Thursday, October 17, 2019

Young Life and the Church

I often get emails like this one:

Dear Drew,

I’m a youth pastor and need some advice. I know you are both a youth pastor and on staff with Young Life, so I thought you could maybe help me. I feel like I’m always competing with Young Life in our town, rather than working on the same team and I’m not sure how to navigate it moving forward.  Lots of kids from our church have stopped being involved in our youth group and now they just do Young Life. How can Young Life and the church better partner together?

Discouraged Youth Pastor

Below are some thoughts for both Youth Pastors and Young Life leaders.

How can Young Life and the church better partner together?


Build genuine friendships with the Young Life staff and volunteers in your community.
  • Making friends takes time. Be patient and persistent.
  • One of the best ways to make friends is by serving others. Ask the Young Life leaders how you can serve them, with no strings attached. 
  • Consider providing a space for leadership meetings. 
  • Or pre-club leader meals. 
  • Do people who attend your church work at the school where YL does ministry? Can you connect them?

Know the needs/details of Young Life in your area.

  • Where and when is the area going to camp.
  • Who is on the Young Life committee.
  • What is the vision for growth in the area- are there schools or ministries that you could potentially help Young Life start?

Invite them to use their gifts to partner with you in ministry.
  • What if your church asked Young Life leaders to do program for larger youth events? 
  • What if you asked an Area Director to come help train your church staff in evangelism?
  • Have you considered asking a YL leader/staff person to preach/speak?

Find ways to serve and connect.

  • Host a table of folks from your church at the YL banquet.
  • Ask the YL staff if it would be helpful if you invited kids from your youth group to come help clean up after the banquet or to serve in some hands-on way.
  • Consider partnering with Young Life financially, either personally or from your church.
  • Ask if they need extra leaders for weekend camp.
  • Consider being or bringing Adult Guests to come to weekend camps and get a front row seat to watch God work!
  • Are there any kids in your youth group who might could serve on Work Crew for a month at a Young Life summer camp?
  • Connect the ministries of your church to partner with specific Young Life ministries. Are there Young Lives teen moms who could use extra support from the church? Like collecting baby clothes? Are there folks in your church who know sign language and could help interpret for the deaf at club?

Pray for them.
  • Now don’t just skip this one because it sounds spiritual. Really pray for them. Just like you, they also are on the front lines of ministry and often feel "in the line of fire." The Lord changes our hearts as we pray for others.
  • Ask for a list of kids going to camp that you can pray for.
  • Ask for a list of leaders at the school closest to your church.
  • Considering partnering in prayer and doing prayer walks at school campuses.

Create a safe environment for kids who are "new" to church.
  • Share with the Young Life leaders your church’s plan for assimilating new believers into the life of the church. Reassure them that kids don’t need to look or speak a certain way in order to be accepted. 
  • Cast vision for the "insider" kids who already "belong" at your youth group to be a welcoming community that celebrates "outsiders."

Talk with leaders about specific kids.
  • I've had high schoolers in our church's youth group grow deeper in their faith and feel called to partner with Young Life. It's been a fantastic way for them to share their faith in their school. It’s important that the church be open-handed with sending kids "out" of the church. 
  • I’ve also known spiritually immature kids who have been pulled out of the church and fallen away from the Lord as they’ve gotten more involved with Young Life. 
  • Talk/Pray with the Young Life leaders about what is best for specific kids. Meet with the kids as a united front and cast a vision over them together.

Ask hard questions and practice self-reflection. 

  • Is there anything that we are doing as a church staff that is selfishly motivated and not in a spirit of unity?
  • Are we creating a culture of competition with Young Life or are we humbly seeking to lock arms together in ministry?


Become a member of a local church body.
  • We need to be in community with people who are different than us, older than us, and those who can help form us in our walks with Christ.
  • We need to be taught the entirety of Scripture, and not just the gospels.
  • We need to be under pastoral authority and have accountability.
  • Young Life leaders need to be members in a local church.

Be intentional about reaching out to the pastor/youth pastor in your church, expressing your desire to partner together. 
  • If you have any feelings of competition or raw “church wounds” in your heart, be transparent with the church about where you are in that journey.
  • Visit your church's youth group and ask if there's any way you can serve.

Ask if your church would “send you out” as a local missionary.
  • I was involved with a Young Life area that required leaders to be members of a local church. They also asked that leaders be commissioned by their church as missionaries to the local schools. The churches were asked to treat them similarly to foreign missionaries- supporting them in prayer, financially, and offering encouragement to their ministry.

