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: http://youtu.be/Wl2_knlv_xw
  • 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).

What I Overheard at NYWC17

dsc02175Ever been in a restaurant booth and overheard the conversation at the table behind you? Maybe you’ve walked into an elevator and heard an exchange chock-full of opinion? Or perhpas you’ve taken part in a focus group where input is freely given?

All of the above happened to me this week in Memphis at NYWC! Here’s what I heard in regard to youth ministry…

In Regard To The Unchurched

Though youth leaders ask, encourage and implore students to bring their unchurched friends to youth group, very few youth pastors are doing anything to engage unchurched friends on their own. One youth director said, “I know I’m hypocritcal, but I don’t know how to get out of this bubble.”

In Regard to Numbers

IMG_3890Most Student Pastors are relationally-driven, but the one thing that consumes much of their time is growing the numbers in their youth group attendance. 50% of our 100+ coaching appointments were in regard to “gaining numbers” in youth group. One Youth Pastor said to me, “I am driven by discipleship in a church that measures attendance only.”

In Regard to Staff Relationships

I was quite pleased to hear FAR MORE encouraging conversations about the relationship between senior pastors and youth leadrers than any other year at NYWC. There were certainly some tough waters, but one conversation stood out where a Youth Pastor said, “it is refreshing to be pursued relationally by my senior pastor; it’s never about the job, it’s always about my life, my family and my relationship with Jesus.”

In Regard to those Training For Youth Ministry

Both students and professors spoke to the need for more practical training— taking the academics to application! As one who works for Youth Specialties, I believe we are bridging that gap practically, but it was so refreshing to hear several professors name the desire to make classroom teaching as practical and real-life ministry oriented as possible. I heard a student say, “my prof came to watch me teach and hung aound all night at our youth group.”

In Regard to Youth Specialties

IMG_9026Through a couple focus groups, several airport, elevator and restaurant conversations I was encouraged to hear the following about YS (several times the persons speaking did not know I represent YS):

“I love that they (YS) are leading the conversation about reconcilliation and are proviing it with their lineup.”

“If I wasn’t a part of the 101 Collaborative and didn’t receive the coaching I received, I would have left youth ministry this year.”

“YS has taken a few punches in the last decade, but they were not down for the count, I now can say I am in their corner and not just cheering for them, but I’ll fight with them… youth ministry needs YS.”

“Finally, an organization is recognzing the need to train bivocational youth leaders— since we outnumber the fulltime youth pastors!”

I love what I get to do with and for YS. I hope you’ll consider joining me in one of our collaboratives and at NYWC St. Louis in 2018!

4 Simple Mistakes Churches Make In The Hiring Process

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-7-06-18-amI almost got side-swiped while traveling 65mph (okay, more like 70) on the freeway recently. The driver of an F-250 pickup apparently did not see me. Though I was likely in this person’s blindspot, I was able to quickly slow down as he jumped lanes, narrowly avoiding a crash.

I probably don’t need to state the obvious, but in the church world we have blindspots as well. And more specifically in the world of church personnel placement I see some obvious blindspots and/or mistakes churches make in the hiring process.

Here are four mistakes I often see:

Repeat Questions.

By the time a candidate is actually doing an onsite interview he or she has likely answered questions about his or her testimony, strengths, weaknesses and philosophy at least a half-dozen times.

Solution: Keep a summary sheet for each candidate and anytime you invite new congregants and decision makers into the process bring them up to speed so you’re garnering new information from the candidates.

Technology

telephone-1-1239731There is no reason for a telephone “conference call” anymore. The comfort and ease for the search team sitting in the same room is fantastic for the people in the room, but not for the applicant on the other end of the phone. Awkward pauses, questions from faceless voices and laughter for no apparent reason only causes confusion for the candidate.

Solution: The internet is your friend. Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and Webex are all better options than the old-fashioned conference call. When you’ve narrowed to a top 5, get online with your candidates and enjoy some face-to-face internet interaction.

Slow-Motion

The adage is that things never happen fast in a church. But I can tell you that search processes do not have to go in slow motion.

Solution: Before you start a search process have an end-date in mind. Outline your meetings in advance. Recruit a team to that plan so that everyone knows how quickly you intend to move. Yes, schedule conflicts will arise, but know that there are only small windows of time that a candidate is looking and once he or she is looking at your church they are often looking at multiple options. Keep moving and keep communicating.

Too Expensive

Stewardship of kingdom funds is a responsibility we have to take seriously, but so is the stewardship of time and relationships. Whether it is the Senior, Executive or Associate Pastor leading the search process, he or she will either add hours to their schedule or take away time from other pressing matters. The average search will take a church 8-12 months on their own. A church must realize that absence of a leader in a critical staff position may actually lead to people leaving the church as well— this will have financial ramifications.

Solution: Outside search firms (such as what I do as YS Search) may actually be the wise

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The Faster & More Affordable Job Placement

stewardship choice. We already have a network of relationship to tap into. We do this as our full-time focus, giving a significant advantage over a pastor taking time away from his or her regular responsibilities. I would make the case that not using YS Search may be too costly for the church rather than the other way around.

Whether you’re changing lanes while driving or making a change in personnel at church, be warned— check your blind spots! A small correction can save you from big mistakes.

How HGTV & Student Ministry Are Basically The Same…

Just to get a laugh I posted this status update on Facebook recently:

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-7-42-42-amI forget the name, but I saw this show on HGTV where the couple remodeling the house discovered issues that were going to cause the remodel to cost significantly more… after the dramatic commercial break they decided to go for it. The house turned out great. Anyone know the name of that show? #hgtv

If you have EVER watched a show on HGTV then you understood the humor— it seems EVERY show on HGTV has this similar storyline.

