Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Best Practices from the Past Semester

If you’ve found helpful ideas on the blog, now is YOUR TURN to share! At the end of each semester, we ask staff and leaders to share their “best practices” from the past few months. Would you email us here with your ideas? 

Send along: creative games, program characters, new songs, contact work ideas, camp sell strategies, things that worked well at leadership, Campaigners ideas, etc... 

We’ll collect your ideas and share them on the blog - you’ll be helping thousands of leaders around the world! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Contact Work Ideas

Written by Demi Nicolle, volunteer leader in Indiana, PA.

With Christmas fast approaching, your Young Life team may be scrambling for some last-minute ideas before the holiday break. Here are some fun and festive suggestions, from our area to yours:

Christmas shopping
Need to grab presents for loved ones? Don't go alone - bring your high school friends. Great opportunity to hang one-on-one and ask them about what they do for the holidays, what Christmas means to them, etc. Bonus: treat them to coffee or dinner afterward to thank them for their assistance.

Wrapping presents
Why stop at shopping? Ask kids to come over and help you wrap your presents. Make a competition out of it.

Movie night
Rent some classic Christmas flicks such as, The Santa Clause, It's A Wonderful Life, The Grinch, Elf, etc.) Pop some popcorn, make hot cocoa, and settle in for a good time.

Christmas-themed Campaigners
Talk about the birth of Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas today.

Christmas-themed club OR party
SO. MANY. IDEAS. Ask kids to wear an ugly sweater. Have a gingerbread house making contest. Do skits involving marshmallows, or have kids wrap each other in wrapping paper. Do a low-key gift exchange. Sing Christmas songs. Write a hilarious run on involving reindeer or elves or something. Again, talk about the birth of Jesus.

Invite kids over to bake cookies/brownies/etc. A fun and yummy way to chill in a small group setting. Bonus: your house will smell amazing.

Pay it Forward
Grab one or two kids to do something nice for strangers. Maybe that's helping out at your local soup kitchen, baking cookies for your local fire department/nursing home/police station/etc., or dropping off clothes at the Goodwill. Make Christmas cards and deliver them. Do something good for your neighborhood!

Candy Cane Drop-off
Bring candy canes to lunch/dismissal and pass them out to kids you don't know.

There you have it! All easy and affordable ways to bond with kids you have relationships with and those you don't. Happy holidays!

Have other holiday contact work ideas? Email them here!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Young Life College: Best Practices

If you're a Young Life College leader or staff person, you're likely wrapping up the semester as students are in the midst of exams. Way to go on finishing the semester strong!

To help you in your preparation for next semester, the YLC team has put together a ton of helpful resources. 

You can find the link to the resources here.

Look under the "Reach" and "Build" sections to find detailed resources for contact work, club talks, events, games, small groups, leadership, communication, committee, fundraisers, spiritual formation and camp!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

An Advent Prayer

An Advent Prayer
by Henri Nouwen

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light
and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit
upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do,
seek quiet spaces
to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things,
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways,
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy,
seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people,
walking in darkness,
yet seeking light.

To you we say,
Come Lord Jesus.


Purchase a copy of Jim Branch's book, Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Stranger Things in Young Life

I'm probably one of the only people on the planet that hasn't watched "Stranger Things," so I share the following ideas with that disclaimer. I'm not endorsing the show, because I haven't seen it, but I know that tons of our middle, high school, and college friends love it, so maybe these ideas below can help you better connect with them. 

Leadership Skit
Noelle Greig, from Nashville Young Life, shared the following:

My friend Trevor Black and I did a skit at leadership where we were WyldLife leaders at Hawkins Middle School, and we were the "Stranger Things" kids' leaders. We had a slideshow we showed where we talked about each kid and what type of YL kid they were... 

"Will was a great campaigners guy, but he's been kind of absent lately. We may have the wrong phone number." 

"Eleven is such a sweet girl. Could y'all be praying that things would click for her soon? We were at camp and I was explaining God the Father to her and she just stared back at me and said 'papa'".... etc. 

