Monday, November 24, 2014

Being With Jesus: A Guest Post From Jim Branch

See details below.

A Guest Post from Jim Branch.

Dear Young Life Leader,

What a crazy fall it has been! Filled to the brim with life, energy and activity. From early mornings meeting friends at local restaurants to late nights sitting on the hood of a car having those conversations we have worked for years to be able to have. From standing on sidelines, or in crowded student sections at Friday night football games, to sitting around a living room with a small group of friends talking about life and faith and Jesus. Clubs, camps, Campaigners, contact work, banquets, events, fundraisers, the list goes on and on. 

And now, as the holidays approach, there is finally room to catch your breath. For the next month or so, at least Young Life-wise, things will begin to slow down a little and it is time for a well-deserved break. It is time to inhale a little after a long season of constant exhale. And let me encourage you, Young Life leader, to do just that. Take some time and space to allow the Spirit of God to breathe in you, to refresh you, to encourage you, to renew you, to give you life and energy for the second half of the year. Take advantage of this time. The world will still be there when you get back. Believe it or not, it will not fall apart in your absence. Come away and spend time with Jesus. He longs for your company, for your attention, for your affection. And he longs to give you his in return. Always remember that it is the being with Jesus that offers the power, substance, and authenticity to all we do for Jesus. 

Thanks for all you do!  -Jim Branch

Jim has written a brand new book called Being With Jesus. You can buy it here. Jim is also graciously giving away 10 copies of the book.  

Here's how you can win.

Email me a picture of another YL leader in your area. Include their name and one paragraph about how you have seen Christ in them this semester. Entries will be shared on the blog in December. Email me here. - Drew Hill

Wendy Rhodes is a mother of two, but this semester she's actually been more like a mother of two hundred. She has loved our YL team so well and has laid down her life to care for all the kids in our club. She bakes cookies to give out during her club talks, stays up late on the phone with kids in crisis, and has faithfully prayed for us all during a tumultuous few months of ministry. Being with Wendy is one way I have been privileged to be with Jesus. Christ is so evident in her.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Young Life Instagram Photos You Can Use

Below are some Instagram photos I've posted this semester via @YoungLifeLeader. You can download these pics on your phone by just touching and holding a picture below and clicking 'Save Image.' Feel free to add your own info on them and repost on your club's Instagram or Twitter. I use Phonto to add texts to pics. I'm not sure who originally made all of these pics, but if it was you...THANKS!

Click here for more helpful ideas about how to use Instagram as a YL leader.

Click here for 'How To Do Insta-Club.' 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Camp Musician Of The Month: Neal Carpenter

This month we are featuring Young Life Camp Musician, Neal Carpenter.

Neal first connected to Young Life as a high school student in Greenville, SC and later as a volunteer leader while attending the University of Tennessee. Neal moved to Nashville, TN in 2007 to be closer to his friends Drew and Ellie Holcomb, and Matt Wertz, and to pursue his own career in music. At the invitation of Glenn Austell, Neal served as camp musician this summer at Windy Gap. Neal has been playing on weekends while continuing his tour to support his new album, "Good Guys." Neal is currently opening shows for Matt Wertz.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

4 Young Life Leaders Will Win Young Life Onesies

If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift this season, the Young Life Store has lots of great gear for sale, including YL onesies. YL staff and volunteer leaders always get a 20% discount (when logged into the site), reducing the onesie price to only $32. You can buy them here.

If money is tight, don't worry, The Young Life Store has donated 4 onesies to give away here on the Young Life Leader Blog. That's right, we're GIVING AWAY 4 YL ONESIES!!! 

Here’s The Contest
(Your Onesie in a Lifetime Opportunity)

To enter, just share one of your best ideas from this semester. This can include the following:
  • New song that you’ve sung at club (include chords and slides)
  • Crazy club game that worked well
  • WyldLife idea
  • Creative contact work idea
  • Talk idea or well organized notes from a talk you gave
  • Something that worked well in Campaigners
  • Fun idea that helped get kids signed up for camp
  • Fundraisers .... the ideas are endless!

