Friday, August 26, 2016

Let's Come Up with a Handshake

Intricate handshakes are awesome. If you don't believe me, check out this video of NBA star, Dwayne Wade, and TV host, Kelly Ripa. If you want more proof, check out the most elaborate handshake ever courtesy of the Coastal Carolina baseball team.

3 Ways to Use Elaborate Handshakes in Young Life

Club Mixer/Upfront Game

Have kids pair up and give them 3-5 minutes to come up with an elaborate handshake and to practice. Have leaders walk around and judge. Pick out the best 3 and bring them up front to perform and the audience can vote for the winners. Make sure no kids get left out. Mixers that involve pairing up can be stressful for kids, hoping someone wants to be with them. You could avoid it by writing numbers on kids hands as they come in to club and then everyone pairs up based on their number. Have 2 lines of entry and 2 leaders with sharpies marking hands. It would also be fun to watch kids doing the handshakes around the school. You could even make an entire theme club called "Elaborate Handshake Club."

Program Characters/Run-on

If you're working on your run-on to sell camp this fall, why not add an elaborate handshake into your routine. If you're doing program at fall camp, you could work it into your program characters and give kids an award when you see them around camp performing their E.H.S. (Elaborate Hand Shakes). 

"I'm Dusty, and I'm Rusty...and we're 6th year seniors at Eerie High School...EHS fo' lyfe! EHS! EHS! EHS! We like to catch snakes...and turn em into steaks...but our favorite past ELABORATE HAND SHAKES. EHS! EHS! EHS! (Chanting)


D-Wade discusses with Kelly Ripa about the fact that he has special handshakes with each of his teammates. What if your Campaigners group did the same thing. Every time someone from your group walked into a room, they did the different handshakes with every different person in your group. You could even have a different Campaigners group perform at club each week. 

If it caught on, you could even make your YL shirts have a picture of a handshake on them. The possibilities are endless. 

HT to my brother and original handshake partner, Blake Hill, for passing on this idea.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

20 Ways Campaigners and Senior Leaders Can Help on Club Day

  1. Pray!
  2. Wear a Young Life shirt to school.
  3. Invite friends who are disinterested in Jesus to club.
  4. Text all of your friends, reminding them about club.
  5. Post about club on Instagram and Twitter.
  6. Offer to give rides to club.
  7. Introduce the friends you brought to club to the YL leaders and others.
  8. Introduce yourself to new folks you might not know.
  9. Take pics before, during, and after club, but not during the talk.
  10. Be an 'oh boy' leader and let your excitement catch on.
  11. Sit with folks who are new or on the outside.
  12. Sing loud.
  13. Cheer for folks in up-front games.
  14. Listen during the talk and encourage others to do the same.
  15. Pray during the talk.
  16. Take the folks you brought to grab a milkshake after club and ask them what they thought.
  17. Drive safely.
  18. Post pics from club on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
  19. Journal about what you felt God speaking to you tonight.
  20. Pray and thank God for the night!

You can download this list here to share with your Campaigners group or Senior Leaders.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Leaving a Legacy: How to Run a Young Life Senior Meeting

Over the past few years we've kicked off the new semester of Young Life with a 'Seniors Only' meeting. Special thanks to Brian Summerall for sharing his wisdom with us and prompting this new rhythm.

It has worked well for us to hold our 'Senior Meeting' on the evening of the first day of school. In addition to promoting the event on social media, our YL team has divided up the list of seniors and made personal invites to each of them. 

We try to plan the Sr. Mtg with even greater intentionality than we would give to planning club. This is such an important part of the Young Life year in setting the pace and casting the vision. Below is a sample schedule we've used in the past. 

Download this sample schedule below here in Word.

Sr Mtg Schedule

7:30- Adult leaders arrive to pray and get music and food and AV set up. Have music playing in background.

8- Seniors arrive

8:15- Start with welcome, leaders introducing themselves and an opening prayer.

8:20- Ask the seniors to one by one go around and share 'How did you first hear about Young Life? Why did you come? What was it like?'  As they are sharing have an assigned leader listen and write down every name that a senior mentions when they are sharing. Ex: "I came because my neighbor Parker picked me up and brought me when I was a freshmen."  Write down 'Parker.' You'll use those names later.

8:30- It's an older clip, but still works in painting a picture of leaving a legacy: 'Lord Of The Rings Clip: Samwise the Brave'

Sam: I wonder if we'll ever be put into songs or tales. 
Frodo: What? 
Sam: I wonder if people will ever say, 'Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring.' And they'll say 'Yes, that's one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn't he, Dad?' 'Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that's saying a lot.' 
Frodo: You've left out one of the chief characters - Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. 
Frodo: Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam. 
Sam: Now Mr. Frodo, you shouldn't make fun; I was being serious. 
Frodo: So was I. 