We dressed in full 80's garb. For the game we did an Eggo waffles eating contest. 

Here are the slides we used:

A "Stranger" Camp Promo Video

Kevin Seelinger, Area Director for Young Life in Berkeley County, WV, sent us this video. He took the Rockbridge promo video and put it to the Stranger Things soundtrack. Pretty genius. 

Do you have any other ways you've used "Stranger Things" in Club? If so, email us here and we'll add them to the post. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017


“Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer”
by Brother David Steindl-Rast

Gratefulness is simply one way of
experiencing the life of the Triune God within us.

This life springs forth from the Father,
the fountain and wellspring of divinity, the Ultimate Giver.

The total self-gift of the Father is the Son.

The Son receives everything from the Father
and becomes the turning point in this divine tide of giving.

For in the Holy Spirit, the Son returns
the Father’s ultimate giving as ultimate thanksgiving.

The Triune God is Giver, Gift, and Thanksgiving.

This movement from the Father
through the Son in the Spirit back to its Source
is what St. Gregory of Nyssa called
“the Round Dance of the Blessed Trinity.”

We can begin to join that dance in our heart
right now through gratefulness.

What else could be called life in fullness?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas for Leaders

Are you a Young Life 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 list...below are some ideas for you!

Custom Sweatshirt Blankets
One of my favorite YL gifts I've ever been given! You can order them at the YL online store for as low as $28.99. There are tons of other great gift ideas at the Online Young Life Store.

Buffalo Sherpa Blanket
Ohhh, sooooo soft. $38.99 at the Young Life store.

A book written by John Wagner, a senior VP for YL, Perfect tells the stories of John's son David, a 17-year-old boy with Down Syndrome. In the book, John shares how David has led him more fully to the sacred stories of Jesus. Get ready to dance, laugh, cry, celebrate, wonder, treasure, believe and be wrapped in pure joy as you meet this little boy who is precious to the Savior and a gift to all those around him. Buy it here.

By: Bob Mitchell and Kit Sublett
This book is a 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.

YL Knit Earband
Stay warm for only $6.99!
Another great YL treasure from Whitecaps Media. Buy it here.

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

YL Cell Phone Speaker
This lightweight Renew Speaker works with ALL iPhones and the new Samsung Galaxy S6-S8. Handcrafted to bed the speaker of your phone and amplify the sound of your favorite music with no cords or strings attached! Easy to use, hard to break, battery free, water resistant, and no hassle involved with connecting through blue tooth or auxiliary cords. Buy here for $33.99.
It's currently on sale on Staff Resources for only $26 and bulk orders are even less. Great gift for those who want to know the history of the mission from the early 30's through today. Get it here

YL Flannel PJ Pants

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're 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 all the time!

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 DTworld.com

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 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! Find wigs here.

Sling Backpack
It's currently on clearance for only $12.97 at the Young Life store!

Christmas Themed Gifts and Catalog
You can also buy Christmas attire and gifts from the YL store here or check out the entire Young Life Christmas Catalog here

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 up front in view of all. The gifts ranged in cost from $5-$30 and varied from the things above to 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

If you have ideas for Christmas gifts for leaders, email us here and we'll add them to the list!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Advent Devotional by Jim Branch

Many of you are familiar with "The Blue Book" and have loved reading Jim Branch's writings. Jim was on staff with Young Life for almost twenty years and now directs a ministry of spiritual nurture in Knoxville, TN. Jim has also written a book called, "Watch and Wait," specifically for the season of Advent. This year Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 3rd.

Purchase a copy here: Watch and Wait: A Guide for Advent and Christmas.

For most of my Christian life I was unaware of the beautiful way the story of faith retells itself each year through the church liturgical calendar. How each and every year through its feasts and fasts, its celebrations and remembrances, the incredible story of God's extravagant love for his people is lived out again and anew by the community of faith. It is an ancient dance that has been done by fellow pilgrims throughout the centuries, offering an invitation to us all to journey with Christ, and the people of God, into a more intimate and vibrant relationship with the One who made us for himself. It is an invitation for each of us to enter into his story; to live each season in a way that gives us a deeper love for, and a stronger faith in, the God who dreamt us into being. 

