5 though).

Though I am not gifted in it, I do it.

Likewise, though I am not gifted in mercy, I’m called to show it (Matthew 5:7). It would be wrong for me to show myself disobedient to what God has specifically called me to do. And yes, he’s called Christians to share our faith too (2 Tim 4:5). In fact, combining mercy in with evangelism makes for a pretty potent combo!

The cool part, I see God taking someone not-gifted and making me skilled. Like any area of my life, if I want to become better at something, I must learn and try. We become skilled through practice.

933642_talkingDon’t Sweat It– Just Find Your Entry Point!

My goal is to practice Real Life evangelism.

Conversational. Relational. Real.

So many of us just struggle with figuring out the entry point into a conversation. We struggle with moving from the surface to the soul. This is is certainly a risk, but one worth taking. For me, it was a Young Life leader moving the conversation from the weather to whether or not I understood what the camp speaker was talking about.

Take small risks in your conversations and see if it may just be the entry point into a real spiritual conversations.

We put together a poor-mans version of a Nooma-like video a couple years ago called Entry Points. See if this helps equip you or your group with the concept of finding the entry points into the life of a person who does not yet know Jesus!

Grace,
Brian

 

 

I Sat Next To “That Guy.” You Should Too!

Two of my kids were recently down for the count with the bug. Because I am part of the leadership for our college-age group and because my wife is an amazing servant/mommy she volunteered to stay home and I made the trek to church with just my eldest daughter in tow. After a great time with the young adults I made my way into the church service…

Early that morning I had tweeted: “Many will attempt the ‘Love God’ part this am in our churches, but let’s also apply the ‘Love others’ portion! Risk a little & be real.”

… I walked into the auditorium with a sense of anticipation, with a desire to be obedient to the very thing God had placed on my heart, to love others.

As a solo-attender that day I could sit with another family, perhaps someone from my small group? I could look for a new family and go out of my way to make them feel welcome. Instead, I sat by a  40-something single man. A man I don’t know well, but have had some interactions with.

“Can I sit here?” I asked.

“Yes, please do!” He responded with an unsuspecting smile as he moved his Bible off of the seat he was sure would be unoccupied.

We worshipped together. We laughed at the same sermon-appropriate jokes from our Pastor. I skipped to different passages on my iPad while taking notes. He seemed more content reading the Scriptures off the the projected screens as we listened to our Pastor.

We were good kids, we didn’t talk during the sermon.

As the service concluded he turned to me and rocked my world with his words.

“Brian, thank you for sitting with me. You just raised my status a few points… I normally just sit alone.”

9477_kp_16My perspective changed. I don’t know what it is like to be 40 something and single. This man does most things on his own. He eats most meals alone, shows up to small group alone and returns back home, alone. He longs for relationship (just as I do). But the difference, I can at least cover-up any look of loneliness by being with my family.

I just sat with him. Nothing more, nothing less. This “raised his status?”

It certainly didn’t have to be a 40-something single, there are any number of others that feel lonely. I know many teens struggling with their identity and sense of belonging. Young married couples without kids may feel different (and alone). I am sure several families come to church with the feeling of “lack of connection.” What about the widow or widower? And yes, even the church staff/pastors struggle– it seems everyone knows their name, but very few feel known.

Loving others’ this day meant sitting next to a single man. Today, not in church, the circumstance has changed, but the command from Jesus remains the same. Whether in church, in my Christian circle or out in my community, I desire to be more present and more aware. Today I will risk and look to love God and love others.

Grace,
Brian

 

UNBIASED Specific Mission Options!

Over the last week I have been contacted by several churches and organizations in need of receiving a short term missions team. Perhaps you’re in the position to send a team?

Unbiased. That feels so good to write! In the past, as a Short Term Missions (STM) organization, I certainly liked, loved and admired my companions in STM’s, but there was always a small part of me that saw them as competition; so in a sense they were companiontition (see what I did there?) 🙂 No more! Now I get to truly partner with them!

Though Youthmark still has a few select places we send a few teams, our main focus in missions is to supply teams with all the Mission51 training and resources. We have a couple great partnering organizations (Youth Missions International and Verge Ministries), but we also have a number of churches that know where they are going or what they are doing who simply use our Strategy Plus package (or just the Mission51 Retreat).

Because Youthmark has served in so many places our reputation has grown so I am now fielding calls and email requests for towns/communities in need. This is VERY exciting because sometimes churches, youth pastors and groups simply need to know about the need before they rev up the engines to move!

Current Summer 2013 Opportunities:  Maybe your group wants to respond?