8:35- "I wonder what people will say about you after you’ve graduated? I wonder if three years from now someone in the class of 2019 will be sitting at this meeting and mention your name." Use the names you've recorded from their share time earlier and read those back to them.

8:40- Read the Burr Nichols story out loud. Make printouts of this PDF and ask a few seniors or adult leaders to take turns reading.

8:45- Appoint a leader to give a short 'vision casting' talk after the Burr Nichols story.

Below are some potential talking points:

Leave A Legacy: Give Your Life Away
  • What legacy will you leave when you graduated in 9 months?
  • What will people remember about you? 
  • What will they write in your yearbook?
    • You are HOT. 
    • You have a sweet car.
    • You can hit a ball far.
    • OR... You cared about me, you listened to me, you noticed me, you reached out to me when I was lonely, you included me, you introduced me to Jesus and showed me what He's like.
  • Be a "there you are" kind of person and not a 'here I am' kind of person. It's counter-cultural in this selfie generation. 
  • “To have life is to give it away.“
  • Matthew 16:24-25 
  • More thoughts about giving your life away here.
The Power of Invitation
  • There is way more power in a personal invitation born out of genuine friendship than just passing out flyers and saying 'come to this thing.'
  • Ask them to think through who are the 'right' people that Young Life is for? (EVERYONE!)
  • Ask the seniors to think through their niche in the school and who they know.
  • Ask them to think about kids in different groups/cliques at the high school who aren't a part of YL. Do the 'x' kids feel welcomed and invited to club?
    • People who don't wear Vineyard Vines
    • Band kids
    • Chorus kids
    • Lax bros
    • Exchange students
    • Kids of different races
    • Gingers 
    • Angry kids
    • People who wear all black
  • Ask them to take a few minutes and brainstorm and write down a list of folks they know at the school who they could invite to be a part of YL this year. 

The Whys of Club

Pull back the curtain and go through a typical night at club and explain why certain things are done certain ways. Point out the different roles seniors can play in club. Use a dry erase board and see if they can come up with the club order. Always ask them “What’s next?” and “Why?” to see if they can come up with it on their own. Draw a funnel showing how club begins with a point of high activity and ends pointing to Jesus.

A Typical Night at Club
  • Leaders meet for final club prep and to pray
  • Kids Arrive - Club starts in the parking lot with parents and kids being welcomed with a handshake, hug, fist bump, or high five. 
  • Club Entry - Fun music with the seniors forming a tunnel
  • Radio songs- It's familiar- this place feels fun and safe and welcoming, moving kids from spectators to participants
  • Mixer- to meet new folks, include everyone
  • Skit/Up-front game- making kids the stars
  • Camp video or another fun video- Shows a picture of community, friendship and the memories being made
  • Announcements- announcing THIER stuff, not just YL stuff- what's going on at the school
  • Slow songs- Content related to the talk, changing the pace, slowing it down
  • Talk- explain talk progression
  • After club hang out/rides home- more time with kids
  • Leaders clean up and pray

Roles Seniors Can Play

Whether you are a Sr. Leader or not, you have great influence as a senior. Here are a few ways you can be a leader at YL this year:

  • Letting us as leaders know about key events at school
  • Wear YL shirts on Mondays- "Let YL take the worry out of what to wear on Mondays"
  • Tweeting/instagramming about club, use our hashtag: ex:  #NWYL
  • Explain the pre-club party on Sunday night before the first club where we'll sell shirts and shoe polish our cars with YL on them
  • Invite folks to fall camp
Leadership Roles at Club
  • Pre-Club DJ: Run music during pre-club hangout outside the club room
  • Club Hosts: Run the pre-club games (volleyball, corn hole, etc.) club card table and sell t-shirts. Pass out announcement info sheets and camp flyers as kids are leaving club.  Welcoming new comers and thanking them for coming. If we have drinks or snacks before club, the hosts would be the ones serving those. Also could help with parking and talking to parents who are dropping off underclassmen and picking them up after club.
  • Photographers/Videographers: Shoot pics and video before and during club, post the pics online (that same night if possible) and tag their friends.
  • Video Editors: Helping edit short videos to show each week at club.
  • Club Band: Lead music each week
  • AV Crew (Audio/Video): Running slides, lights, and sound.
  • Skits/Games: Leading games and doing skits at club.
  • Tunnel Makers: Every senior does this at the start of club

9:10- Invite all the seniors to pray out loud for their school 

9:25- If you choose, you can close the meeting by asking folks to fill out Senior Surveys and include a nomination for a YL President.

