Friday, June 24, 2016

The Secret “Blue Book” Is Finally No Longer a Secret

If you’ve ever talked to someone who has a “Blue Book,” they probably told you, “Sorry, you can’t really get these—and I’m not giving you mine.”

The Blue Book is one of the most well-kept secrets in Young Life.

Some people have them, most people don’t. And nobody knows how to get one.

How do you know you’ve seen one of these unicorns? Well, it’s blue and has a little cross on the front.

My dad’s actually the guy who created it.

And for the past...I dunno, 15 years (most of my life), I’ve had random people I don’t know Facebooking and emailing me saying, “Hey…how do I get one of those Blue Books? Can you get me one?”

My cut and paste response: “Here’s my dad’s email address. Have a nice day.”

Don’t get me wrong though—I totally get it. People love it because it’s not just a devotional. Each week is organized by the season of life you’re in, and for every season of life, there’s about 20-30 of the best quotes from the best Christian books ever written on the topic.

But none of us thought it’d get as huge as it did.

Actually, it started as a little booklet he gave to his youth group leaders when he was a Youth Pastor in Knoxville.

The name “Blue Book” is just what everyone started calling it when he first shared it.

Then people started emailing him, saying, “Hey, my friend has this and I’d like to get one. Can you send me one too?”

Then lots more people started emailing.

Soon enough, thousands of people were asking for them.

Only problem is, they were expensive to ship. The only way you could get one was by directly emailing Jim Branch and saying “Hey, will you PLEEEEAAASE send me some blue books?”

And still, thousands of people wanted them. But the shipping just made it too difficult.

So here’s the big news (if you’ve been looking for one you’ll be excited):

After 15 years (as of June 21) this book has finally made its way to Amazon, and now it’s widely available. In fact, as of this writing, it’s the #2 bestseller in the Christian Devotionals category.

Of course, I may be biased since I’m his son and all…but I honestly think this is one of the most powerful resources anyone can have in their library. It’s led me and thousands of others into deeper intimacy with Christ, and continues to have a huge impact today.

Since the book came out, I’ve gotten 4 messages like the one pictured here.

This one has a brand new cover (sturdier, don’t worry), as well as 10,000 words worth of brand new stuff Jim wrote in this new version. 

When he found out I was writing this, he wanted me to deliver this message:

“I never imagined in a million years it could be helpful to so many people. It’s really humbling and overwhelming. It’s always been a bit of a spiritual journal of the themes that God has led me through on my own journey with him. To see others benefiting from it is amazing.”

I’m so thankful that my dad’s spiritual walk has impacted so many people. I’m also really thankful he’s my dad. 

-Tim Branch

Thursday, June 23, 2016

One-on-Ones: Both at Camp and at Home

Written by Lyn TenBrink. This post first appeared on YL Capernaum Everywhere but is helpful for all different types of Young Life ministry.

You know those moments when someone is intentional with wanting to meet you for coffee and just hear about your life? That’s a "one-on-one."

That same special feeling and the same intentionality are what a one-on-one is like at camp, or any other time, with our Young Life kids and friends. It is a gift. A gift of intimacy, generosity, and care in the holiest of ways.

To begin, we thoughtfully pray and think through a kid’s context and where we see the Gospel story intersecting their story. We sit down and generously care for them through thoughtful questions and sharing our own story.


There is a great Young Life resource on the basics of “Sharing the Gospel One on One”.

This document offers great theology and the whys of a one-on-one. This is just as true for Capernaum as for traditional kids. But we may need to think about this a bit differently with Capernaum friends or for any traditional kid who learns uniquely or who may have experienced life in drastic ways.

Daily or Weekly

Also, most Young Life camp weeks have a specific day of the week scheduled for one-on-ones. But with kids who learn or process uniquely a one-on-one may need to be part of every day. With the kid to leader ratio in Capernaum this should be possible. For certain kids, especially kids who have experienced trauma or simply process and learn differently, a one-on-one can be the most likely entry point for the gospel - more than anything else they experience all week.


The whole camp week is designed for sharing the Gospel. It is important to allow our middle and high school friends to respond to what they are hearing, experiencing and feeling in their own way. So having questions, visuals, word cards, a device may be essential to them responding. They have listened and participated in most things the camp week has had to offer. A one-on-one is their turn to respond in whatever way is most comfortable for them and it is our chance to listen or learn how to respond and share the Gospel in their context.

So what are some ways to prepare for one-on-one times while at camp with a kid who processes or learns differently?

