Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Should Introverts Be Young Life Leaders?

My friend Tim Branch has just finished writing a short e-book for introverted Young Life leaders and I know it's going to be a huge gift to many of you. You can download it here and read a teaser below. -Drew Hill

Here’s the thing about introverts: We don’t always love the spotlight.

We don’t always love meeting new people. We’re more comfortable being introduced at parties. And half the time, we’re a lot more comfortable holed up in our room with a book than killing it in the middle of the dance circle after Young Life club.

So what does that mean about us? Does it mean we won’t ever make great Young Life leaders?

If you’re feeling insecure about your ministry for any reason, you’ve probably asked yourself this question recently. So let’s answer it: Can introverts actually make good Young Life leaders? You bet they can.

And not only that—they’re a necessary part of any healthy Young Life team. Here’s why: High schoolers come in all shapes, sizes, and types. That means high schoolers need leaders of all shapes, sizes, and types. Take a second to imagine your Young Life club.

What kinds of kids do you see? Are there crazy, outgoing, wild kids there? Probably. Are there kids who stand next to the crazy, outgoing, wild kids, who don’t have quite as much energy? Yep. Now look over at the wall. Are there some quiet kids leaning on the wall back there who don’t feel comfortable in this high-energy social situation?

Those kids need a leader who understands them. Someone who won’t overwhelm them. Who do you think is going to connect best with them?

As an introvert, I found I connected with these kids almost instantly. And actually, I experienced a renewed sense of passion and excitement for Young Life after I started pursuing them.

Having a person who can connect with the quieter kids at club is incredibly beneficial for the team.

One of the things we always strive for in Young Life is having a club that looks like the school. And in order to truly connect with every type of hurting high school kid, teams need a diverse group of leaders with a diverse group of gifts.

So are introverts good Young Life leaders? Of course they are.

Being introverted gives you the ability to connect with certain people in a way extroverts can’t. Just like extroverts can connect more deeply with a whole different group of people.

I wish I had known this when I first started leading.

That’s why I just finished a free 27-page eBook for people who don’t feel like their ministry fits the mold. It’s called Am I Really Cut Out for Young Life? An Introvert’s Thoughts on Being a Leader, and you can download it here.

If you’re feeling insecure about your ministry, or you know someone who is, check it out and pass it on.

I wrote it because I’ve seen too many amazing people with so much to give quit leading because they didn’t feel like they were right for ministry. When the truth is, they’re perfect for it.

Encourage an introverted leader today. The team will be stronger for it. 

-Tim Branch

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Memorable Way to End the Year with Your Campaigners: The Campies

This hilarious & meaningful Campaigners tradition is shared by Tom O'Neill, a volunteer leader in Sammamish, WA.

The Campies

For any fan of the TV show "The Office" you'll recognize this Campaigners tradition as inspired by Michael Scott's shenanigans. I was recently watching an episode of "The Dundies," an annual office award show. Michael Scott hosts the show and gives out awkward/hilarious awards while wearing a tuxedo.

That immediately made me think "this is pretty much a Young Life camp last dinner award show." With that "light bulb" moment, "The Campies" were born, a fusion of “The Dundies” and a camp program awards show. It’s a great way to cap off the school year with your Campaigners.

I invited all of my campaigner guys to attend the 1st Annual Campies and instructed them that the dress code was "unnecessarily formal." My co-leader, Warren, and I spent the morning of The Campies writing awards for each of our Campaigner guys. Many of them were inside jokes that had been developed over the years or happened in Campaigners that year (ex. “Better Late Than Never”, “Last Man Standing”, or “I’m a Lover not a Fighter.”)

Others were more serious, such as the coveted "Ironman Award" for the most YL events attended that year. I also always give the "Rookie of the Year" to someone who was new that year and became an integral part of the group. We make toasts (sparkling cider), take pictures looking quite dapper, and laugh a lot. We then talk about some of our favorite moments in Campaigners and what God had taught each of us that year.

This has now become a favorite tradition and something the boys look forward to each May. One of them was crushed when he was beat out for "Ironman" because he had sports conflicts.

