Monday, November 20, 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas for Leaders

Are you a Young Life staff person looking for Christmas gift ideas for committee or leaders? A volunteer leader looking for gift ideas for your high school friends? Or maybe just a YL'dly selfish person, addicted to YL gear, looking for items to add to your own Christmas list...below are some ideas for you!

Custom Sweatshirt Blankets
One of my favorite YL gifts I've ever been given! You can order them at the YL online store for as low as $28.99. There are tons of other great gift ideas at the Online Young Life Store.

Buffalo Sherpa Blanket
Ohhh, sooooo soft. $38.99 at the Young Life store.

A book written by John Wagner, a senior VP for YL, Perfect tells the stories of John's son David, a 17-year-old boy with Down Syndrome. In the book, John shares how David has led him more fully to the sacred stories of Jesus. Get ready to dance, laugh, cry, celebrate, wonder, treasure, believe and be wrapped in pure joy as you meet this little boy who is precious to the Savior and a gift to all those around him. Buy it here.

By: Bob Mitchell and Kit Sublett
This book is a treasure of Godly wisdom that all YL leaders need to read. "Mitch" was Young Life’s third president and one of Jim Rayburn’s original club kids. He's the real deal and continues to point YL staff and leaders to Christ. “Letters to a Young Life Leader” is a collection of 37 letters, arranged in five sections, covering a wide range of topics -- everything from why we use humor in Young Life to spiritual formation and balancing ministry and family. Buy it here.

YL Knit Earband
Stay warm for only $6.99!
Another great YL treasure from Whitecaps Media. Buy it here.

Framed Wordles
Crazy Creek Camping Chairs
In the past, I have ordered a bunch of these chairs in bulk from websites like Sierra Trading Post for around $20.

YL Cell Phone Speaker
This lightweight Renew Speaker works with ALL iPhones and the new Samsung Galaxy S6-S8. Handcrafted to bed the speaker of your phone and amplify the sound of your favorite music with no cords or strings attached! Easy to use, hard to break, battery free, water resistant, and no hassle involved with connecting through blue tooth or auxiliary cords. Buy here for $33.99.
It's currently on sale on Staff Resources for only $26 and bulk orders are even less. Great gift for those who want to know the history of the mission from the early 30's through today. Get it here

YL Flannel PJ Pants

Young Life Water Bottles
There are a lot of options at the online YL store ranging between $7-$14. A great thing about water bottles is you can fill them with other fun and cheap things like a hand-written note, candy canes, etc.

Gas Cards
If you're a committee member looking for a gift for volunteer leaders, you can't go wrong with a gas card!

Head Lamps
Leaders can rapidly increase their cool points by breaking out a headlamp at camp. Prices range from $10-$100. I use mine all the time!

Personalized Frisbees/Disc Golf Discs
You can order disc golf discs or 175g nice ultimate frisbees with your area logo on them from a lot of online stores. The turnaround process typically isn't quick, so order today. I've had good success in the past with

Belt Buckles
Who doesn't want a belt buckle with the YL logo on it? Or a sketch of your face engraved in shiny silver? I've never ordered these, but I can't imagine anything I'd rather open on Christmas day than a nice shiny belt buckle. Shoutout to all our Texas YL leaders!

How fun would it be to pick out a different wig for each of your leaders? And think of the value that would add to your area skit closet! Find wigs here.

Sling Backpack
It's currently on clearance for only $12.97 at the Young Life store!

Christmas Themed Gifts and Catalog
You can also buy Christmas attire and gifts from the YL store here or check out the entire Young Life Christmas Catalog here

How To Distribute Gifts At A Leader Party
One year we played a game to distribute gifts. There were tons of gifts on a table up front in view of all. The gifts ranged in cost from $5-$30 and varied from the things above to books, gift cards to restaurants, etc. The person who had been leading the longest in the area got to pick a gift first...all the way to the newest leader picking last. It was a nice way to recognize the marathoners in the group and fun to see what everyone picked.

