Youth Specialties Blog

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

How Angela Ahrendts Is Leading Me In Youth Ministry Part 2

By Brooklyn Lindsey on May 11 2014 | 0 Comments

Our good friend Brooklyn Lindsey continues her two-part post about what Apple's Angela Ahrendts has taught her about youth ministry. You can view PART 1 HERE.

How Angela Ahrendts Is Leading Me In Youth Ministry - PART 2

CLICK HERE to view qualities 1-5 from PART 1.

Vic-President Quality #6

Negativity isn't found in Angela's intensity. She isn't a pressure leader. She is a possibility leader. She shares big news with her team first. She thinks of them before she thinks of herself.

Youth Pastor Quality #6

She is full of positivity. Even when changes are needed. Even when things don't go as planned. Even if the tide shifts in an unexpected direction, she looks into the future with God's potential in her pocket. She is living the great commandment to love God and love others with the same intensity. If that is her goal, she will struggle to be negative in anything she does. Because she will be less than we in her mind.

Vice-President Quality #7

Angela usually has one main message: “Thank you.” She does a weekly video update to her large team and she treats that as just as important as a meeting with high level execs.

Youth Pastor Quality #7

Youth pastors spend a lot of time working on and preparing for those times when we get to communicate with our leaders. We get creative. We send videos. We make it easy for them to hear from us. We say thank you. Again and again.

Vice-President Quality #8

She puts a project before her team. Occasionally, at Burberry, Angela would make a request: “If you make a personal call to one customer today, if you all do this, we all win.”

Youth Pastor Quality #8

The youth pastor knows her top priority. She focuses her team and her students on that by giving them something to do. She inspires meaningful cooperation and participation because she sees the win and sees the win being accomplished together.

Vice-President Quality #9

She has a routine—a pattern for alone time. No leader can lead on empty. For Angela, it's reading, a bath before work, rest and focus. It's time spent in the pages of Maya Angelou and John Maxwell.

Youth Pastor Quality #9

The youth pastor makes space every day to recover for some time. To pour out requires equal pouring in. All of us have different nozzles for the filling. Mine is exercise, being outdoors, reading, listening to music. It's time spent in the pages of The Gospels, in the book of James, with Kathy Escobar, Gary Haugen, Tsh Oxenreider, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Donald Miller, Reggie Joiner, and Michael Hyatt.

Vice-President Quality #10

Her job is to be a brilliant brand ambassador. She doesn't sell. Her vocation is to build an amazing brand experience that brings natural effects.

Youth Pastor Quality #10

Youth ministry isn't about selling Jesus. It's about seeing Jesus and knowing Jesus and doing everything we can to be an ambassador in experiences built around Jesus. It's a vision to create an environment that champions spiritual formation and family. As we do this, we advocate for the church and continue to be the messengers of God's good story that we were called to be committed to from the start. Created in God's image and bearing it—we become the experience and we share it with others. The natural side effects are too many to count.


What can you learn from the successful people around you?

Brooklyn is a youth pastor, writer, and communicator who lives in Florida with her husband and daughters. You can learn more about her ministry, resources, events, and connect socially on her website.

By Brooklyn Lindsey on May 11 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (May 9)

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 08 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week we tackled a difficult discussion on racism, we look at 20 FREE fantastic resource from FYI, list an overview of great #hashtags to review, a new section highlighting some dangerous apps your students might be using, and of course, plenty of fun to fuel your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Fred Oduyoye (@FredOduyoye) interviews James White about the systematic issues that are behind Donald Sterling’s racist remarks in a two-part #YSRealTalk. CLICK TO VIEW

We are celebrating BIG changes to the YS Store this week with a very special gift for every physical purchase. CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Our friend Brad Griffin (@bgriffinfyi) put together a fantastic list of 20 FREE resources for youth workers. CLICK TO VIEW

Walt Mueller and @CPYU shared an incredible video discussing how a world of social media leaves so many people lonely. CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) pointed us to this solid article at about examining the current format your using for small groups to see if it has natural limits that could be hindering growth. CLICK TO VIEW

Ben Trueblood (@BenTrueblood) shares a great post about what a long-term approach to discipleship looks like in youth ministry. CLICK TO VIEW

Josh Griffin (@joshuagriffin) shares four practical tips to help keep within those youth ministry event budgets. 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. 