Sample Senior Survey

  1. Name
  2. Phone
  3. Favorite songs you’ve sang at club that you want to sing again? (BOTH fast/fun & content/worship songs)
  4. Favorite games you’ve ever played at YL that you want to play again?
  5. What have been your favorite Young Life related events?
  6. How can we make club better for you and your friends?
  7. What do you want to contribute to club?  (band, skits, host, making videos, etc…)
  8. What theme clubs do you want to do this year?
  9. Anything else you want us to know?
  10. Who do you think should be president of YL this year?
9:30- It would be a fun surprise at the end to do a gutter ice cream sundae or reveal the new YL shirts. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

What I Learned at the Oakbridge Skate Park

Baldemar was a "no way" kid. He was someone I never thought would come to camp with us, but miracles still happen!  He spent six days at Oakbridge, hanging out with his leader, Luis. Each day he heard the story of Jesus. At the end of the week, he prayed with Luis to give his life to Christ.

At the same time this was happening in Baldemar's life, God was also using him to speak to me. About halfway through the week, Baldemar convinced me to venture out to the skate park with him - a first-time experience for me.  

Going down the ramps was a terrifying experience at first, especially since it kept ending with me crashing into the ground.  But then Baldemar showed me the secret: if you want to be a good skater, you have to fully commit to "the drop."  I kept crashing because I was trying to timidly scoot over the edge of the ramp.  By trying to keep myself safe, I was making myself crash.  In order to do it right, I had to literally "drop" down the ramp, trusting the forces of gravity and a tiny scooter.

Baldemar reminded me that just like skating,  life works best when we release control. That's what God ultimately wants each of us to experience.  When we try to live nice, safe lives that keep us in control, it will eventually crash around us.  The other option is to make "the drop," trusting God despite our fears.  Even though it's scary, there's no other way to experience the abundant life God desires for us.  It's a lesson I'm continuing to learn, and I'm so excited that Baldemar made a huge step in that direction this summer.

As we head back to campuses around the world this fall, may the Lord give us all the faith and courage to "make the drop."

Written by Zak Ellison, Young Life Staff Associate in Merced County, California. 

If you would like to submit a post for The Young Life Leader Blog, here's how

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Powerful Way to Help our Teenage Friends Deal with Discouragement

Our middle and high school friends often encounter discouragement.  Sometimes it’s from their parents, through rejection or divorce. Sometimes it’s a from a boyfriend or girlfriend who cheated or broke their heart. Sometimes it’s simply in the form of being made fun of by their peers. Most often it comes from failing to meet their own standards and fulfill their own dreams.

As Young Life leaders, we try to relate to our teenage friends. We tell them everything will be okay and encourage them to focus on positive things or assure them God loves them. 

But I think it’s rare that we actually practice what the Bible teaches in regards to helping our friends deal with discouragement. The Bible encourages us to die and rise with Jesus in every decision, every relationship, and every circumstance. 

When Paul faced the physical and emotional discouragement of being "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10), he didn't tell himself to stay positive and that everything would be okay.

Instead, he told himself (and all Christians) that each of these circumstances were opportunities to die and rise with Jesus.  "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10).  In other words, Paul reinterpreted the hardship and discouragement through the lens of "always" carrying Jesus' death in his body "so that" he could experience Jesus' resurrection life. 

For Jesus, death and resurrection were onetime events.  But for Jesus' followers, death and resurrection are the rhythm of the Christian life.

Practically speaking, what does this look like?

Think about one of your middle or high school friends whose parents are getting a painful divorce.  How does this situation relate to dying and rising with Jesus?

Just as Jesus faced death and prayed to be taken out of a terrifying situation (Matthew 26:39), this student is facing the death of their parent's marriage and likely wants the situation to end. Death in all forms (emotional, relational, reputational, financial, moral or physical) is always painful, both for Jesus and for us.  Let’s recognize this and acknowledge their discouragement for what it is--an awful experience of death.  This allows our friends to grieve and mourn, just as Jesus mourned in a psalm of lament on the cross (Psalm 22; Matthew 27:46).

Our teenage friends may find some release through mourning deeply (and even angrily) the death of their parent's marriage.  But with Jesus, death is never the end.  It is only the beginning. 

Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25).

Just as little league leads to big league and middle school leads to high school, with Jesus- death inevitably leads to resurrection.

Rather than lashing out, denying their parent's divorce bothers them, or creating an alternate life of pleasure or escape (all of which are attempts to avoid the reality of death and maintain some version of life through their own strength), we can encourage them that when we die with Jesus, he promises to raise us from the dead.  Just as nothing could keep Jesus in the ground, nothing can keep us in the ground either, if Jesus' resurrection Spirit lives in us.

