Monday, May 21, 2018

New Leader Survival Guide for Young Life Camp

Written by Craig Linder.

As a new leader at camp, you may feel nervous or under-prepared for what awaits you at camp. Below are some of the most important things I’ve learned about serving campers well.

Time With The Lord

This may seem obvious, but time with the Lord is what will fuel you throughout your day. You will be tempted to get an extra 30 minutes of sleep before breakfast, or the leader meeting, but start your day with the Lord. Waking up early to be in His Word and praying throughout your day are of utmost importance, especially when you get tired. Pray for the needs of your campers, the staff, or whatever it may be. Make your requests known! We need the cross every day. Laying down your life before Jesus will allow you to love your campers in a more Christ-centered way.

Establish Yourself as the Leader

Establishing yourself as the leader can be a scary thing. At first, it may mean that you aren’t as rebellious or cool as they thought you were, but when choosing between friendship and respect, err on the side of respect. Here are some examples: Don’t allow sneaking out; No practical jokes on other cabins; Don’t allow kids to talk or sleep through the message at club. Essentially, anything that seems like a bad idea, or could distract someone else from hearing the full message of the Gospel, kindly shut down. But be wary that you aren’t another one of their parents. They didn’t come to camp to be yelled at by their mom or dad.

Don’t Whine

Never complain in front of your campers. If you want your campers to have a positive attitude, they need to see how excited you are (to the point where they think you are really weird) for every little thing that happens (even if you really, really don’t want to participate). You should be twice as excited as you expect your campers to be.

Keep Surprises

Don’t let the campers know the agenda even under the most persistent of pressures. Suspense and surprise are key! Encourage your second timers to keep the week’s surprises too. And discourage them from comparing this camp to the one that they had been to previously. Encourage them to see camp through the eyes of their friends experiencing it for the first time. One of my favorite lines that my leader said to me when I was a camper is; “Don’t anticipate, PARTICIPATE!”

Know Your Campers

You have been establishing relationships with most the kids going to camp all year. But camp is a time when you are able to get to know them in a new place, a place unfamiliar to them. During “down times” like the bus ride, or waiting in line for the giant swing or a shake at the snack bar, use the time to get to know new kids or grow deeper with the kids that you already know well.

Ask Key Campaigner Kids to Help

I have always been a fan of delegating responsibilities to solid Campaigner kids. From helping in cabin times to sitting in on some of the one-on-ones, it is a really cool opportunity for them to grow. Also, having the Campaigner kid open up and be vulnerable in a cabin time, or to spur on conversation when the room gets a little quiet, encourages others to join in the conversation. But it is important to set up that opportunity and let the key Campaigner kids know how important their role is in the cabin. Have that conversation before camp!

Cabin Times
  1. Being prepared starts with prayer. Pray for God to touch the hearts of your campers. Pray for the speaker to be clear. You can never pray too much.
  2. Try your best to preserve your voice. This is often a difficult task, but I have seen leaders lose their voices on day two or three, and it makes leading the cabin times that much more difficult.
  3. Set the ground rules for cabin times. Everyone sits on the same level (easier for eye contact); no one lies down; the cabin is a safe place to be honest; be at meetings and clubs, etc. I have always written down all the cabin rules we agree to and ask all of the cabin sign the list. We post it on the door so we see it all the time. It’s never a bad thing to start off your cabin time with a fun question. It opens the floor and allows everyone to talk a little bit.

Your job for cabin times is to lead and direct discussion, not to be a preacher. The purpose of cabin time is to get a better understanding of what the kids are thinking, not to correct their theology. That said, try to keep everyone on track, and don’t let the conversation get too far off topic. Make sure that everyone in your cabin understands what the speaker has said throughout the week. You don’t have to know every answer. Assure them that being completely loved and accepted without knowing all the answers is the beauty of being in a relationship with Christ.

Remember Why You’re There

The point of camp is to offer our high school friends an unbelievable opportunity to hear the greatest love story ever written! Yes, the food is great. The rides are fun. But nothing can ever compare to what Jesus has done for us. Knowing that, have fun living life to the full with some of the kids that you are able to call friends. This is a week that these guys and girls will remember for the rest of their lives. How cool is it that we get to share in the journey with them!

Follow Up

With your team, prepare some sort of follow for up the cabin (or cabins) to help them continue their walk with Christ as they return from camp. That is one of the most beautiful parts of Young Life, we don’t say goodbye to the kids after camp—we come back to the real world to live life with them. Let them know that you will be there, with them and for them, whenever they need you.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Flip out with Trick-Tac-Toe!

Two years after the bottle flipping craze of 2016, kids are still flipping bottles. 

