Thursday, September 13, 2018

Club In A Hat

Shared by Andrew "Coop" Cooper, Young Life Area Director in Fairbanks, Alaska.

At leader meetings, we often take scraps of paper and write out our favorite mixers, group games and upfront games. We then place them folded into three separate hats up front. Then, when it comes time to plan our next club, we grab one out of each hat and read them to the group. If we don't remember the game or have done it recently or it is a copy of another game, we replace it. Our leaders found it fun and exciting to see who's ideas get picked and we created a few fun clubs with zero stress or pressure.

Do you have an idea to share? Email us here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

"I Don't Want My Phone" by Sarah York

Written by Sarah York.

“There’s no WAY I’m going a week without my phone.”

We’ve all heard that one before… right? The first time we break the world-ending news to our high school friends that no-phones is, yes, an “actual, legit, no-lie thing” at Young Life camp. Even for fall-weekend, just a few days away from the world of emoji-language and double-taps seems too hard to let go of. Not to say I don’t get it... I’ll be the first to admit a rush of panic occurs when I can’t seem to find that little black rectangle somewhere deep in my Mary-Poppins work bag. But you see, something is changing within the technicolor world our high school friends are living in… and we must learn how to adapt.

I remember the first time I had to break the no-phone news to a group of sophomore girls I’d been pursuing for months. We were sitting around their cafeteria table. Each girl held a bright-yellow Windy Gap flyer in one hand, and hot-pink iPhones with matching stickers in the other. Their eyes shifted, flyer to phone, flyer to phone. Finally, the leader of the girl-squad looked up at me.

“So, I’ve heard that you take away our phones for this thing. That true?”

She set down the flyer, picked up her shiny, green apple, and took a large bite. Eyes never leaving mine. I gulped.

“Girls, I can tell you this. It’ll be the best weekend of the year. I want you to come with me.”

I smiled, still determined, no matter how much each crunch of the apple made me jump inside.

“So, phone or not?”

“No phone… But what if I told you you wouldn’t want it back the moment we got back?”

Eyes widen.

“What about our streaks?!” Two girls, who had yet to speak at the table until this moment, piped in unison.

They saw my visible confusion… “Streaks?” I asked, ignorant of this new-found form of quick connection.

I was then given the break-down of the Snapchat go-to: A daily, quick photo that keeps score of your “best friends.” In other words, the people you send a momentary “snap” to each day. And if you miss a day, your “streak” and “best friendship” with this person is lost, and you have to start over. Some of the girls proceeded to inform me that a few of their streaks were over a hundred days, and that they had dozens of them - a plethora of people they kept up with on a day to day basis. This blew my mind… Talk about commitment!

By God’s grace (and the grace of the girls’ siblings who kept up the streaks while away), those girls got on the bus that fall, and yes, indeed had the best weekend of their lives. I’ll never forget what one of my high school friends said as we pulled back into the school parking lot late Sunday night. She looked at me, bags under her eyes from lack of sleep, and her voice scratchy from singing at the top of her lungs all weekend.

“Sarah, you were right. I don’t want my phone… I want these real friendships.”

We both glanced around the bus, watching the beauty of our phoneless friends, using their hands to tell stories and their eyes to really see the person in-front of them, rather than thumbs flying, always scrolling, eyes glued to the screen.

Last spring, I had an incredible professor who assigned our class a Washington Post article by Jessica Contrera, titled, “13, right now: This is what it's like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing.” And boy, did it blow my mind about the world my high school friends live in. The Apple-driven world, that is.

You see, we can’t blame our high school friends for their sore thumbs and screen-glazed eyes, and we certainly can’t critique their inability to un-grip the twenty-four-seven attached rectangle from their hand. Why? Because that’s all they’ve ever known. And we’re following right behind them.

Have you heard about the crazy new workout program called MIRROR?

Their aim? “No wait lists, no crowded parking lots. Just your home, the mirror, and you.”

We can now pick up groceries without even going into a store. We can watch movies without going to the theatre. And now, we can even exercise in classes without going to the gym. People are longing for actual community, but finding themselves in isolation behind a screen.

So… What do we do? We do what we, as Young Life leaders, know so well.

We meet our friends where they are… deep in the valleys, hidden behind the screens, and we help them lift their eyes. Because sometimes, all we need is someone to point and say, “LOOK!”

