Youth Specialties Blog

Introducing YS Search!

By Youth Specialties on May 27 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is written by Brian Aaby, our newest YS team member that we announced last week.

Introducing YS Search!

At YS, nothing gets us more excited than new opportunities to partner with churches in student ministry. That’s why we are thrilled to announce the launch of YS Search. It’s another unique YS resource that pulls in all of our experience working with youth pastors, understanding healthy youth ministries, and assisting our church partnerships that are in the middle of a leadership transition.

I have operated on both sides of the Youth Ministry search equation; as a youth pastor searching for a healthy church and as a part of youth pastor search teams. I know from experience that it’s not an easy transition and I know how much I wish the resources of YS Search had been available to me.

So here’s how it works…

YS Search partners with churches in transition to provide a health assessment, a strategic plan for necessary adjustments that need to be made before new leadership comes into play, and a recruitment team that vets all the best candidates according to the church’s needs.

YS Search partners with youth pastors that are looking for a transition of their own by utilizing all of our church partnerships and championing you and your abilities.

Our goal is for YS Search to be the outside help, perspective, and leadership for both our church partners and our youth pastors so that we can continue to see healthy youth ministries engage students for Christ.

Here’s an excerpt highlighting the recent experience of Two Rivers Church, one of our first YS Search church partners:

Our experience with YS Search was first rate… Working with YS instilled the confidence that they understood our church and culture, and that we were going to find the right person.  On their site trip they spent the time necessary to gather a profile that fit us, rather than coming in with preconceived ideas of their own, and the candidates YS Search brought to us demonstrated a thorough grasp of that... YS Search was able to tap us into resources all over the country and beyond our reach, giving us a wider range of exposure for our position and the potential of folks to fill it... We experienced an ongoing personal investment in our process, and even some hand holding along the way… Grateful for the process, and grateful for a new hire!

If you have questions or would like more information, fill out the form below so that I’ll know more about your needs and how best to help. I’m excited to show you how YS Search can help you as a church that is searching or as a youth pastor looking for your next position!

Brian Aaby is the director of YS Search & YS Coaching, assisting churches with personnel placement and provides coaching guidance for youth leaders. Brian served 17 years as a youth pastor and then founded and led Youthmark since 2008. Brian speaks nationally at churches, camps, conference, and events. He and his wife, Elisabeth, have three children and reside near Seattle. 

By Youth Specialties on May 27 2014 | 0 Comments

Brainstorm: An Interview with Dr. Dan Siegel - Part 1

By Youth Specialties on May 25 2014 | 0 Comments

Mark Matlock sits down with Dr. Dan Siegel to discuss his latest book, "Brainstorm: The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain." In Part 1 of the interview (posted below), Dr. Siegel shares his passion for communicating the different development stages of the teenage brain, why they are important, and specifically what youth workers can do to help support students during these pivotal years. 

Check out more about Dr. Siegel's book "Brainstorm" at his website DrDanSiegel.comCLICK TO VIEW

By Youth Specialties on May 25 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (May 23)

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 22 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week we looked how contemplative prayer might unintentionally marginalize urban youth, Perry Noble shares "5 Thigns Every Student Ministry Must Have To Be Successful," we shared a great conversation about the Church's role with mental illness, we list an overview of our favorite #hashtags to review, and provide some fuel for your Friday procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Our new friend Pablo Otaola (@pablootaola) asked if contemplative prayer was unintentionally marginalizing urban youth. CLICK TO VIEW

We are so excited to welcome Brian Aaby (@brianaaby) to the YS team! He'll be heading up two new resources; YS Search & YS Coaching. Check out an interview with him from this week: CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Perry Noble (@perrynoble) created a great conversation starter with the post "5 Things Every Student Ministry Must Have To Be Successful." CLICK TO VIEW

Amy Simpson (@aresimpson) shared a compelling post at entitled: "Mental Illness: What is the Church’s role?" CLICK TO VIEW

Our friend Jim Hancock (@jimhancock) pointed us to an article from about selfie-improvment apps and how students are responding to a constant need to look perfect: "When Selfie-Improvement Apps Go Too Far" CLICK TO VIEW  

