Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WyldLife Wednesday: Camp Followup

You prayed, raised money, talked to parents, sent packing lists and this summer you headed to WyldLife camp with your middle school friends. Camp – the place where God can and does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) 

But what happens when you get home from camp? Kids need to see that you didn’t just love and pursue them to get them to camp. Whether your kids decide to follow Jesus at camp or not, they need to know you still love them and want to spend time with them.

We asked some of our WyldLife experts what camp follow-up looks like with middle school kids:

Host a camp reunion within a day or two of coming home.

Set the dates and locations for the reunion and other follow-ups before you go to camp. Give parents a flier with the details when they drop their kids off and pick them up. Send a reminder email to parents and post the reunion on Instagram for kids. It is important that both parents and kids have the information.

Don’t forget cabin time.

Serve pizza, watch camp videos, jump in the pool and play games at the reunion, but set aside 20 minutes for cabin time. Share a short lesson and then split into groups to talk about it. Or consider giving kids 10 minutes alone to read a Scripture passage before meeting with their cabins to discuss.

Get together once a week.

Transportation and schedules can make daily camp follow-up difficult. Instead, gather weekly with your campers. The time can include snacks and an activity before a short lesson and cabin time. Middle school kids have short attention spans so the games and activities are a must.

Spend time with kids.

If a weekly gathering isn’t a good option, find other ways to continue building relationships with kids from your cabin. Schedule time with kids to grab lunch, play Frisbee or sit by the pool.

Invite kids to church.

If kids don’t already attend church, invite them to come with you. Be sensitive to middle school kids who already go to church with their families. Encourage them to go and hear things differently.

Spend time with new believers.

Middle school kids can and will make decisions to follow Christ, and they need your help as they start that journey at home. Because they are concrete thinkers, a “quiet time” may be difficult to grasp. Give kids an age-appropriate devotional book with Scripture to read and questions to answer.

Get parents involved.

Ask parents to find locations for your camp follow-up, bring snacks or drive carpool. If their kids had a great week at camp, parents may be excited about making sure WyldLife happens in the summer and next fall.

There may be no time of year when kids are more excited about WyldLife and Jesus. Don’t miss the opportunity to help them experience the community and life they found at camp back at home. Good camp follow-up can lead to great ministry in the fall.

Written by Julie Clapp.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Taste of the Kingdom by Jim Branch

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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Actual Questions Written by High Schoolers at Camp

Below are actual questions written down by high schoolers during the Questions Seminar at camp. 

Some of your middle, high school, and college friends are likely asking similar questions.

Spend some time wrestling with these, listening to the Lord, and seeking wisdom from spiritually mature folks who can help you navigate these difficult conversations with your friends. Let's also be praying for the Young Life staff around the world who are answering these questions at camps this very week.

Hard Questions

How are people without God in their life still living happy lives, sometimes even more happy than the Christians I know?

How do you know when God is speaking? How do I know it’s not the devil?

If God is all controlling, how could he not prevent the situation with the serpent in the garden?

Is it sinful to believe God out of fear and not out of love?

What do we do about people who say they are Christians, but their actions don’t match what they say they believe?

Just like the game “telephone,” how do we know the Bible is all true and not distorted?

Is insanity a demon inside or a simple mental disorder?

How should Christians view alcohol and drug use?

What does the Bible say about abortion?

What can I do to better understand the Bible?

What does God say about homosexuality? I know Christians are supposed to be against it, but I still want to support it, is that ok?

Did God really create the world in 7 days?

My grandpa died without knowing Jesus, but my dad said that if we pray for him, God will have mercy. I don’t know what to think about that.

Why is there so much violence done in God’s name in the OT?

So if we have free will, but in God’s eyes, we are all pre-destined already, what’s the point of evangelism?

What about all the old rules that talk about old, weird customs, like eating kosher?

Looking at how the Bible talks about women makes me feel like it’s outdated, is it?

What happens to people who don’t believe in God? Are there different layers to hell?

How do you validate the Bible? Do you follow it strictly or cherry-pick which parts to believe?

At what point should you not forgive someone?

What about people who have never heard abut God? Can they be saved?

How do you deal with doubt?

I know God commands people to obey parents, but my friends parents are Muslim, so what does he do if he wants to become a Christian?

Is any sin worse than others?

Is there an unforgivable sin? (Matthew 12:22-32)

When Jesus died on the cross, where did he go? to hell?

How do you know if you’ve really “felt God?"

Is there any way to lose salvation? 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

When It Doesn't Feel Like "The Best Week of Your Life"

Written by Caitlin Stowe, YL staff in Portland, OR.

I would describe our camp week as one that felt like Hell, but was really just what it looks like when Heaven comes to Earth.

Pictured here are many of the beautiful faces we had the honor to take to camp this summer with Portland Central. I have come to love all of them deeply, but let me tell you, they were my enemies for that week at camp.

"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either...If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? 

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
- Jesus, Luke 6:27-36

This camp trip was the hardest week of camp I have ever been a part of.

Our kids were highly disrespectful, fights broke out, camp staff was at a loss for how to love and lead our kids, and leaders from our area were exhausted from constantly being on alert. Even the kids that were attempting to be engaged in camp were consistently being distracted by others, and it just felt like a week that would never end. I knew God was there, but by the end of the week, I was starting to wonder if He was actually there for our kids.

I have never felt more emptied out in my life then at the end of this camp week. And when I reflected on that once I got home, I ran across that scripture from Luke above. I realized, while most camp weeks involve sacrificial love (sacrificing your time, comfort, energy, and emotional support), they have typically always been with kids that love me back. They may not love me in the same way I love them, but they have always trusted me, had fun with me, engaged with me and wanted me around. While there were moments when it was heavy or tiring to love them, there was always some element of it being easy.

My girls (and the guys) from this summer respected me, but it was apparent trust was hard to come by. They did not always want me around. They would lash out in anger towards me, turn cold on me abruptly, and were just generally so selfish with their emotions and actions. I felt like I had emotional whiplash from the mood swings they would have with me. There were very few moments at camp where love came easy. Well - let me clarify. Having a deep love for these kids came very easy and very fast for me (thanks to the Father's love in me), but living that love out was a different story. Choosing to turn the other cheek and take another hit, knowing another hit is almost certainly going to come, is exhausting. Giving and lending to someone you are positive will not be giving anything back to you, gets tiring. Doing good to someone who doesn't acknowledge your presence for half of the day is discouraging.

Yet, that is what Jesus does with me every day. That is how Jesus loves these kids every day. And I had the privilege to live that out for one short week. It was the hardest week of camp I have ever had because I have never had people in my life that are harder to love. And I have never had people in my life that I desperately want to fight for harder; fight for them to come to know True Love and hope.

This is what it looks like when Heaven comes down to earth, when God's love tangibly meets a reluctant heart; it is messy, yet so beautiful.

"We have lost count of the number of times before our summer events begin where we have found ourselves pacing up and down, feeling out of our depth, and saying something like, "Lord, save us, it feels like we're drowning." Inevitably a few weeks later we are rejoicing and telling stories of His kindness, His power and His love. Each time we have known the intimacy of tightly holding his hand and seeing miracles happen."  - Mike Pilavachi (Everyday Supernatural)

As leaders, being as emptied out as we were, we had nothing left to offer kids of ourselves. We were spent. So if we were going to continue on, we would have to rely on Jesus' strength and love.  We were desperately and humbly dependent on Jesus, and we knew any good that came from this week was all Glory to God. There was deep intimacy there, holding His hand, and getting to simply trust He would show up.

And He did!! Many kids came to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior at camp! And many kids felt more wanted then they have ever felt before, and more known. God's love was good. And He was there for our kids. 