Think of everything that tried to keep Jesus dead: a guard of soldiers, a huge stone, a seal, hush money paid to the soldiers and lies from religious leaders about a stolen body. It all failed.  Similarly, much will try to keep our friends in the tomb after their parent's divorce. They might struggle with thoughts like, "I'm on my own now, nobody cares for me, my only option is to take care of myself, healthy relationship is impossible for me." 

But just as God the Father inevitably raised Jesus from death, God will inevitably raise us, as we die with Jesus in our daily life, relationships, decisions and hardships.

What does resurrection practically look like? 

We spend so much time dreading and fighting death, that embracing the cross with Jesus and imagining the inevitability of resurrection is often difficult. 

We can't manipulate or control how Jesus raises us from the dead.  But resurrection after going through the death of your parents’ divorce could look like:
  • A new closer friendship with a friend or Young Life leader or pastor
  • A strong experience of living in community and being cared for by the body of Christ- maybe a Campaigners group or a church family.
  • Increased dependency on the love and care of God.

Whenever we face discouragement, we also face a choice. We can desperately fight to maintain life and happiness on our own, OR we can daily die with Jesus and trust him to raise us from the dead. Death and discouragement are so painful… BUT JESUS… Jesus is capable and desires to form a far better resurrection life than we can ever create on our own.

Written by Elijah Lovejoy: author, pastor, and friend of Young Life. 

If you'd like to read more about this concept of living in the daily rhythm of death and resurrection, check out this short book by Elijah Lovejoy. You can read it in a couple hours and it could dramatically impact the way you live and lead.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Best Time for Contact Work by Joe Boncha

Written by Joe Boncha.

What is the best time to do contact work?  5:15pm. Really!

Why 5:15

For the longest time we’d try and get volunteers to come right after school between 2pm and 3pm but SO many kids run for their bus, while others head to change for sports. It’s not a bad time to talk to students but we have very few underclassmen in the parking lot due to the school location. Between 5:00-5:30pm when cross country, soccer, cheerleading, volleyball, football, and the fall drama practice let out , is a great window of time. Plus in the fall, the weather is still warm and most kids wait outside for rides just sitting on the curb; it’s a great time to meet parents during the pickup.

Otter Pops

On a hot fall day giving a “cup of cold water” or frozen plastic tube called Otter Pops is clutch. If you already know at least one kid at the school, try to make him or her the hero and have them pass out the cold refreshments. 

I’ll even ask, “Where’s 'so and so' – I have these for him.” New kids will follow you to your friend. They will even ask him to text you and find out if you’ll be back later that week. Plus at this point of the day, the school office is closed, it’s a non-educational time, and thus I avoid the ire of any administration other than making sure I’m after their practice time. 

Guard against trash to stay on good terms with the school. Plastic tube pops are cheap, plentiful, and can be refrozen if not needed. However, they can take up to 24 hours to freeze due to their sugar content and close proximity. I keep five packs in my freezer in the fall and a cooler in my truck. 

Finding a way to bless others can help earn the right to be heard. Later this fall, consider bringing a cooler of Hot Chocolate into the stands on a cold day. 

Phone Tip

One final tip, if you enter a kid's name in your phone, I like to preface it with the year they graduate (i.e. 18 Tom) - much easier to sort and remember.

Joe Boncha is on staff at YL’s headquarters in their IT department. He’s been a volunteer leader for over 25 years both in Columbus, Ohio and his current Colorado neighborhood. He’s been volunteer summer staff in Australia in January the past couple years. He’s filled in as an exchange student cabin leader for YL Exchange Student program called Amicus – and hopes to be an exchange host dad one day soon.

Monday, August 15, 2016

On the Frontier: Heart First

If you haven't yet started listening to the new podcast "On the Frontier," don't fret, you're only 6 episodes behind! It's a podcast about Young Life by Ben Battaglia and Justin Ryder. Find out more here

Last week I had the privilege of being on the show. Our family was driving home from the beach on Saturday and I played the episode for the first time. My kids thought it was super cool that their daddy was on the radio and I didn't have the heart to tell them it wasn't true. Plus, it's quite difficult to explain the difference between a podcast and the radio to a 4-year old.

If you want to learn more about the origin of The Young Life Leader Blog, listen to episode #5: Heart First, but my favorite so far is episode #3: Everyone Gets a Theme Song.

If you're new to "On The Frontier," click here to visit their website. I've loved listening to all the episodes so far and I'm so grateful to Ben and Ryder for taking the plunge and launching such an encouraging podcast for Young Life leaders around the world!