Christopher Wesley (@chrisrwesley) wrote a solid and practical post with "5 Simple Steps To Recruit More Volunteers." CLICK TO VIEW

The kind gentleman Andy Blanks (@andyblanks) over at YM360 shared his recent message to graduating seniors and I think it's a good "forward-able" post to some graduating seniors: "My Message to Graduating Seniors" CLICK TO VIEW 

Our hilarious friends the Skit Guys (@skitguys) released a new video for graduates. It's a good one to send on to your students too... and a bit of a tearjerker: "Graduation: Your Story" CLICK TO VIEW

#Hashtags To Review 

Here are a quick list of some of our favorite youth ministry #hashtags from this week. There is a ton of great insight behind each one. We pulled the twitter searches for each hashtag and made them clickable so you can easily view and scroll through all the youth worker wisdom in 140 characters or less. 

#FaithForward2014 : CLICK TO VIEW - I'm really jealous that I'm not at Faith Forward's gathering this week. It's been packed full of creative collaboration and heavy discussions about ministry and culture. 

#UPN2014 : CLICK TO VIEW - The United Pastors Network had their annual gathering and they were sending out some pretty inspirational thoughts on ministry and leadership. 

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

This teen does Michael Jackson better than Michael Jackson. CLICK TO VIEW

Hilarious life hacks for dogs: CLICK TO VIEW

For that bump of adrenaline... Rally Car vs Formula 1 Car: CLICK TO VIEW

A town in Austria has way cooler bus stops than your town. "Seven of the world's most unique bus stops..." CLICK TO VIEW

Make your own deodorant... ya hippies. CLICK TO VIEW

Great life advice from 12 of the best commencement speeches. CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 22 2014 | 0 Comments

Introducing Brian Aaby

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 20 2014 | 4 Comments

Introducing Brian Aaby

We are so excited to introduce you to our newest YS team member, Brian Aaby! He’s a youth ministry veteran hailing from Seattle who will lead the way on two new YS initiatives—YS Coaching and YS Search, both of which are launching soon. In the meantime, I cornered Brian to answer a few questions so that you can know a little more about him.

How long have you been connected with YS?

(Brian) I have known YS for over 20 years, starting with using ideas from their Ideas Library when I began as a youth pastor at age 19. I participated in many YS events, including numerous YS Core, One Day and of course NYWC (even ran-camera as a volunteer in 1999 when our budget would allow me to get to NYWC). I have spoken at NYWC and YS Team Trainings as well.

What is your favorite thing about working with youth pastors?

(Brian) I love connecting the dots and helping others. I was the recipient of a great network right out of college and networking has always been a source of life for me. Because I am a strategic thinker, the relationships formed through local networks often led to informal consulting and coaching opportunities. I absolutely love collaborative environments and helping others discover how (and where) they can best use their gifts/skills.

As God has blessed me with friendships across the nation, I have had the opportunity to work with many churches now and as much as I love working with youth pastors, I love helping churches discover their uniqueness as well. The best part of this job is the opportunity to work with both the youth pastors and the church to help create the best-fit environment.

What are your favorite things outside of youth ministry?

(Brian) I love spending time with my wife and three kids (12 and 10 year-old daughters and 6 year-old son). I mountain bike in an attempt to stay in shape, and I love watching and going to sporting events (I think I've been to 18 of the major league ballparks). Coffee is a must as well.

You’ll start to see much more of Brian as we officially launch YS Coaching and YS Search in the near future. Keep your eyes out for more info soon! 

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 20 2014 | 4 Comments

Contemplative Prayer: Marginalizing Urban Youth?

By Youth Specialties on May 19 2014 | 9 Comments

Pablo Otaola (@PabloOtaola) is a new friend to YS but has a long history working with urban youth. We're excited to share his thoughts on contemplative prayer and how it translates to students in an urban setting. The post below was originally shared on

Original photo from Stegan Georgi

Contemplative Prayer: Marginalizing Urban Youth?

