Monday, January 23, 2017

Camp Musician of the Month: Lou Ruiz

Our featured Camp Musician this month is Lou Ruiz... and his new album was just released! 

(View other YL camp musicians here.)

Lou Ruiz is Young Life through and through. He considers himself very blessed to have been influenced by Young Life, and even more so giving back to the ministry through music.

Lou started going to Young Life as a freshman in high school and then went to Frontier Ranch as a camper a couple years later. He was hooked and went on to serve on Work Crew and eventually on Summer Staff and as a summer intern.

In 2013, Ruiz started playing music at Young Life camps and has been loving it ever since. He now serves on part-time staff at Stratford High school.

Lou’s newest album, Simple Days, is available here.

Visit Lou's website here:

Follow Lou on Twitter here: @louruizmusic

Email Lou to play at your Young Life camp or banquet.

What other Area Directors are saying about Lou:

"I have had the privilege of being on 4 straight summer assignments with Lou. I've seen him serve behind the scenes as a sound tech, and now as he has moved onto the stage as part of the Gospel proclamation through his music. His guitar and vocal talent is undeniable, yet what stands out to me is his desire to mold the message of his songs to fit the specific purpose of engaging kids with the Gospel. He is teachable, vulnerable, and hungry to use his music to draw kids to Christ alone. And he's dang fun to have on your assigned team." -Matt Sloan, Area Director in Asheville/Buncombe County

"Lou Ruiz has become such a valuable part of the Young Life mission. Lou is a first class songwriter and performer. Over the last few summers Lou has perfected his skills preforming at camp. Lou has also served in just about every camp role there is. I have had the pleasure of serving on assignment at YL Camp with Lou while he was the camp musician. I also had Lou come and lead music and perform as the camp musician on regional Leadership Weekends and Staff Conferences. Lou’s servant heart and ‘ALL-IN’ attitude is a blessing to any team. Lou has handcrafted songs that are the perfect complement to the way YL presents the Gospel to teenagers. Lou’s love of our mission and perspective on teens (He serves as a leader in Houston, TX) makes him perfect for proclaiming of the Gospel in any YL setting. Above all Lou’s passion for Christ and commitment to excellence makes his partnership with YL priceless. Teenagers and adults both love Lou and his creative style of sharing Christ’s love through song." - A BIG Lou Ruiz Fan - James Rockwell, Senior Vice President, Southeast Division

"Here is the thing about Lou: his music and service to Young Life is simply an obedient response to God's love and salvation in his own life.  There is a surprising lack of selfish ambition in Lou's music career.  That's not to say that his music is bland or flat.  In fact, it's wonderfully relevant and catchy.  I say "surprising lack of selfish ambition" because he certainly has been afforded opportunities that could lead to more fame, recognition, and money.  But I think that Lou has chosen the better.  He's chosen to write songs about Christ's adventurous and whimsical love.  And he's chosen to sing them to our high school friends.  I believe he's chosen it because he can't shake the memory of being one of those kids... a shaggy headed kid from Friendswood, Texas who found a home, a hope, and a savior through Young Life at Frontier Ranch a decade ago.  And I believe our mission is better for his decision." - Will Odom, Area Director in Upper East TN

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Raising the Stakes: Holding a Semester Long Competition at Club

Teenagers love competition. Competition already drives many of our Club mixers and games. What if we took it up a notch and created a semester long contest? It could help maintain, and even build, some momentum in the spring. 

Here's how it could work:

Create two teams: Red (Red Hot) vs Blue (Ice Cold)

Red: Last names A-J
Blue: Last names K-Z

(I know it would make sense to divide the alphabet at M/N, but statistically in the US, a more even divide occurs between J/K.)

Dividing by last names works as a natural mixer because it's puts people on teams, not divided by grade or gender, but truly randomly.

On the first Club night this semester, explain the following to everyone that there's going to be a semester long competition. Explain the following guidelines, you could even copy and paste them into a slide and put them on the screen.


  • All Club games/mixers/contests this semester will award points to the winning team.
  • At the end of every month (4 Clubs), the team with the most points will win free dinner at club (Pizza, dessert, drinks, candy, etc...). The losing team will just have to watch the winning team enjoy the food! 
  • There will be an awards dinner at the end of Feb, and another at the end of March. 
  • At the end of April, the end of the Club semester- whichever team has the most total points will win sweet YL Intramural Champion t-shirts! 
  • You get 200 points for your team just by showing up at Club. 
  • You get 500 points for your team when you bring a friend with you to Club for their first-time.
  • Your gets 2000 points when you win a Club competition, like a game or mixer.

There are tons of other ways you can give out points. Similar to camp, you could throw out frisbees and give 10pts for each one that is retrieved. You could also do a handshake contest and have each team create their own handshake. Judges decide who gets the points. 