Here's What I Need

  • Email me a well formed blog post here. Please email the post in the body of the email, not as an attachment, so I can just copy and paste in into the blog.
  • Aim to make the post to be between 300-800 words.
  • Include a brief bio about yourself-- two sentences with your name and the city where you lead YL. An attached picture would be great as well. A picture of yourself, or one that goes well with your post, or both!
  • I'd love to avoid editing your submissions, but I will read through it and make any non-content related changes necessary before posting it on the blog.

This is your chance to share your thoughts with thousands of Young Life leaders around the world. Think through what would be really helpful to the more than 15,000 YL leaders who visit this site every week. The contest will run for one week. Entries are due by: Wednesday, November 26th. If your entry gets chosen, you'll be mailed a YL Onesie in a couple weeks!

Don’t miss this Onesie in a Lifetime Opportunity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Go Deep. Get Real. Campaigners Questions To Help Kids Open Up

Good questions are essential to a deep Campaigners discussion. It's often difficult to get teenagers talking, especially guys. Start the discussion with questions that help them slowly open up...then go deeper.

One of my friends does 3 questions to start his Campaigners time each week. He calls it 'Deep, Deeper, Deepest.' Sometimes he just uses the same question and does 3 different rounds.  


Deep- If you really knew me, you would know that...I like sour patch kids more than I like my little sister.

Deeper- If you really knew me, you would know girlfriend dumped me this week for some loser that goes to Western.
Deepest- If you really knew me, you would know that...I have an addiction to cheating and have never been caught in 3 years but I'm trying to stop now.

Below are 50 questions to help you start deeper discussions.


  • If you really knew me, you would know.… (could be in the 'light' or 'deep' category)
  • What are the Highs and Lows of your week thus far?
  • Tell us a nickname you've had and how you got it.
  • What's one or two of your pet peeves?
  • What is your favorite place on the planet?
  • If you could eat any meal tonight, what would it be and who would it be with?
  • Tell us 3 songs you are loving right now.
  • What's something you can do that no one else in our group can do?
  • If we looked at your internet history, what 3 sites would we find you spend the most time on?
  • If you could dispense any condiment out of your pinky finger what would it be?
  • What movie or TV character do you most identify with and why?
  • Show us 5 of the last 20 pictures in your camera roll and explain each pic.
  • What's one of the best gifts you've ever received?
  • Fact or Fiction? Say 3 things about yourself, one being false and have the group guess which of the three statements isn't true.
  • Show and Tell: Bring something from your childhood to show us about yourself and explain why you brought it.
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What's the most hilarious thing about you or tell us about a 'hidden talent.'
  • If you were blind, what would you miss seeing the most?
  • With what famous person would you most like to share a meal? What would you ask them?
  • What would you do with a million dollars?
  • If you got a tattoo, what would it be and where?


  • If you had to live this past week over again, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?
  • What is one way your parents have sacrificed for you?
  • Finish the sentence: If you lived in my house for a week you might be surprised by....
  • Finish the sentence: "I wish God would...."
  • What are 3-5 words your parents would use to describe you?
  • What are 3-5 words your friends would use to describe you?
  • What are 3-5 words you would use to describe you?
  • If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
  • What's a question you've never been asked, but wish someone would ask you.
  • Who knows you best?
  • When have you made your mom or dad proud?
  • What have you been praying for this week?
  • I heard you say ... last week at Campaigners, tell me more about that.
  • If you were me, the YL leader leading the Campaigners time, what question would you ask everyone that would help us go deeper with God and one another?
  • What do you think God has been trying to teach you lately?
  • Tell us about an adult (teacher, coach, etc...) who has influenced your life and how so.


  • My best day ever was....
  • My worst days ever was....
  • What is one regret you have that no one in this room knows about?
  • When is the last time you cried and why?
  • When is the last time you apologized to someone and why?
  • What is an important conversation that has shaped your life?
  • What makes it hard for you to follow Jesus?
  • What motivates you to follow Jesus?