The first step in this journey is the season of Advent, the season of watching and waiting for Christ to be born among us and within us. It is the season where we get in touch with our deep longing for God to show up in our lives and in our word. After all, he is, and has always been, the God who comes. Ours is just to pay careful attention to the how and the where and the when of that coming.” 

- Jim Branch

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt

Below is another fun Christmas club idea, similar to "Bigger, Better, Best!"

The Human Christmas Tree Scavenger Hunt gives kids and leaders an opportunity to laugh and play – and also allows parents to get involved.

The Big Picture
Teams visit houses in the neighborhood looking for items to “hang” on their human Christmas tree – one of their team members. They’re not asking for actual ornaments – just something red or something with lights or something reindeer-y that will not be returned to its owner. 

Feel free to use/adapt this list for your own scavenger hunt.

These items are taped all over the human Christmas tree. All teams meet back at club for a Christmas tree presentation, judging, awards and a club talk.

The Details
Kids, leaders and parent drivers meet at your club location. Explain the scavenger hunt rules and then divide kids into teams with one parent driver or leader per team. Tell them that this scavenger hunt isn’t a race – it’s more about creativity. Give each team the ending time and a point list, and send them on their way.

If your club location is in a neighborhood, you may not even need drivers - teams can walk to nearby houses instead. But you might consider assigning streets so three teams don’t hit up the same houses over and over again.

Whether you’re driving or walking, you can also assign one house for each team to do all of their “ornament shopping”. Talk to parents/homeowners the week before so they are ready for a team of middle school kids to invade their house.

At the end of the scavenger hunt, gather kids back at your club location. Let each team present their “tree” to the judges – your parent drivers or other parents you’ve invited. One of your leaders can give a short Christmas club talk followed by an announcement of the winners. You can give awards for the highest point total, but also for the most creative, tiniest or funniest “ornaments."

Consider ending the night with a hot chocolate bar: parent baristas serving hot chocolate with toppings like whipped cream, candy canes, sprinkles, chocolate chips and more.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christmas Club Ideas (and Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant)

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than 5 weeks away! With Thanksgiving next week, start planning for Christmas Club now. Below are tons of ideas we've used in the past. 

Christmas Club Schedule

On a normal Monday, we typically start club at 7:37, but for this particular event, we start earlier to allow more time for the Mr. Christmas Tree pageant.

6:50-7:20- Pics with Santa/ Awkward Christmas Cards
7:20- Seniors form entry tunnel
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- Text Message Voting
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

Brian Summerall started doing "Mr. Christmas Tree" at Pearce High School in Texas many moons 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 8 years ago, we decided to make it a senior guys competition- a sort of rite of passage. 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 Mr. Christmas Tree Pageant 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 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 teachers, coaches, YL committee, and former YL leaders involved is to ask them to serve on the 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 help keep a running 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.

12 Days of Christmas Skit

Here's a funny skit idea for 2 of the contestants to do together while the rest of the contestants sing the 12 Days of Christmas. It feels a little long so I might just do it once starting on the 12th day.

Parade of Trees

Some clubs duct tape 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 winner 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. You can also have kids vote via text messaging using PollEverywhere.com.


If you have just a handful of contestants, each guy could 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 are some examples of videos from other clubs:
Pearce Young Life
Pearce Young Life 2012
Wichata Falls Young Life
Amarillo Young Life
Delta County Young Life


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.

Balloon Antlers

Get a few pairs of pantyhose and a bunch of balloons and have teams of 4 work together to blow up the balloons and then stuff them to see who can make the best reindeer antlers in 90 seconds.


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.

Christmas Carols with Helium

Name that Christmas Carol

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 WiFi where you have club.

Awkward Family Christmas Cards

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 YLHelp.com.