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Navigating Staff Transitions: YS Idea Lab with Brian Aaby

Brian Aaby, the director of YS Search and YS Coaching for Youth Specialties, focuses on how we can best serve churches and youth pastors in the midst of staff transitions. He also provides coaching and personal guidance to youth workers during these times. In this YS Idea Lab, Brian took a few minutes to share some key things he’s learned from walking alongside churches and youth pastors in the midst of transition.

If you don’t have time to watch the entire interview, here are some of the helpful ideas he shared:

Work yourself out of a job from the very beginning.

If you wait to empower your leaders to take ownership of your ministry until just before you leave, then it’s probably too late. Brian compared it to someone making home renovations and then selling the house as soon as they’re done—they don’t get to enjoy it nor do they have the opportunity to experience the fruit of their work. It’s important to raise up your leadership long before you know it’s time to leave.

Don’t forget the students in the transition.

With all that happens during a transition, it can be easy to focus on figuring out what role is best for you and where you might be headed next. But you can’t lose sight of all the work God is still doing in the lives of the students. It’s common for ministries in transition to lose two classes: high school juniors and seniors. So it’s important to create a way to help the leadership left behind continue to support the work God is doing in the lives of the students.

Help the volunteers move to a minimalist program.

During transitions, most volunteer teams won’t be able to carry the full load of current programs and events. Brian recommended helping your volunteers transition to a minimalist program, scaling back to the basics that volunteers have the capacity to cover. This makes it much easier for volunteers, and it protects them from the possibility of burnout. Scaling ministry back to the basics is also a gift to the new youth pastor, because it gives that person an opportunity to assess everything and add programs back in when he or she is ready.

Get an outside perspective.

Allow your mentors to offer you an outside perspective on the entire transition process. It will help you make sure the important stuff doesn’t fall through the cracks. If you don’t have a mentor who can offer this kind of outside perspective, contact Brian Aaby to chat about how YS Coaching can help provide that for you. YS Coaching offers counseling, consulting, and coaching to help provide direction for every youth worker, and it’s especially helpful during times of transition. Through YS Coaching, Brian works to support the following people during times of transition:

  • The church losing a staff member
  • The staff member
  • The church gaining a staff member

Brian can work with the church you’re transitioning out of in order to make the change as smooth as possible and to set up the remaining leadership for success after you leave. Brian also works to understand your skill set and passions, which helps when he begins to connect you with other churches.

Look for a position that matches your DNA.

As you’re transitioning out of a church and praying about where God might be leading you next, it’s important to do the work of discovering your personal youth worker DNA: your strengths, your skills, and the unique passions you have for ministry. When you know those details, you can search for a church that needs those particular strengths, skills, and passions. This is another big part of what Brian does for youth workers. He calls it the eHarmony for youth pastors—he helps the right church and the right youth pastor find each other. The search might not be quick, but Brian’s help will go a long way toward making sure you find churches that would be the best fit for you. Check out more details at YSSearch.com.

If Brian Aaby can be of any assistance to you or to your church through YS Coaching or YS Search, shoot him an email at brian.aaby@youthspecialties.com.

The YS Idea Labs are filmed on location at the National Youth Workers Convention. Check out more YS Idea Labs HERE and register early for NYWC to save BIG: NYWC.COM.


JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS. 

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