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!

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Jalapeños & Jesus

My son, Will, and I had just finished playing baseball this last weekend and did a quick stop at the store to get a few items for our homemade pizza night.

“Hey bud, what do you want on our pizza tonight?” I asked.

“Pepperoni and a lot of Jalapeños” he announced.

pizza-macro-shot-1312231After a minute or two of silent thought, he explained. “Dad, I used to like spicy stuff because of how much I love you… I really wanted to be like you. Now I love spicy stuff just because I love spicy stuff! I mean, I still love you, but I love spicy stuff on my own now too!”

I loved this; it was encouraging and convicting at the same time.

You see, though it wasn’t my goal to get Will to love Jalapeños (or other spicy stuff), it happened because he was willing to try the stuff that his Daddy likes. In the last couple years, Will has gone from a few drops of Tapatio on his burrito, to pepperoni pizza covered in Hot-Wing sauce and Jalapeños. He can’t get enough spice!

My quick-jaunt home from the grocery store that evening had my mind spinning. My prayer is that Will (along with my daughters, my 8th grade guys and other people I get to “do life” with) will emulate me in a way much greater than taste-bud satisfaction. My hope is that he will see the way that I prioritize my love for God, His Word and His people and begin to try that as well.

I long for a similar spiritually spiced-up conversation:

“Hey bud, what do you want do tonight?” I will ask.

“Let’s talk Scripture, let’s share Jesus with those who don’t know Him yet and let’s serve the community” he will announce.

1415262_bibleAfter a minute or two of silent thought, I imagine him saying, “Dad, I used to like Jesus and His stuff because of how much I love you… I really wanted to be like you. Now I love God, His Word and people just because I love Jesus! I mean, I still love you Dad, but I love Jesus and people on my own now too!”

Finally, on Sunday, at Subway, Will went through the line and confidently proclaimed his veggie choices, “I’d like both banana-peppers and Jalapeños”

May his love (and our love) for Jesus be proclaimed just as confidently!

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?

What a Difference 5 Years Makes

Five years ago RIGHT NOW we were wrapping up the true beginnings of what would become Youthmark.

A Little History…

While serving as an associate pastor in Phoenix, AZ it became very clear that I was not the fit for the church I was serving. Elisabeth and I had prayed (a lot) and we just knew it was time to move on (and hopefully back to WA). The plan was for me to talk to the senior pastor during our one-on-one time late in the week, but I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit (or the quake of bad pizza the night before?) and on Monday afternoon I walked into the senior pastors office, sat down and said, “it’s not a fit.” He graciously responded, “let’s make this the best transition ever.” To this day, I am thankful for his response.

We didn’t know what was next, it was gigantic leap of faith, but we knew it was time. That evening I contacted a friend to find out if he knew of any northwest (preferably Seattle-area) openings. He did… the church he was serving! Only, they were down to their final three and IF I got my resume and cover letter to him the next day he would submit it. 

The Dilemma…

We knew even then (2003) that Youthmark was in the future. I had already started writing some curriculum, but we just didn’t know the timing. So, I wrote a cover letter that stated that I wanted to help the church for their next phase of Youth Ministry, but also would be starting an organization, Youthmark at some point in the next few years.

In the Spring of 2004 I started work at the church and put the plans for Youthmark on hold for a few years.

The Beginning…

In the fall of 2007 we had our first Youthmark event; a parenting seminar open to all in the Seattle area. It was awesome, but I knew it wasn’t time to go full-speed ahead with Youthmark plans, nor was the event or events like it going to be the sustainable financial model to get an organization like Youthmark off the ground.

But the event certainly got the creative juices flowing and an itch to start Youthmark needed to be scratched. I decided that the spring of 2008 would be my last as a Youth Pastor (the guys I was leading in a discipleship group were graduating that spring too). I was done the last day of June 2008 and on July 8 (after taking one week tour of baseball stadiums with my dad and brother) I began Youthmark as my full-time gig!

The Anniversary…

Today marks the day that we concluded our first ever Youthmark Mission Venture related event. I risked big time (like thousands of dollars big time) on an event, a Youth Pastor & Spouse Retreat to pitch Youthmark Mission Ventures to about 24 people. We rented out rooms and a conference room at a 4-Star hotel in downtown Seattle. Over the course of about 24 hours we ate well, laughed a lot and were able to share the dreams and vision of Youthmark Missions. 

Here are some pics from that event:

View from our hotel

View from our hotel

training

training

Old Spaghetti Factory!

Old Spaghetti Factory!

The name tags made it feel official

The name tags made it feel official

gifts for each of the participants

gifts for each of the participants

packed with goodness

packed with goodness

table discussions about what could be in the summer of 2009!

table discussions about what could be in the summer of 2009!