IMG_10951. Colorado Springs: I have relationship with an inner-city church in the Springs that serves low-income (even homeless) families through a mid-week camp/daycare. In addition, they have purchased mountain property that they are converting into a camp/retreat center. They need teams to come in for a one-week experience and serve the church and camp as counselors, cooks, recreation and craft directors! This opportunity is AMAZING! If they don’t have 3 or 4 teams they may not be able to pull of the 3 or 4 weeks of camps they think they can provide!

IMG_07312. Oregon: I have received two requests from completely different locations in Oregon, but both want the same style of ministry for their understaffed churches. They’d love a team to come in and do VBS or Kids Sports Camp in the morning, then use the afternoon to build relationships and do some small projects but use the evening to do peer-to-peer ministry with the teens in town. One location is on the beautiful Oregon coast and the other is in warm and sunny Southern Oregon.

IMG_07603. Sandy Relief/Children’s Ministry: Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal New York and New Jersey. I have been in contact with a fabulous ministry on the east coast that would love to have trained teams come in ready to do some renovation work on houses/building while also doing some heart renovation work with children and youth (tag-teaming with their day-center for their low income communities).

Please contact me if you’re interested in meeting any of these needs!

Grace,
Brian

 

Rocky Mountain High… oh, um, yeah, Hello Colorado!

Like us in Washington the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has brought on a slew of new jokes (like my lame title to this post). With that being said, I’m looking forward to a quick-trip to Colorado and if you’re a youth leader in that region, we want to see you and give you some youth ministry freebies (including lunch)!

DSCF0150If you are or know of a Youth Leader along the greater I-25 or I-70 corridor we (Youthmark and Youth Missions International) are hosting a few Youth Leader Freebie Gatherings. Surrounding a meal we will eat and discuss our passion to see students equipped to reach their own campus, club, community and church with God’s love through the gospel!

mission_51I’ll be sharing about our Mission51 Retreat (one of our 7 retreats is coming to Colorado) and our curriculum that groups are using to prep before, during and after a mission venture. Brian Hughes will share about all the great ways God is using mission trips domestically and internationally and invite youth leaders to consider using YMI for full-scale serviced trips (for the best rates!).

Besides the meal, we’re giving away some valuable resources as well!

You can let us know you’re interested by commenting or contacting us here (just let us know which one you want to attend).

  • Tuesday, January 15 LUNCH: Beau Jo’s Pizza, Arvada (7525 W. 53rd Ave.) 11:30 am
  • Wednesday, January 16 LUNCH: Santiagos Mexican, Longmont (231 Main St.); Noon
  • Thursday, January 17 BREAKFAST: Cracker Barrel, Colorado Springs (8355 Razorback Road); 9 am
  • Thursday, January 17 LUNCH: Hosted at Calvary Church, Pueblo (5 Tulane St.), 11:30 am

Spread the word!

Grace,
Brian

The Stuff of 2013

Happy-new-year-2013-green-isolated-white-background2013…

  1. A new look for the blog (have done this the last couple years).
  2. Weigh less at the end of the year than I did at the beginning (accomplished that in 2012).
  3. Blog more in 2013 than in 2012.
  4. Publish a few books (a few of my own and few from others).
  5. Share meals, not just yard conversations, with neighbors.
  6. Log more miles on my bike than I did in 2012.
  7. 13 pre-planned dates with Elisabeth (a gift I gave her at Christmas).
  8. Park my car in the garage all year (clear the clutter).
  9. Do one major house or yard project (likely our deck).
  10. Get to at least one new state or country.
  11. Read all of the Bible (it’s been a couple years since I did this in a year).
  12. Solo-date each month with each of my kids.
  13. Talk to and about Jesus. A lot.

Grace,

Brian

Christmas Break Youth Ministry Ideas

Christmas vacation in youth ministry has its challenges… on one hand it’s time away from school for students, which provides an amazing opportunity for youth ministry leaders to invest relationally in students. However, Christmas screams “family” and not only do we want our students to invest time in their families, leadership should be doing the same.

So, how should a youth ministry schedule the Christmas break? How can you protect the family (yours and theirs) yet still invest in the program and people during a time when some simply have the time to be invested in? Here is a short list of some ideas.

Show-Up Events:

92690_2489Simply let people know that “I’ll be there if you want to join me.” Be clear that these are NOT youth group events and not chaperoned, but any are welcome (including families)

  1. Shopping Spree and Food Court Madness (name the time you’ll be at the food court and students/families can plan their shopping time).
  2. Pick-A-Flick Matinee (name the theater and movie time for a “family-safe” film)
  3. Coffee Talk (name the time/shop you’ll be at for anyone who wants to join for a coffee-talk).
  4. Late Night Appetizers (many sit-down restaurants offer 1/2 off appetizers after 9pm, let the students know the time and place and you’re bound to have a great turnout!).

