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

Presentation or Conversation?

Auditory? Visual? Kinesthetic? How would you describe your learning style?

IMG_2195In a few weeks I’ll get to once again participate in a youth leader event that is different than any others. Open Seattle takes place on Saturday, October 26 at Seattle Pacific University.

One of the things I really like about the premise of Open is that it is geared to reach any and all of the three learning styles. Rather than being “spoken at” for 45 minutes to an hour, the speaker/facilitator of each session will engage his or her own material, but create an atmosphere that engages thought and conversation. Each 40 minute session closes with 10 minutes of interaction between any/all who are in that room. They’ll engage the visual, auditory learners will hear great stuff and perhaps some practical “lab activities” will take place for those hands-on (kinesthetic) learners!

At Open the leadership assumes that the speakers are not the only people with something to say! I love this.

There are about a dozen different options spread out over two different learning tracks (you can switch between the two as well), a long lunch break to engage deeper in conversation and the afternoon ends with something new called “Lightning Rounds” where any/all who attend  are given the opportunity to do their own “mini” session in 5 minutes or less!

I have the privilege of partnering with Adam McLane of the Youth Cartel and serve as “Local Host” for this event.

Snap from 2012 Open Seattle

Snap from 2012 Open Seattle

This is such a great opportunity to have your entire team trained. Seriously, one Saturday could supply your entire year of monthly trainings for your youth staff. Have a different leader assigned to take notes at a session of choosing and then divide them up over the course of the year and have them facilitate a staff discussion about these important teen-ministry issues!

Here is the website and registration page! Totally worth the $25 investment! In short, open is more of a conversation than a series of presentations! I hope you’ll join the conversation!

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

3 Phrases I Disagree With (Sort Of)

My latest post at the Dare 2 Share blog may have you wondering if I’ve lost my senses… I make the argument that I really don’t like these three phrases:

  • “Make sure you invite your friends to youth group.”
  • “Sign up for the mission trip!”
  • “You want to get saved?”

I have a lot of fun writing for Dare 2 Share and I can see already that this latest post has gotten some good action! Check it out here!

Grace,
Brian

You Want Me To Talk About My Faith? Seriously?

Ask a teen about her favorite movie and you may be caught listening for a few minutes.

Ask a young man about the best video game out there and he’ll talk up a storm.

A teen athlete may go on and on about his last game.

But ask a Christian teen about his/her relationship with Christ and you may get a blank stare.

“You want me to share about my faith?”

Yes, it can be intimidating, but it’s mainly intimidating because we just aren’t practicing it.

In my most recent post for Dare 2 Share, I answer a basic question via video, “How can I bring up my relationship with Jesus to my friends?”

Check out the full post here or watch the video below.

Grace,

Brian

 

Summer & Fall 2013, Speaking Needs?

I got a late start on my spring cleaning, but who can blame me, the spring was jam-packed with all things BUSY! Mission51 Retreats, consulting and speaking at a couple conventions/conferences.  But the cleaning did begin!

The fish was THIS big! My stories are NEVER exaggerated!

The fish was THIS big! My stories are NEVER exaggerated!

I would love to head into the summer with most of the little clean-up projects taken care of so that I can get rolling with some larger Youthmark projects (a few big writing projects). I’m pumped about this summer, time with family, time for writing, but yet my schedule is fairly open, perhaps a little too open? If you have summer or fall speaking opportunities, I’d love to fill in some gaps for you…

I just updated my speaking page, you can link to it above or right here. Maybe your church or org should be added to that list? Don’t hesitate to contact me (just give a few details of what you’re looking for and when)!

My car is clean, the garage is next! Blessings on your late spring!

Grace,
Brian

 

 

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?

closed 

/klōzd/

Adjective

Not open.

Synonyms

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.

Grace,
Brian

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

    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!

Grace,
Brian

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!

Grace,
Brian