Tuesday, January 17, 2017

YL Team Hangout Ideas

Written by Michael Sawyer, YL leader at Norterra Canyon WyldLife, in Phoenix, AZ.

As we enter the beginning of a new year, it’s time for Young Life teams all across the world to plan their spring semester club schedules. This year, don’t forget to make room for another important tradition: LEADER HANGOUTS!

In Young Life, it’s easy to focus on our relationships with kids, and rightfully so. However, there is a serious shortage of young adult church groups and it’s incredibly important that we gather together as young Christian adults and legitimately build strong relationships with our teams. Strong relationships on a team make leading easier, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. Jesus’ entire ministry is laced with the underlying theme that relationships are important, and Young Life’s ministry is built on the idea of strong relationships. Be in relationship with your teams this year by doing just one simple thing each month.

Our WyldLife team here in Phoenix, AZ has grown incredibly close because we take one day each month and plan a leader hangout. Take $100 per month and spend it on hanging out with leaders. Alternate who plans the leader hangouts each month. We ask the girls on our team to plan one month then the guys plan the next month and then the girls plan again. Don’t have $100 to spend each month? Consider these options:

  • Identify an adult leader who can fund $100 per month (it’s not asking a lot)
  • Each pitch in $20 per month (5 leaders = $100)
  • Have a church sponsor your club with $100 per month (again, not asking a lot)
  • Email parents of kids and see if any parent would be interested in directly donating $100 per month to building your leader’s community
  • Ask your area director for creative solutions. They want you to be in community too.

Here are some great ideas for leader hangouts that we’ve done in the past. Have more ideas? Email the YL Leader Blog and they'll add them to this post.

  • Laser Tag
  • Top Golf
  • Dine-In Movie
  • Mini Golf
  • College Basketball Game
  • Escape the Room (use GroupOn)
  • Family Dinner
  • Ice Skating

Make this a priority this year, and I’m excited to hear how growing in deep relationships with your team affects your ministry, your relationships with kids, and your relationships with Christ.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Social Media Seminar

Webinar on Developing your Social Media Strategy

Young Life’s Communications team is offering a social media training webinar at 10am MT (12pm ET) on Tuesday, January 17th.

The online seminar will cover how to develop your Young Life social media strategy, including understanding your goals, creating measurable objectives, characterizing your audiences, developing your messages, choosing the right channels, and planning your content.

The 1-hour webinar is free and will be available via Facebook Live. To access the webinar, like the Young Life Social Media page at facebook.com/ylsocialmedia. Hosted by Alex Lewis, Young Life’s Digital Marketing Specialist.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Camper Calendar

On every camp trip with kids (summer, fall, winter, work crew, etc) I make sure to get that camper's birthdate and contact info. It goes on my calendar, along with all my family birthdays and other dates. Every kid who has ever been in a cabin with me absolutely gets prayed for at least once a year on their b-day - if not more. 

Every January, as the names get transferred to a new calendar, I am humbled that the Lord would bless me with the privilege to pray for these names.

By Maria Erickson, Young Life leader in Western Loudoun County, Virginia

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

WyldLife Wednesday: Theme Club Ideas for Spring

Written by Julie Clapp, national director of WyldLife.

Talk to most WyldLife staff, and they’ll tell you themes are a great way to engage middle school kids in club. Themes can make club feel more like a party and give leaders a place to start as they plan mixers, games and music. When club has a theme, kids can look forward to something specific. Kids (and parents) start asking “What’s the theme?” and create excitement for club.

Just remember that middle school kids would rather participate than watch so whatever your theme – it’s best to emphasize mixers that involved every kid rather than up-front games with a few kids.


Kids wear white T-shirts. As they arrive, give them glowstick necklaces and highlighter pens to decorate shirts. Turn off the lights and play games under the blacklights. Another idea? Give kids fluorescent post-it notes and tell them to stick notes on someone wearing tennis shoes… someone with a ponytail… their WyldLife leader. Don’t forget to include a short dance party.


Build club around group competitions, starting with best attendance. Plan mixers and games that feature guys competing against girls. Award points for each round and declare a winner. Other ideas? Battle of the classes – assign each class a color and encourage them to wear T-shirts representing their class. Or if you have multiple schools in one club, let schools compete.