Prior to Camp Week
  • Have trip leader connect with speaker and get scripture stories that will be shared from up front.
  • Meet with your team and decide which leaders will be doing one-on-ones with specific kids while at camp.
  • Collect information from your team experiences, family members/guardians or teachers on the best way to communicate with each kid/friend and find out the best way they can communicate with you. Do they use a device? Do you need word or picture cards to point at? Do you need to walk or have a gadget to maximize their attention? Etc.

During Camp Week
  • Pay attention to where the talks are intersecting with what you know about your kid/friend.
  • Pay attention to the “experience” you are having during the week that may help process talk content.
  • Tell kids early in week that their leader will be spending one-on-one time with them sometime during the week. Perhaps say this in a variety of ways so kids understand what is coming is a positive experience.
  • Ask questions about what they are hearing about Jesus to glean understanding.
  • Ask about what life experience they may have had that may complicate or get in the way of what they are hearing. Let them know in their way that they were heard.
  • Contextualize all of that with them in their way.
  • It may be helpful to ask “yes” and “no” questions around their processing of the gospel.

Post Camp
  • Following up with an additional one-on-one time is key upon returning home. Often when kids/friends get in the comfort of their own environment processing is easier but it is also important to bridge camp learning to home in a concrete way.
  • Notice what you learned about God and your kid/friend in the one on one process. Thank God. Replicate it for life. We all need to be known in this most intimate of ways.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Taste of the Kingdom

Today I had the privilege of going to one of my favorite places in the world—Windy Gap. And guess who I saw there?  I saw you, Young Life leader! O, maybe not you literally (or maybe so), but I saw you.

I saw you, who prayed so hard for months (or even years) that your friends would sign up. I saw you, who worked so hard every weekend to raise enough money so that your friends could go. And I saw you, finally sitting beside them in club, laughing, singing, and still praying that they might hear about the incredible love the Savior has for them. The very same love you have been captured by time after time, otherwise you wouldn’t be here in the first place.  

And you know what I saw today when I saw you? I saw a hero. Yeah, I know, most days you don’t feel very heroic.  Most true heroes don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that you are one. What you are doing this summer—whether you are home from camp already and trying your best to continually pursue your friends who went, or literally at camp right now, pouring yourself out for an entire week so that your friends might come face-to-face with Jesus, or yet to go to camp and still praying that God might get your friends on the bus—is nothing short of heroic. Thank you for giving yourself to give your friends a taste of the kingdom. Today you brought a smile to my face, and more importantly, you brought great joy to the heart of our God.

Written by Jim Branch.

Monday, June 13, 2016

We'll Be Back Next Monday, June 20th

I just returned from an incredible backpacking trip with my Campaigners group in the North Carolina mountains. Since I'm playing catch-up on the rest of life, I'm putting the blog on hold for a week and we'll be back next Monday, June 20th. 

It was awesome to stop by Carolina Point at the end of our trip and see Capernaum camp in action. So thankful for Suzanne Williams, Tom Combes, Andy Davenport and all the assigned team, property staff, interns, summer staff, work crew, leaders and buddies. The presence of the Lord was evident all over camp and on every whipped-cream covered face! 

If you're a leader in the southeastern part of the US, I'm putting together a guide for a Young Life adventure trip in the Pisgah National Forest area of North Carolina. There are so many amazing trails, waterfalls and mountains around that area. I just finished leading my 13th trip through that part of the state and hope to have details ready to share in a couple weeks so you can enjoy some of the same hidden treasures in God's great playground.

-Drew Hill

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Letter To YL Leaders Who Helped Your Friends Raise $ For Camp

Dear YL leader who helped me fundraise for camp,

Thank you! More than you'll ever know. I know you have better things to do than to sell popcorn door to door with me. I know you're tired of washing cars and waking up at 4am for yard sales. I know you're probably tired of my mom always calling you asking how we're possibly going to raise all that money for camp. I know you've got to be exhausted. And I know I rarely say it to your face, but thank you.

We're going to camp together next week and I can't wait. You told me it's going to be the best week of my life, and although I'm not quite convinced yet, I do trust you. I trust you because you don't just tell me you love me with words. I trust you because you are there for me. You've been with me. You were right there beside me when we about sweated to death moving that furniture. You worked even harder than I did when we had to pull those weeds for three hours in the blazing heat. You even sent letters to your friends asking them to send in money to help me go to camp.

Why would you do that for me?
Why would you love me like that?

I know it has something to do with this guy Jesus you keep talking about. I don't know him, and I'm not sure what I really believe about him, but I'm guessing if he's anything like you, I'd probably like the guy. Maybe I'll even meet him next week at camp? Who knows?

