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).

Getting Unstuck In Small Group

Maybe you’re a small group leader who is struggling in your leadership? Maybe it’s the unique blend of personalities? Perhaps you weren’t given much training? Sometimes you just need a bit of a spark to ignite the group.

IMG_3849Here are three ideas I have used that can help get the proverbial ball rolling with a small group.

Opening Questions

Each week after some hang time we transition into the “study” time by doing an “opening question.” Most of the time these questions are random and fun. The point is to get every student to feel comfortable talking in front of the rest of the group. Though silly, it really does accomplish the goal. Here you can establish the principle that whomever is speaking should be respected and heard.

Sample questions (just ask one per week):

If you could permanently close a fast food chain, which one would you abolish and why?

If you could be in a sitcom or cartoon (as yourself), which one would you be in and why?

Occasional Intentional Experiences

Instead of a regular “bible study” or “cell group” night— take a 745195_30615584field trip. Shared experiences outside of the norm create a sense of anticipation. Whether it is a service project or a meal out  use it to teach a principle, learn a spiritual application or to simply get the students to think differently.

Sample experience: Take your students to Target give them a list of the others in your group and a total imaginary budget of $X (figure about $30 per person, but tell them a total, rather than a per person) and tell them they have 30 minutes to write down what they’d buy for each person in the group and why.  Meet at the food court or Starbucks area of the store after the fake shopping and have each student share what they would have bought for each person and why. You’ll likely have some times of laughter, and be blessed by some heart-warming thoughtfulness.

Show and Tell

IMG_3763Everybody remembers the anticipation of Show and Tell day in Preschool and Kindergarten! On occasion (maybe once a year) you can use this in small group. Have students bring an item which is significant to his/her spiritual life. I have seen students bring something from camps, elementary Bible club or a picture from a mission trip. Even if a student forgets, you can always grab a Bible and the student can share a favorite verse and the story behind why it’s important to him/her.

What are some other Small Group ideas you can share to help a group try something new?

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?

Death, Taxes and Poor Communication — The Certainties for a Youth Pastor

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. 

—Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

Ben had it mostly right. He forgot “poor communication.”

As I begin the process of working with a church in their quest for a new student pastor I begin with a site-visit. 24 to 36 hours on the ground taking in the landscape, snapping some pictures and listening to lots of people.

When asked some variance of the question “what’s one thing that can improve in the youth ministry?” It is guaranteed that someone (and typically many someones) will exclaim “better communication!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurches, and Youth Pastors in particular, have a bad-rap when it comes to communication. One unique observation is that typically the longer a tenure of the Youth Director the worse the reputation for communication— people have just learned to deal with it.

So, instead of a rant against the Student Pastor (or his/her administrative teammates), here are my quick suggestions to improve communication.

http://www.legendswebdesign.com1. Anchor everything in the Web! Make sure your church and/or youth website is the foundation. When in doubt people know they can go to the web to find the most up-to-date information. The key: YOU HAVE TO COMMIT to making sure this is the first place that you (youth leader) put the information.

2. Twice A Year “Year at a Glance Gatherings.” As the school year kicks off and as the New Year kicks off host an hour parent & student gathering where you speak into the curriculum, events and direction. Always give a print piece that highlights everything on the calendar for a year from that date.

http://www.legendswebdesign.com3. Have at Least Seven Consistent Ways To Communicate: Yes, this may seem like a lot, but if you prioritize 30 minutes of your week, each week, you can get it all done at once. But because people all have preferred ways to receive information, you taking the time to offer it in a variety of ways will ensure that they have every opportunity to get it. Here are the options…

  • Email — still great for many parents
  • Social Media — schedule your tweets/status updates for the week
  • Announcements — Big Church and youth group verbal announcements
  • Texts and Group Texts — both to parents and students
  • Slides — Background slides on screens before/after services
  • Bulletin — new people in your church still read these
  • Flyers — take home print piece that go on the fridge
  • Trickle Down — share with small group leaders who share with his/her group
  • Newsletter — PDF or Print (or both)
  • Phone Calls — Sometimes it pays to pick up the phoneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In all the various forms of communication, I would emphasize “all this information can be found at our website” so that you create the habit for people to check the web first!