Kids wear their favorite jerseys. Choose activities that highlight hotdogs and football – a hotdog eating contest or a football toss through hulu hoops. Play “Don’t Fumble” and give every kid a brown balloon to blow up. They must hold their balloon with one hand while they try to pop or knock away other “football” balloons.


Divide kids into groups with their leaders. Announce categories one round at a time and ask teams to make a video or take a picture that fits. (Build a pyramid. Imitate your favorite WyldLife leader. Walk the red carpet.) Then project the videos or photos and lets kids see themselves on the big screen. Be sure to include a hashtag for the club so you can gather the videos and photos.


Celebrate every kid’s birthday in one night. Play classic birthday games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or let kids take a swing at a piñata. Sing “Happy Birthday” and end club with a piece of birthday cake for every kid.


Plan a club where every element involves food. Kids toss tater tots dipped in kitchen into their partners’ mouths. Put fast food in a blender and let kids guess which meal is which. Everyone plays paper plate musical chairs or participates in a relay passing raw biscuits from forehead to forehead.


Keep it simple and plan club around the nearest holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween – all can be great themes for club. (Valentine’s Day can be a little trickier with this age group, so be careful here.) Use the JibJab app to make your kids and leaders the stars of holiday-themed videos.

A few more WyldLife thoughts…


Remember that middle school kids often lack self-confidence and want desperately to be accepted. If the theme involves dress-up that is too elaborate, some kids may not to come to club because they are insecure about what to wear. Keep themes simple so that every kid can participate - wear red, white or blue for ‘Merica club. Or be ready to help them fit in - give kids leis as they walk in the door for Hawaiian club.

Big Picture

Now that high school clubs often feature themes as well, you’ll want to have an area strategy for club so kids don’t see the same themes year after year. There may be some themes that you reserve exclusively for WyldLife and others that are reserved for high school club.

Find 131 more YL Theme Club ideas here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Happened When Seniors Shared Their Stories

Shared by Eli & Stephanie Johnson, Young Life leaders in Trenton, Ohio.

Senior Panel

The spring semester is a great time to invite seniors to share testimonies. One idea for Club is to host a Student Panel of senior leaders.

Last year, three of our senior leaders were a part of a Student Panel. This took the place of the club talk and it was one of the coolest nights of leading our team has ever had. In the past, we've asked one of our seniors to give a club talk towards the end of the semester and it is always encouraging. Last year, however, we had a larger group of seniors who were following Jesus, loving their friends and using Young Life as the tool to bring their friends to the feet of Jesus.

Because of this, my wife Stephanie gave a quick introduction using Acts 4:13 as the base, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." She explained she has seen Jesus in our three senior friends and we all hoped everyone at Club is able to see that too. The seniors then came up and sat in front of their friends and shared their stories.

The three students (Hanna, Bridgette and Cole) were prepped by Stephanie with the five questions below they would answer:
  • You've been coming to Young Life for a long time - why do you keep coming back?
  • You each grew up hearing about Jesus in some way or another but in the past few years, you began an active relationship with Him. What made it "click" and what changed in your life after that point?
  • What's the most important piece of Scripture to you since you started following Jesus? Why?
  • What's the biggest way Jesus has changed you?
  • What's the one thing you want to tell your friends here about Jesus before you graduate in May?
Two nights before club, Stephanie was struck by the way Hanna, Bridgette and Cole encouraged each other in the truth of the Gospel, pointing out ways God has changed each other and coaching one another in better ways to communicate their story.

One huge benefit was for the seniors themselves. Cole told us after that he felt more at peace with himself and what the Lord has for him in the rest of his high school days. While answering question #5, Bridgette began crying and later explained to us she realized she was explaining her love for Jesus to some of her friends who don't love Jesus yet and was pleading with them, "In high school and life, this is the best there is," and now has a new perspective of Jesus' heart for those not yet in a relationship with him. And Hanna had an increased awareness of the gravity of her influence on the underclassmen after seeing how engaged and interested in their stories the younger students were during the panel.

After club that night multiple students were tweeting about the discussion and spurred two students to ask leaders to talk more in depth about Christianity and what it's like to follow Jesus. These conversations can lead perfectly into an invitation to summer camp.