Here are some helpful thoughts from Eric Scofield for YL staff folks. (direct link to video

If you have ideas for Christmas gifts for leaders, email us here and we'll add them to the list!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Advent Devotional by Jim Branch

Many of you are familiar with "The Blue Book" and have loved reading Jim Branch's writings. Jim was on staff with Young Life for almost twenty years and now directs a ministry of spiritual nurture in Knoxville, TN. Jim has also written a book called, "Watch and Wait," specifically for the season of Advent. This year Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 3rd.

Purchase a copy here: Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas.

For most of my Christian life I was unaware of the beautiful way the story of faith retells itself each year through the church liturgical calendar. How each and every year through its feasts and fasts, its celebrations and remembrances, the incredible story of God's extravagant love for his people is lived out again and anew by the community of faith. It is an ancient dance that has been done by fellow pilgrims throughout the centuries, offering an invitation to us all to journey with Christ, and the people of God, into a more intimate and vibrant relationship with the One who made us for himself. It is an invitation for each of us to enter into his story; to live each season in a way that gives us a deeper love for, and a stronger faith in, the God who dreamt us into being. 

The first step in this journey is the season of Advent, the season of watching and waiting for Christ to be born among us and within us. It is the season where we get in touch with our deep longing for God to show up in our lives and in our word. After all, he is, and has always been, the God who comes. Ours is just to pay careful attention to the how and the where and the when of that coming.” 

- Jim Branch

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt

Below is another fun Christmas club idea, similar to "Bigger, Better, Best!"

The Human Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt gives kids and leaders an opportunity to laugh and play – and also allows parents to get involved.

The Big Picture
Teams visit houses in the neighborhood looking for items to “hang” on their human Christmas tree – one of their team members. They’re not asking for actual ornaments – just something red or something with lights or something reindeer-y that will not be returned to its owner. 

Feel free to use/adapt this list for your own scavenger hunt.

These items are taped all over the human Christmas tree. All teams meet back at club for a Christmas tree presentation, judging, awards and a club talk.

The Details
Kids, leaders and parent drivers meet at your club location. Explain the scavenger hunt rules and then divide kids into teams with one parent driver or leader per team. Tell them that this scavenger hunt isn’t a race – it’s more about creativity. Give each team the ending time and a point list, and send them on their way.

If your club location is in a neighborhood, you may not even need drivers - teams can walk to nearby houses instead. But you might consider assigning streets so three teams don’t hit up the same houses over and over again.

Whether you’re driving or walking, you can also assign one house for each team to do all of their “ornament shopping”. Talk to parents/homeowners the week before so they are ready for a team of middle school kids to invade their house.

At the end of the scavenger hunt, gather kids back at your club location. Let each team present their “tree” to the judges – your parent drivers or other parents you’ve invited. One of your leaders can give a short Christmas club talk followed by an announcement of the winners. You can give awards for the highest point total, but also for the most creative, tiniest or funniest “ornaments."

Consider ending the night with a hot chocolate bar: parent baristas serving hot chocolate with toppings like whipped cream, candy canes, sprinkles, chocolate chips and more.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christmas Club Ideas (and Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant)

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than 5 weeks away! With Thanksgiving next week, start planning for Christmas Club now. Below are tons of ideas we've used in the past. 

Christmas Club Schedule

On a normal Monday, we typically start club at 7:37, but for this particular event, we start earlier to allow more time for the Mr. Christmas Tree pageant.

6:50-7:20- Pics with Santa/ Awkward Christmas Cards
7:20- Seniors form entry tunnel
7:22- Tonight, Yes, Tonight- Buddy the elf (host)
7:23- Christmas Medley (band)
7:26- 12 days of Christmas (mixer & song)
7:30- Mr. Christmas Tree Training Video
7:35- Mr. Tree group dance
7:40- Buddy the elf spaghetti game
7:44- Judges Panel introduced
7:45- Talent Competition
7:59- JibJab Elf head video
8:02- Announcements
8:04- Parade of Trees (Runway Script)
8:12- Contestant Interviews
8:16- Text Message Voting
8:19- Joy To The World
8:23- What Child Is This?
8:26- Intro Drew
8:28- Drew's Talk
8:43- Crown Mr. Christmas Tree
8:48-exit music

Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant

Brian Summerall started doing "Mr. Christmas Tree" at Pearce High School in Texas many moons ago. You can read more about his vision for the pageant on his website

Since then, the idea has spread all over the country. Many YL clubs have each grade nominate one guy to represent their class in the pageant.