The Changes…

  • God blessed us with 16 teams that first year.
  • The next year we had 24.
  • By the third year I knew the model was not sustainable, but there wasn’t much I could do to change course, I knew I needed to slowly turn the model without losing momentum. That summer we had 40 teams go out with Youthmark.
  • Finally, the fourth year, I started to change the model and began sharing with other organizations the opportunity to partner with Youthmark, essentially saying “let us concentrate on the weeks outside the mission, you be the experts in the mission trip (Mission51).” That summer we still had 53 churches parker with us.
  • This last year we have moved away from Mission trips (though Youthmark still does send a limited number of customized specific trips) and began partnering exclusively with ministry partners. Our premier partner, Youth Missions International, received the majority of our previous church partnerships and did a fantastic job serving them. All of these teams still get all the materials for before, during and after the mission.

Now Youthmark concentrates on Mission51 (hosting the Spring Retreats) and creating new materials for all things Youth Ministry (like Pray21 and many other new products due out in 2014), while I continue to do more speaking, consulting and training! What a journey!

I am amazed at what God has done in these first five years, I look forward to seeing what my 10 year post will look like!

Grace,
Brian

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?

Grace,

Brian

You Think It Is A Promotion; You’re Wrong.

Unfortunately it’s a story I have seen repeated all too often.

Youth pastor- you think taking on more opportunities will lead to greater role and possibly a promotion. More likely it will lead to weaker ministry, extreme fatigue, complaints and possibly burn-out.

Here’s the pattern… The gifted energetic Youth Pastor arrives at his or her church and helps establish some great (needed) changes in the student ministry.

  • He knows the golden rule says, “don’t change anything for several months.” But we all know that this is impossible; but the good ones only make minor changes otherwise their uphill battle gets too steep.
  • She knows that establishing relationships with students, staff, parents and the congregation (all at the same time) is needed to build an effective base for long-term ministry. It’s difficult, but she is able to establish a good balance.
  • Though tempted to satisfy the older (louder) students, he makes the right call and asks a volunteer already known by those students to really build into the upperclassmen while he builds a base with the younger students.

He (or she) was hired to be the Youth Pastor. Her (or his) job description calls for her to shepherd the teens in middle school and high school. And thus far, he/she has done a GREAT job!

BUT THEN IT HAPPENS!

The youth pastor begins to graduate students to a non-existent ministry of the church (college/young adult). Or, the youth director is extremely gifted in music and the elders have seen how students and adult leaders have responded in worship. Or, quite possibly, the student ministry pastor has shown his gift of teaching during fill-in times for the main service and is now being asked to preach quite-often.

It’s fantastic to be wanted.

  • You’re tired of graduated students needing to go over to “that church” to be in the college group- so you volunteer to start the Young Adults Ministry.
  • strum-tastic-823478-mYou love playing the guitar and there are a number of gifted students in your group that you can get upfront with you- so you accept the invitation to take on main-service worship once (or twice… or three times) a month!
  • You LOVE God’s Word, and quite honestly, you may want to be a lead pastor someday- so taking on a sermon every fifth or sixth week would help you.
  • You discovered in a counseling meeting with a student that the problem was not the teen, rather the disconnect between the parents. So you begin meeting with them to help them. You’ve seen progress- so you commit to once a week (but then word gets out and more requests come as well).

THAT JUST HAPPENED!

Each of these areas are great investments and it is NOT WRONG for you to take any (or even all) of them on as long as EACH of the following takes place:

1. If married, your spouse is onboard with the changes (and you’ve both prayed about it).

2. All of the church leadership is made aware of the new roles you’re playing so that there is not confusion or accusation of overstepping bounds.

3.Your job description is updated to reflect these new expectations.

4. Your compensation is changed or  it is recognized that it will be reviewed at such-and-such time in the near future. -OR- someone is hired in youth ministry to replace the hours you’ll be giving up (because after all, they did hire you to work with the youth).

5. Parents, adult leaders and students are invited into the communication and celebration regarding these changes (otherwise the only thing they see is that you’re paying more attention to other ministries, and neglecting student ministry).

If all of these (and probably a few others) don’t happen, it is best for you to keep your focus on what you were hired to do!

Grace,
Brian

Hide and Go Seek Anyone?

Hide and go seek…

Kick the can…

Sardines…

These were all some of my favorites growing up and as a youth pastor. Well, it seems I just finished a masterful game of “all of the above” when it comes to my blog.

I plan to be back to writing after Labor Day after an unintended break.

Though I’ve stayed pretty regular on my writing for Dare 2 Share, I have completely stayed away from my own blog over the summer. This was a surprise to me… but it came with good reason. I plan to write about the unintended break sometime this weekend and post it next week.

But no worries, I’ve heard the “ollie ollie oxen free” call! I’ll be at home-base and blogging again next week!

Grace,
Brian