What are your suggestions for better communication?

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

You’re NOT too Broken!

As some of you know I write for Dare 2 Share Ministries. It’s been a fun experience and a blessing to be part of a ministry so committed to getting the Gospel out to all people (and especially through teens)!

When I was praying about  the opportunity presented, I immediately thought about doing a column entitled “Dear Aaby,” and allow students, leaders and parents to ask questions about evangelism. The idea expanded as I said “yes” to the invite and today the Dear Aaby blogs have been going for over a year.

This last one was titled “Am I too broken?” It stems from a question a student  asked me when he found out that I wrote for Dare 2 Share.

Check out the D2S post here (with complete question from him and my video answer) or you can see my video response to him below.

Curious, how would you respond to a question like that?



Love Freebies!

Every now and then we just need a spark, an idea to get our creative juices flowing. I find this to be true especially when it comes to outreach opportunities for our students. So, today I give you free spark…

If you're fortunate, your host home will bless you with Steak!

If you’re fortunate, your host home will bless you with Steak!

One of my favorite events I ever organized as a Youth Pastor was an outing I called “The Dinner Scramble.” I wrote about this event for one of my Dare 2 Share blog posts. It can be found here.

If you’re looking for an opportunity that can bring your church together while motivating your students to reach out relationally to their unchurched peers then this is an easy even to try! Read it, plan it, tweak it and see what happens!



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, 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.!



Theology, Relief Pitching and Porn

1136056_baseball_player_5Is this guy really going to blog about theology, pitching and porn?


Let me start with the given. Many Christians would say they want to be more like Jesus! We sing it on Sunday, we ask for it in our prayers and we study how to do it in God’s Word. The process of becoming more like Jesus is called sanctification (theology reference, check).

Let me move to another (yet hidden) given. Many Christians are engaging in sexual activities that are directly affecting their spiritual activity and effectiveness. They’re looking at porn. They’re reading filth. They’re flirting with disaster and an adulterous affair may be in their future. Real relationships are getting rocked as unrighteousness runs rampant (Porn reference, check).

I received a text early on Sunday morning from our Lead Pastor. He was sick and asked me to come in out of the bullpen and provide some relief (Pitching reference, check). I was honored!

I decided to preach through 1 Thessalonians because it is chock-full spiritual morsels! I believe it is one of the most practical books in all the Scriptures as it provides a relational context of how we are to do “real relationships” with one another! From the foundation of a relationship with God through Jesus in chapter one, Paul touches on pretty much every sort of relationship throughout the letter (God, family, friends, mentor, romance, unchurched, idol and lost).

However, chapter four really caught my attention. Paul schools us in Theology 101 and  teaches through the principles of justification (being declared righteous), sanctification (being made more like Jesus) and glorification (with Jesus in heaven). But get this, Paul makes a direct link between this theological triple play and purity.

Paul essentially tells the people that our sexuality and the sexual distractions play a large role in our sanctification process. What we do or don’t look at and act upon in the area of purity will directly relate to our ability to be more like Jesus. In other words, if we say (or sing) that we want to be more like Jesus we really ought to pay special attention to this specific area!

1377963_hand_over_keyboardBooks, films, music, TV, billboards, emails, websites and life are all throwing sex and sexuality at us from every angle. The simple, yet direct instruction I gave on Sunday was this: Stop it! Stop engaging in it. If you’ve trusted in Christ and are having an affair stop! If you love Jesus and are looking at porn, quit it! If you’re watching that or reading this and it’s causing you to lust, stop it!

But please hear this: his grace is enough! You’re not defined by those things that you must stop. If you’ve trusted in Jesus you’re now declared righteous. But as a child of the most High God, seek the help that you need. You can’t do it on your own. The world tells you to run, shun and shame, but God has sent the Rescuer, who is running to you and has already bore your shame. He desires for you to enter into real relationship with brothers or sisters who can help! Call that friend. Ask that pastor. Seek out the relative who is waiting to help you.

For the sake of your family. For the benefit of your marriage. For the betterment of your family and for the increase in the kingdom, make sexual purity part of the sanctifying work of Christ in your life!



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!