When we started doing it 8 years ago, we decided to make it a senior guys competition- a sort of rite of passage. It's created momentum and gave the underclassmen something to look forward to when they became seniors. This year's senior guys will compete, many remembering their first ever Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant they watched when they were freshmen. The last few years we've had around 15-20 senior guys compete. Each of them brings friends to club to "vote" for them, so it typically is our highest attended club of the year. Because of the energy surrounding the event, we also make it the first night folks can sign up for our summer camp trip.

*We also do a similar event, "The Ms. Valentines Pageant" for the senior ladies in February.

Talent Competition

A fun way to get teachers, coaches, YL committee, and former YL leaders involved is to ask them to serve on the Judges Panel.

If you select one guy from each grade, or use 4-8 total guys, each guy could have time to perform an individual talent like dancing, singing, silly tricks, etc... In that case the judges panel could help keep a running score.

If you have more than 8 guys, I'd recommend putting the guys into "talent groups." Last year we had 4 groups of 4 guys.

You can decide if the panel determines the winner, or if you vote by applause, text message, or by the audience each circling a name on a ballot you pass out towards the end of the competition.

12 Days of Christmas Skit

Here's a funny skit idea for 2 of the contestants to do together while the rest of the contestants sing the 12 Days of Christmas. It feels a little long so I might just do it once starting on the 12th day.

Parade of Trees

Some clubs duct tape actual trees to guys, which is hilarious. We encourage guys to dress as tree, open to their own interpretation. Some use actual tree branches taped to their body, some wear ornaments, tinsel, star hats, popcorn strings, some dress in green and brown, but every one of them is covered in strands of Christmas lights. After they walk down the runway onto the stage, we have a couple of power strips where they each can plug in their lights. (Some use battery packs)

During their runway walk we have an announcer reading a funny 'runway script.' Each guy submits personal stats they would put on a resume and we work together on making it funny. Here's the script we used from a previous year. In the past I have asked the PA announcer at our high school football games to come in and read the script in his awesome football announcer voice.


We typically have someone dress up as "Buddy The Elf" and host the entire evening as sort of a Ryan Seacrest/Will Ferrell combo character. It helps the flow of the evening if one person is directing stage traffic.


If possible, get last year's Mr. Christmas Tree winner to return home for this club to crown the new winner. Create an elaborate "sash and star crown" for the presentation. We're doing this after the talk in order to give time to tally the votes during the talk, and it's a fun way to conclude the evening. You can also have kids vote via text messaging using


If you have just a handful of contestants, each guy could make their own "entry video" or "training video." They could be practicing singing, doing pushups, running bleachers, visiting a Christmas tree lot, painting themselves green, duct taping branches on their bodies, drinking lots of egg nog, etc...
If you're using a lot of contestants, make one training video together. Here are some examples of videos from other clubs:
Pearce Young Life
Pearce Young Life 2012
Wichata Falls Young Life
Amarillo Young Life
Delta County Young Life


Ask friends for BIG inflatables and borrow Christmas lights. Click here for more details.

  • Rudolph, Feliz Navidad, and Jingle Bells are good fast ones.
  • 'What Child is this?' and 'Silent Night' are good slow ones.
  • Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you" is good background music for fillers and games.
  • "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync is a must.

12 Days Of Christmas Song & Mixer

As a mixer, use the song "12 days of Christmas" and divide your club into 6 groups. Group 1 will have "the 1st day of Christmas and the 7th day of Christmas, Group 2 will have day 2 and day 8, etc... Personalize the song to fit your club. Ex: If you took kids to Crooked Creek and the program team used Skippy the fish, then you could change the lyrics to: "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Skippy in a Crooked Creek." Get creative.

Balloon Antlers

Get a few pairs of pantyhose and a bunch of balloons and have teams of 4 work together to blow up the balloons and then stuff them to see who can make the best reindeer antlers in 90 seconds.


If you need a large group game you can play "Encore" or "Sing-off" and have each class compete (team of freshmen, team of sophs, etc...) to sing Christmas carols. If they repeat one that has already been sung, they are out. This works pretty well if you have team captains for each group.