A couple tips if you're considering doing something similar:

  • Hammer home the dress code and do it big yourself. It makes things more ridiculous and makes the pictures stand out on social media. Kids' friends always wonder what went down at "The Campies" and start asking about it.
  • Invite an amateur photographer or just someone with a nice camera to come shoot photos. Go paparazzi with photos as they enter and of course some posed shots.
  • Spend a good amount of time writing the awards. Think camp-style: Presented by Inside Joke, Reverse Inside Joke, Program Character #1, Program Character #2 etc. Maybe even get some help from another leader, two minds are often funnier than one.
  • Be sensitive to what is funny and what is offensive. An extra laugh is not worth a hurt kid. Err on the safe side and consider the relationship you have with each kid. Find ways to celebrate kids while making light of something ridiculous.
  • Get RSVPs ahead of time, so you know who you need to write an award for. I always print a few blank ones in case I need to hand write one last minute too.
Good luck, and go celebrate your Campaigner kids!

Thanks for sharing this great idea Tom! If you have any YL traditions you'd like to pass along, here's how you submit a guest post.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Meet Next Year's Freshmen: 5 Ways to get 8th Graders to Club

As you near the end of the school year, it's super strategic to invite 8th graders to one of your last clubs! In just a few months they'll be freshmen. Let's give them a taste now so they know what they have to look forward to as high school begins.

How To Get 8th Graders To Club

If you have WyldLife in your area, this makes the transition much easier. Send high schoolers to the WyldLife club to invite 8th graders to join them the following week.

Motivate With Vision
Talk to your Campaigners and Senior Leaders. Ask them to think about the people they know who are seniors who never got plugged into YL. Ask them to think about how different those folks' high school paths might've been had someone invited them to club when they were in 8th grade.

Motivate With Money
This morning at our team leader meeting I said out loud, 'I wish I had a $50 gift card to offer as a prize to motivate high schoolers to invite 8th graders.' As I walked out of Panera after the meeting I had a friend hand me a $50 Visa gift card. True story. 

Ask a parent, a donor, a friend if they would donate $50 to help change the lives of a bunch of middle schoolers. We're telling kids that if they bring an 8th grader to club on Monday they'll be entered to win the $50 Visa card. We'll put all the names of the 8th graders in a hat. If the 8th graders name is drawn, they get a YL shirt and the person who brought them wins the $50!

Text all your high school friends and ask them who has a brother or sister in 8th grade. Make a list. Make sure they get their sibling to club.

Between your church, YL parents, and friends in town, odds are that you already know a teacher or administrator at the middle school. Ask them if they would spread the word at school. If they won't, find a parent who will be a champion on your behalf.

What To Do With 8th Graders At Club

Make sure you get them to fill out a club card with legible handwriting. Put a box on there and ask if they would like to be contacted about doing YL events this summer.

Hero Vs. Chump
Be extra careful if you bring 8th graders on stage. It's fun with the right kid, but get the wrong one and they'll be embarrassed and never return. An easy way to do this is to play a game with siblings. Make the 8th graders heroes instead of chumps.

Meet the Parents
If 8th graders get dropped off, be sure to be out front before and after club meeting parents. Be confident. Ask them to roll down the car window. Introduce yourself. Thank them for coming. Give them a handout with info about Young Life. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine dropping your child off with an adult you don't know. Make them feel at ease by explaining what YL is and what happens at club.

Next Step
Ask the 8th graders to follow your YL club on social media. Explain to them what the next event is that they can come to and how they will find out more info. Give them a "next step."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Join a Work Week at a Young Life Camp Near You

If you've never been to a Young Life Work Week, this could be your year! They're only a couple weeks away so look at the dates below and mark your calendars. 

It's a great opportunity to add another YL shirt to your collection, to join old friends and make tons of new ones...and to help prepare summer camps for kids to experience the BEST WEEK OF THEIR LIVES!

FREE!! Your all-expense paid week will include housing, great food, club, fun activities, a t-shirt, and lots of hard but rewarding work!

College-aged young adults looking for a fun, rewarding, community-filled time to start your summer while serving a Young Life camp.