#ystt2014 : CLICK TO VIEW - YS Team Training took place this last weekend in Philly. Lot’s of great youth ministry tidbits for you and your volunteer team (

#ymec : CLICK TO VIEW - NNYM’s (@nnym)Youth Ministry Executive Council met this last week and shared some interesting perspectives.

#PBL14 : CLICK TO VIEW - Pepperdine Bible Lectures (@biblelectures) ran through the end of last week and were filled with tons of golden tweet nuggets.

#luminous14 : CLICK TO VIEW - If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, Luminous Project (@LuminousProject) had some incredible conversations at their event this week.

For Your Information

We just want to keep you aware of these two apps being used by teens for some pretty shocking things.

After extreme cases of bullying and two school evacuations from bomb threats made by students this week through Yik Yak, people are becoming more aware of the dark side to this app. “Yik Yak: The Bullying App Tearing Through America’s High Schools.” CLICK TO VIEW

Gaggle is another app that is being used by students to anonymously send everything from nude pictures to messages bullying each other. One school in Katy, TX has banned the app and I wouldn’t be surprised if more follow suite. CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Procrastinate 

Do you remember that video where a guy gave a homeless man a winning lottery ticket and then the homeless man tried to split the winnings with him? Well, it gets way better when they give him a home. CLICK TO VIEW

Google glass put together a truly amazing mother’s day message. I know that it’s main motivation is to sell me stuff, but I’m still crying. CLICK TO VIEW

Sometimes cats run into glass doors. Some of those moments are caught on camera for a TV episode about a french bakery. It’s only 9 seconds but it’s hilarious. CLICK TO VIEW

A bowl of popcorn that is completely edible. Fantastic. CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 08 2014 | 0 Comments

Big Changes To The YS Store!

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 06 2014 | 0 Comments

Big Changes to the YS Store!

We’ve been hard at work making some big changes to the YS Store so that we can provide a better experience while you’re looking for youth ministry resources. Here’s a quick look at 3 main changes you’ll start to notice:

We’ve moved the fulfillment of online store orders to our main office in Minneapolis.

This allows for a very personal customer service experience as our own YS staff handles your order from beginning to end. So if you have a question or concern about your purchase, it will be our friendly YS staff answering your phone call and ensuring that your product arrives as promised. 

All orders received by 2:30pm Central Time will be shipped out same day.

With our YS staff handling your order fulfillment, we can offer same day shipping on orders receive by 2pm CST and we also offer a lower cost shipping option via Media Mail (in addition to UPS).

We have added multiple publishers to our YS Store.

Carrying multiple publishers allows us to provide you with a wider range of resource options, keeping you up to date on the latest youth ministry resources available.

These changes are a part of our commitment to provide youth workers with the best resources in youth ministry and in the most timely manner possible. It is also a way that we can maintain competitive product pricing as our church partners continue to support our non-profit ministry through the YS Store.

To celebrate these wonderful changes, we wanted to remind everyone of the iconic man tied to the history of Youth Specialties. We're excited to include a FREE copy of Mike Yaconelli's book, “Getting Fired For The Glory Of God” with each order placed during the month of May! It has to be a physical order (not a download order) that ships from our office and we'll add that free copy to the shipment. Our supplies are limited, so head on over to the YS Store to pick up the latest youth ministry resource and get your 1 FREE copy!


Thank you for continuing to be a ministry partner and we hope you’ll enjoy the new YS Store features soon!

By Jacob Eckeberger on May 06 2014 | 0 Comments

Page 5 of 288 pages ‹ First  < 3 4 5 6 7 >  Last ›