Little Nemo Elf

The traditional "Little Nemo" skit works great with Elves. It's explained here.

Christmas Carols with Helium

Name that Christmas Carol

Buddy The Elf Spaghetti Contest

Start it off by showing the clip from the movie Elf whereWill Ferrell eats spaghetti with maple syrup, marshmallows, m&ms, & skittles. Then have a character come on stage dressed as an Elf. You can buy an "elf shirt" lots of places like Walmart/Target or online at Elf Shirt Purchase. Have "Buddy the Elf" come out with all the ingredients mentioned above. You also need a tarp, towels for the kids to clean up with afterwards, theme music to play in the background, and bowls. Have the kids race to eat with their hands. Give out decent sized portions where a kid can actually eat it all in a minute. If you put too much in there, it will take too long and be a dud.


Create a JibJab video of your YL leaders heads on the bodies of elves. You have to pay to download it, or you can just show it if you have WiFi where you have club.

Awkward Family Christmas Cards

Pics With Santa

Invite a committee member or parent to dress up as Santa and have kids get their pics taken with him. Invite another adult to take the pics in order to free up leaders to be with kids. Lighting is key for good photos. Chances are you have a parent or friend of YL in the community who loves photography, has a sweet camera, and would love to do it for free.

Candy Canes

Pass them out before club. They're cheap and festive.

Ugly Sweaters

Encourage kids to dress up in their ugliest Christmas sweaters. Odds are, their moms probably have some sweet ones in the attic. If not, a Goodwill trip is always great contact work.


Here are a few ideas thanks to Sean McGever and

Thursday, November 16, 2017

10 Ideas for Turkey Club

Have kids bring canned goods to club to donate to needy families. You could also ask them to bring supplies for Operation Christmas Child and put together Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes

Divide into groups and have folks write funny thank you notes, then collect them and read them on stage with the Jimmy Fallon piano music in the background.

Secret Messages

Have everyone at club send a DM to your YL Twitter or Instagram account with something they're thankful for. Tell them you're going to anonymously read them out loud.This will make sure most everyone is following the Twitter/Instagram accounts and also be a fun way to share thankfulness. Thanks to Sean McGever at for sharing this and other helpful thoughts about creating a YL tradition of thankfulness. 

Turkey Bowl

Lots of clubs around the country have a tradition of holding an annual "YL Turkey Bowl" football game. Go the extra mile and make shirts, because who doesn't need another YL shirt, especially one with a picture of a turkey playing football. You can create competition between classes, kind of a Jr vs Sr powderpuff feel. If you have a sweet YL Turkey Bowl t-shirt or logo design that you're willing to share, email it to us and we'll add it to this post.

Turkey Stuffing 

Divide into teams. Give each person a balloon (the stuffing) and one large shirt or sweatshirt. Give them one minute to “prep” their turkey by blowing up the balloon and stuffing them in the shirt of one person on their team. When the time is up, have a sumo match. The last one standing wins.(from

Turkey Head

Just a slight twist on the ol' surgical glove on the head game, because it does look like a turkey, especially if you color the fingers. 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 by blowing through their noses. It can get huge!  Take pics. Special thanks to our Area Director, David Page, for demonstrating his inflatable turkey skillz. 

Pumpkin Long Snapper Game

Items needed:
  • Small pumpkins or gourds (hand sized) 
  • 2 baskets
  • You will need two teams of two
  • Set the basket 15 feet from one player and have the player's teammate stand with basket.
  • In this challenge, one player will hike pumpkins between their legs like a long snapper in football. The teammate holding the basket will toss back any pumpkins or gourds. 
  • Team with the most pumpkins at the end of 60 seconds wins the challenge.

Pie Face Game
Items needed:
  • Plate
  • Pumpkin pie with whipped topping
  • Instruct players they must keep their hands behind their backs.
  • The first player to devour the pie - crust, filing, whipped cream, and all in 60 seconds or less wins the challenge.