Maybe he'll change my life like he's changed yours. Maybe one day I'll actually be able to impact others' lives like you've impacted mine. I sure hope so.

Are we seriously riding on a bus together for thirty two hours? Thirty-two? I can't wait!


Monday, June 6, 2016

The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Campaigners Group This Summer

Last summer I took two of my high school friends on a weekend excursion. The primary reason for the "Bob-Goff-like-caper" was to give us a chance to listen and discuss Steve's talks below during the drive. I'm convinced that car ride forever changed the direction of their lives and deeply impacted an entire school for Christ.

In my opinion, the most valuable thing you can do for your Campaigners group this summer is to get them to listen to Steve's talks. They're life changing and shared below with his permission.

2009 South Carolina Campaigners Camp at Carolina Point. Talks by Steve Gardner, Regional Director for The Carolinas.

Saturday Morning (download from Google Drive)

Saturday Morning (download from Dropbox)

Saturday Night (download from Google Drive)

Saturday Night (download from Dropbox)

Sunday Morning (download from Google Drive)

Sunday Morning (download from Dropbox)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Table Questions for Meals at Camp: PDF Download

During a week at Young Life camp we get the privilege of eating around 20 meals with our middle and high school friends. For most of those meals, we're seated at a round table for the very purpose of promoting "family style" conversation.

We live in a busy world. Most families are spending less time eating and talking together. In a culture where we're more used to facing screens then facing each other, it might seem uncomfortable for your adolescent friends to sit at a round table. Thirty minutes of food and conversation might feel like an eternity.

Below are some questions to help facilitate conversation during those meal times. Make sure not to make the meal feel like an interview, just let it be natural conversation. Pick a couple questions from below and have them in your back pocket for when you need them. I typically just do one "meal question" at every meal. Kids come to expect it and some even look forward to it. Sometimes I let individual kids suggest a "meal question" as well. Breakfast is usually a more light-hearted question as folks are still waking up. Questions can get deeper as the week goes on. 

Written by Drew Hill

Download a PDF of the questions here.

Potential Camp Meal Questions



  • Why did you come to YL for the first time?
  • Tell us a nickname you've had and how you got it.
  • What are one or two of your pet peeves?



  • What's been one of the most exciting moments in your life?
  • What's been one of the scariest moments in your life?


  • If you could dispense any condiment out of your pinky finger on demand what would it be?
  • Choose one of each to describe you:
    • Talker/Listener
    • Doer/Thinker
    • Spender/Saver
    • Optimist/Pessimist
    • Starter/Finisher
    • Extrovert/Introvert


  • If you could pick the meal for tonight, what food would it be?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Who was your childhood hero and why?



  • If you got a tattoo, what would it be and where?
  • Tell us the names of your family members, and describe your relationship with them.


  • What's the best or worst vacation you've ever been on?
  • What is your favorite place on the planet?


  • What is the highlight of your week so far?
  • Finish the sentence: "I wish God would...."



  • What is your favorite summer movie you've seen so far and why did you love it so much?
  • If you could be any movie character, who would you be and why?


  • Say 3 things about yourself, one being false and have the group guess which of the three statements isn't true.
  • If you could have any question answered, what would it be?


  • If you were given 2 million dollars and could buy any vehicle for everyone in our group, what type of vehicle would you buy for each person and why?
  • What is one way your parents have sacrificed for you?



  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • If you knew you wouldn't fail, what's one thing you would like to do in life?


  • Who do you wish would have come with you to camp this week?
  • With what famous person would you most like to share a meal? What would you ask them?
  • What's the hardest part of being a teenager?


  • In what area of your life do you feel most satisfied right now? Why?
  • In what area do you feel least satisfied?
  • What do you think God has been revealing to you this week?



  • We heard about the gift of God's love for us displayed on the cross last night, what is another one of the greatest gifts you've ever been given?
  • Who knows you best?
  • Who has the greatest influence on you? What person(s)?
  • What's your favorite meal we've had this week?
  • What's the funniest thing you've witnessed this week?
  • What are 3-5 words your parents would use to describe you?
  • What are 3-5 words your friends would use to describe you?
  • What are 3-5 words you would use to describe you?
  • Encourage everyone at your table to go around and give each person a compliment.



  • How would you describe your relationship with Christ right now?
  • If you had to live this past week over again, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?

If you have other ideas for creative interaction around meal-times at camp, email us here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Care for Your WyldLife Friends at Camp

Written by, Rob O’Donnell, WyldLife Representative, Eastern Division

As WyldLife leaders, we have a lot of different hats to wear at camp. Many of our students are experiencing overnight camp for the first time. With that experience come many thoughts and feelings. Normally, they would go to their parents, but instead, we get to be there for them.

