Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How To Plan A Summer Adventure Trip

Teenagers have a natural instinct for adventure and the upcoming summer offers fantastic opportunities for spontaneity. 

For the past twenty years I’ve been taking high school guys on a summer adventure trip in the North Carolina mountains. We hike, camp, fish, jump off cliffs, and ride down waterfalls. We sleep in enos, build campfires and have cabin time under the stars. And it usually costs less than $75/person. 

Young Life camping doesn't just have to happen at a Young Life property. Below are a few tips to help you plan your own mini-camp experience.


The best way to begin is to simply make a list of 10 names of your friends that you’d like to invite on the adventure. If you have a Campaigners group, take them. If you don't, this is a great way to launch one! Start praying for the kids by name and the specifics of the trip. Experience the thrill of watching God answer your prayers. Faith is the first adventure! 

You need to have at least 2 adults leading the trip. If there's not another leader on your Young Life team who can join you, consider asking a parent or someone on the committee to come along. 


God has created an amazing playground in the great outdoors. Talk to outdoorsy folks you know and find out the best camping and adventure spots near you. Odds are there are some great hiking trails and water spots within a couple hours drive. Get OUTSIDE! It's amazing how clearly kids can hear God speak when they get out of their comfort zones and away from screens! (Don't allow phones, even for pictures!)


Picking the right dates is key. If you plan a trip and everyone is at football camp or on family vacation that week, it's going to be a bust. Parents know their kids schedules better than they do, so you need to communicate with them. If you don't already have their email addresses, text your teenage friends and ask them to send you their parents' emails. Write a well-written explanation of the trip you'd like to take and send it to parents. Before you send it, look at your calendar, find a few possible dates that work, create a Doodle poll, and then email parents.


Make sure you have gone through all the proper Young Life safety procedures. Background checks for leaders, driver safety course, permission forms for kids, etc... Talk with your Area Director!  And when it comes to risky adventures, sometimes being wise doesn't feel as fun. Let's remember that we are being entrusted with precious lives, so let's always lean into making the wiser long-term choice rather than the one that seems like a good idea in the moment. Bring a first-aid kit. Know where the closest hospitals are. Check for ticks. 


Invite those kids (and the other leader) into the trip planning process. Few things are as bonding as choosing your own adventure together. When they help plan it, there's much more buy-in. Pull out a map. Google "best hikes in X area." Research together and go explore!


Most years we make a "ManTrip" t-shirt. I still see guys wearing them a decade later. It can be costly to only print a few shirts for a small group, but it's a fun keepsake and reminder of the adventure. Not at all necessary, but a fun add-on. In 2016, one of my Young Life guy's girlfriends designed our shirt. Check out the sweet "ManTrip" logo she designed pictured here as the state of NC.


Below is a sample schedule from the trip I take each summer. I've taken guys groups and co-ed groups. If you live in GA, NC, or TN- the Pisgah National Forest area near Carolina Point is AMAZING! 

10am-meet at the YL house in Greensboro
12- lunch in Hickory (bring $)
2:30- Pisgah National Forest
3:30- The Hole
5- Hike Looking Glass hike (1.5 hours up) 6.5 miles round trip
6:30- make camp, dinner at summit
9- Campaigners time up top

7:30- breakfast
8- Time alone with God
8:30- Hike down
10- Drive to Gorges State Park and play at Turtleback and Rainbow
4- Panthertown Valley hike
6- Camp next to Schoolhouse Falls and make dinner
8- Campaigners time up top

8am- breakfast and time alone with God
9am- Drive to Paradise Falls
2pm- surprise stop
6pm- head home and eat on the way
10pm- arrive at YL office


-$15 for 2 meals on the road
-water bottle full with water
-An extra gallon jug or 3 liter bottle full of tap water
-eno or sleeping pad
-sleeping bag
-bible and notebook
-rain jacket
-swim suit
-water shoes (chacos or sandals)
-hiking/running shoes
-Bug spray/Sunscreen
-pocket knife
-camping chair (optional)
-toothbrush/paste (not-optional)
-daypack (backpack will work)
-hat/bandana (optional)
-plastic bag for wet clothes
-NO PHONES (bring a camera if you want)

If you need help or advice, talk to seasoned staff folks in your region. And don't hesitate to reach out if I can be a help! Email me here.

Written by Drew Hill.

Drew is a pastor in Greensboro, NC and also on staff with Young Life in the Global Innovation and Training department. Drew started the Young Life Leader Blog in 2010 and has written a best-selling book for Young Life leaders called "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."

Monday, April 22, 2019

Senior Club: 10 Tips to Make it Memorable

The end of this school year is in sight. It’s become a tradition in many Young Life areas to end the 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 typically give away "Lunch With A Leader" or 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 their former club.

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

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 us here.

Written by Drew Hill.

Drew is a pastor in Greensboro, NC and also on part-time staff with Young Life in the Global Innovation and Training department. Drew started the Young Life Leader Blog in 2010 and has written a best-selling book for Young Life leaders called "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Everything You Need To Know About 8th Grade Club

I know it’s around 150 days until your first club of the fall, but pause for a second and imagine that September day. The air is crisp, football games are in full swing, and every high school is full of brand new freshmen. Wouldn’t it be amazing as Young Life leaders to go into the new school year knowing some of these brand new students by name? Here’s an idea our area has used for the last nine years that has resulted in tons of relationships with new ninth graders. If you plan now, your fall could be full of intentional relationships with these young new students!