What To Expect
Work projects in the morning and part of the afternoon, free time before dinner, club in the evenings with plenty of time to connect with each other.

Contact your camp to sign up! 

Carolina Point
May 18th-23rd

Castaway Club
May 24th-29th

Crooked Creek Ranch
May 14th-19th

Frontier Ranch
May 12th-18th

Lake Champion
May 23rd-27th

Lost Canyon
May 18th-23rd

Saranac Village
June 1st-June 4th

*SharpTop Cove
May 15th-19th
Check with your Area Director for availability!

Please contact camp directly for more information.

Timber Wolf Lake
May 9th-12th

Windy Gap
May 18th-23rd

March 20-24

If you know of other YL camp work weeks, let us know here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

WyldLife Wednesday: What are Middle Schoolers Thinking?

Written by Kevin Chao, Area Director, Greenwich, CT and WyldLife Coordinator, Metro North Region

Take a moment and think back to your middle school days. What were you like back then? How would you describe who you were in middle school? What was your biggest fear? Biggest insecurity? 

In order to best reach our friends in middle school, it's important for us to remember what it was like for us in middle school. It would also be helpful to know what is currently going on in the mind and heart of a middle school student and how we can love them. 

Here's what I've discovered:
  • Kids are asking and wondering: Who cares about me? Where do I belong? Who will accept me? What’s my purpose? What am I good at? Am I good at anything?
  • Their identity is formed by who they are with.
  • We need to take their life experiences seriously, which may be more difficult for us. Don’t minimize their struggles, excitements, etc. For example: If Jimmy says to me, "Chao! I just lost a baby tooth!" My response should NOT be, "That's great Jimmy, I've lost all my baby teeth, so that's not a big deal. And I just paid my taxes." Instead we need to affirm their experiences, no matter how trivial they may seem to us.
  • They are in a stage in life where everything feels like they are experiencing it for the first time.
  • Middle school kids are in a stage psychologically and socially, where they are focused on “industry/competence.” They're learning if they are good at life. 
  • They develop a belief about who they are that carries with them for the rest of their life. They don’t know this, but this means that they are wondering, “Am I good at ____ or competent at _____?” 
  • They're focused on the question, “Am I able to do things well?” Kids are looking for things that they are good at, and if they are not good at it, they develop inferiority and their self-esteem may plummet. Thoughts of suicide stem from inferiority, which often starts in middle school.
  • Research is showing that a person decides if they are in general good at things or bad at things in middle school.
So, as you are with middle kids and thinking of club, Campaigners and contact work, let's make sure that we are taking kids seriously. That we are taking their experiences seriously, their faith seriously and their hearts seriously. They all need to know that they are valuable, so affirm them and let them know that God views them as good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Summer Movies 2016: Opening Dates & Trailers

The summer movie season begins in just 10 days. Our job as YL leaders is to lead our middle and high school friends into the adventure of following Christ. Part of that means helping them discover better ways to use their time than just settling for the big screen. But another part of our role is to meet them right where they are, and this summer they're likely to be at the movie theaters.

We can take advantage of this by planning well. Last summer I wrote in my calendar the opening nights of the blockbuster movies. A couple weeks before one I wanted to see came out, I started talking it up with kids. We went to see a couple midnight showings and they thought it was cool that their YL leader was willing to drive them around in the wee hours of the morning.

One night we met at a field around 10pm to play "Glow in the Dark Ultimate Frisbee" before the movie. Another night we hit up Waffle House after the film. Great bonding and memories.

I haven't seen any of these movies below and would highly recommend you checking out reviews on kids-in-mind.com before taking kids to see a movie you might regret. When in doubt, talk to your Area Director. Also, be sure to communicate well with parents, especially if you're keeping their kids out late at night. Don't just settle for 'my mom said it was cool.' Go ahead and make that phone call to a parent.

Below are the opening dates for some summer movies you might want to see with your middle/high school friends. You can view the trailer for each movie by clicking the movie title below.

What movies are missing from this list? Any 'movie contact work ideas' you can share? Shoot us an email.

Read more about how we as leaders can help kids engage with movies in yesterday's post, Jesus Goes to the Movies.