A member of our Young Life community has invented a game to play with kids using the bottle flip called Trick-Tac-Toe. Practicing neurosurgeon and Young Life supporter, Dr. John Cowan is the founder of a toy company called Cortex Toys.

Looks like a fun game to play this summer at the pool or on a bus ride to camp.

You can buy Trick-Tac-Toe from the Cortex Toys website.

Below are some games you can play with Trick-Tac-Toe.

Traditional Flip

  • Fill at least 3 bottles per player 1/3rd full of water
  • Affix cap tightly.
  • Use a mark to distinguish bottles
  • Players alternate Flipping Bottles into the holes trying to get 3 in a row.

Bottle Battle (2+ Flippers)

  • Flippers decided whether to use 1 or 2 bottles each.
  • Flippers take positions around a single FlipTable.
  • Say "1, 2, 3, Flip!" to start the game.
  • Each bottle land counts 1 point, cap lands count 3 points.
  • The first Flipper to 12 points wins!

W-A-T-E-R (2+ Flippers) 

  • Similar to HORSE with a basketball
  • Choose a Flipper to start the flips.
  • The first Flipper "calls" their flip. Cap lands, bottle lands, or well described epic fails count.
  • If the flip is successful, the other Flippers must match the flip or are "awarded" a letter, starting with W.
  • If the flip is unsuccessful, the next Flipper calls their flip.
  • Flippers are eliminated once they collect the letters that spell W-A-T-E-R.

Flip Solo

  • Set a timer for 1 minute.
  • Start flipping and count each time you successfully land.
  • Video your flipping if possible.
  • Post your results/video and see how you compare to Flippers from around the globe.

Flip Flush (2+ Flippers)

  • Each Flipper positions around their own FlipTable.
  • Say "1, 2, 3, Flip!" to start the game.
  • Flip bottles onto your FlipTable until all of the holes are filled.
  • The first Flipper to fill their holes, wins!

Happy flipping!

Purchase Trick-Tac-Toe from the Cortex Toys website.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Thortillia Game

Written by Rob Schreiber, area director in San Diego, California.

This can work for a Superhero or Avenger themed club.
  • Buy 9 hula hoops at your local dollar store.
    • Make three lines - one for each grade.
  • Each line has three hula hoops and set them in a straight line.
  • Place the picture of Thor in each hula hoop.
  • #1 was the closest and #3 was the furthest.
  • Line kids up facing the hula hoops.
Each kid got 3 Tortillas and tossed them kind of like a frisbee attempting to land in the hula hoops.

We did 6th grade vs 7th grade vs 8th grade and added up the totals of the Thortillia toss.

I grabbed pictures of Thor off the internet and found the Marvel border as well.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Join the Launch Team

Dear Young Life friends, 

Almost twenty-seven years ago, as an 8th grader at camp, God called me to do youth ministry for the rest of my life.

Almost twenty years ago, as a college senior, God called me to go on staff with Young Life. 

Almost two years ago, as a 38-year-old with a slew of parenting and youth ministry failures under my belt, God called me to write down some stories about what I'd learned.

Almost twenty minutes ago, with a great deal of nail-biting and trepidation, in the lobby of a Wendy's, I started writing this post to share with you some exciting news.

In just 100 days, on August 20th, New Growth Press will release "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."

It's a guide for how to practically love teenagers with the gospel. I wrote it for parents, Young Life leaders, youth pastors, teachers, coaches, small group leaders, grandparents, and anyone who has teenagers they love.

Dove-Award winning singer/songwriter, Ellie Holcomb, writes, "Alongside is a beautiful and practical companion for anyone who wants to learn how to better love the teenagers in their life. I found myself in tears as I read incredible real-life stories of the gospel breaking through the distractions, darkness, loneliness, and pain that often accompany adolescence. It tells the beautiful story of the gospel, and also offers tools that will help you communicate that story well as you walk alongside the teenagers in your life."

Would you consider helping me spread the word? 

I'd LOVE to have 100 folks join the ALONGSIDE LAUNCH TEAM (read some chapters of the book early, write Amazon reviews, and as the launch date gets closer, share about the book on social media.)

I'd be honored if you would come alongside me on this journey!

Thank you!!!


Friday, May 11, 2018

Older or Younger Game

I turned 40 a few weeks ago and we played a game where the kids had to guess who was older, me or the famous person pictured on the slide. It's an easy game to duplicate. Just use this website to find out a celebrities age, pick a leader who looks older or younger than they are, and put the leader's pic next to the celebrity's on the screen. You can look at the slides we used here: Download the slides.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

7 People to Thank: The Notes YL Leaders Write as the Semester Ends

As the school year ends, let's consider the many folks we as Young Life leaders can thank.