If you have other good questions to add, please comment below or email me here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Club Ideas & Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant

Below are tons of ideas to help make your Christmas Club a merry ol time. If you have any other ideas to share, please comment below. Here is a sample schedule, each element is explained below or through a 'link' within the schedule. 

Christmas Club 

We usually start club at 7:37, but start this particular event earlier to allow more time so it's not rushed.

6:50-7:20- Pics with Santa/ Awkward Christmas Cards
7:22- Tonight, Yes, Tonight- Buddy the elf (host)
7:23- Christmas Medley (band)
7:26- 12 days of Christmas (mixer & song)
7:30- Mr. Christmas Tree Training Video
7:35- Mr. Tree group dance
7:40- Buddy the elf spaghetti game
7:44- Judges Panel introduced
7:45- Talent Competition
7:59- JibJab Elf head video
8:02- Announcements
8:04- Parade of Trees (Runway Script)
8:12- Contestant Interviews
8:16- Voting (tallied during talk)
8:19- Joy To The World
8:23- What Child Is This?
8:26- Intro Drew
8:28- Drew's Talk
8:43- Crown Mr. Christmas Tree
8:48-exit music

Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant (MCTP)

Brian Summerall started doing Mr. Christmas Tree at Pearce High School in Texas many years ago. You can read more about his vision for the pageant on his website. Since then, the idea has spread all over the country.  Many YL clubs have each grade nominate one guy to represent their class in the pageant.

When we started doing it 5 years ago, we decided to make it a senior guys competition. It's created momentum and gave the underclassmen something to look forward to when they became seniors. This year's senior guys will compete, many remembering their first ever MCTP they watched when they were freshmen. The last few years we've had around 15-20 senior guys compete. Each of them brings friends to club to 'vote' for them, so it typically is our highest attended club of the year.  Because of the energy surrounding the event, we also make it the first night folks can sign up for Crooked Creek, our summer camp trip.

*We also do a similar event, 'The Ms. Valentines Pageant' for the senior ladies in February.

Talent Competition

A fun way to get committee folks, teachers, coaches, and former leaders involved is to ask them to serve on the MCTP Judges Panel. 

If you select one guy from each grade, or use 4-8 total guys, each guy could have time to perform an individual talent like dancing, singing, silly tricks, etc... In that case the judges panel could use this sheet from Brian Summerall to help keep score.

If you have more than 8 guys, I'd recommend putting the guys into 'talent groups.' Last year we had 4 groups of 4 guys.

You can decide if the panel determines the winner, or if you vote by applause, text message, or by the audience each circling a name on a ballot you pass out towards the end of the competition.

Parade of Trees

Summerall duct tapes actual trees to guys, which is hilarious. We encourage guys to dress as tree, open to their own interpretation. Some use actual tree branches taped to their body, some wear ornaments, tinsel, star hats, popcorn strings, some dress in green and brown, but every one of them is covered in strands of Christmas lights. After they walk down the runway onto the stage, we have a couple of power strips where they each can plug in their lights. (Some use battery packs)

During their runway walk we have an announcer reading a funny 'runway script.' Each guy submits personal stats they would put on a resume and we work together on making it funny. Here's the script we used from a previous year. In the past I have asked the PA announcer at our high school football games to come in and read the script in his awesome football announcer voice.


We typically have someone dress up as 'Buddy The Elf' and host the entire evening as sort of a Ryan Seacrest/Will Ferrell combo character. It helps the flow of the evening if one person is directing stage traffic.


If possible, get last year's Mr. Christmas Tree to return home for this club to crown the new winner. Create an elaborate 'sash and star crown' for the presentation. We're doing this after the talk in order to give time to tally the votes during the talk, and it's a fun way to conclude the evening.


If you have a handful of contestants, each guy should make their own 'entry video' or 'training video.' They could be practicing singing, doing pushups, running bleachers, visiting a Christmas tree lot, painting themselves green, duct taping branches on their bodies, drinking lots of egg nog, etc...
If you're using a lot of contestants, make one training video together. Here's the video we made a previous year:

Here are some examples of videos from other clubs:


Ask friends for BIG inflatables and borrow Christmas lights. Click here for more details.


  • Rudolph, Feliz Navidad, and Jingle Bells are good fast ones.
  • 'What Child is this?' and 'Silent Night' are good slow ones.
  • Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you" is good background music for fillers and games.
  • "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync is a must.


12 Days Of Christmas Song & Mixer  
As a mixer, use the song "12 days of Christmas" and divide your club into 6 groups. Group 1 will have "the 1st day of Christmas and the 7th day of Christmas, Group 2 will have day 2 and day 8, etc... Personalize the song to fit your club. Ex: If you took kids to Crooked Creek and the program team used Skippy the fish, then you could change the lyrics to: "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Skippy in a Crooked Creek." Get creative.

If you need a large group game you can play "Encore" or "Sing-off" and have each class compete (team of freshmen, team of sophs, etc...) to sing Christmas carols. If they repeat one that has already been sung, they are out. This works pretty well if you have team captains for each group.

Little Nemo Elf
The traditional "Little Nemo" skit works great with Elves. It's explained here.  

Buddy The Elf Spaghetti Contest
Start it off by showing the clip from the movie Elf whereWill Ferrell eats spaghetti with maple syrup, marshmallows, m&ms, & skittles. Then have a character come on stage dressed as an Elf. You can buy an "elf shirt" lots of places like Walmart/Target or online at Elf Shirt Purchase. Have "Buddy the Elf" come out with all the ingredients mentioned above. You also need a tarp, towels for the kids to clean up with afterwards, theme music to play in the background, and bowls. Have the kids race to eat with their hands. Give out decent sized portions where a kid can actually eat it all in a minute. If you put too much in there, it will take too long and be a dud.

Create a JibJab video of your YL leaders heads on the bodies of elves. You have to pay to download it, or you can just show it if you have internet where you have club.

Pics With Santa
Invite a committee member or parent to dress up as Santa and have kids get their pics taken with him. Invite another adult to take the pics in order to free up leaders to be with kids. Lighting is key for good photos. Chances are you have a parent or friend of YL in the community who loves photography, has a sweet camera, and would love to do it for free.

Candy Canes 
Pass them out before club. They're cheap and festive.

Ugly Sweaters
Encourage kids to dress up in their ugliest Christmas sweaters. Odds are, their moms probably have some sweet ones in the attic. If not, a Goodwill trip is always great contact work.

Here are a few ideas thanks to Sean McGever and

What Christmas Club ideas can you add? Please comment below or email me and I'll add them to the post. Merry Christmas! -Drew

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Making Campaigners Fun & Dangerous: One-Roll

Almost every Sunday evening I have the huge privilege of meeting with a group of ten senior guys for about two hours. This was our schedule from this week's Campaigners:

7:15 - 7:45 
Hang out/Snacks/Ping Pong/Darts/Watch football

7:45 - 8:30 
Bible study & prayer

8:30 - 9:15 
Hang out & One-Roll

We typically play a game every week. It's a fun tradition that guys look forward to, along with bonfires, Sunday night football, and good food. 

This week we played an easy yet hilarious game. Lots of A-LOL (actual laughing out loud.)

One-roll is a game a lot of people play in YL circles. It's a game of complete chance. To play, all you need is one or two dice and each person takes a turn rolling. Whoever rolls the lowest number has to do the consequence that was agreed upon by everyone before the game starts.

If two people roll a one, those 2 players roll again and the player who rolls the lowest gets the consequence. Our consequence this week was four-fold.

The guy who had the lowest roll would have to:
  • Wear Crocs with high socks
  • Tuck his jeans into his socks
  • Wear a sports headband
  • And instead of using a backpack for his books, roll around the hallways with a suitcase
We ended up playing two rounds for two reasons. First, it was so fun we wanted to play again. Second, it's easier not being the only guy dressed like that at school. 