Turkey Bowling
Items Needed:
  • Frozen Turkey 
    • You can leave the plastic and netting on the turkey and throw it holding the netting OR
    • Get a drill and drill 3 finger holes into the turkey and throw it like an actual bowling ball.
  • 12 Bowling pins or 2-liter bottles filled with sand
    • You can often get donations of old broken pins from a local alley.
  • Plastic tarp (long enough to serve as your "lane")
  • Oil or water (to spread on tarp so turkey slides more easily)
  • Sturdy, stable backboard for end of lane - a table on its side would work well. Nail or tape securely to the ground or floor
  • Person to set up pins after each bowl
How to Play:  
  • Each team has three participants. 
  • Game consists of three rounds. First student from each team bowls in the first round, second student in the second round, third student in the third round.
  • Scoring is just like regular bowling except there are only three frames. The third frame is the equivalent of the tenth frame in regular bowling with the potential for an extra bowl if the participant scores a strike or spare.
  • Each participant gets two bowls with the exception of the third participant who will have the opportunity for an extra bowl if he/she scores a strike or spare.
  • Play the 'Chicken Dance' in the background or have a kid who hunts blow his turkey call every time pins are knocked down. 
Turkey Trophy 
Make a turkey out of an old bowling ball (body) and pin (as the head). Use feathers and a red sock as a goblet and paint the ball with winners names.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Detailed Plan for Promoting Young Life Events on Social Media

Written by Ryan Ahlwardt (Area Director, Hamilton Southeastern Young Life)


Club Theme Twitter Poll
  • One week during All-School Campaigners, call out for 10 rapid-fire ideas for Club themes from kids; repeat them to the crowd with an upbeat comment ("Stranger Things Club! Awesome, Katie! Who's got another?")
  • Have a leader type them into their phone real-time and text them to whoever handles social media
  • Invite everyone to get out their phones and follow your club’s Twitter account ("You guys, we want you to vote right after Campaigners tonight!")
  • Leaders & staff person pick top-3 most fun, creative, and feasible ideas from kids and create a Twitter poll that lasts for 4 days ("HIGH-SCHOOLERS! Vote for this month's Club theme and bring a friend!")
  • Post a screenshot of the Twitter poll (without any responses yet) to Instagram ("Follow @hseyounglife on Twitter and vote right now for this month's Club theme!")
  • Post the same screenshot to Facebook ("PARENTS! Make sure your kids vote for this month's Club theme over at our Twitter page!") along with the Twitter link
  • Set a reminder on your phone to check the Twitter poll in 4 days for the winning theme idea


Live Updates 

  • Leader or staff person creates a 1-min Facebook Live update that gives 3 pieces of info:
    1. What kids are discussing tonight
    2. Important dates for the week ahead
    3. Some kind of call-to-action (sign up for the banquet, donate a meal for leaders at the website, follow us on Instagram, pray for us about ____, etc.)
  • Leader or staff person gives the exact same update on a live Twitter update ("PARENTS! Here's everything you need to know about the week ahead in @younglife! #youweremadeforthis")
  • Leader or staff person gives the exact same update on a live Instagram update ("We're going to have pics from tonight up soon, you guys. Make sure you tag yourselves and a friend who needs to come next week.")
  • NOTE: make sure your WiFi connection is solid during these live updates, otherwise it can come across really amateur
  • This won't take you more than 5 minutes to do across the 3 platforms. Have a plan of what you're going to say. Don't say more than necessary. Get in and get out. Make it about KIDS and LEADERS, not you.
    • Example: "Hey, everyone, it's Ryan! Behind these doors, we've got about 75 kids and their leaders who are diving into the Bible together tonight to see what God has to say about forgiveness. Here at Young Life, you don't have to agree with us to be with us and you don't have to believe to belong. If you're wanting to learn more about how you can be a part of this awesome, life-changing community, sign up right now for our parent newsletter on our website. Also, keep an eye out for camp info coming soon in the next couple of weeks! Thanks for watching. Have a great night!"

