Friday, July 25, 2014

When Young Life Leaders Say Goodbye

Originally posted June 2012.
Odds are some of your Young Life team members are entering a season of transition.  Maybe they're moving this summer. Maybe they're burned out. Maybe they're called to another ministry. 

Their absence will be noticed. Not just by you or your team, but by the kids. Change is hard. Trust is expensive. Abandonment issues are real.

Would you consider sharing this post with any of your teammates who are transitioning out of being a YL leader at your school?  Hopefully it will help them and the middle and high school friends they leave behind.

How Do We Say Goodbye To Our High School Friends? 

Years ago I worked at The Dale House Project in Colorado Springs. It's a residential care facility started by Young Life for at-risk teenagers who cannot return home. During my internship, the counselor on our staff spent time training us on how to say goodbye. He was firm in urging us to not make promises we couldn't keep. The specific population of kids we were working with had been repeatedly abandoned and rejected by their families and friends. Now we had come into their lives for a short time, loved them in a way they had never experienced, and soon we also would be leaving them. It wasn't easy. It didn't seem right. It hurt deeply, both us and the kids.

Jim encouraged us to speak to the kids in a language that was 
honest, loving, and leaving. He prompted us to say things like:
  • I'm so thankful for the time we've shared together and so sad to have it end.
  • Sadly, our relationship is probably never going to be the same that its been this year.
  • I want to keep in touch with you, but I also know that life and distance will not make that as easy as it has been.
  • I will pray for you when I think of you. 
  • I will miss you when I'm gone.
In this digital age we have the tendency to make false promises. We think because we're facebook friends we can be real friends, when in reality its much more difficult when your paths aren't crossing regularly. In our busy lives, it's typically true: "Out of sight, Out of mind."

Dunbar's number asserts that we all have a relational capacity of around 150 people. Yet when I became a Young Life leader I was told to "make friends like you are going to know them for the rest of your life." That year alone I became friends with over 150 high schoolers, and now, many years later, those numbers have continued to grow.

I think I missed one key word during that 
YL Leader training. "Make friends LIKE you are going to know them for the rest of your life." As leaders, we are to befriend kids with the mentality that we would love to be a groomsmen or bridesmaid in their wedding one day, to be roasting them at their 40th birthday party, to be old friends smoking cigars together on that "YL Alumni 100th Year Reunion Caribbean Cruise 2043." 

But we must also not be so arrogant to think that without us in their lives, they will never know Christ or have others love them and influence them in the Way of Jesus. God calls people in and out of our lives for specific seasons.

The reality is that we're not going to know all of our high school friends for the rest of our lives. So...we must learn how to say goodbye.

If you are leaving...

You'll Be Missed More Than You Realize
Do not assume kids won't notice that you are gone. Whether you realize it our not, you are one of the only "adult friends" these teenagers have. They most likely feel closer to you than you feel to them. Even though they sometimes act like they don't even know you when you show up in the cafeteria or to a game, they will notice when you are gone. And it will be a loss for them.

Give An Explanation
When leaving, we must be intentional to actually say goodbye. It is easier to just leave without the hoopla, but kids need to know the truth. They need to hear it from you, not someone else. If you asked them to trust you and to be your friend, you at least owe them the time to tell them goodbye. In some cases, it may be complicated as to why you are leaving, but it is important for you to give the kids an honest, clear, and well thought through explanation.  You don't owe them all the details, but you at least owe them a reason for why you are leaving them.

Leave With Grace
Maybe you are leaving under not so great circumstances. Maybe you had a fall out with a teammate or a staff person. Maybe you're not a fan of the way things are being run. Even if you are leaving with tension, don't tear down others or verbally attack the ministry. Revenge doesn't mean that you win, it means that everyone loses. Choose your words carefully. Be truthful, but speak with grace. 

Be A Cheerleader
When a kid calls and tells you that "Young Life sucks since you left," encourage them to step up and be a leader instead of a critic. Be positive and support the leadership that is in place. Your voice still carries weight and influences the direction of the ministry. 

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep
It hurts less initially if you say "I'm not going to be a leader, but we can still hang out all the time." 

But it hurts way more down the road when you aren't at all their games like you were last season.

It hurts less initially when you say "I'm moving, but we'll still talk all the time, that's what facebook and cell phones are for."
But it hurts way more down the road when you don't make those phone calls they were expecting.

It hurts less initially when you say "I'll come back and visit all the time."
But it hurts way more down the road when they see pics on your facebook wall revealing that you were back in town, and didn't call.