Take a high school friend you know that’s drowning in the unfulfilling self-gratification of likes and views, and invite them on a mini-adventure. Whether that be a field near a local airport to watch planes land, or a gas-station for an extra-large ICEE, or a park on the edge of town to see an end-of-summer sunset. Leave your phones in the car, laugh a lot, and don’t Instagram it. Whatever you do, don’t post it. Live in it. Drink it up. Be.

As my sweet high school friend said - “I don’t want my phone, I want real friendships.”

Me too. Let’s go make them. 

For Sarah York, everything changed in the back row of the club room at Windy Gap on a cold, late-November fall weekend trip in middle school. Sarah grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and graduated from Wake Forest University in May of 2018, where she led Young Life at Reagan High School. She currently works at WFU in their Personal & Career Development office as a part of the Wake Forest Fellows program. If you would like to submit a post for The Young Life Leader Blog, here's how you do it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Instead of a Parent Meeting...

I'm guessing you have the same problem we do. Parents are busy and it's difficult to get them to show up to a "parent meeting" at the beginning of a new school year. We have important information we want to communicate with them about Young Life. We want to explain club and camp and introduce them to leaders, but the problem is that parents aren't showing up to the meetings.

What if, instead of having a "Parent Meeting," we offered something of even greater value as a gift to parents. If you were a parent of a teenager, which of the three meetings below would you come to?

  1. Young Life Parent Information Meeting.
  2. How To Help Your High Schooler Get Into College.
  3. How To Handle Technology and Social Media with your Teenagers- A Seminar to Help Parents Living in a World of Screens.
What if, instead of just having a "Young Life Parent Mtg," we offered an informed discussion on the topics of "getting into college" or "technology and social media." When we scratch where they're itching, they're much more likely to show up. 

We could still give out the same info about Young Life and still introduce the leaders, but the focus of the meeting wouldn't be on "our thing," but it would be about "their thing."

How To Help Your High Schooler Get Into College

If you went this route, you could invite an expert or two to come in and share. Connect with the guidance counselor from the high school or an admissions counselor from a local college. Do your research ahead of time. Have college leaders share about their own experience in high school and what motivated them. Offer "college tours" and have some dates set where leaders offer to take kids and tour different colleges in the fall. A big way to motivate kids to study is to actually take them to a college and show them what their future could look like. Make sure it's helpful information that you're providing. Also, listen to parents and find out ways that you can support and encourage them as well as their kids. 

How To Handle Technology and Social Media- A Seminar to Help Parents Living in a World of Screens

This is such a tough topic for parents who want to protect their children, but also feel overwhelmed by a world of screens that they often don't understand. If you go this route, below are a few resources I recommend reading/watching to help you plan your parent training time. 

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

Simon Sinek on Millenials in the Workplace

What Have I Created?

The Tech-Wise Family

In Your Parent Meeting, Make Sure To Include:
  • Calendar for the year (YL banquet, fall camp and summer camp dates if you know them)
  • Leaders and their contact info
  • Ways parents can get involved (hosting club, campaigners, providing meals for leaders before club, being "team parents" or on committee, prayer team, etc...)
  • Make sure to gather their info (email and phone numbers)

A great way to continue contact throughout the year is a weekly parent email. This is an easy way to communicate with parents, help them feel involved, and remind them of ways they can serve. Here are some ideas for information to include in weekly emails to parents:
  • Helpful articles on parenting
  • Leader introductions with pictures and contact info
  • Re-cap club from that week: share main points from the talk and funny moments
  • Links to your YL social media accounts
  • Links to the area YL website and ability to donate online
  • Important dates for upcoming events
  • Any specific ways they can help: hosting, food, etc.
  • Camp: Utilize these emails to sell camp to parents. You can include dates, deadlines, a cost breakdown, and opportunities to raise money.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Game-Changer for Young Life Club Songs: Lyrical Slides

Written by Dan Kramp.

Have you personally sunk hours into making song lyric slides for club each week? Have you copied them one stanza at a time, centered the text on each slide, copy and paste on repeat? It's incessantly mundane and repetitive. Don't you wish there were an easier way??

We'll let me share with you some good news.

There's a solution: Lyrical Slides.

This add-on for Google Slides will greatly reduce the hassle in the process of making lyric slides for club. The menu pictured here will appear when you start the add-on. You simply need to fill out the fields provided and Lyrical Slides will do the rest.

The song title and artist fields are optional. If you leave both blank, a title slide will not be added. If you provide only one of the two, only the provided one will be put on a title slide.