Connect your Campaigner kids to a local church.
  • If a kid starts a relationship with Jesus, and is not already connected to a local church, it will be super helpful for them to have a church family to walk alongside them. If their family is already connected to a church, encourage them to get plugged in deeper there!
  • Don’t just bring them on a Sunday morning, but help them get involved and to use their gifts to serve.
  • If they're just sitting in a back pew for an hour on a Sunday morning, that's called "attending" a church. Help them learn to belong and to serve.
  • Pray with your Campaigners groups for their local churches, their youth groups, and their youth pastors by name. Help them value and care about the church.
  • Encourage Campaigner kids share with their youth groups and churches their testimonies about how they have seen God move in their schools through Young Life.

Focus on the kids who are not already plugged into a church. 
  • Follow the Apostle Paul's approach as seen in Romans 15:20, "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation."
  • There are likely some great churches in your community that are already helping kids grow in their faith. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of kids that no one has ever told about Jesus- GO and tell them! 

Help youth pastors connect with the local schools and meet new kids.
  • This is a Young Life leader’s area of expertise. You likely know lots of kids that have never been to church. What would it look like to invite a youth pastor to walk around with you at a football game?

Ask hard questions and practice self-reflection. 
  • Is there anything that we are doing as Young Life staff and volunteers that is causing young people not to get plugged in with a local church?

The best solution for this tension is not a strategy, it’s a relationship. It's the same kind of relationship that youth pastors and Young Life leaders both want to have with kids. It's a friendship defined by grace and characterized by humility. A friendship with no strings attached. 

Let’s ask the Lord to unify us and approach all of these conversations with our eyes fixed on Christ and others, more than on ourselves.

Our best way to move FORWARD in taking kids DEEPER in Christ is to do it TOGETHER.

If you have questions or ideas regarding how Young Life and the church can better partner together, email Drew here.

Written by Drew Hill.

Drew has been a pastor at a local church in Greensboro, NC for the past decade. He has also served with Young Life for more than twenty years. Drew started the Young Life Leader Blog in 2010 and has written an award-winning book for both Young Life leaders and those in church youth ministry called "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."

The Alongside audiobook is brand-new and now available on Audible. Check it out here.

Special thanks to Paul Deschamps, Director of Student Ministry at Christ the King in Raleigh, NC, for sharing helpful insights from a youth pastor's perspective!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Team Dynamics: Leading Beyond the College Days

This semester on Tuesdays we’re taking a deep dive into Young Life team dynamicsIf you missed the first couple posts, check them out here:

This seighth post in the series was written by Eve Sarrett. 

So, you're older than 22 and wondering if you are being called to lead Young Life?

How you answer these 3 questions may help you determine if you are being called to serve with Young Life. 

“Am I needed?"

“Can I have an impact?” 
“Do I have time to make the commitment?”

Most of us can remember when a Young Life Leader walked into our world. It’s what changed the course of my life when it happened to me. If you were a leader in college, or maybe too busy to be one…you may think you are no longer of any value to the local area, when in fact, you are a huge gift to us.  

Instead of asking "am I needed," you may ask "why am I needed?" 

The simple answer is found in Matthew 9:37. Because “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

I don’t know much about harvest time, but I do know that many cultures have the rhythm “all hands on deck” when it comes to harvesting. All hands on deck in Young Life means no matter how old you are, you have value in the lives of kids. 

A wise person once said, “Kids are drawn to the oldest person in the room that makes them feel like they matter.” 

Early in my walk with Christ I memorized Matthew 28:19,  “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” Then heard a pastor say that verse would be better translated “as you go, make disciples of all nations. 

Whether it is a direct command to “go” or a lifestyle “as you go,” both tell me there is a responsibility to be involved in the world.  

If we weren't GOING, who would? 

God doesn't limit who we can reach for Him because of our age or circumstance. So few people are pursuing middle, high school and college students on THEIR turf - that’s what Young Life Leaders do so well!

Instead of asking “Can I have impact?” ask yourself “How can I have an impact”? 

As an adult, there have been more experiences, more ways for us to learn and grow, and hopefully, that means when we hear a student pouring out their story, we are ready to point them directly to Christ. Nothing prepares you to hear that a kid has been beaten or neglected or abused, but hopefully, our experience and time to grow in Christ prepares us to lean on Him as we help our friends.

If you are a Young Life Leader in a town that has both college leaders and young professionals, you also have an opportunity to mentor those younger leaders, as well as pursue your middle and high school friends.

Instead of asking “Do I have time to make the commitment?”  maybe ask yourself “When do I have time to make the commitment.”

Remember Luke 9? Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.

If we trust that we are joining God in what He is already doing, we simply show up in the lives of students and trust that God will take what we give and multiply it.

If your job means you are only able to make it to club and the football game, or to Campaigners and to grab coffee with a kid, do what you can and trust that God will multiply what you have to give.

The issue usually isn’t time, it is discipline and desire. Plus, every time you talk about your experiences and needs with co-workers, friends, and family- they become part of the growing group of people who care for our younger friends. 

However, do not hear me saying "do as little as possible and you are a Young Life Leader." Figure out what you can give, and then give that time to the things that matter for the sake of the kingdom.

I used to think my job was to “tell kids about Jesus,” but now I know it is to know kids by name- so I can tell Jesus about them.

An excerpt from "Gracias" by Henri Nouwen

"More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.  It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence.  

Still, it is not as simple as it seems.  My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.  

But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them but you truly love them."  

If you find yourself in the store or on the street noticing teenagers, pay attention to that nudge, mute the voice that tells you that you are too old, and come join us!


Written by Eve Sarrett.

Eve lives outside of Nashville, TN and serves as an Associate Regional Director in the Tennessee Region. Eve has served 25+ years on Young Life staff and many more years around the mission. Eve and Doug have been married for 33 years and have 2 adult children: Cam and McCall (recently married Kenta Nolin in their backyard). Eve is a club leader at Ravenwood High School.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Tons of Hoe-Down Club Ideas

The fall has arrived and its a perfect time of year to plan a Young Life hoedown club! 


  • Borrow a barn.
  • If you can't find a barn, find a field. It's better to do the field party earlier in October so it's doesn't get dark as early. In 2019, Daylight Savings Time ends on Nov. 3, so after that, it will get darker earlier.
  • If you use a field without lights, you could circle up cars and use headlights. Bring jumper cables in case you drain a car battery! 
  • You'll also want to make sure a bathroom is close by. You can rent port-a-potties for $150, maybe even get a parent to sponsor it. Who doesn't want their business logo on a sign taped to a portable toilet?
  • If you can't find a barn or a field, you can do it anywhere, just make sure to decorate! 

  • Christmas lights are a must.
  • Aluminum bins filled with ice and bottled cokes.
  • Hay bales are great. Try and get them donated, but if not, you can probably get 30 for $100 from a local supplier. 
  • Checkered tablecloths.
  • Tons of ideas on Pinterest


Finger Countin

Use your skit characters to do a funny game sell about how their mama taught them to count and add. Stand back to back, each person holding out one hand. On that hand they can hold out no fingers, 1, 2,3,4, or all 5. When they turn around (on the count of 3) they add the fingers together with their opponents. The first one to yell the correct sum moves on to the next round.

Seed Spittin'
Kids race to cut open a pumpkin, pull out the seeds and spit them towards their partners who are holding a plastic jack-o-lantern. The one with the most seeds after 90 seconds (with loud music playing in the background) is the winner.
You can also spit sunflower seeds into a cowboy hat.

Plunger Olympics

If you're going for more of a red neck theme instead of a barn party, you can make up all kinds of games using plungers.

  • Ring toss on the plunger
  • Unrolling toilet paper race with the toilet paper roll on the plunger
  • Using the plungers as gloves to catch balls being tossed
  • Get creative

Pie-Eating Contest

Few things are as redneck as eating contests. You can go many different directions with this one. Just call 3-5 folks up front and pick one of the options below or create your own.

  • Fill pie tins with gummy worms and whipped cream and have a race to see who can get all the worms out first without using their hands. Start a rumor in the crowd that real worms are mixed in with the gummy worms.
  • Fill pie tins with M&Ms and flour and have a race to get the M&Ms out using no hands. Make sure to have water for them to drink after getting a mouth full of flour. Take pictures!

Turkey Head
If you're doing it in November, you can do a slight twist on the ol' surgical glove on the head game, because it does look like a turkey. Get three volunteers to pull the glove over their head, just below their nose. When the music starts, they race to blow it up as big as they can. It can get huge! Take pics.


Here's a link to download the script we used for our program characters. They were Hot Sauce Cowboys and the "bad guy" was a cranky old man.


  • Make a good country music playlist to have going as kids arrive. Ask a kid to help make it (but make sure it's clean.
  • Here's a Spotify playlist a friend made for a hoe-down club, but it's a couple years old.
  • Use eyeliner to draw freckles on girls, like we do at camp.
  • Considering getting 2 skit characters to host the whole night. They can learn some redneck jokes and do a little routine throughout club.
  • Get someone to come call a square dance or learn to do it yourself by watching Sean McGever at


Download a song sheet we made here. It feels more "hoe-down-ish" to pass out song sheets than to use a screen and slides. It includes the following songs:

  • Mama Don't Allow
  • Wagon Wheel
  • Chicken Fried
  • Springsteen
  • I Saw The Light
  • Amazing Grace
  • Wagon Wheel
  • High FLyin Lord
  • Let my light shine bright
  • Barefoot Bluejean night
  • Chicken Fried
  • Banana Song
  • Springsteen
  • Let there be light
  • I could Run Away
  • I am Yours

What other Hoedown ideas do you have? Email us here and we'll add them to the post.