The principal at your school didn't have to let you come to lunch. Send them a note with a $10 Subway gift card saying "Thanks for letting us eat lunch with your kids this year. Enjoy a lunch on us this summer. Sincerely, the Smith Middle Young Life Team."

Athletic Director
Remember those free athletic passes your YL team got at the beginning of the year. Think how much $ they saved you. What about a picture of your YL team holding a sign saying "We heart Coach Mac" for the AD's office?

Club/Campaigners Host Homes
That family let you have fifty middle schoolers invade their basement. That mom cooked dinner for your Campaigners group more times than you can count. That dad is still repairing the damage from when that sumo-suit put a crater in his garage wall. How 'bout a Home Depot gift card with a note attached?

Area Director
Being a Young Life Area Director is no easy task. Area Directors spend tons of time making it possible for us to be leaders. Send them a note of encouragement thanking them for leading well and be specific about how they've encouraged you. If they are married and/or parents, consider babysitting for them and giving them a date night out.

If you're married, make the effort to thank your spouse for allowing you to pursue this calling. What if you gathered some of your high school friends to put on a mini 'YL club' for the purpose of celebrating your spouse? Or how about a needed date night now that club is taking a summer break?

Middle/High School Friend
Do you have some kids in your YL club that went the extra mile to help out at Young Life this year? Model gratitude for them by sending an unexpected note. Print a pic of you with your middle/high school friend and turn it into a postcard.

Celebrate this year by thanking the One who made it all possible. In our home, we have an "Ebeneezer." It's simply a wall with pictures and words that remind us of God's faithfulness.  In 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites were under attack by the Philistines. Fearing for their lives, they offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God listened and following their victory they “took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12)

The word Ebenezer comes from a Hebrew word meaning “stone of help.” In the familiar hymn “Come Thou Fount” we sing the phrase “Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by thy great help I’ve come.” An Ebenezer is simply something to help us remember God’s faithfulness and mercy. Wonder how one might look on a wall in your bedroom or at the YL office?

-Drew Hill

Monday, May 7, 2018

How to Say Goodbye: Thoughts on Young Life Leaders Leaving Well

Written by Drew Hill.

Some of your Young Life teammates might be entering a season of transition. Maybe they're graduating, moving, burned out or called to another ministry.

Their absence will be noticed. Not just by you or your team, but by their middle and high school friends. 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? Hopefully, it can help them and the middle and high school friends they'll leave behind.

How to Say Goodbye to our Middle and High School Friends?

Years ago I worked at The Dale House Project in Colorado Springs, a residential care facility that was started in partnership with Young Life. It's a home for at-risk teenagers with no place to go.

During my one year internship, our house counselor, Jim Sheffer, spent time training us 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'd come into their lives for a short time, loved them in a way they had never experienced before, and soon we'd be leaving them as well. Leaving 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 likely never going to be the same that it's 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 or follow one another on SnapChat, we can be real friends, when in reality it's much more difficult when your paths aren't regularly crossing in person. In our busy lives, the old adage is 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 Mal McSwain told me to "make friends like you're going to know them for the rest of your life." That year alone I became friends with over 150 high schoolers, and now, almost 20 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 groomsman or bridesmaid in their wedding one day, to be roasting them at their 40th birthday party, to be old friends on that "Young Life 100th Birthday Caribbean Cruise" in 2041."

We must also not be so arrogant to think that without us in their lives, they'll 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 middle and 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 Know

Do not assume kids won't notice that you're gone. Whether you realize it or 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'll notice when you are gone. It will be a loss for them and a big loss for many of 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's important for you to give 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 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 Instagram 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've 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 has moved out. Many of them have experienced real abandonment and they will be angry with you, and maybe 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've got to trust that God is in control and if we are being obedient to Him, then His plan is for the ultimate good, even when it results in anger and hurt.

Make The Hand-off

It's your responsibility to do your best to set up the kids you're 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.

Click here to download a PDF of this article to share.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Incredible Opportunity for Summer Internship at The Dale House Project in Colorado Springs

If you're still trying to figure out what to do this summer, great news- an intern position has opened at The Dale House Project in Colorado Springs.

I can't think of an experience I'd more highly recommend! The Dale House Project is hiring 1 position starting in just a few weeks to work June-August. 

When I look back over my life, I'm convinced that some of the most difficult days of my life were spent working at the DHP. But those months were also some of the most significant and formative. (I worked there in 2003.)

  • Imagine a view of Pike's Peak from your bedroom every morning (14,000 ft elevation).
  • Imagine getting to be a Young Life leader that lives in the same house as your high school friends AND your YL team.
  • Imagine learning from wise and experienced staff who've worked with at-risk adolescents for dozens of years.

What Is The Dale House Project?