Tell them that you are sad that your relationship will never again be the same. Acknowledge the loss and hurt that comes with goodbyes.

Expect Anger
Not from many kids, but probably from the ones you are closest too. They have a right to be angry. You have chosen something else instead of them. But choices are part of life. Jesus chose only twelve disciples. He chose to spend more time with only three of them. Our choices affect others. Many kids have been wounded by one day coming home to find out their mom or dad have moved out. Many of them have experienced real abandonment and they will be angry at you, or even God. As I have moved I have had kids say to me, "You're leaving me just like everyone else in my life leaves me." We have got to trust that God is in control and if we are being obedient to Him, then His plan is for ultimate good, even when it results in anger and hurt.

Make The Hand-off
It is your responsibility to do whatever you can to set up the high school friends you are leaving with another YL leader or someone else who can invest in their life. While it's easier to just roll out, it's worth the extra effort to introduce the new leaders to kids and even create hang out events where the new leader can be set up well to begin to earn the right to be heard. Also, be strategic in introducing new leaders to school faculty and parents of kids that you know. A true sign of good leadership is the success of an organization after a leader leaves. Leave well.

Do you know a YL leader who is moving on? Feel free to share this with them by clicking the Email/Twitter/Facebook links below this post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How To Recruit New Young Life Leaders

We're always looking for more Young Life leaders. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. (Matt.9:37). 

The summer is a great time to recruit new leaders. Here are 10 ways to do it: 
  • Ask your high school friends if they have any older siblings, friends, teachers or coaches they think would make good YL leaders.
  • Ask the parents of your high school friends if they know any college grads moving back to the area who might make good YL leaders.
  • Ask local youth pastors/pastors if there is anyone in their church with a heart for outreach and teenagers.
  • Put up flyers at local universities, community colleges, and Paneras.
  • Use social media to spread the word and let others know your needs.
  • Partner with campus ministries at the local college to see if there are folks in Cru, IV, FCA, RUF, CO, etc.. who might be interested in outreach high school ministry.
  • Ask empty-nester parents to pray about leading.
  • Guest preach or make announcements at local churches, casting the vision and sharing the need.
  • Talk to Christians who don't really like Young Life and help them understand the heart of the mission.
  • Pray expectantly, asking God to provide in ways that may surprise you.

Acts 2:42-47: "They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Jim Rayburn

Today is the birthday of the founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn. If he was still living today, he'd be 105. 

Jim Rayburn Jr. was born in Iowa on July 21, 1909. He lived a short 61 years in which God used him to start the incredible movement of Young Life. The lives he touched and still continues to impact are countless.

One of the most life changing books I've ever read is Jim Rayburn's biography, "Dance, Children, Dance." It was written by Jim's son, Jim Rayburn III, and you can purchase it here.

Another must read for all Young Life leaders is "The Diaries of Jim Rayburn," compiled by Kit Sublett. You can buy it from the site above or from Kit here.

Jim Rayburn III has also provided a great gift to us leaders by offering free downloads of eight of Jim's Young Life talks given at Frontier Ranch between 1959-1962. You can download them here by right clicking on each link and selecting "Save As."

Happy Birthday Jim Rayburn! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tim Keller's Advice For Helping Teenagers Grow In Their Faith

Originally posted July 2013
When Tim Keller was asked his best advice for helping teenagers grow in their faith, this was his answer: 

'Teenagers have more information about God than they have experience of him. Get them in places where they have to rely on God." 

It got me thinking. Where are the places where my high school friends have to rely on God? How do we as Young Life leaders help get them there?

4 Ways We Invite Our Teenage Friends To Rely On God

Invite Them Into Adventure

We strategically fill our camps with high-adventure activities for this very reason. 

The high ropes course.
The Quantum Leap pole.
Riding a 1000 pound horse.
Fill in the _______. 

Risk requires faith. 

What adventure will you lead your friends into this year?  

Will you start a clothing line to feed the poor?
Will you work together to end slavery?
Will your Campaigners group give up soda for a year to bring clean water to a village?
Will you go overseas with YL Expeditions?

Invite Them Into Silence

In a world where we're more socially 'connected' than ever before, it's easy to never be 'alone.'  To never experience 'silence.' We can always have someone to talk to, even if its an X-box Live opponent we've never met. Our loneliness is masked by relationships as shallow as our iPhone screens. Our mood is dependent upon our online approval rating. Let's invite our middle and high school friends into intentional times of silence and solitude, turning off our phones, but not just for a week at camp. 