Encourage teams to wear their team colors when they come to club. It's also fun to pass out red and blue bandanas on the first night when you're explaining the competition. Order enough red and blue bandanas for each person to have one. I ordered these on Amazon and they're great and only $1/bandana. 


It's essential to have 2 unbiased folks who are not on a team, but are simply designated scorekeepers. They keep track of who is there and who wins the game. You probably have some folks in your club who would much rather be the statistician than participating in games. This is a good opportunity to give them ownership and a chance to serve. (Here are 10 more ways to give kids ownership at club.)


If you call Papa Johns or most any pizza chain, they will give you large, 1-topping pizzas for $6-7. Ask them to cut the pizza into 10 slices instead of the typical 8, this just makes it go a little father. Estimate 2.5 slices/person or 5 people/pizza. If you have 40 people, you need 8 larges. 8 x $6 = $48. Plus tax and drinks= $65. Ask some parents to send desserts and also give them a chance to help chip in some money. Raising $65 to feed 40 people once a month is very doable! 


If anyone likes to make design and can come up with a sweet YL Intramural Champs shirt design, send it our way and we'll share it on the blog!

If anyone gives this a shot, let us know how it goes! We did it last semester and it was really fun! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tons of Club Plans for Spring 2017

Many areas around the country are having leader retreats this weekend! Share your pics using the hashtag #YLLeaderWeekend!

If you're working on planning your spring semester, check out this amazing spreadsheet that Ryan Weston (YL AD in Greenville, NC) put together for his area. It has tons of great ideas for YL, WL, and YLC to steal. 

Email us your spring club plans and we'll add them to the post. Creativity is just forgetting where you stole it from! 

You can also find tons of spring specific club plans on this post from last year, including ideas for YL WingFest, SuperBowl Club, Love Club, St. Patty's Club, March Madness Club, YL's Got Talent, Spring Break Club, Tacky Prom Club, Cinco De Mayo Club, 8th Grade Club, Senior Night, and more. 

Find more theme club ideas here.

Have a new fun theme idea? Email us here

Key Dates for Spring 2017

  • Make sure to look at your school calendar for dates when there's no school.
  • Know when the big school events are (TWIRP, Spring Break, Prom, Graduation, etc...) and avoid scheduling your cross talk on the night of the big game or chorus concert.
  • Know when there is a half/day or early release.
  • Daylight Savings Time springs forward on Sunday, March 12th, so after that, you'll have more daylight for club!
  • President's Day is Monday, Feb 20th
  • When is your high school Spring Break? If you have college leaders, when's your college spring break?
  • March Madness is March 14th - April 3rd, the national championship game is that Monday night (4/3/17)
  • Good Friday is April 14th, Easter April 16th
  • Cinco De Mayo is Friday, May 5th
  • Memorial Day is Monday, May 29th

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Young Lives: I Am Not Tired

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

After starting off the year by beginning YoungLives parenting classes at three new high schools, adding ten new volunteer mentors, hiring two new staff members, and meeting over forty brand new teen moms, it seems only natural that this verse would be one that I cling to.

I am tired. At times even weary.

I am tired of watching the moms we work with struggle to feel loved and accepted.

I am tired of getting phone calls from girls who are in abusive relationships, and I’m even more tired of watching them return to those situations.

I am tired of seeing families struggle to keep their heads above water, and I am tired of girls and babies who have no place to call home.

I am tired of “the system,” the policies, and the feelings of helplessness to get my friends out of hard circumstances.

I am tired of the cycle of poverty, the overwhelming amount of violence and murder in their neighborhoods, and the feelings of fear that live so presently inside their hearts.

I am tired of people telling them that they will never make it as a teen mom, and I’m tired of watching them believe that about themselves.

I am tired of the number of funerals they attend and the way they carry around loss.

And I’m tired of feeling like I can’t fix teen moms, their situations, or their emotions.

I am NOT, however, tired of watching God show up in the midst of exhaustion.

I am not tired of watching a mentor be the first one called to share the news that their baby's father has finally proposed.

I am not tired of seeing teen moms graduate from high school, get their first jobs, and celebrate that first paycheck.

I am not tired of teaching a group of them how to read and understand the Bible, and I am definitely not tired of text messages telling me what they have learned on their own.

I am not tired of hearing outsiders call them “amazing mothers,” and hearing the girls acknowledge that truth about themselves, as well.

I am not tired of taking them to church and seeing a congregation so very different from them, love them so well.

I am not tired of their laughter, their crazy dance moves, or when they sing worship music (or Adele) at the top of their lungs.

I am not tired of telling them I love them and hearing them return those words and mean it.

I am not tired of the energy and perseverance God continues to equip me with as I run hard after these precious teen moms and their babies.

And lastly, I am not tired of being surrounded by an abundance of love and support from the community of people involved with Nashville YoungLives.

Written by Lindsey Hearington.

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 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