We are thankful for the way the Spirit moved that night and highly encourage this to any school with a strong group of seniors!

Monday, January 9, 2017

How Young Life Austrailia Raised Lots of $ with Trivia Night

Shared by Glyn Henman, Heather Gant, Josh Petrie, and Joe Boncha.

Trivia Night is a fun way we've raised lots of $ for Young Life in Australia. It’s been a hit for several years running with hundreds of people attending. 

It’s held on a Saturday night with food and drinks for sale. People attending bring their table of “smart” friends; tables hold 10 people; this is group trivia. Entry is $15 per person.

Tables compete against one another to answer various trivia questions. The quiz master chooses the categories and questions (he/she knows the answers).

There are 6 questions per round all on the same topic and 6 rounds (36 total questions).

Topics vary from music, sports questions, Geography….

The group works together to write down their 6 answers and submit to volunteers who do the scoring; totals are announced before beginning of each round to keep it competitive.The table with the highest sore wins the grand prize at the end of the night.


  • Cast a Vision: Early on in the night, there’s an explanation of Young Life and a financial pitch.
  • Energy: Play some group game or mixers
  • Theme: To make it more festive, every year there’s a different theme with a prize awarded for best dressed plus random door prizes throughout the night.
  • Buy a “dot” A team can buy a dot to act as one right answer. Limit the ability to buy a dot to one per round; dots are cheaper in the 1st round at $2; later rounds cost up to $20. This generates a lot of money.
  • Silent auction. These can include small gifts like 30 minute professional massage, gift baskets, etc.
  • Standard bid auction. For larger ticket items such as a scenic flight, hotel accommodations, artwork, etc.
  • Carnival games with dollar coin. Balance coin on lemon in water to win prize (no one really can do this), $1 for 3 darts to throw at balloons labeled with a possible prize inside.
  • Paper airplane making contest for $1
  • Sell coffee and dessert. Some years we've asked local bakeries to donate (we normally get enough doing this), some years we've asked people from local churches to donate baked goods. We also get a coffee machine from one of the local churches.
  • YL Promo on tables. Have a summer Camp flyer on every table. We used the response slip after the YL Update to collect people's addresses (to put in database) and asked them if they'd like to join us financially, prayerfully or with their time. We also put blank envelopes on the table so once people have filled them in, people pop them in the envelope, write their name on the front and then we use all of them to draw the lucky door prize. This means we get more people filling out their details for us (which means they get put in the database) so they are entered for the grand door prize.
  • “Running tab” notecard that's available on the night. It means that if people don't have cash on them, but want to play the games / buy the dots / buy coffee & desert they just run up a tab card. They "register" for one with the door people and thus we get their name and phone number. Then, each time they participate in an activity / buy something, the person in charge of that activity marks on their tab card what they purchased / how much it cost and at the end of the night have the option to pay via credit card machine.

Sample Evening Plan

  • 7pm start
  • Rounds 1 & 2 of Trivia (True & False)
  • Rounds 1 & 2 answers
  • YL Update
  • Start selling coffee & desert
  • Rounds 3 & 4 of Trivia
  • Rounds 3 & 4 answers
  • BREAK - plug silent auction / have other games / sell coffee & desert
  • Other games: slide the coin towards box chocolates / bottle of grog & balloon darts (each balloon has a prize - we just pin the balloons randomly on a pin board, fill the balloons with numbers, have each number correspond to a balloon, …)
  • Rounds 5 & 6 of Trivia
  • Last 5 mins of buying on silent auction
  • Rounds 5 & 6 Answers
  • Finish about 10pm

People you need

  • Tally people – at least 2
  • Trivia person (the one who collates & reads out the questions) - we have a guy from a local church who LOVES trivia and who joins us on committee for 2 meetings / year (in our lead up to) and comes with all questions prepared and runs the trivia for the evening
  • MC - in charge of running everything on time, introducing people, plugging silent auction, coffee, games
  • Speaker on what YL is doing
  • Coffee & desert servers - we get kids to help with this
  • People to run games - we get kids to help with this
  • Welcomers / table allocators at start of night
  • Sound person

Things you need

  • Prizes for tables. We have 1st, 2nd & 3rd. Our first prize has always been a $20 gift voucher to a local restaurant. And then 2nd & 3rd is what we can get 10 of. This year we used YL t-shirts - this had a double intention. Easy to access / a branding activity so YL is worn throughout the town by 10 more people :-)
  • Grand door prize
  • Best dressed prize(s) (if you do a theme)
  • Credit card machine
  • Silent auction bidding sheets
  • Answer sheets for trivia questions
  • YL promo info / blank envelopes / pens for tables
  • note cards for individuals to "run a Tab"
  • Invite your local newspaper - the newspaper person does a pre and post article for us.