May 6 - Captain America: Civil War
May 20 - Angry Birds
May 27 - X-Men: Apocalypse
May 27: Alice Through the Looking Glass
Jun 3 - TMNT: Out of the Shadows
Jun 10 - Now You See Me: The Second Act
Jun 10 - Warcraft
Jun 17 - Finding Dory
Jun 17 - Central Intelligence
Jun 24 - Independence Day Resurgence
Jul 1 - The Legend of Tarzan
Jul 1 - The BFG
Jul 8 - The Secret Life of Pets
Jul 15 - Ghostbusters
Jul 22 - Star Trek Beyond
Jul 22 - Ice Age: Collision Course
Jul 29 - Jason Bourne
Aug 5 - Suicide Squad
Aug 12 - Ben Hur
Aug 12 - Pete’s Dragon
Aug 19 - Kubo and the Two Strings
Aug 26 - Max Steel

Monday, April 25, 2016

How to End the Year with a Bang: Tips for Senior Club

If you've not yet had your final club for this school year, the end is in sight. It’s become a tradition in many YL areas to end each year with “Senior Club,” giving the graduating seniors a chance to lead club and share about their experiences. Below are a few tips to help make the night a success. 

Senior Ownership
This could be your highest attendance club of this semester. If the seniors take ownership of it, they will get people there.

Personal Invites
Even if seniors have “checked out” of YL this is a club they will come back for... if personally invited. Not just a mass text, or an Instagram announcement, but a face to face invite or phone call. I’ve watched many kids come to a Senior Club that have never been to YL before. It's an easy invite because it’s the last club of the year and the seniors are speaking. Work hard to get first timers there! Who knows, they might even sign up for camp. It's happened many times!

8th Graders
This is a great club to invite current 8th graders, and give them a taste of what's to come in the fall when they become freshmen. Get parents and middle school teachers help in promoting that this club is open to 8th graders. If there is WyldLife in your area, connect with the WyldLife leaders and get their help in bringing their middle school friends. 

Also, offer prizes for the high schoolers who brings the most 8th graders. We always give away 'Lunch With A Leader' and bring kids lunch from their favorite restaurant to school. 

If scheduled in May, often college students are back home and would love to come back and visit club.

If not carefully monitored, this club could run too long. Consider starting 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. You could also do a cookout, grill hotdogs, and start at 6:37 instead of 7:37. Check the sports schedule and make sure to not conflict with a big home game. 

Club Content
Will the seniors run music, games, skits? If so, help them prepare. They can do classic YL skits, make fun of leaders, pick their favorite classic songs to sing, and make videos to show at club. It's also fun to play a 'Guess that Senior' game using baby pics. 

It's a fun opportunity for the seniors to film a video together. Check out this video from the seniors at Overton Young Life in Nashville. 

Senior Share
Allow enough time for every senior that wants to share to have a turn. Coach the seniors ahead of time on WHAT to share. If they know Christ, ask them to speak clearly of what He has done in their life. If they’ve been to camp or plugged into Campaigners, ask them to share of those experiences. Their words will carry much weight with the underclassmen. Although it is fun as leaders to hear kids tell us how great we are, encourage them to use this time to tell how great Jesus is instead.

Coach the seniors ahead of time on HOW LONG to share. If you have 15 seniors that each talk for 4 minutes, that will take an hour. Consider warning them ahead of time that after a certain predetermined length of time you will raise a sign in the back letting them know to wrap it up. Set the seniors up for success.

Think outside the box about ways to make this evening special. Will you have a time when the leaders pray for the seniors? Will you give the seniors any gifts, notes, etc…Will you have a special surprise 24-ft long Gutter Ice Cream Sundae waiting for the kids out back when the night ends? If so, ask some parents to help prepare it so its ready and still frozen when everyone runs outside. Also, prepare to get sticky. Ice Cream fights are inevitable.

What other ideas have you seen work well? Comment below or email me here.

Jesus Goes to The Movies

You may have noticed that in nearly every conversation, web article, or even Sunday sermon, people are talking about, referencing, or using as illustration a favorite or memorable scene from a movie. Movies are huge and going to the local cineplex is one of the most participated-in activities in America— especially by teenagers. In 2016 alone, the film industry grossed over $11 billion. Let that sink in... $11 billion!