When adding the lyrics, Lyrical Slides will put each stanza that is separated by a blank line onto a new slide. So if you copy and paste them from some lyrics website, all you need to do is add a blank line between the lyrics that you want on different slides! I recommend putting anywhere between 1-6 lines on each slide for the best layout.

Once you click “Create Slides”, Lyrical Slides will insert all of the new slides after the currently selected slide and add a blank slide at the end for transitioning to the next song. The whole process can be completed in about one minute per song!

This add-on is now available for FREE in the Google Slides add-on store. From the toolbar, click Add-Ons -> Get add-ons… and search “Lyrical Slides” (see image for help.)

Or, you can just click here!

Take the time you save inputting lyrics and go spend it with your teenage friends! 

Written by Dan Kramp. Dan is Young Life Leader in Greene County, Virginia. He is studying Computer Science at the University of Virginia. If you have ideas you'd like to share on the blog, email us here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

WIN a PATAGONIA BAG by Fundraising with Custom Young Life Socks!

Do you want to win this sweet Patagonia YL bag?!

Just fill out THIS FORM to be entered to WIN in this contest from The Young Life Store!

Make sure you go ahead now and order SOCKS for your camp fundraisers? This ONCE/year order will close in 10 days on September 15th. Talk to your committee, Area Director and leaders about placing an area order. 

How It Works
  1. Place order
  2. Get socks by the end of November
  3. Sell for campership!

Then your campership fundraiser is set and all you have to do it wait to get your socks! And you can make $10-$15 per pair of socks! 

Still not convinced? Take it from other Young Life Staff and kids in Colorado who together raised over $50k for kids to go to camp this summer!

I thought this was going to be really hard but I found out right away that people really like these socks! They’re so cool and were easy for me to sell.” – Young Life kid, Colorado

Honestly, this is the easiest and fastest fundraiser we’ve done. Kids love it because they have a tangible thing to sell that quickly pays a large chunk of their camp trip! We’ve had kids raise over $500 in a weekend just asking around in their neighborhood. The Colorado socks were a great success and would highly recommend these as a way to get kids invested quickly!” – Elizabeth Leader, Staff, Colorado

We have enjoyed utilizing the sock fundraiser in my area, where the majority of kids need a lot of help fundraising for camp. We ordered a bunch of designs and kids have had a blast selling and giving them as gifts. We will continue to sell socks throughout the year!” – Nikki Peterson, Staff, Colorado

I know my leaders said I wouldn’t have to pay much but I was really worried I might not get to go to camp. Then we started selling the Young Life socks. It was really easy and fun. People wanted to buy all of them! Now I’m going to camp!” – YoungLives kid, Colorado

“Selling socks have been one of our best fundraisers! Each time we have made orders we have sold out within a couple days. We have had a number of students pay for their entire winter camp trip and the majority of their summer camp trip by selling socks. One girl sold $400 dollars’ worth in two days!” – Brit Ullrich, Staff, Colorado

How To Order
  • You can work with the YL store to design your own style of socks or select one of the many pairs that have already been designed.
  • Place an order with this Google Form for custom socks with huge discounts by Sept 15th
  • You'll receive the socks by end of November
  • Campers make $10-15 profit every time they sell a pair of socks, because you can buy them for around $5/pair and sell them for $15 or $20.
  • Reorders or questions can be emailed to

Monday, September 3, 2018

3 Practical Ways To Serve High School Seniors

If you have relationships with high school seniors, here are three ways to serve and love them well.

Letters Of Recommendation

I still remember the words my teachers, pastors, and guidance counselors wrote about me during my senior year when I asked them to write me a letter of recommendation. Even if they don't ask you to write one, it's a beautiful way to speak truth and blessing into their life. Take some time to thoughtfully write one for the seniors you know well and offer it to them before they even ask. I love mailing a hard copy to their parents as well, thanking them for the high privilege of knowing their child. It can be an overwhelming task and often take more than an hour of your free time, but it's worth it. If you need some help getting started, here's a sample letter of rec.

College Essay Editing

Our Young Life team recently invited seniors over to our basement to work on college essays. In addition to our team, we invited other smart friends to come over to help edit. It was a great success and we could tell the seniors felt cared for and loved. You don't have to do this in a group setting, it could be done one-on-one at a Starbucks, but it was fun all working together. If you don't feel confident editing essays, invite one of your "nerdy" friends to come along!

College Visits

Your high school friends are trying to make one of the biggest decisions they've ever made, "Where should I go to college?" What if you went with them to visit some potential campuses? Call the Young Life staff/leaders in that college town ahead of time and schedule a coffee date so you can introduce your high school friend to a potential college friend. 