Lydia accepted Jesus as her savior for the first time at camp, Mavis had this picture of Jesus as a fanatic criminal debunked and marveled at his love for her, Nya comes from a Catholic background and for the first time understood Jesus actually wants a relationship with her, and Anna's story I'm going to dive into a bit more. She comes from a family that is not religious, and at camp she informed her leaders she was not there for the Christian stuff, but just wanted to have a good time. At the beginning of the week, she greatly missed her phone, missed her friends, but was set to make some memories at camp. She made tons of new friends, had multiple camp crushes, and even asked one of them out on a date to the snack shop at camp. However, during cabin time, she never engaged with the "religious questions," continuing to say she was not there for that. During her one-on-one with a leader, when the conversation turned too deep, she always seemed to derail it back to the shallow things of life. Day 7 rolled around, it was time to go home, and she was sad to leave all her new friends, but from a leader's perspective, it seemed like a week she never gave God a chance to show up. This is how we felt about most of our kids this summer.

Two days after being home from camp we had a camp reunion at a park in Portland. Anna showed up that night, and her leader asked how being home was. She said fine. Morgan (her leader) asked how having her phone back was? She said fine, she hasn't really been on it. Morgan dug a little bit as to why that was. Anna said she hasn't really been talking to her old friends, "they just don't get it." Morgan dug a little more, "they don't get what exactly?" Anna responds, "Ya know, I just think camp was a pretty life-changing experience, and it is hard to talk about with people who weren't there with me. I've mostly been hanging out with friends from camp." "Oh, what was life changing about it?" "Ya know, I think it is a pretty life-changing thing when you get to talk to the true and living God."

What?! She did not talk about any of this all week, yet once she gets home, she can't deny what really made the week great for her. It was her encounter with God! AMEN! 

This is just one of many stories we have heard since being home from camp of how God showed up in radical ways that we just weren't getting a glimpse into at camp. 

Camp was full of all of the Lord's joy, love, and hope as years before... it was just a little harder to recognize this year.

I am so thankful for these kids that are in my life.

Please continue to pray for them. That they would continue to fall more in love with Jesus. Pray for leaders. That we would continue to be filled up with Jesus' love to then pour out on these kids. Pray for the summer in Portland. That life to the full could be found here; that hope could be found here in Christ.

If you have a Young Life story to share, email us here.

Click here to join the Young Life leader email list.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Was Jimmy Buffet Right?

Written by Chad Conant, Area Director in Littleton, CO.

Jimmy Buffet was on to something. He once sang "Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, Nothing remains quite the same." 

There really is something to our surroundings having a big impact on us. When we go on vacation, the change in our surroundings changes our mood. It often calms us and gives us a chance to reflect on our lives in a new way. And it often brings about laughter and fun, too. That change in geography changes our perspective. And with Young Life summer camp, we see this every year. 

In our spiritual lives, geography matters, too. I bet you can remember where you were when you gave your life to Jesus. I bet you can remember where you were when God became real to you. For me, it was in the basement of the house I was raised in. And just two months later, while in San Diego on a youth mission trip, Jesus showed up again and my relationship with God was forever cemented. To this day I visit Pacific Beach in California whenever I am given the chance. I still drive by my old house from time to time remembering what God did for me there. 

In scripture, we see a connection with geography and significant encounters with God throughout its pages. It happens early in the Garden of Eden where we see Adam and Eve walking with God there. After the fall of mankind, we are introduced to important places in scripture like Jerusalem, Jericho, Gibeah, Capernaum, Bethlehem, Bethany, and Bethel. In all of these locations (and many others) God showed up and met his people there. In these places, he brought healing, new life, new vision, new direction, and a new way to live and interact with God. 

Many of the cities where we do ministry often feel like dysfunctional places for kids- filled with bad habits, destructive relationships, addictions, and powerful temptations that kids can’t seem to say no to. Home can sometimes feel like a dark place.

And so getting kids out of their typical surrounding and carting them to summer camp is a BIG DEAL. It really is. Camp is often where kids first connect with God. 