Teenagers and adults alike are willing to freely (and frequently) give their money to escape to a world filled with spies, monsters, aliens, or two animated characters who learn to become friends despite superficial differences. Meanwhile, a slight drop in temperature— or a late Saturday night— keep many from warming seats on Sunday morning. It’s a struggle. While we shouldn’t give up on having teenagers participate in our Sunday services, I would encourage us to find new and creative ways to engage both our youth and culture by taking our teenagers to the movies.

So, how does that work? Just drop them off and finance a ticket, a soda, and an over-priced popcorn? How is that helpful? Well, it’s not! But taking our teenagers to the movies can a great way to connect if you keep a few things in mind...

Story Is Powerful

Story is powerful. I believe it to be true, and I think Jesus did, too, because He used story as a cornerstone of his teaching ministry. Reading through the Gospels, you will find Jesus doing few things more than sitting with people and telling them stories… powerful stories. In fact, we believe that God Himself has been— and is still— telling the greatest story ever told! God loves story, and being created in His image, we do too. We connect with story. Think of your favorite sermon; was it your favorite because the pastor itemized a set of instructions, or was it because someone brought an Old Testament or Gospel story to life? Or did the pastor connect a Biblical truth to a personal or local story that you could relate to? That is the power of story.

Entertainment Is Not Mindless...

We’ve already mentioned how people seem to look for any excuse to avoid church yet they are lining up on opening weekend for their favorite films. I would submit that, at least in part,  that is because those films are doing a better job at telling stories (but not telling a better story!). This means movie goers are voluntarily (and for a price) giving writers, directors, and producers  a few hours of their time to let convey what the movie’s creators think and feel about the world, culture, faith, and even God. Movie theaters have become modern-day pulpits and if we ignore these films, we exclude ourselves from the conversations and ideas being discussed. Orr worse, we don’t even acknowledge the ideas that may have slipped under the radar while people “turned their brains off."

It’s Not About What You Like, It’s About What They Like

I enjoy a wide array of film; from sci-fi to horror to animation to documentary. Even so, there are some movies that are just painful for me to sit through (e.g., . Nicholas Sparks' body of work). Fortunately, as leaders, our job is to engage with those we shepherd, and those things that interest them. In this case, if your entire Campaigners group is going to see the next installment of the Divergent series, then I would say, “They are not good films, but, good or bad, your high school friends are watching and connecting with them.” Find out why! Ask questions like “What was your favorite part?” “Why?” These are the best questions you can ask someone who connects with a film.

Be More Open-Minded

Hear me out— and please use discernment—just because something isn’t produced by a Christian film company doesn’t mean that it lacks value. I would actually argue quite the opposite. I know it seems like a no-brainer that the youth pastor would take the youth group to see a film like Woodlawn (which is a perfectly fine film), but that movie isn’t likely telling the stories that our teenagers are being saturated in every day— and by a huge majority of the culture. You may be surprised what teenagers can take away from a story; like how they deal with emotions from Inside Out; how do they fight against injustice an oppression from The Hunger Games; the power and responsibility in creation from Jurassic World; and yes, even what it looks like to be a family from the Fast & Furious movies!

Tell a Better Story

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves, “Why?” Why are we engaging the narratives of popular culture? The answer is simple: To tell a better story. This is especially true with teenagers. I can only imagine the time and attention you as Young Life leaders spend trying to make the Gospel “relevant” to this generation. Stories about pharaohs and fishermen don’t connect as easily as they once did (right!?), so teenagers run to stories they can grasp. Stories of injustice, of broken families, and of heroes who choose to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds. These stories are noble and can be helpful in revealing the story. 

If your middle and high school friends connect with stories about a good guy who seeks justice, show them that it’s because they were created to desire justice. (Isa.1:17

If they love the animated movie about two unlikely toys who become friends, show them that it’s because they were made for community. (Ecc.4:9-12). 