What other creative ways can you share about caring for high school seniors? Email us here and we'll add them to the list.

If you'd like more help in knowing practical ways to connect with high school seniors, "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel" is back in stock at

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My Commitment by Bill Goans (Friday Night Lights)

I can't think of anything better to read as we kick off a new school year in Young Life. Let's make this a year where we keep showing up together at middle schools, high schools and colleges around the world!

My Commitment 
by Bill Goans

As long as high school kids mill around at ball games looking for love in all the wrong places...  

As long as they desperately seek an identity based on the opinions of friends and reputation...

As long as kids limp through the stands broken by family strife, enslaved by drugs, alcohol, and sex...

I want to be found- not in the adult section where it is respectable and controlled... 

but right in the middle...where passions, vulgar and profane, blurt out obscenity...

Where raucous and reckless facades hide wounded hearts filled with torment and fear...

Where the price tags have been changed and darkness confuses...

Right in the middle where God has positioned me to shine forth His grace, His Hope, His love and His truth.

As long as there is an enemy who can convince his victims that tomorrow doesn't matter, that harm will not find them, that chains are like jewelry and cool is free...

As long as his lies leave character, soul, and life in ruins- when thrill goes ill and fun turns fatal...

As long as terminal is only a passage word to an eternity of one's own choosing...
As long as God has rendered him a defeated foe using the weakest of us to shine a light that pierces the darkest places, that brings rescue to the lost...

As long as the darkness is blasted away by the light of the world- that Light that lives within all who know, follow, and love Him...
As long as there is such darkness...

I'll man my post right in the middle of all that chaos, holding my position until he calls another play, and I steal home. 

As long as we stand in such an important place, we must not forget what it means to be salt and light in this tasteless and dark generation.

In Jesus,

Friday Night Lights Young Life Video
Friday Night Lights Young Life from colt helton on Vimeo.

Check out this banquet video that is based largely on Bill's words from above. It's almost a decade old, but I still like to watch it at the beginning of every school year. If you're a newer leader and haven't yet seen it, or even if you've seen it a dozen times already, it's worth watching again! 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sin Talk Illustration: Crab Trap

This video below could be a helpful illustration to use with a "sin talk" or Campaigners discussion starter.

Underwater Footage of a Crab Trap

Isn't that how sin typically works? It lures us in with a promise it never fulfills. Much like the serpent in the garden of Eden. If you just take a bite, all your troubles will go away.

But then sin traps us in its grip and we're left staring at that GoPro wondering if anyone will ever come and let us out.

But the crab didn't go right in at first. No, he hesitated. But then he gave in. The temptation was too great. And he was so preoccupied with the luring prize that he didn't even realize he'd been caught.

Do you feel trapped in an addiction?
Trapped in a secret? Trapped in a web of lies?

In Luke 4:18, Jesus makes clear why he came to earth. "I came to bring freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free."

When sin traps us, Jesus frees us.
When sin costs us, Jesus pays our debt.
When sin steals our innocence, Jesus washes us white as snow.
When sin doesn't deliver on its false promises, Jesus reminds us that He is Truth and the Life.
When sin leaves us hopeless and in a grave of despair, Jesus rolls away the stone and reminds us that He is ALIVE!

"If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thanks to my friend, Paul Mannino, for passing along the video. If you would like to learn more about how to share the Gospel with teenagers, check out

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel" is NOW AVAILABLE!

Buy books for leaders in your area/region.

What People Are Saying

Alongside is a beautiful and practical companion for anyone who wants to learn how to better love the teenagers in their life. I found myself in tears as I read incredible real-life stories of the gospel breaking through the distractions, darkness, loneliness, and pain that often accompany adolescence. It tells the beautiful story of the gospel, and also offers tools that will help you communicate that story well as you walk alongside the teenagers in your life.

Ellie Holcomb, Dove-Award winning singer/songwriter

Drew Hill is one of the most qualified people to write this diamond of a book. Part artist, part doctor, part philosopher, and part-storyteller, he tells the old, old love story in a captivating way. Alongside is filled with much-needed practical advice for anyone who works with young people. It will be a tremendous resource for parents, teachers, coaches, youth workers, and more. Drew majors in the “Who” we are all looking for. His genuine heart for young people comes shining through. This raw, real, and relevant work will help all who read it find their way, and invest in the next generation.