Things we're going to do next year / Things we've learned from the past

  • Asking people to "host" / recruit a table takes a LOT of pressure off wondering if people will come or not
  • We tried to get people to pre-purchase tickets ... and failed miserably

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Helpful Websites for Young Life Leaders

Camron Matschek, a Young Life leader in Austin, TX, shared with us a couple of helpful sites he built for his Young Life area.

The idea behind this site is that it works well on a phone, so that as a team sits down trying to plan a club they can easily pull up a list of different skits, games, songs, themes, etc. It includes the things that I’ve come across in my time as a leader.

We had used Facebook a few times to upload pics from club & events but found that most kids don’t have Facebook or don’t bother to check it - but we still wanted to upload pics because kids love to post to Instagram and Twitter the day after club and it helps promote club in a small way. Plus, turns out it’s great to have a store of photos for banquet, flyers, and thank-you cards to donors. I’ve set up other clubs with their own site by request, and can quickly do this for any other area that might be interested. Contact Cameron here

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Turtleneck Club

A few years ago my sister found an incredible photo of her husband wearing a red turtleneck as a child (see below). 

She had the brilliant idea of using that pic on an invitation and throwing him a "Red Turtleneck Surprise Party" for his birthday. Everyone was encouraged to wear a red turtleneck and at the party, she passed out necklaces with that picture hanging as the crown jewel around their necks. You can see the group picture below. Classic!

For some reason, turtlenecks are funny, so funny in fact that it could make for a solid theme club this winter.

To promote Turtleneck Club, you could have all your leaders go to thrift stores with kids and shop for turtlenecks. 

You could also encourage them to search through their parents' drawers, with their parents' permission of course. 

Take pics of kids and leaders wearing turtlenecks and post them on social media each day leading up to Club.

You could even encourage kids to wear the turtlenecks to school on club day. Tell them that everyone who wears one will be entered to win $100 off summer camp, or win a free lunch brought to them at school the following day.

Turtleneck Club Ideas

Turtlelly Awesome Awards
Give out different awards such as: Bulkiest Turtleneck, Ugliest Turtleneck, Most-Colorful Turtleneck, etc... You could either give certificates or Chocolate Turtles. 

Group Photo
Make sure to get a group photo of everyone wearing turtlenecks.

Entry Song
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme Song

Turtleneck Trivia
I put together this little trivia game that you could use in a few different ways. Might work best to have 2 teams of 4, guys vs gals, There are 12 questions, so each contestant would get 3 turns. They line up and have to buzz in to answer first. If they answer incorrectly, they lose a point for their team, correctly and they gain a point. Winning team gets a prize. It's funny to use pots as the buzzers and have people hold them over their heads and then use large metal cooking spoons to buzz in and hit the pots. 

Download PowerPoint slides for Turtleneck Trivia.
Download Keynote Slides for Turtleneck Trivia

If you come up with any other Turtleneck club ideas, send them our way and we'll add them to the post! -Drew

Tons of other theme club ideas here

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sweatshirts for Winter Camp

If you're taking kids to camp this winter, consider making crewneck sweatshirts instead of long sleeve t-shirts. They're hot right now and you can get them for the same price as a long sleeve shirt. 

Check with the Young Life store as they do custom apparel. I've also heard good things about Port and Co. When ordering for the gals, make sure to order sizes larger than they might typically wear, as it's the style to wear them big. Guys typically are wearing their expected sizes. 

If you design any sweet camp sweatshirts, send them our way and we'll share them on the blog and on social media. The best ideas are usually borrowed! 

HT to Troy Earnest in East Atlanta!