Prayer. Is. Everything. I truly believe that. I sincerely believe that when people face a tough situation and say, “What else can I do? I did everything I could,” and they have not prayed, they have actually not done everything that they could. I’m sure you’ve heard that and more about prayer. However, on this post, I want to focus on contemplative prayer.

We read and hear about books on nurturing and developing contemplative prayer all the time; at least I do.

I’ve heard my pastor preach on it. I’ve taken seminary courses which were actually called “Contemplative Prayer”. We also hear about all of those times when Jesus or other prominent Biblical figures left the people and went into a quiet place.

Contemplative prayer is a great thing. I try to develop my times alone with Jesus. I try to get away from everyday life in order to be alone with Jesus, to have an opportunity to hear from the Lord.

But here’s my struggle and question as I do Urban Youth Ministry:

Am I marginalizing my youth by the way I teach about contemplative prayer?

The context in which we usually read about contemplative prayer is most often the context of Jesus’ biblical times. Life was slower and the desert was easily accessible thus being rather opposite to the urban lifestyle and context.

Life in the urban context is most often in-your-face, hard, fast and loud. This context is nothing like the “country-like” context of the 1st Century Jew. The 1st Century Jewish context actually reminds me more of the country life that we now see in some areas of the United States.

The urban context can contain some cultural barriers to finding a space to “get away.”

The books that I read are usually written by people of some financial means. People that didn’t grow up in the urban context. People that have the privilege of mobility through cars, money, and a network of people that have “beach houses” that they can borrow in order to “get away”. I’m sure you are thinking, “I WISH I had all those resources at my disposal.”

As an urban youth ministry leader, you know that nurturing a contemplative and quiet prayer life cannot be fully accomplished by doing what most books today say to do. We just don’t have the money or mobility to do so. And even if we do, our youth usually don’t.

What do we do with this?

How do we teach our urban youth, and even ourselves to nurture contemplative prayer without marginalizing our youth into thinking this is impossible or at least highly improbable?

Read a follow up post from Pablo with more of his thoughts on contemplative prayer at CLICK TO VIEW

Pablo Otaola is on staff at Denver Young Life and lead the development of the ministry in Southwest Denver. Prior to that, Pablo served as Area Director in Chicago’s Northwest side as well as the Young Life Midwest Divisional Latino Representative. Connect with Pablo on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

By Youth Specialties on May 19 2014 | 9 Comments

Trending This Week (May 16)

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 15 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week we looked at how students respond to 2 different types of listeners, a shocking infographic about youth ministry burnout, our favorite hashtags from the week, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. Enjoy!

From The #YSBlog This Week

Jonathan McKee (@InJonathansHead) looks at how we can be better at engaging students in conversation. “Which Listener Are You?” CLICK TO VIEW 

Brooklyn Lindsey (@BrooklynLindsey) continues her 2 part post about 10 leadership qualities she learned from Apple’s Angela Ahrendts. “How Angela Ahrendts is Leading Me in Ministry – Part 2” CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Leneita Fix shared at DYM (@DownloadYM) about her perspective as a parent of 13 year old son that is defining masculinity: CLICK TO VIEW

Our friends over at the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (@CPYU) shared an article on with safety tips for kids & tablets that you can share with parents: CLICK TO VIEW

Aaron Helman (@aaronhelman) shared a shocking infographic on youth ministry burnout at Let’s fix these statistics together: CLICK TO VIEW

Chuck Hunt at Fuller Youth Institute (@FullerFYI) put together a solid article with 4 key ways to help students mitigate pain and loss in transition: “What do my students need when transition happens” CLICK TO VIEW

#Hashtags To Review

Here are a quick list of some of our favorite youth ministry #hashtags from this week. There is a ton of great insight behind each one. We pulled the twitter searches for each hashtag and made them clickable so you can easily view and scroll through all the youth worker wisdom in 140 characters or less. 

#StickyFaith : CLICK TO VIEW  – These are great little insights from youth workers utilizing the book “Sticky Faith” by Kara Powell (@kpowellFYI) & Brad Griffin (@bgriffinFYI). 