What if your Campaigners group this semester started with phones turned off and in a basket.  What if it ended with 20 minutes of silence?  Torture? A declining Campaigners attendance? Maybe. But it's always a highlight at camp. Could it happen on a weekly basis? 

Could turning off our dependence on the world's approval give us enough silence to hear what our Heavenly Father thinks of us? 

Invite Them Out Of Comfort

Fifteen years ago we spent our college spring break working at Pico Escondido YL camp in the Dominican Republic. I stayed with a family in a shanty that would be deemed unfit for habitation in America. They had one bed and insisted I sleep there while they made pallets on the floor. I still remember the light in their eyes. 

They did not depend upon earthly possessions. 
They did not depend upon their health. 
They found joy in relying upon Christ alone. 
There are people in our city who have no homes. 
There are refugee families who have no friends. 
There are elderly men and women who never have visitors. 
There are sick people who have no hope of a cure. 

Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27 (Phillips)

Let's invite our friends out of their comfort zones... 
and into relationships with people whom have nothing else to depend upon. 

Invite Them Into Prayer

Prayer is the ultimate act of reliance upon God. It's admitting weakness. It's saying, "God, I can't, but you can." 

What would happen if you gathered a few of your high school friends next week just to pray? What if you met at the school with no other agenda than to pray for God to move? What if it became a weekly sacrifice, to get up early on Fridays, just to pray?  I can't think of a more intentional way to invite them to 'rely on God.' 

What God's Word Says About Relying On Him

John 6:63
1 Peter 5:7
Jeremiah 17:5-9
Proverbs 3:5-6
Philippians 4:19
Jeremiah 33:3

What would you add? How else can we invite our teenage friends into places that force them to rely on God?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Joe & Ryan at Castaway Club: My Favorite Version Of 'How He Loves'

Camp speaker Matt Margaron recently shared this video of Joe, a camper from Kansas, and camp musician Ryan Ahlwardt leading worship on the last night of camp at Castaway last month. Make sure you watch until the end and listen to Joe's words. Beautiful.

How He Loves - Joe and Ryan (Young Life Castaway Club Talent Show 2014) from YoungLife Naperville on Vimeo.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The 1st Ever YL Summer Camp In El Salvador

A Guest Post from Jesse Papirio.

History is being made this summer August 1st - 5th when El Salvador will be running its first ever Young Life camp. The first one will set the stage for the future. Teenagers will leave their homes and go into the hills outside San Salvador to encounter Jesus as never before.

Help us be part of the first ever Young Life summer camp in El Salvador. You can be a part of history in the making by purchasing a t-shirt to help fund a week of camp for teens in El Salvador! 

Last April I got to sit with Enrique, the director of YL in El Salvador as he shared stories of the incredible things the Lord has done in the city of San Salvador since YL was established just a few years ago.  He shared with us his vision for running the first YL camp ever in his country and we got to dream with him about how this could change the lives of kids and what it could mean for the future.  

Who doesn't love an awesome Young Life t-shirt? Especially one with so much meaning and impact??  We are raising money to purchase 6 tents, sponsor 6 campers from a rural village (who would not otherwise be able to attend) and send 7 work crew/staff to be at the camp from August 1st – 5th.

Please consider helping us reach our goal of selling 150 shirts and be a part of what the Lord is doing to share his love with the world!

“Look at the nations and watch—be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." ~Habakkuk 1:5

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What I Learned At Woodleaf: Part 3

Justin McRoberts recently shared three lessons he learned while serving as Summer Staff coordinator and camp musician at Woodleaf. If you missed the first 2, you can find them here:

Lesson 1: Real-Life Cost Benefit Analysis 
Lesson 2: Life, Like Dancing, Is About Joy 

Lesson 3: 'Moving Mountains, Moving Lakes' 

We are moving a lake here at Woodleaf.

I can hear the pump humming across the street, where it sits on a platform in the middle of the old mill pond. The Honda WT30X trash pump is pushing water through 760 ft of 3” PVC pipe, which Woodleaf’s property staff purchased and assembled. A good portion of that pipe runs beneath La Porte Rd before dumping 32 gallons of water every minute into a trench on the far side of the property. The water then travels just over 800ft down that trench to the 5.3 acre, man-made lake where all of Woodleaf’s waterfront features are hosted.

Why are we moving a lake here at Woodleaf?