  • Peaks the interest early for upcoming freshmen and gives them a taste of what it's like to be a part of Young Life. 
  • Sometimes with spring sports, club numbers can feel low, so this is a great shot of energy to end the school year.


  • Early to mid-May. You can even do this without a ton of volunteer leaders. Get the committee and high schoolers involved. Don’t skip it just because college leaders are gone! 

  • Start spreading the word NOW!
  • Make a list of every middle school in your area (use google if you need to). Ask your committee, current Young Life kids, and social media for any connections to those schools.
  • Print out paper fliers to take to schools, known parents, and teachers.
  • Fliers should have all the info parents need to know, ie: start and end time, who is invited, adults present, as well as fun- high schoolers there, free t-shirt/food, etc.
  • Make small fliers for people to hand out to kids.
  • Could any of your current high school Young Life students go and do contact work at the middle schools they attended?
  • Ask your current freshman to reach out to 8th graders, they will feel a great sense of purpose and probably cool returning to their middle school.
  • Post on your social media for Young Life students to bring 8th grade siblings, the free giveaway, and an incentive for high school kids to come and bring 8th graders.
  • How do you get high schoolers to still attend an “8th grade club”?
      • Golden Ticket idea
        • Hide 4 paper tickets around town after school (think the trash can at the YMCA, a fire hydrant near a popular ice cream shop), take pics with small clues and post them on social media about 20 minutes before dismissal the day of club. The ticket winners receive a prize (the 8th grade free t-shirt, or an extra raffle ticket, Young Life sticker, etc).
  • Free giveaways for the brand new 8th graders: food, or
    better yet a t-shirt! Make it a new design, a fun shirt that doesn’t say anything about 8th graders or freshmen on it. You want them to want to wear this shirt to school!
    • In a dream world, they will wear it next fall and it’ll be a great identifier to upper-classmen to reach out to them.
    • Put a sticker on the shirt with all your social media outlets on them, so they can easily find your accounts and follow them.
    • The 8th graders must fill out a club card before they get a shirt.
    • Run a table at club with check-in, manned by leaders. 
    • Make it the first fifty 8th graders so kids feel an urgency to show up early.

During Club

  • Not having a senior club? Have them run 8th grade club. Already had a senior club? Let juniors run it, that way the 8th graders have familiar faces next year.
  • Be very careful with upfront games. Sibling games can be fun where the older sibling gets pied, etc. Don’t make 8th graders the butt of the joke, celebrate them in a major way!
  • Who does the talk? Do you have any middle school teachers? They are ideal. If not, someone who will be in the room next fall, not a departing leader or staff, so the students will recognize them at the first club.
  • Sell summer camp in front of the 8th graders- make them think- I can’t WAIT to go to that next year! But since they can’t go…
    • Sell Fall Weekend and let them sign up! Bring Fall Weekend fliers, have a big poster to have them sign up on. 
  • Take lots of great pictures!

  • Have people on “parking lot” duty- leaders or committee members who are comfortable talking to parents. Have them approach minivans/cars to say “Hi” and “Thanks” and remind them of the pickup time. Have Young Life fliers in case parents have questions.
  • Have some committee members well connected to parents? Run a parent involvement meeting at the same time as club. Bring light snacks, have it in a side room, and share with them the vision of Young Life, the whys of club, have a parent share about their kids being involved, and pass out involvement cards. These could be your table hosts in the fall!

Post Club
  • Post those great pictures to social media, tag kids and parents!
  • Go through club cards and connect with kids, create a google sheet and send to leaders so they can text kids now and in the fall.
  • Follow/like kids on social media- get them to follow your Young Life accounts.
  • Promote Fall Weekend and their ability to sign up.
  • Invite them to one more Young Life event- Ice Cream Olympics, end of year cookout, summer campaigners, whatever you have left. This is a great way to get kids who missed out to come to something.
  • Have extra shirts? Give them to new freshmen at club in the fall.
  • Reach out and thank the parents who came and filled out involvement cards. Seek their involvement (table host, committee, etc) while they are still excited.
  • Thank anyone who helped you advertise to kids (schools, underclassmen, etc).

Resources for 8th Grade Club

Written by Susan Nixon.

Susan is the Area Director for Young Life in Salisbury, NC, and is a leader at Salisbury High School (Go Hornets!). She grew up in Westerville, OH, was a volunteer leader while at Ohio State University, before joining the Young Life staff in Annapolis, MD. She has lived and led in Salisbury for the last nine years. She is married to Kenton, who is a teacher, and they are expecting their first baby, a boy, in August. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Summer Movies 2019: Movies and Trailers

With the release of "Avengers: Endgame" next week, the summer movie season is already beginning. 

Our job as Young Life leaders is to lead our middle and high school friends into the adventure of following Christ. Part of that means helping them discover different 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 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 memories!

I haven't seen any of these movies below and would highly recommend checking out reviews on kids-in-mind.com or commonsensemedia.org 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 2019 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.

April 26 – Avengers: Endgame
May 24 – Aladdin
June 21 - Toy Story 4
June 28 - Yesterday
July 19 - The Lion King

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 this post, Jesus Goes to the Movies.