However, I’m still a faithful viewer of these HGTV programs, because I love to see development. I enjoy seeing obstacles overcome. I love transformation.

img_0196I’m getting so excited about a new venture with Youth Specialties, something that is all about  development and transformation. The 101 Collaborative is a seven-month coaching initiative for those new to youth ministry, in a new role or those looking for a refresher in foundational youth ministry skills and strategies. It launches this spring.

I believe there are three foundational reasons a newer youth pastor should be a part of this Coaching Collaborative.

  1. You’ll Become More Self-Aware

The program is designed for you to better know yourself (your gifts, motivations, skills and strengths) and know how to better communicate these assets to others. I believe knowledge of self leads to improved boundaries and ultimately helps you understand your part in the body much more (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12).

2.    You’ll Develop New Skills and Strategies For Your Context

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-1-58-37-pm

So excited that Summer Sipes and Dr. David Fraze will be joining me as the Coaches for the 101 Collaborative

College and seminaries are excellent, but the actual “doing” of ministry differs from the philosophy you’ve created, adopted or inherited. I’m excited to help our 101 participants take theory into practice and have coaches and peers walk through this together as you contextualize ministry to your own local setting. The “line-up” for 101 includes everything foundational for sustainable long-term ministry success.

3.   You’ll Learn From and Become a Collaborative Community

Youth ministry is relational and the 101 Collaborative will create relational environments where you’ll likely gain life-long friendships and expand your networking abilities. The program itself starts and ends with on-site retreats and then includes monthly online video chat sessions, one-on-one coaching appointments and peer groups.

It’s hard to believe it, but April 24-25 and our opening retreat is just a couple months away. The kicker to me is that we are including the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC Memphis in November) as part of the tuition (arrive one day early for culminating retreat).

Though we only see 43 minutes on TV, the actual transformation of a house on an HGTV program takes several months. I cannot wait to see how a several month process will promote transformation in life and ministry through the 101 Collaborative

You MAY Want to Add These To Your Calendar

The month of May is proving to be a pretty fantastic month of ministry opportunities. Not only will I have a couple trips including a site visit for next years National Youth Workers Convention, but there are a couple local Pacific Northwest Events I am a part of that have me pumped.

I think you (and many others from your church) should join me:

Youth Specialties Team Training, May 1-2

UnknownThis is the ideal setting to get your team talking! Not only does YS bring in great content/speakers, we give your team time to discuss and apply. One of the most prominent things Youth Pastors/Directors identify as a need is more/better lay-leadership training.

My buddy Josh Griffin (from Saddleback Church) is one of the presenters in Seattle this year. I think Josh is one of the best in the business!

The timing is perfect— it’s only a Friday evening and goes through Saturday mid-afternoon. But more importantly, I think the timing (calendar) is perfect— you can use this as an opportunity to recruit your program-year staff for next fall. Give those new recruits some great training that they can test over the summer before you kick-off next fall. Click here to register your team.

Mission51 Retreat, May 8-9Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.51.06 AM

This 24 hour retreat is chock-full of ideas that help you and your students engage in real conversation with those who may not yet know Jesus! Rather than calling it an evangelism training retreat, I see it as a cultural engagement training.

The Mission51 Retreat— training for the 51 weeks of life outside of the trip— is a fast-paced 24 hour onsite-event; meaning: you and your team stay at Grace Church in West Seattle (Friday night) and all three meals are provided on Saturday as part of the training! To register follow the instructions on the flyer here and contact Nathan.

Something for your team. And something for teens!

Join me in May!

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?

Do You Really Trust Your Students?

I don’t get it…

  • One scored six goals in a world cup game.
  • They’ve written world famous operas, inspired nations to battle victories and created the social networking phenomenon.
  • In athletics we’ve seen total dominance from some: a Heisman trophy winner, a Daytona 500 driver and one was arguably the best gymnast ever.933623_72957083

I’m talking about teens.

  • Educators push them to take AP Physics and Calculus.
  • They hold down jobs and we trust them to watch after our own children.
  • They create art, perform, bake, dance and defend our nation.

But in the church…

  • We ask them to listen to us (Sunday morning, mid-week and in small group).
  • We buy them endless amounts of pizza in the hopes they’ll come back.
  • We beg them to bring a friend to the camp that we planned for them.
  • We tell them to sit still while the Pastors and adults speak at them.
  • We tell them they are the next generation of leaders, but give them little to lead.

693583_54538565It’s time we (the church) take the governor off their accelerators! Jesus gathered a group of ordinary young adults (most of them teens), mentored them and entrusted them to start the church. Students can/should lead in ministry. This statement causes angst among many. Some hear “student led” and become anxious, they fear chaos will ensue. Others read it and are threatened, “but how will I use my gifts?” Even teenagers may read it and have their doubts, “We’re too young, we don’t need more on our plate!” Semantics play a role as well; what if we redefined “leadership” as a person who is leading in his or her area of giftedness? We need teen leaders in music, mercy and mission. Teens who are exercising their giftedness in administration and teaching are equally important.

How are you helping a student discover, develop and use his or her gift within the context of ministry? IMG_2503

Students are ready, capable and already leading in so many other realms, it is time (again) for the church to give them room to operate while adult mentors walk with them as coaches and cheerleaders!

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?

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!

Grace,
Brian