Because the water level in the man-made lake had fallen unexpectedly low, rendering several of Woodleaf’s waterfront features unsafe and unusable. Of course, that’s the technical answer. At heart, we are moving a lake because several of the 300 kids at The Leaf this week live in the Los Angeles foster care system. By definition, these are kids whose homes could (or would) no longer sustain, welcome or care for them. Many of these kids have moved more than 15 times in their lives, and likely at least once this year. Many of them have a parent currently in prison and have lost friends or family to drugs and gun violence. Their histories tell a story in which they too easily see themselves as circumstantial persons, victims and even mistakes; children who “happened” along someone else’s way but for whom there was little to no room.

We are moving a lake here at Woodleaf because offering this property to these kids at full capacity (which means having the entire waterfront open) is a significant way for us to say to these kids (to every kid, really):

“You are welcomed.
You are valued.
You are cherished
You are beloved.
You are worth every inch of our time, energy and effort.”

Serving at Woodleaf, I am clearly reminded that the facts of life, regardless of what they are, can be changed, like the measurements of water levels. Circumstances can be restructured, like the assembly of a water-transfer system. Being at Woodleaf, I am reminded that whole lives can be transformed. And just like the moving of lakes and mountains, doing so can seem ridiculous and impossible.

It’s not.

Changing lives, like moving lakes, just takes more hours, money, emotion and labor than we are often willing to give. But every inch of the effort we put in is worth it. Every kid is worth that time, money, emotion and effort.  Had it been a mountain, Woodleaf would have move that, too. Not because doing so is a spectacular feat of strength we are impressed at having accomplished, but because, at Woodleaf, moving mountains and lakes is a way to say “We love you.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What I Learned At Woodleaf: Part 2

Justin McRoberts recently shared three lessons he learned while serving as Summer Staff coordinator and camp musician at Woodleaf. If you missed yesterday's, you can read it here on Justin's Blog: Real-Life Cost Benefit Analysis.

The last lesson will be posted tomorrow.

Life, Like Dancing, Is About Joy 

The song’s low-end rumbles so deeply I can feel it through the cement beneath my feet, the beat is a steady 4-counts… and the kid in front of me is missing every one.Of course, he doesn’t care how well he’s doing it or how it looks. He’s just dancing.

The vast majority of these kids have little to no training in dance. They might know a few steps to a popular movement like “the Dougie,” but they don’t all do it with precision. And that’s not the point of it all, is it.

Nobody here is dancing because they’re trained or qualified.
They’re dancing because it’s fun.

They’re dancing because music makes us want to move.
They’re dancing because they’re with people that care for them.

They’re dancing because they’ve been told that they are loved unconditionally by the Creator.

Certainly, we can practice and dance with skill and there is deep value to doing so. But having skill isn’t what makes movement “dancing” … I think joy makes movement dancing. Just like joy makes life worth living,.. even worth living with skill.I can so easily get hung up on trying to get life “right,” that I squeeze the joy out of even something like dancing. There are few ways to legitimately “do life right,” which makes that goal as troublesome to achieve as it is boring. In dancing or anything else, joy is a better goal than precision.

I remember that when I’m here at Woodleaf.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What I Learned At Woodleaf: Part 1

Justin McRoberts recently shared three lessons he learned while serving as Summer Staff coordinator and camp musician at Woodleaf. I'll post all three over the next three days. Trust me, they're all worth reading!  

Real-Life Cost Benefit Analysis

Mike, who is on Woodleaf Property staff, is instructing my Summer Staff about a particular element of the obstacle course Woodleaf designed for their HighSchool guests.

“We’d like to use that slide through this entire summer if we can,” he says “and the metal studs on most jeans catch on and tear up the slide.”

Woodleaf’s high school guests had been asked by their leaders to wear anything other than jeans on the course,.. “but sometimes” Mike continued, “a kid just forgets or isn’t paying attention.”

Then Mike said this: “On the other hand, I’d rather spend $1000 to fix a slide than to single a kid out. So, if a group comes through and one kid among them is wearing jeans, just let them through.”

Every, single element of this remarkable property is designed to facilitate relationship. In the same way that Pixar’s vast wealth and expertise serves Story as king, Young Life’s Woodleaf property serves Relationship as king. Nothing is more important than the connection between the people who spend time here. In fact, the literal millions of dollars it costs to run this property elevates Relationship rather than overshadows it.

I don’t have the resources that Woodleaf has. But here reminds me to weigh the time, energy and resources I have against the value of relationship – to actively live like there is nothing more important than those to whom I’m given.