Capturing Stories 

  • Assign a leader or two (or a committee member) to take pictures of kids & leaders throughout the night and text them to you after (groups, candids, simple moments, etc)
  • Staff person should be ALL EARS for inspiring quotes from kids & leaders in their small groups; hop from group to group for 5-10 mins if possible and LISTEN
  • Set a goal to capture at least 5 quotes that night; never use a kid's last name or share something that is personal or would make a parent/student uncomfortable or embarrassed
  • Copy kids or leaders' quotes into the Evernote app to store them for future use on social media, in newsletters, etc. (Folder name: "Quotes from Events for Social Media")
    • Examples:
      • "I just want you guys to know that following Jesus in high school is never boring." - Sam, HSE junior & WyldLife leader
      • "I guess I never really imagined how much God wants a relationship with me until now." - Kendra, sophomore
      • "This is home for me." - Will, senior


Sharing Stories 

  • Edit/crop/beautify and post a rapid burst of 5-10 photos on Instagram and tag as many kids as you know in the photo
  • Make your captions consistent in their tone (ex: dry & clever, silly & upbeat, etc); having a consistent "tone of voice" across your different platforms is necessary for your audience to stay engaged.
    • Examples:
      • "So much going on here."
      • "When your leader still wants to be in high school."
      • "Please just look at Jacob's face."
      • "Note the number of knee pops."
      • "Squad."
      • "Standard Monday vibes."
  • Think as a kid would for Instagram captions and like parents do for Facebook updates. Whatever you do, don't overuse exclamation points or all-caps. Brevity and clean messaging always win.


Facebook Recap the Following Day
  • The day after an event, post 1-3 of the edited pictures from last night's event with a simple quote from a kid/leader as the caption ("I just love coming here every week." - Jade, sophomore)
  • Have the copy for your update be compelling and brief ("God continues to move on Mondays! Parents, learn more about how you can get involved at")

Update Your Website
  • Pull last night's event off your area's calendar (this takes 2 minutes and makes a parent's life easier when they're looking for info)


Quote something from @younglife and add a simple statement of agreement ("Same." "This right here, you guys!" etc) OR post inspirational Bible verses or encouraging content for kids
    • Examples:
      • "No matter what you're going through right now, you're seen, known, and loved by the God who made you."
      • "At @younglife, you don't have to agree with us to be with us and you don't have to believe to belong."
      • "How can we pray for you right now?"

Post a picture to promote an upcoming event (include kids in the pic!) OR post a powerful picture of kids and leaders and make the caption a quote or statement that's in line with Young Life’s message.

Post any general updates for parents to be aware of ("PARENTS! Do you want to show your child's leader how much they mean to them? Click here to donate a leader meal for an upcoming event!")


Announce the winner of the Club theme using drum roll/gold trophy/party emojis.
    • Example: "Three weeks away! Stranger Things @younglife Club! Dress up like your favorite character! Someone be a demogorgon pleaaasee. Shout-out to Katie for the idea!"

Find a compelling, simple picture related to the Club theme online and share it with a caption like the one below
    • Example: "413 of you voted! This is going to be EPIC. SEE YOU AT #StrangerThingsYL CLUB LATER THIS MONTH! No real nosebleeds if you're coming as Eleven."

Post the same picture from Instagram with a parent-centered update like the one below.
    • Example: "PARENTS! You know that Netflix show that your kids have been watching lately that's kind of like The Goonies except Winona Rider's in it? Help us remind them about #StrangerThingsYL Club happening three Mondays from now at the barn! All are welcome."

  • Get 15-20 second video clips of kids and leaders saying why they're a part of Young Life or what they'd say to someone who's never been to an event before; use these videos for content as needed
  • Put the cell number of a leader (or leaders) who wasn't able to come up on a big piece of paper and have everyone text them something like "See you next week!" or "We miss you! #leaderlovebomb"
  • Have everyone do a live Instagram or Snapchat of a kid/leader leading worship at All-School Campaigners
  • Do an Instagram Scavenger Hunt around your town where kids have to upload pictures as a group with certain hashtags about Young Life so everyone who follows them sees your area/club Instagram handle
  • Upload 30-second "#WisdomWednesday" videos from kids & leaders (capture these before/after an event; make sure your phone is horizontal so it films in HD, tag them, and have part of their quote be the caption)
    • Example: "My name is Chad and I'm a senior at HSE. If I could go back in time and tell my sophomore year self something about life, it would be..."
  • Challenge yourself to have a daily hashtag for content (but know that will require more of your time and focus!)
  • Examples: