Youth Specialties Blog

Death, Be Not Proud: An interview with Audrey Assad about her latest EP

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 27 2014 | 1 Comments

An interview with Audrey Assad

I have been a long time fan of Audrey’s records and have always appreciated her honesty dealing with matters of faith in the midst of life’s questions. All of us at YS are excited about having her back with us for the NYWC Atlanta. To help you get to know Audrey a little more, I took an opportunity to interview her about her most recent EP “Death, Be Not Proud.”

(JACOB) First of all, congratulations on the newest addition to your family! I’m sure it’s an exciting time for lots of reasons and that your pregnancy has brought about some new perspectives. Did your desire to write and record these songs have a connection with becoming a parent?

(AUDREY) "Death, Be Not Proud" was written and recorded mostly in my last trimester of pregnancy...I'd say the themes stem both from the awesome nature of being a soul's vessel for nine months, and also from my experience walking through cancer with my husband. Pregnancy is such a slap in the face to death's bitterness...life begins again, anew, always. Mortality is something we think and speak of a lot in our house, and John Donne's poem (of the same title as the EP) has long been a solace for me in my interior conversations with God. I couldn't help but set it to music, I suppose.

(JACOB) I love the imagery of the EP cover photo with the beauty of a pregnancy next to the title phrase, “Death, Be Not Proud.” It makes me think of times in my life when even the darkest moments seem pregnant with hope. How has your faith brought you to a point where you can so boldly say, “Death, Be Not Proud”?

(AUDREY) Everything from my parents' divorce when I was 25, to my husband's cancer diagnosis in 2011 (he's cancer free now!) is part of this record...it is in those things and through those things that I have truly learned the beautiful truth that death is not just the end of a life, but a door to what lies ahead—and in the midst of the effects of Death in the world, it can be very hard to remember that. The truth I cling to can be best summed up in John Donne's own words; 'Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so— ... one short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more—death, thou shalt die.'

(JACOB) My favorite track is probably, “Love Is Moving.” How do you hope that message of God moving among us can encourage students and youth workers in the church?

(AUDREY) I've always loved the story of the woman with the issue of blood who touched Jesus' hem and received healing, by her simple faith. I wish for a faith like that...I've often said that I write the songs I need to sing the most, and this one is no exception. There is (I hope) a really hopeful tone to this record, because Death is not the end. Jesus moved among us physically in his life, and moves among us today by His spirit.  (Also, being a Catholic, I attach a special significance to the song, because I wrote it thinking of the Eucharist, which we believe is Christ's Body and Blood present among us on the altar.) I hope that, among all the devastation of broken homes, sickness, and death, both youth workers and young people today can clutch the same truth close that I do–this is not the end, this is not the end. That truth may not change our circumstances, but it does change us.

(JACOB) The song “Receive” is a beautiful picture of the church and how we receive the message of Christ. Thinking back to your own faith experiences growing up, did you have moments when a youth worker helped you understand these things?

(AUDREY) For some reason I am hearkening back to a moment when I was 17 and sitting on the front porch with a relative of mine who worked with youth...I was heartbroken over a boy, and she counseled me to always hold my hands open around the things and people I loved for two reasons--firstly, that it would hurt less if I had to let go, and secondly, my hands would be in a receptive position for whatever God's plans were for me. I'll never forget that little (big) lesson.

(JACOB) We’re really excited to have you back at the National Youth Workers Convention this year in Atlanta. What do you think connects you the most with youth workers?

(AUDREY) I don't exactly know! Haha. I suppose maybe it's the simplicity of how I approach church music...youth workers are as diverse as any group in terms of temperament--and as I often lead alone, on piano, I wonder if maybe that's a respite for the introverted and/or contemplative types in the room!

Be sure to pick up Audrey’s EP “Death, Be Not Proud” and join us for NYWC 2014

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 27 2014 | 1 Comments


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 YouthSpecialties.com 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 QIdeas.org entitled: "Mental Illness: What is the Church’s role?" CLICK TO VIEW

Our friend Jim Hancock (@jimhancock) pointed us to an article from CommonSenseMedia.com 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 33vii.com


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 33vii.com: 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 USAToday.com 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 SmarterYM.com. 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 PornHarms.com, 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 Neatorama.com 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


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