And finally, when they just can’t shake the idea of our film hero laying down his life for his friends, remind them that we have a God who was willing to die for all of us. (1 John 3:16)

Tell Your Story

Once you've earned the right to be heard, one of the most powerful stories available to us as we connect with kids is our own. Use film as an opportunity to share how God entered your story (not that he ever left) to right the wrongs and trade hopelessness for joy. And then share how He is just waiting and eager to enter theirs.

Keep Exploring

For more on this, I would highly recommend my friend Joel Mayward’s new book, Jesus Goes To The Movies. We both are very passionate about engaging culture and, in his own words, Joel says that Jesus Goes to the Movies “...offers youth workers a theology of movies that can be passed to the next generation, equipping them with critical-thinking skills, discernment, and the ability to engage the film culture surrounding them with wisdom, grace, and truth."

I would also recommend James Harleman’s Cinemagogue video series on Film & Theology:

Film & Theology 101: God as Storyteller
Film & Theology 102: Redeeming Entertainment
Film & Theology 103: Engaging Narrative
Film & Theology 104: A Tale of Two Stories

Written by Mikey Fissel. Mikey is the Managing Editor at Reel World Theology and the Producer of the Reel World Theology Podcast— encouraging people to recognize that story is powerful and entertainment is not mindless. He lives in Greensboro, NC with his incredible wife Laura and their son Jon Luke.

Check the Young Life Leader Blog tomorrow for links to all the upcoming summer movies and opening dates.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Scorekeeper XL App

Looking for an easy way to keep score for YL events and club games? Click here to download the Scorekeeper XL app. You can also mirror your device and put the scoreboard on the screen! 

Thanks to Eve Sarrett for passing along this idea after they used it for donut olympics.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A New Fundraising Idea: miYLstore & How To Win A Free Shirt!

miYLstore is a platform for Young Life Staff (Areas, Missions, Regions, etc) that makes it easy for Young Life staff to create and sell high-quality products with your custom Young Life logo that people will love, with no cost or risk!

This is a platform that can help you raise money for your budget or campership needs? We have the solution for you to add into your fundraising strategy to meet your goals! This is in addition to your current banquet, golf tournaments, crawfish broil, etc. The Young Life Store is now offering miYLstores for FREE so it costs you nothing! No investment of mission dollars!

Our mission at The Young Life Store with the miYLstores is to remove the barriers between great ideas and helping you raise the money you need to reach a world of kids!

Check out The Young Life Store's newest project and let us help you fundraise! Choose a month you'd like to do your campaign and launch a personal store just for your area, region or part of the ministry. Pick out a few fun items to put your logo on, let us build the site, you push out the marketing to your donors, friends and family! When the campaign is over we print the products and send to all your people. Once the fundraiser is over we will send you a check and the list of those that ordered for you to add to your donor list! No money investment and a fun way to get people all over the world involved in your local Young Life ministry! Give us a call today to set up your miYLstore!

How your miYLstore can work for you?
  • No investment of mission dollars
  • Help build your PPL
  • Easy accurate sign up system for camps & other events. Use for your next camp trip tee instead of investing mission dollars in t-shirts you might not need
  • Remove the guesswork and out of pocket cost for products
  • Let us ship the items for you to anywhere in the world
  • No set up fee
  • No design fee
  • No hidden costs

Steps to setting up your miYLstore
  • Check out the video on how the miYLstore can help you
  • Download and fill out the miYLstore interest form & send to younglifestore@cleanfunpromo.com or call us at 1-800-266-1665 and tell us you’re interested in your own FREE miYLstore
  • Let us help you pick your products to put on your store with your custom logo. You’re not limited to t-shirts. We can do it all!
  • Set your goal or how much money you want to make and how long the campaign will last (suggested time 2 weeks).
  • Let us do the work and set up the store for you!
  • You market out your fundraising campaign through word of mouth, newsletters, social media, etc.
  • Receive a check at the end of your campaign! All profits will be given to you in a check that you can put into any account you like!
You have nothing to lose so give us a call today to set up your FREE miYLstore!

We are here to help you!
The Young Life Store Team
Follow with us on Instagram (@younglifestore) before April 29nd for a chance to win a Young Life shirt!