Youth Specialties Blog

Trending This Week (Jan 16)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 14 2015 | 0 Comments

Every week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look at how single-solution Christian formation doesn't work, the importance of not wasting ministry opportunities, researching the new app "Swipe," and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Ginny Olson (@Gsong) wrote a great review of the new film SELMA and included a FREE discussion guide for your crew - CLICK TO VIEW

Tony Jacobs (@tjcollide) shared some encouragement: "What If Every Day Was Like New Year's Day?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Jennifer Fitz (@Jennifer_Fitz) wrote this great post: “Single-Solution Christian Formation is Guaranteed to Fail” - CLICK TO VIEW

Justin Knowles (@justinknowles3) shares a change in ministry approach: “It’s Okay For Youth Pastors To Not Hang Out With Students” - CLICK TO VIEW

Andy Blanks (@AndyBlanks) wrote: “The Importance Of Not Wasting Our Ministry Opportunities” - CLICK TO VIEW

Adam McLane (@mclanea) talks about the new app “Swipe” - CLICK TO VIEW

Benjamin Kearns (@averageym) shared: “Want a raise? Here are 4 ways to get there” - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Lecrae’s performance on Jimmy Fallon - CLICK TO VIEW

A black lab takes solo bus rides to a dog park - CLICK TO VIEW

Chameleon bowling - CLICK TO VIEW

Hockey player gets chokeslammed by his own hockey stick - CLICK TO VIEW

An older post but it’s still hilarious… Shaq’s Gold Bond commercial with some odd tweaks - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 14 2015 | 0 Comments

What If Every Day Was Like New Year’s Day?

By Youth Specialties on January 13 2015 | 0 Comments


There is something about New Year’s Day that brings us a sense of hope. It’s a chance for a fresh start and a healthy beginning. We begin to believe in ourselves again and set out with new resolutions, goals, and dreams.

I read recently that 90% of New Year’s resolutions are never fulfilled. That truly broke my heart. That’s a lot of hopes and dreams that never get realized. But why?

It might be because we just give up. We forget that the Christian life is not a steady upward climb. It’s a mixture of mountains and valleys, of deaths and resurrections.

That’s why we need New Year’s Day more often than once a year.

If every day is like New Year’s Day, we can give ourselves the same grace that God gives us. We can allow ourselves a new beginning every morning, choosing to believe in ourselves again.

This year, I am yearning for God to be more a part of every facet of my life. I have always known that I alone can’t change the condition of my heart. However, year after year I set new goals, dreams, and resolutions to change. I find myself changing small things, but it is never sustained.

That’s why this year I’m bringing everything to God daily. I’m asking God to open my eyes to grace, that I might look at each day like it’s New Year’s all over again. Every day brings a new start, a new hope, and a chance to run after the deepest longings of our lives. I have come to understand that doing any kind of change on my own is impossible. My hope this year is that I will sincerely seek His face with a yearning to know Him. I want to truly step into the possibility, promise, and peace of knowing that He is king over my life. I believe on the other side is the freedom to make those hopes and dreams a reality in my life.

My hope is that we will all begin to look at each morning with the same hope of New Year’s Day, partnering with God to make some real change, not just failed resolutions.

Tony Jacobs has been serving students as a youth pastor for 25 years. He is also the founder of Colliding Moments soul care ministry. Tony’s heart is to come along side people in ministry and help them walk through broken seasons.

By Youth Specialties on January 13 2015 | 0 Comments

Selma: Review + Discussion Guide

By Youth Specialties on January 12 2015 | 0 Comments

One of the first scenes in director Ava DuVernay’s excellent thought-provoking film Selma will feel familiar to any youth worker. A group of young girls are chattering as they head down the stairs at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on their way to Sunday school. The conversation about hairstyles offers the viewer a glimpse into the ordinary innocence of the moment. As the young adolescent girls head down the stairs, past a stained glass window of Jesus, the next moment rocks the audience, even those who know their history. The immediate and violent destruction of young lives in a typical church setting drives home the harsh reality of the Civil Rights Movement. The scene, while shot with a respectful and artistic eye, makes the point on a visceral level that violent injustice has no respect of age or gender. The fight for justice in the Deep South in the 1960s wasn’t just fought in halls of government, but in the streets and in the churches. It was not an intellectual exercise but one that came at the price of lives, even young lives.