As their leaders at camp, we have a very important role to play in their lives. We are called to “not only share the Gospel, but our lives as well.” This can take on many different forms during a week of WyldLife camp.

The students who come with us are at various places developmentally. Some students will need more care and "one-on-one time," while others we may have to track down every time there is an event or meal. We need to be able to recognize each individual’s needs and cater to those needs as best we can.

Middle schoolers do not want to be treated like elementary school students any longer. At the same time, there is a healthy anxiety for them as they step off of the bus into a new place, far away from home, and without their parents. We want to create an environment where they can explore and grow in a healthy and safe way. We want them to take risks, try new things, and to begin stepping into maturity.

As they try new things during the week, we have an opportunity to come alongside and care for them. They do not need someone hovering over them every moment, but we do want them to know that we want to spend time with them. It all boils down to “earning the right to be heard.”

As we care for them, they're gaining a sense of self, because we're treating them as individuals. They are beginning to understand who they are and that they can make decisions for themselves. This is so important, because during the week we're going to ask them to consider the greatest decision they'll ever make! 

If we're babysitting them, they will continue to look to someone else to make that decision for them. If we care for them well, they will understand it is their decision to make, and that we will continue to walk through that decision with them.

As you prepare for WyldLife camp, take some time to pray that the Lord will reveal to you how to care for each camper individually. It sounds like a daunting task, but God knows each of the kids who are coming. Pray for the knowledge of when to step back and when to engage with kids. Remember, when we're at camp, we are on holy ground! God has gone before us, and we can pray with great expectations that our WyldLife friends will come to know Him!

Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Lead Cabin Time at Camp

One of the highlights of a week at Young Life camp is cabin time. If you've never led cabin time or if you're just feeling nervous as you prepare to do it again, below are some ideas that can help.


Seek Wisdom

Be intentional about getting trained in how to lead cabin time. Meet with your Area Director/staff person or another experienced leader and ask them how they do it. Experience is the best teacher.

Prepare for a Marathon

You wouldn't go into the Olympics without training before you got there. A week at Young Life camp is going to feel like a marathon, physically and spiritually. Get physical and spiritual rest. Be with Jesus. Cast your cares and fears upon Him.

Earn the Right to be Heard

Once you have spread mulch, washed cars, and sold doughnuts with kids to help them raise $ for camp, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. My pre-algebra teacher had a sign on her desk that said, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." Spend time BEFORE you get to camp earning the right to be heard. Your hours fundraising and doing contact work before camp will directly impact your cabin times at camp.


Connect With A Head Leader

Head leaders serve on the Assigned Team and their main job is to help you. If you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask one of them to come and sit in your cabin time with you.

Set Group Rules With Your Cabin
  1. Everyone sits on the floor in a circle. No one on their bunks. It’s too easy to fall asleep and when folks are on different levels it makes it hard to look one another in the eye.
  2. What's said in cabin time stays in cabin time. We want this to be a safe place and not a starting place for gossip. Protect kids. Stand up for them. Sharing honestly could leave them vulnerable to laughter, ridicule, and shame.
  3. Respect one another. When someone is talking, don't interrupt. I use a pair of clean, balled up socks. When you're holding the socks, you can talk. When you get done talking, you toss the socks to someone else.
Facilitate Conversation

Our job as leaders isn't to use the cabin time to give another talk. Listen more than you speak. Don't fear silence. Be patient. Invite everyone into the conversation. Try to open cabin time with a question that everyone can answer. Get folks involved who might otherwise just sit there silently. Make sure to use open-ended questions that cannot be answered with the words "yes" or "no." It helps if you are familiar with the questions and can be more conversational. Don't just read questions off of a sheet and check them off, be engaging and facilitating a conversation. This is a learned skill that takes practice. I think it's worth practicing with a group of leaders before you even get to camp!

Take Notes

I have a pocket-sized notebook I carry with me everywhere at camp. I take notes during the club talks and during cabin times. I tell my cabin on night 1 that I'm taking notes because I want to be able to remember everything. It's super helpful to write things down that we're said in cabin time so you can follow up later with specific kids. I also use the notebook throughout the following school year to help me pray for kids.

Individually Prep Kids

If there are kids in your cabin who have been to camp before, pull them aside before cabin time and ask them to 'hold back' and not give 'all the answers.' Ask kids who are following Christ to help you facilitate the time by chiming in appropriately.

Night One

On the first night of camp it's ok to let the cabin time be brief and not super deep, but make sure you set the precedent that your cabin is going to do this routine every night, non-negotiable. Let them know that you want to hear from them. Club is their time to listen and cabin time is their time to speak. 