Make sure you choose a consequence that would not hurt anyone’s feelings and or make anyone sick. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: "Would you be okay with parents knowing the consequence?"  When in doubt call the parents and ask, or call your Area Director and ask their advice.

Remember the consequences needs to be agreed upon by everyone before playing. The next time we play our consequence is going to be that the loser has to hold a poster board on the corner of a busy intersection in our town that says, "Free Hugs" for an entire hour at 5pm.

What other funny but doable consequences would you suggest? Comment below or email me here. The best 2 suggestions will be mailed Young Life shirts! I'll compile the suggestions and add them to the post. Thanks! -Drew

Other Ideas For 'Consequences'

  • Get a spray tan (David Delozier)
  • Perform an Taylor Swift song acapella at club next week (Hank Ulven)
  • Do a random act of kindness, like volunteer at soup kitchen (Hank Ulven)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Young Life Christmas Gift Ideas

Are you a YL staff person looking for Christmas gift ideas for committee or leaders? A volunteer leader looking for gift ideas for your high school friends? Or maybe just a YL'dly selfish person, addicted to YL gear, looking for items to add to your own Christmas are some ideas for you!

Letters To A Young Life Leader 
By: Bob Mitchell and Kit Sublett
It's a true treasure of Godly wisdom that all YL leaders need to read. "Mitch" was Young Life’s third president and one of Jim Rayburn’s original club kids. He's the real deal and continues to point YL staff and leaders to Christ. “Letters to a Young Life Leader” is a collection of 37 letters, arranged in five sections, covering a wide range of topics -- everything from why we use humor in Young Life to spiritual formation and balancing ministry and family. Buy it here.

The Diaries of Jim Rayburn
Another great YL treasure from Whitecaps Media.

Prized Possession 
A Father's Journey In Raising His Daughter
Alan Smyth & Kristy Fox, Young Life Regional Directors in California, published this book for dads with daughters. You can order it here.

Sweatshirt Blankets
One of my favorite YL gifts I've ever been given. They're $26 in the YL online store (with your staff or volunteer leader sign in everything is 20% off). You can also get a bulk discount (about $20/blanket) on custom designs if you order 48 or more. There are tons of other great gift ideas at the Online Young Life Store.

How fun would it be to pick out a different wig for each of your leaders! And think of the value that would add to your area skit closet.

Framed Wordles
Check out this video for an example.

Crazy Creek Camping Chairs
In the past I ordered a bunch of these chairs in bulk from websites like Sierra Trading Post for around $20.

Young Life Water Bottles
There are a lot of options at the online YL store ranging between $7-$14. A great thing about water bottles is you can fill them with other fun and cheap things like a hand-written note, candy canes, etc.

Gas Cards
If you are a committee member looking for a gift for volunteer leaders, you can't go wrong with a gas card!

Head Lamps
Leaders can rapidly increase their cool points by breaking out a headlamp at camp. Prices range from $10-$100. I use mine to read with at night and way more often than I originally anticipated. Hands free light baby!

Personalized Frisbees/Disc Golf Discs
You can order disc golf discs or 175g nice ultimate frisbees with your area logo on them from a lot of online stores. The turnaround process typically isn't quick, so order today. I've had good success in the past with

Belt Buckles
Who doesn't want a belt buckle with the YL logo on it? Or a sketch of your face engraved in shiny silver? I've never ordered these, but I can't imagine anything I'd rather open on Christmas day than a nice shiny belt buckle. Shoutout to all our Texas YL leaders!

How To Distribute Gifts At A Leader Party
One year we played a game to distribute gifts. There were tons of gifts on a table upfront in view of all. The gifts ranged in cost from $5-$30 and varied from the things above to cd's, books, gift cards to restaurants, etc. The person who had been leading the longest in the area got to pick a gift first...all the way to the newest leader picking last. It was a nice way to recognize the marathoners in the group and fun to see what everyone picked.