It’s much like Jacob encountering God at Bethel. Jacob’s life was a mess. Jacob had tricked his brother out of his all-important blessings of being the firstborn. And he had deceived his father over it, too. His relationships were broken and his brother was plotting how he was going to kill Jacob once their father had died. In order to escape death, Jacob fled from home (thanks to his mom’s warning). All in all Jacob’s life was not going well…and while on the run, far away from home, God appeared to him at Bethel. 

For kids, the story is often similar. Life isn’t going well. Their choices have left them feeling hopeless, alone, overwhelmed, and sometimes on the verge of death. But then they go to camp. And it is their Bethel. It is their Capernaum. It is their Bethany. God becomes real to them in this removed place. 

As we take kids to camp this summer, this is what we have to look forward to. This is what we have to be excited about. This is where kids will meet and interact with the God who created the very place where they will encounter him. 

For many of these campers, it will be the first time they ever interact with the Lord. Hearts will be healed. Sins will be forgiven. Addictions will be kicked to the curb. A new relationship with God will begin and a new inner strength will work from the inside of these kids allowing them to live differently and to live in freedom, even when they return back home. 

This summer, an entire generation of kids will be forever changed. Load the buses, we're headed for Bethel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Get a Free Slurpee Tomorrow!

Celebrate an American tradition with your Young Life friends tomorrow! Every July 11th (7/11), 7-Eleven gas stations offer free 7.11 ounce Slurpees at any of their locations. Easy, fun, free contact work. Find a 7-Eleven near you here.

If you go with your Young Life friends, email us a pic and we'll share it on social media.

Each year, 7-Eleven features a new flavor for Free Slurpee Day and for 2018 that flavor is Red Dawn Monster Mutant, a new take on the classic Cherry Slurpee. You don't have to get this flavor for your free drink, but it will be an option for you.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Free Chick-fil-A Tomorrow: Cow Appreciation Day

Grab your middle, high school, and college friends and head to Chick-fil-A tomorrow, Tuesday, July 10th, for Chick-fil-A's annual Cow Appreciation Day. If you partially dress like a cow, you get a free entree.

If you go with your Young Life friends, email us a pic and we'll share it on social media!

Some ideas for dressing up from CowAppreciationDay.com

Start With What You Already Have
Cow-printed accessories stashed in your closet will work perfectly. Hats, vests, scarves, neckties, pants, shoes, pajamas - just about any cow-spotted item will work. Just make sure you're covered head to toe.

Wear White & Just Add Spots
Throw on a white T-shirt with white pants (even sweatpants) and stick on your spots using black contact paper. If contact paper is not easily accessible, you can cut spots out of construction paper and tape them to your shirt and pants. If nothing else, you can grab an old white T-shirt and color black spots all over it with a sharpie - and you'll still get a free entrée.

Paint Store
Go to local paint or hardware store & get a white painter's hat and overalls. Then decorate yourself with spots made out of contact or construction paper.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tim Keller's Advice For Helping Teenagers Grow In Their Faith

When Tim Keller was asked his best advice for helping teenagers grow in their faith, this was his answer:

"Teenagers have more information about God than they have experience of him. Get them in places where they have to rely on God."

It got me thinking. Where are the places where my high school friends have to rely on God? How do we as Young Life leaders help get them there?

4 Ways We Invite Our Teenage Friends To Rely On God

Invite Them Into Adventure

We strategically fill our camps with high-adventure activities for this very reason.

The high ropes course.
The Quantum Leap pole.
Riding a 1000 pound horse.
Zip-lining.
Rappelling.
Fill in the _______.

Risk requires faith.

What adventure will you lead your friends into this year?

Will you start a clothing line to feed the poor?
Will you work together to end slavery?
Will your Campaigners group give up soda for a year to bring clean water to a village?
Will you go overseas with YL Expeditions?


Invite Them Into Silence

In a world where we're more socially 'connected' than ever before, it's easy to never be 'alone.' To never experience 'silence.' We can always have someone to talk to, even if its an X-box Live opponent we've never met. Our loneliness is masked by relationships as shallow as our iPhone screens. Our mood is dependent upon our online approval rating. Let's invite our middle and high school friends into intentional times of silence and solitude, turning off our phones, but not just for a week at camp.