Listen to the Holy Spirit

Your camp speaker will likely give you great questions to use in cabin time. Don't feel obligated to use all of them, they are just a guideline. Listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide your time. Don't stress if you feel like cabin time isn't what you had hoped. It's not your job to manipulate kids, just create a safe place, set the tone, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead.

Read the Room

Ask the Lord to give you an awareness of what's going on behind the scenes with the kids in your cabin. Some of them are dealing with heavy stuff. After the cross talk on night 5, there will be some kids who want to have a 4 hour cabin time and some that don't want to talk at all. Be aware of how the conversation is going. It's okay to end cabin time and ask a few individual kids if they would like to keep meeting while the others are dismissed to free time.


Often kids will go silent if you ask a direct question about them. Ex: "What is the biggest temptation you personally face?" If you simply rephrase the question, "What do you think are some of the biggest temptations people your age face?" they will be more likely to speak up.

Tell Me More

If a kid cracks open a door to their heart, be sensitive. And when it's appropriate, ask them to tell you more. The simple phrase "tell me more about that" will give kids permission to go deeper.

The 10 Best Questions

Follow your camp speaker's lead as to when certain questions should be asked, there is a strategic progression throughout the week, simpler questions at the beginning and deeper questions as the week progresses. Below are some of the best questions that have led to deep discussions in our cabin times in the past.
  1. What do you do to be noticed? (Rephrased: What do your friends do to be noticed?)
  2. How would your friends describe you?
  3. What emotions describe you these days? (Frustrated, lonely, confused, etc.)
  4. Describe your best day.
  5. Describe your worst day.
  6. What is your relationship with your parents like?
  7. Finish the sentence, "Jesus, don't you care that..."
  8. What have you done to deserve a relationship with God?
  9. How has your picture of Jesus changed this week?
  10. What is keeping you from believing and following Jesus?

Take it Home

Many Campaigner groups have started out of cabin times at camp. At the end of the week suggest to your cabin, "Wouldn't this be awesome if we could continue having cabin time regularly once we get back home?" Go ahead and look at your calendar now and find some time that could work for you to schedule a few post-camp cabin times after camp.

Written by Drew Hill.

Here is a link to tons of great cabin time questions collected by Sean McGever at

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Power of Telling the Story: How we made $1850 In 20 minutes

We're leaving for summer camp soon and still have lots of money to raise.

Our YL team told kids and parents "Do not let money keep you from going to camp. Pay what you can and we'll commit to helping you raise the rest."

We've spread mulch.
Cleaned a fence.
Held an Ultimate Frisbee tourney.
Sold doughnuts.
Built trophys.
Organized files.
Washed cars.
Cleared brush.
Pressure-washed driveways.
Flocked houses.
Pulled Weeds.
Mowed lawns.
Painted walls.

It's been exhausting, but incredible. I'm not sure there's a better type of contact work than camp fundraisers. Raising money alongside your middle and high school friends to help them get to camp is uniquely bonding. It communicates love through action. "I want to spend a week of my life with you so badly that I'm willing to sit beside you and pull weeds to help get you there."

We've typically been making $10/hr, but in the past week we made $1,850 in just twenty minutes!

How? By telling the story.

Yesterday after church I was talking to a couple I don't know super well. They asked what I'd been up to lately. I told them our YL team had been working with kids all weekend to raise money to help get them to Young Life camp. To my surprise, the husband replied, "You know, I actually met Christ at Young Life camp 25 years ago. Thanks for what you're doing for those kids."

We talked a while longer and I left super encouraged. It makes pulling weeds feel worth it when I imagine my high school friends getting to share the same story with someone in the year 2041.

I honestly wasn't even thinking about that couple donating any money towards camp, but last night at 11pm I found an email in my inbox that made me cry like a baby.

"I didn’t want to say this out loud at church, but we would be happy to cover the cost ($925) of one of your kids going to camp. I know what it can mean in the life of a high schooler, so we would be honored to contribute."

Totally unexpected. Blown away. God provides.

Earlier this week something similar happened.

I sent a Facebook message out to guys I've taken to YL camp in the past. It essentially said, "Fellas, remember the best week of your life? In a month I get to take another group of high schoolers to Colorado for them to experience it as well. We still need to raise a lot of $ to help us get there. If you want to donate anything, that would be sweet."

I only heard back from one guy, but he called on Monday and said he wanted to cover the entire cost of a camper.

That night I was able to call a high school guy who needed money to help him get to camp and tell him the good news.

Thanks be to God!