In the film, Selma, the bombing in Birmingham in 1963 sets the stage for what’s to come in the next two years. DuVernay chooses to focus on one intensely charged political period and yet still gives the filmgoer a broad view of the complexity of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Youth workers will understand on a unique level the scene that features a fierce debate about who should be the rightful leaders of the movement in Selma. Young adult activists, who had been laboring for voting rights in Selma since the previous summer, argue with seasoned veterans like Andrew Young (played by André Holland) and Dr. King (David Oyelowo) who appeared to be taking over the work. Although not portrayed in depth, we get a sense of the crucial roles that young leaders like Diane Nash (Tessa Thompson), James Bevel (Common) and John Lewis (Stephan James) played in fighting for justice as well as other young protestors who marched, bled and died for civil rights.

The real and bloody cost of standing up for what one believes is driven home by the scene where the protesters first attempt to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. DuVernay  vividly captures the tension and fear amidst the marchers as they courageously face the police. The second and third marches across Edmund Pettus Bridge give witness to the broad community that rose up in vivid response. Young and old, Black and White, pastors and lay people, Jews and Christians marched together for a cause they believed in.

Selma is an exceptional and relevant film that raises critical issues that inform us not only about our past, but also about our present. Its themes parallel current news stories to the point where in a one scene where David Oyelowo, playing a brilliant and nuanced Dr. King, is preaching at a funeral, the audience gasped, realizing that he could easily be preaching that same message in America today.

A strong cast and a compelling story beautifully filmed make this a film worth seeing multiple times. Plan on taking a group and going out afterward to talk through the characters that were portrayed as well as the decisions and the consequences of those decisions on not just the activists, but also their families. “Selma” is a film that will stimulate conversations about our past, as well as our future, and the role that young people will play in bringing about reconciliation and transformation.

The folks supporting the film have put together a discussion guide to help your crew unpack the experience. Download it for FREE: 

As you begin to share this discussion guide with your students, send us an email or comment below to let us know how you used this resource and be sure to add to the ongoing conversation using the #MarchOn hashtag. 

Ginny Olson is the director of youth ministry for the Northwest Conference of the Covenant Church and an adjunct professor. Before entering academia, she was involved in hands-on youth ministry for more than 10 years at various churches and camps including serving on staff in the junior high ministry at Willow Creek Community Church.

By Youth Specialties on January 12 2015 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Jan 9)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 08 2015 | 0 Comments

Every week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include thoughts on making their ideas your own, utilizing trends without building your ministry on them, online dangers for teens, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination.

Blogs From This Week

Stephen Ingram shares some helpful insight when you feel stuck: "What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do" - CLICK TO VIEW

Brian Aaby used 5 questions to help us reimagine ministry for 2015: "Five Questions That May Change Your Ministry" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Jen Bradbury (@ymjen) shared some great thoughts on “How to make their ideas yours” - CLICK TO VIEW

Sam Rainer (@samrainer) wrote about utilizing trends while being careful not to build a ministry on them - CLICK TO VIEW

The good folks at @YouthMinMedia put together an infographic worth checking out - “Teen Online Dangers” - CLICK TO VIEW

Such a great post from Jason Gaston (@JasonGaston): “The Little Things Go a Long Way in Youth Ministry” - CLICK TO VIEW

#Hashtag To Review

Here is one of our favorite #hashtags from this week. We pulled the twitter search for the hashtag and made it clickable so you can easily view and scroll through all the wisdom in 140 characters or less. 

#MarchOnCLICK TO VIEW - If you were at NYWC Atlanta, you saw a preview of the new movie Selma which was just released to theaters this weekend. It’s a powerful film and folks are already posting their thoughts with the hashtag #MarchOn.

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Downton Abbey (With My Bros) by Dave and Brian (@daveandbrian): CLICK TO VIEW

Having a rough week? Just watch these Pandas frolic in the snow - CLICK TO VIEW

Why are we ticklish? - CLICK TO VIEW

Puppy tries to reclaim bed from unimpressed cat - CLICK TO VIEW

A hilarious mash-up of Jurassic Park and Parks and Rec - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 08 2015 | 0 Comments

Five Questions That May Change Your Ministry

By Youth Specialties on January 07 2015 | 4 Comments

I had the privilege of coaching a few years of high school basketball and soccer. Having grown up playing many sports, I hated halftime; it just meant time away from the competition (though I did love the orange-wedges during soccer games). But as a coach… I LOVED halftime. Not only did it provide a breather for the athletes, it gave me the opportunity to encourage and make necessary adjustments to the game plan if needed.

As a youth pastor, I LOVED Christmas break for similar reasons. During the two-week break from regular programming, I took the time to individually encourage the team (leadership team, parents, students), but I also used the time to assess the game plan and ask some key questions.

In this post I’d like to provide you five questions that perhaps you can ask yourself before you get too far into the second half of the year. Be warned… if you take the questions seriously, you just may change your ministry (and this may not be a bad thing).