What if your Campaigners group this semester started with phones turned off and in a basket. What if it ended with 20 minutes of silence? Torture? A declining Campaigners attendance? Maybe. But it's always a highlight at camp. Could it happen on a weekly basis?

Could turning off our dependence on the world's approval give us enough silence to hear what our Heavenly Father thinks of us?

Invite Them Out Of Comfort

Fifteen years ago we spent our college spring break working at Pico Escondido YL camp in the Dominican Republic. I stayed with a family in a shanty that would be deemed unfit for habitation in America. They had one bed and insisted I sleep there while they made pallets on the floor. I still remember the light in their eyes.

They did not depend upon earthly possessions.
They did not depend upon their health.
They found joy in relying upon Christ alone.

There are people in our city who have no homes.
There are refugee families who have no friends.
There are elderly men and women who never have visitors.
There are sick people who have no hope of a cure.

"Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress." James 1:27 (Phillips)

Let's invite our friends out of their comfort zones...
and into relationships with people who have nothing else to depend upon.

Invite Them Into Prayer

Prayer is the ultimate act of reliance upon God. It's admitting weakness. It's saying, "God, I can't, but you can."

What would happen if you gathered a few of your high school friends next week just to pray? What if you met at the school with no other agenda than to pray for God to move? What if it became a weekly sacrifice, to get up early on Fridays, just to pray? I can't think of a more intentional way to invite them to 'rely on God.'

What God's Word Says About Relying On Him

John 6:63
1 Peter 5:7
Jeremiah 17:5-9
Proverbs 3:5-6
Philippians 4:19
Jeremiah 33:3

What would you add? How else can we invite our teenage friends into places that force them to rely on God?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"How 'Bout I Take You To Him?"

Written by Alex Holroyde, Young Life Area Director in Northeast Columbia, SC. 

Ryan had been praying for Sam since the beginning of the school year. He so badly wanted Sam to know Jesus' reckless love for him. 

Each week, Ryan invited Sam to club, picked him up and drove him home. A few months ago Ryan invited Sam to summer camp at Windy Gap. Sam was a little unsure because he had football workouts and other sports camps throughout the summer. With some persistence and courage, Ryan asked Sam's mom about Windy Gap and told her "he needs to come." Ryan promised it would be the best week ever. Sam finally decided to go and Ryan's prayers were answered. 

They arrived at camp and as the week went on, Sam was having the time of his life but wasn't so sure about the whole Jesus thing. He had doubts and questions and didn't know where to even begin. Ryan became a little disheartened but kept praying. 

On day six, leaders shared their testimonies and Ryan noticed Sam had tears in his eyes. Ryan asked what was wrong and Sam responded, "I want to meet this Jesus that everyone talks about." 

Ryan, nervously answered, "how 'bout I take you to him." 

Ryan prayed with Sam in the club room that day and led his friend to the feet of Jesus. 

One thing I didn't mention is that Ryan is a high school senior and Sam is a Freshman. Ryan climbed down the social ladder so that his young friend could experience real and full life! Thanks be to God.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Fun Ideas To Send To Work Crew & Summer Staff

Do you have any friends doing work crew or summer staff this summer? They would love to get a letter or package in the mail!

You can find all the camp addresses right here.

Make sure to mail it in time so they get it before they leave.

Below are a few things you can write on and mail without putting them inside a package. These are legal, cheap, fun and unusual:
  • Flip Flop
  • Pool Noodle
  • Frisbee
  • Plastic pink flamingo
  • Empty 2 Liter Bottle (with note inside)
  • Plastic playground ball
  • Visor

You could also send them a potato through The Potato Parcel. They're a company that sends people potatoes with notes on them! You can even add a picture of your face too! 

Another great thing to mail them is one of your extra YL camp trip shirts!

If you have any other ideas to add, email us here and we'll add them to the post.