Service-Events:

83307_2859These will likely require a release form and a little shepherding, but not much planning.

  1. De-Lighting (right around the New Year, gather students, walk a prominently lit-up neighborhood and serve your neighbors by helping to take down their outdoor lights.
  2. Food Banks or Soup Kitchens (many community services are looking for volunteers during this crazy time, get your group signed up for a couple hour shift and you’ll be doing relationships and service with very little planning required).

I loved Christmas break as a Youth Pastor, I would typically do a few events like the ones above and took advantage of the time away from regular program to do the administrative stuff that would sustain the upcoming spring programming. And who could forget, I’d also use the time to prepare for “National Associate Pastor Preaching Sunday” (seriously, does any Senior Pastor preach the week between Christmas and New Year?).

Have some other ideas for events youth leaders can do that are simple yet highly relational? Spread the love by commenting!

Grace,
Brian

The Posts With the Most

Every now and then over the weekend I find that I have time to go through and read some past posts from bloggers that I try to keep up with… In the off-chance that that’s what you’re doing right now, I thought I’d make it easy for you… I give a brief “subject” and then the following links take you directly to a few of the blogs that I have written that have gotten the most action of late for both this site and for the Dare 2 Share blog that I contribute to.

An Open Letter to A Departing Youth Pastor… this post has been the most read blog of any post I’ve ever written. It deals with leaving a church (or any job) well. This one was Retweeted and picked up by a few other organizations.

Holiday Red Cups… this is a post I wrote for Dare 2 Share in my “Dear Aaby” series. It is advice on how to turn a conversation into a possible opportunity to share Jesus with those who do not know Him.

What Is Your Mission… Trip?… this post encourages those in youth ministry to use your mission trip for more than just a one-week experience.

3 Areas of Neglect In Your Ministry… I’m excited by the way this post seemed to encourage many veteran youth workers to take a look at where they are spending their time and placing their efforts.

5 Youth Pastor “What Ifs”… This one was a highly read and re-tweeted  post from a few weeks ago. It deals with five questions I wonder about and if only I had done some things differently “back then.”

Any one of these a particular challenge and/or blessing? Any post you’ve read in the last few weeks from another blog you think I should be sure to read?

Happy weekend. Happy reading!

Grace,
Brian

Five Youth Pastor What Ifs

I was a youth pastor for 16 years and for the past four years I’ve continued to work with hundreds of youth pastors through Youthmark and networking. All told, I’m two decades into this youth ministry adventure. My outlook on the student ministry culture certainly took on different perspectives during these years. From the rookie years to the “seasoned veteran” years (which, in youth ministry, takes place around your late 20’s), I have consistently looked back and wondered, “what if?”

I thought I’d jot a few of these “what ifs” down, perhaps just to encourage others. Maybe I’ll come back to some more “what ifs” later, but here are five that stand out to me right now.

1. What if I would have set a better example of peer-to-peer evangelism instead of using pastor-to-youth as my evangelism excuse? [I likely would have discovered that students have the same insecurities and fears I had and I would have begun engaging in and then training others for real-life, relational (with words) evangelism earlier].

2. What if I would have known at an earlier stage that “youth ministry” is actually student, parent, family, peer and church ministry? [I certainly would have had better volunteerism, more parent support and I likely would have felt more respected by the adults in the church rather than alienating others with the “I must prove myself to them” attitude I think I adopted].

3. What if I would have known that putting in more hours, working more days and trying to please as many as possible would NOT impress anyone other than myself? [I would have likely had a better relationship with those in authority over me instead of secretly wishing that they all would notice the hours, days and efforts so that I’d get a raise].

4. What if I would have fallen in love with coffee earlier in my youth pastorate? [I’d likely be dead from caffeine overdose… or more people would know Jesus, as the coffee shop has become one of my primary evangelism outlets]

5. What if I recruited adults to pray with our students instead of just praying for our students? [Disclaimer: I had many adults involved with our teens… but not nearly enough! This honestly is my #1 “what if?” And here is my answer: I believe that we’d see the national statistics of up to 85% of students leaving the church flipped. I believe that we’d see students and adults begin to understand the truth of 1 Corinthians 12–we are one body, many parts and all the parts are needed and I believe we’d see MANY more adults not intimidated by the teen population and vice-versa. I believe that our Sunday morning experience would look and feel way more familial and way more welcoming!]

Honestly, most of this ties into that last one. I wish I would have had someone investing in me at a deeper level. What if someone was praying with me and not just for me? I wish something like Pray21 would have been around 15, even 10 years ago. At the risk of touting product over blog content, I want to urge folks to check this thing out. Team students up with caring adults (even get the mentor for pay the $10 or so for both books) and get this praying with youth thing started!

What if?

Grace,
Brian