Pete Hardesty, Young Life College Divisional Coordinator and author of Adulting 101

This book is just so good. It is practical, moving, insightful and spiritually deep. I love how the book is a journey through many lives. The stories are poignant. I laughed and I cried - several times! I love the questions that Drew asks at the end of each chapter. They really make you think and are truly springboards for action. Readers will walk away from this book refreshed, reminded and armed with practical ways to reach kids. It's a loving "how-to" that I want every one of our Young Life leaders to read and apply. I want to send it to all my friends with kids- it is simply an excellent resource and an enjoyable read!

Courtney Lancaster, Associate Regional Director for Young Life in Southwest Florida

I truly believe this book should be in every household. As a person who works with high schoolers, and many who don’t have dads, I often find myself in a  father figure role. In addition to teaching them how to become men, I also have the privilege to lead them to Christ. This book helps me do just that. It will be practically helpful for parents, teachers, coaches and all those in youth ministry.

Odysseus Wallace, Young Life Area Director, Charleston, SC

When I was a teenager, Drew Hill entered my life and showed me the love and reality of Jesus.  His friendship sparked a faith journey that has continued through college, marriage, and now as a leader in ministry. “ Alongside” captures the essence of what Drew’s life has taught me: God designed his message to live in people. The Word becoming flesh was not an isolated event, but a precedent for all of us.

Zak Ellison, Young Life Area Director, Merced, California

Lists of how-to’s and bullet points describing successful parenting/youth ministry are plentiful and gather dust quickly. Drew Hill does something else. Alongside helps us mouth words of prayer for young people and invites us into their world through vivid snapshots of unfiltered real-life stories. Reading Alongside is an experience, not a lecture.

Sean McGever, Young Life Area Director, editor of and author of “Mark in a Month”

As you read the pages of this book, you’ll see clearly that Drew Hill loves teenagers and loves Jesus. He also knows teenagers and knows Jesus. Drew starts with Scripture, shares stories about teenagers he’s known, and offers practical tools for living out 1 Thessalonians 2:8 with the teenagers in your life.

Julie Clapp, Mission Director of WyldLife

If ministry is to be anything, it is to be incarnational.  In “Alongside,” Drew does a masterful job of using both Scripture and story to show the ministry of Jesus and how it can be lived out among those who love and pursue teenagers.  A must-read for anyone involved in youth ministry.

Jim Branch, Young Life veteran and author of “The Blue Book”

Drew winsomely communicates the realities of loving and pursuing kids in the hope that they see and experience Jesus. Whether you're a parent, a church youth minister or volunteer, a teacher, or in any way involved with teenagers, you'll be challenged, inspired and encouraged. Plus, there are great practical "tools of engagement" you'll find helpful.

Ty Saltzgiver, Author of “My First 30 Quiet Times”

I think for many of us, we can quickly forget what it felt like to be a teenager.  I certainly had those moments as a Young Life leader while also trying to manage the intense world of professional sports.  We forget the pressure to fit in, pressure to perform, and unrelenting messaging of how we just aren’t quite enough.  In Alongside, my friend Drew lays out a beautiful display of what it means to pursue young people, right where they are at.  This book will equip anyone to impact the next generation with the heart of God.

Clint Gresham, Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Champion and best-selling author of “Becoming”

“Alongside” takes you on an amazing journey through the struggles and trials of being a teenager…and the joy that comes with walking alongside them and sharing the gospel. Having experienced this first hand as a lost teenager, then as a Young Life leader, and now a parent of 3 teenage boys, I promise you will want to take plenty of notes as you walk through Drew’s compilation of stories, triumphs, struggles and truths. A great read!”

Dave Alpern, President, Joe Gibbs Racing, Young Life Committee member

Drew's insight has been validated by decades of working with and caring for young people. But this is not just a book about relating to youth culture. It is a road map for living life well, at any age and in any community. Read it. Do what it says. The rewards are generous.

Allen Levi, singer-songwriter and author of “The Last Sweet Mile”

Drew takes you into the world of young people, pulls you into your own life, and sets you down in scripture. Alongside is a great resource to have on your bookshelf through the seasons of life and ministry. As a veteran youth worker and  father of two, this book has refreshed my perspectives and recharged my passion to love young people well.

Cesar Castillejos, pastor, father, Young Life staff

There’s a special place in my heart for books that help parents and youth workers share with teenagers, not only God’s good news but their own lives too. A must-read book, ALONGSIDE is refreshingly honest and filled with life-changing, relationship-enriching insights and inspiration.

Fil Anderson, author of Running on Empty and former Young Life staff