1.    If I were on medical leave for two months, what would happen to the ministry?

2.    If the way I modeled peer outreach (how I reach out to the unchurched in my age bracket) were the only example students were following, what would the student ministry look like?

3.    If I could not repeat a single camp, retreat, mission or event from 2014 what would we do differently in 2015?

4.    If I could not use electronic/social media in 2015, how could the ministry improve?

5.    If I were not allowed to publicly teach (preach, give the “talk,” etc.) or lead the Bible Study, but could disciple those students, leaders and parents who were, what would the ministry look like in 2015?

My prayer for 2015 is that “youth ministry” in the US gets more personal, more creative, more relational and that students, leaders and parents discover their gifts, talents and skills and are given the opportunity to exercise these attributes! Maybe 2015 needs to be a year of risk?

Get ready… the second half has just begun!

Brian Aaby is the director of YS Search & Coaching, assisting churches with personnel placement and provides coaching guidance for youth leaders. Brian served for 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 January 07 2015 | 4 Comments

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

By Youth Specialties on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

The following is a linked post by friend and long-time youth worker, Stephen Ingram. Check out the original post here.  

Original photo by JD Hancock.

We all have those times in our student ministry where we just do not know what we should do next. There are times when we know that something is not working as well as it used to be and we are scared that it will not be working at all soon. These can be very scary times. Below are a few things that have helped me figure out what to do next and have given me some peace about where I am until I figure out where I want to be.  


One of the first things that I find helpful, especially for my strengths/personality type, is to get as much data as I can. I like good, hard, non biased data. I first want to look at numbers. I know this feels very dirty to some youth ministers, but get over it. Most everyone else is judging you on numbers, so you need to take this into account as well. Watch patterns and compare data trends over corresponding weeks for the past months and years. This will help you get a sense of overarching trends or determine if something particular happens around the same time every year. It might also help you pinpoint a time when you began seeing a decline in attendance or energy. Whatever you do, DO NOT try to explain away your number situation. “It was a really nice day” or “It was raining” or “there was a really good curling tournament on the Ocho”... Let the numbers speak, dont speak for them.


Ask parents, students, volunteers, friends and mentors what they are seeing. This might be surprisingly therapeutic. I, by nature, am always harder on myself, and when I talk to others I find that things are not nearly as dire as I had thought. I do not ask so that I will feel better, I ask for perspective. I want to hear what others are seeing. Do not ask for opinions in some fatalistic way like “Hey Pastor Bob, why do we suck so bad right now?” Ask more open ended questions like “We are trying to reevaluate what we do on Sunday Mornings, what are you seeing?” These are non-self condemning and they let others know that you care about improving the ministry, not putting a band aid on the hull of the titanic. When you get answers/opinions, do not feel that you need to implement all of them. You are just collecting ideas, not trying to make a quick fix plan.

Be Patient

Now once you have collected the ideas, opinions, data, and brainstormed; be patient. I love to cook. When you have a tough piece of meat, the best thing to do is to let it simmer on low heat for a long time. The name of the game is patience. Let all of that information and data just simmer...

Check out the rest of the post where Stephen expands on his final 2 points "STEP AWAY" and the "THE 20% ADVENTURE" on his website here

Stephen Ingram is the Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, a coach with Youth Ministry Architects, and author of "Hollow Faith and [extra] Ordinary Time."

By Youth Specialties on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Jan 3)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

Each week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look back at 2014, some encouragement as you think about the next year, the only question that matters, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

After 45 years of NYWC, we STILL know why you do what you do... - CLICK TO VIEW

We found some great New Year's perspective out of the YS Vault from Mike Yaconelli: "Where's Jesus?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fred Oduyoye (@FredOduyoye) gave us "4 Disciplines for a New Year" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Walt Mueller gives a thought provoking post on @CPYU: “Eavesdropping, Marriage, and the Age of Decadence…” - CLICK TO VIEW

A little encouragement from Josh Griffin (@JoshuaGriffin): “The Dry Wasteland of Youth Ministry” - CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) talks shares his favorite leadership books from 2014 - CLICK TO VIEW

“Taking Time To Remember and Reflect” from @NxtGenJournal - CLICK TO VIEW

A great post from Leader Treks (@LeaderTreks): “The Only Question in Youth Ministry that Matters” - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Taylor Swift gives Christmas presents to her fans, winning 2014 by making all of us cry - CLICK TO VIEW

Amazing break dance moves - CLICK TO VIEW

Some days you just can’t remember which side of the car the gas cap is on - CLICK TO VIEW

The cutest toddler in the world tries to teach her dog how to hula hoop - CLICK TO VIEW

Some extra fireworks for you with a super cut of epic movie explosions - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

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