#360LA : CLICK TO VIEW – Tons of great tweets from the Urban Youth Workers Institute National Conference. 

#EndExploitation : CLICK TO VIEW – These tweets are coming from the End Exploitation Summit hosted by, that is going on today & tomorrow (May 16-17).

Fun Things To Fuel Procrastinate

Wall's Ice Cream enlists some cops in CA to give people an ice cream break: CLICK TO VIEW I really wish a police officer would have given me ice cream the last time I was pulled me over.

Jimmy Fallon somehow convinced Lance Bass to recreate the singing “Big Mouth Bass” by being “Big Mouth Lance Bass." CLICK TO VIEW

Did you know that Chuck Norris gave Bob Barker karate lessons for 8 years? Mental_Floss - “48 Successful People With Unique Hobbies.” CLICK TO VIEW

English is the most common language in the US. But what’s the second most common language? Check out this map from that breaks it down by state: CLICK TO VIEW

Switching gears a little, we found this amazing virtual tour of the National 9/11 Memorial Museum. It’s incredibly moving and worth the time to view: CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 15 2014 | 0 Comments

Which Listener Are You?

By Jonathan Mckee on May 13 2014 | 0 Comments

Our longtime friend Jonathan McKee shared this great post with us. You can check him out this year at NYWC.

Original photo by Melvin Gaal.

Which Listener Are You?

Two teenagers each sit down in front of an adult in two totally separate venues. In each situation an adult asks questions and the teenager responds. 

In one of these situations the teenager is freed to express himself and literally can’t stop talking. 

In the other situation the teenager clams up immediately. 

What’s the difference? 

Maybe you’ve experienced this. You’re trying to engage a teenager in conversation, but he or she immediately puts up a wall and you feel like you are prying answers from the kid. 

Let me introduce you to the two types of listeners: the parole officer and the counselor. One asks questions in search for a violation, the other listens to understand. 


First, I apologize to all parole officers for the stigma. I’m sure there are some great parole officers out there who really care, but I simply use the example because most people are not excited about sitting down in front of an individual who is not only going to ask them questions from a position of authority, but also has the ability to use the provided information against them! It’s a one-up relationship and in most situations, the parolee isn’t very excited to be questioned in the first place. 

Questions can be great tools to engage young people, but not when you ask them like a parole officer in search of a violation.

“Where were you last night?” 

“Was that boy Chris with you?”

These questions aren’t asked with the intent to get to know your kid; they are being asked to gather incriminating evidence. As soon as the poor kid answers something wrong you’ll exclaim, “Aha! I knew it!” 

Similarly, some people ask nagging questions.

Did you turn in your permission slip? 

Did you finish the lawns? 

Did you feed Wolfgang?

Don’t ask questions like a person looking for malfeasance. 

Don’t ask questions like someone who actually uses the word “malfeasance!” 

Instead, ask question like… 


Counselors bill as much as $300 per hour. 

What is so special about what they do? 

They listen without judgment. They sit in a chair for an hour, talking a little, listening a lot… and people pay them big bucks to do so. 


People want to be heard. People want to be understood. People want someone who is willing to put all of their other interests aside and focus 100% of their attention on them, without distraction. 

Most people have to pay for this. 

Funny, in the beginning of my book, Get Your Teenager Talking, I provide a handful of pointers about how to engage young people in conversation. In those first few pages I recommend a skill rarely used by parents. 

The skill is this: notice

Counselors notice. They notice body language, tone and word choice. One reason they are able to do this is because they are actually paying attention. They aren’t doing bills or putting away groceries while casually asking, “How was your day?” 

When’s the last time you stopped and noticed your son or daughter. What are they wearing? Why did they dress that way today? What are they looking forward to more than anything that day? What are they loathing? What helps them numb the pain? Who can they share that pain with? 

Do you know the answers to these questions? 

If you want to get to know your kid like this, you have to learn to approach them like someone who wants to get to know them… not someone looking for malfeasance

Which listener are you?

Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager TalkingThe Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your PocketThe Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.

By Jonathan Mckee on May 13 2014 | 0 Comments

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