Here are some helpful thoughts from Eric Scofield for YL staff folks. (direct link to video)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winner, Winner! Raffle Prizes At Club

Weekly club raffles are a time-tested tradition at Young Life clubs across the country. As folks arrive they each get a raffle ticket with a number. The matching ticket is thrown in a hat. 

Near the beginning of club, maybe after the opening song, a leader comes on stage and says 'WHAT TIME IS IT?' And then everyone yells 'RAFFLE...RAFFLE...RAFFLE...." as loud as they can. The YL leader then gets a helper to draw out winning tickets. The numbers are slowly read aloud.

7- Woooo!  (Everyone says 'wooooo' because everyone's ticket has a 7 on it
3- Wooo! (Most people 'wooo' but some people 'booo' because not everyone has a 3
1- Booo/Wooooo! (There are 9 happy folks who are still in it to win it)
8- The winner screams and everyone else boooos!

Creative Raffle Prizes

  • Mystery Box: Have a mystery box that folks can reach into and pull out a mystery prize. Sometimes it's an empty envelope. Sometimes its a Starbucks gift card. Sometimes it's a live animal. 
  • The Golden Fish: A goldfish in a small bowl with fish food. Who doesn't love to win a fish?
  • Lunch With A Leader: It's contact work waiting to happen. Find out their order and bring them lunch at school.
  • Best Seat In The House: While everyone else has to sit on the floor at club, this lucky winner will get to relax in a comfy recliner chair for the rest of the night. Or if you play for the Seattle Seahawks, you can just give everyone in your Campaigners group a comfy recliner for the entire night. (See Clint Gresham's pic)
  • $ off of Summer Camp.
  • A toilet seat frame with an autographed picture of one of the YL leaders. Toilet seats are $6 at the hardware store. Take the lid off and just use the seat as a frame.
  • Old YL shirts: raid your Area Director's closet.
  • Dancing shoes: Spray paint an old pair of shoes with gold spray paint. They look cool! 
  • Movie Tickets
  • A box of doughnuts.
  • A $5 shopping spree at Sheetz after club
What other creative ideas would you add? Comment below or email me here

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Young Life's Heartbeat: The Left Of The Line

Today's guest post is from Jon Houghton, Associate Regional Director of Central Indiana. 

The vast majority of mentoring programs or discipleship program focus their attention to the right of the threshold line. Most programs ask kids or people to opt in, which inherently means they have a desire to succeed. The number of people willing to ‘mentor’ or ‘disciple’ kids increases exponentially as you move to the right.

Young Life’s heart beats for kids left of that line.

There is a scarcity of people willing to do the work on the left side of the line. Left of the line requires patience, courage, time, willingness to ‘fail’ often. Young Life leaders must live on the left side of the threshold line. There is a relative abundance of people willing to invest in those who want to be invested in.

Due to the scarcity of people left of the line; YL leaders and staff should spend the majority of their time with kids left of the line. People who have reached independence in their walk with Christ should come back and join us on the left side.

I believe that mentoring programs that live on the right side of the line provide value in the Kingdom. Most of them  exist for ‘at risk’ kids, but every mentoring program that I am aware of (especially in urban settings) involve kids choosing to opt in. The most ‘at risk’ kids’ do not have a desire to succeed in life and therefore will never choose to opt in to these programs. Cycles are not broken if we only work with people who opt in.

I recently heard a national columnist give a speech encouraging kids to “show people you are worth being invested in.” I understand the point she was making, however our role is to help kids believe that they are worthy of being invested in before they believe it themselves.

When Jesus was questioned about who he was spending time with he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, I have not come for the righteous but for the sinners…” This is who we must spend time with.

Luke 15 tells a story about a shepherd who leaves the 99 to go and find the one lost sheep. This is what we must do.

There is an important role for people on the right of the line. It just isn’t our role.

Young Life leaders must resist the temptation to do the relatively easy work and live into our unique role in Kingdom work.