The Dale House is a residential care facility in Colorado Springs for at-risk teenagers. Many of these teenage residents are juvenile offenders transitioning out of lock-up facilities back into society. Some have been neglected, some abused, and most are not able to return home, if home even exists.

The Dale House opened in 1972 as a special project with Young Life. It was started in response to the alarming nation-wide proliferation of broken homes, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, incest, and drug and alcohol abuse. The DHP is located just a half mile walk to the Young Life Service Center. The Dale House is a led by a Christian community of staff that models community living for the residents. The staff relationships are a priority along with sharing Christ through this community with the residents.

The DHP has a goal to not just share Jesus verbally, but to holistically care for these teenagers by teaching them the skills necessary to live independently.

Each year the Dale House takes in hundreds of troubled young people. Most are referred by the Department of Human Services or the Division of Youth Corrections. Though licensed to house children ages 16-21, most residents are around 17 years old and average a length of stay of six to nine months.

Funding for the Project comes from a combination of government agencies who place children at Dale House along with contributions from churches, civic organizations, and individuals.

If you're interested in finding out more about the possibility of working at the DHP you can call the DHP at 719-471-0642. They'd love to chat with you. You can also visit find out more here.

You may have seen this article about The Dale House in an issue of Relationships magazine from a few years ago.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Message of Young Life by Matt Margaron

Shared by Matt Margaron, Metro Director for Young Life Naperville & Aurora, IL, at their area's 50th-anniversary celebration.

A dream. 
A vision. 
A mission. 
A movement. 
An invitation. 
And a prayer.

That every teen in our community would have access to experiencing God’s love.
Regardless of race
Of socioeconomic status
Of ability
Or popularity
Every kid could experience the JOY that comes with knowing and following Jesus.

I was one of those kids who needed Jesus at Lincoln Jr. High & Naperville Central.
In the midst of a broken and hurting world, I longed to see and know a God who entered into it and authentically loved me despite all of my insecurities, faults, and pain.

This movement is a call to “GO” out to every place and let young people know they are valued, known, and loved by the God of the universe. They were created in God’s image. They are a part of community, and they have a grand role in God’s redemption story.

And so we will never stop “going”.
We will never stop loving.
We will never stop showing up.

We are called to be faithful.
We are called to enter into the broken places.
We are called to be a part of the church's mission to the poor, the needy, and the lost.
We are called to “GO out”.

And that is what we will continue to do for the next 50 years.
We will begin with prayer.
We will continue to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We will enter into the lives of all kids.
College students at North Central College.
The homeless teenager.
Middle School students with special needs.
Teen Moms.
Students at East & West Aurora, Lisle Middle & High School, and alternative schools.
Public and Private schools, colleges, and universities.
We will attend basketball games, stage performances, special olympics events, and birthday parties.
We will never stop going and we will never stop inviting because there will always be another kid that needs to know how much Jesus loves them.
We will bring students to the streets of Nairobi, the mountains of Colorado and British Columbia, and the hills of the Dominican Republic to experience God’s amazing creation.

We will partner with churches across denominational lines: Catholic and Protestant, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Community, and beyond to reach every teenager.
We will continue to invite teachers, coaches, college students, young moms, business professionals, and most importantly the uneducated and ordinary to go with us to reach kids.

We will be about relationships. Earning the right to be heard.
We will always lift up Jesus so that kids can experience His amazing joy, intentionality, love, forgiveness, and restorative power.
We will invite students out of death and into full life with Jesus.

And we will remember that this whole thing is way more about the person of Jesus Christ than any individual. If we are going to be around for 50 more years, we must believe, without wavering, that God is in control. That God loves this community far more than I could ever think or imagine.

This mission is about Jesus. It is about God’s heart for the little children. That they might come to Him and know Him. Today, I get to be a part of the gospel call to introduce Jesus to people through relationship. Whether I am in Naperville or Nairobi, Vancouver or Puerto Plata, leading Young Life or not, this call will remain the same wherever I go.

People will come and go, staff, committee, leaders & kids will move on, but God’s steadfast love and care for teenagers from all walks of life in this community and around the world will remain the same.

"For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Thank you for being a part of this. You were made for this and more. For such a time as this. Thank you for your prayers, your countless hours of service, your financial generosity and your love for all kids.

Will you join me in the next stage of the adventure? To never stop going…
To Aurora
To Lisle
To North Central College, Benedictine, & Aurora University
To help unify the local church and be in mission together
To the depressed, anxious, and in pain
To students of all abilities
And teen moms
To Kenya, the Dominican Republic and more

Will you join me in this grand adventure over the next 50 years. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take sacrifice. Will you join me to pray? Will you join in giving of your time? Will you join me in giving your energy? Will you surrender your life and your resources so that kids can know Jesus?

It will change you. You will never be the same. It’s worth it."