Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Best Communication Tool For Your YL Area

Written by Ben Battaglia, YL Area Director in Champaign County, Illinois. 

What do NASA, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, Harvard, LinkedIn and our Young Life area all have in common? We all use the same tool for communications within the organization.  

Teams are the heart of Young Life. At every level, we couldn’t do what we do without the people around us. To do great ministry, communicating effectively with your team (leaders, committee, fellow staff, etc.) is absolutely essential. In our area, we use a new app called Slack, and we can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s the communication of the future!

In the past, our leadership team has used a myriad of communication tools. We utilized group texts, GroupMe, email, Google Drive, and more to communicate and share information/ resources. It was a mess -- too many conversations in too many places! Slack puts all our team communication in one convenient desktop, mobile, and web app. But rather than one giant communication frenzy, Slack divides all our communication in a series of public and private channels, so that each conversation gets to exactly who it needs to, in a very clear way. 

In this picture with the darker sidebar, you can see a few of the different channels our area uses. Let’s unpack some of them:

#general -- That’s used for announcements from the staff. We’re the only ones who can post it in, and notifications are pushed to phones so that everyone gets important info!

#centralstm, #mahomet, #wyldlife, etc. -- Each of our teams has their own private channel to talk about ministry at their specific school.

#jesus, #prayer, #clubideas, #biblestudy, #bookclub etc. -- These ad-hoc channels play a number of different functions, most of which are self-explanatory. #jesus or #prayer are places to share encouragement or prayer requests. #clubideas is a place for use to keep videos, documents, or other club ideas we might want to use someday. #biblestudy and #bookclub help us coordinate details about our weekly Bible Study or Book Club, respectively.

#tribalcouncil2k16 - Our team leaders (dubbed Tribal Council) have a separate Slack channel to coordinate and make decisions in.

#random -- In order to keep all our other channels clear of miscellaneous chatter, we have one place dedicated to random thoughts, jokes, YouTube videos, jib-jab, and other non-YL communications.

Sidenote: It’s also worth noting that Slack integrates with many of the tools your area might already use, like Dropbox or Google Drive. You can very easily share files in Slack, and the free version saves your last 10,000 messages and files -- so they’ll be easy to find for a VERY long time.

Those are just some of the ways that we use Slack in our area -- but you can customize Slack however you want! 

Here’s some other examples of how Slack is used in a Young Life context:
  • The Chicagoland Region staff started using Slack at #YL75 as a way to stay in touch, make plans, and find one another. Now they have channels where they can join one another in celebrating, learning, praying, or socializing throughout the year.
  • The International Young Life Social Media team uses Slack to share content, generate ideas, post articles, and discuss future social media campaigns.
  • The staff surrounding Indianapolis use Slack to share resources for club, fundraising, camp sells, and more. They also use it to work in smaller teams, like their multicultural development team, so they can keep all their work on a project in the same place.

Working for Young Life means that you get to serve with some of the best people in the world, and Slack has revolutionized how we communicate. We’ve minimized the quantity of email we send, spend less time looking for information, and get to utilize more time actually doing ministry with kids. As our area has grown, Slack has been the number one tool that has helped us stay on the same page (or at least TRY to!), and now it is an indispensable tool for us. Best of all, let me remind you, IT IS FREE! Give it a try in your region, area, or with your team, and let us know how YOU are using Slack to improve your team’s communication and coordination.

Ben is the Area Director of Young Life in Champaign County, home of the University of Illinois. He is also a co-producer / co-host of “On the Frontier," a podcast about Young Life. If you have any more questions about Slack, you can contact him via email at or on Twitter at @jbbattaglia.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WyldLife Wednesday: Polaroid Posters

Written by Bekah Siau, Area Director with YL Military at West Point, NY.

We know that middle schoolers long to be known by name, to feel safe, to have an advocate and we would love for them to feel like Wyldlife club is a place where they belong. 

One of the challenges that many of us face with Wyldlife ministry is keeping track of kids and remembering their names.

I don’t remember where I got this idea, but I felt like this was an idea worth sharing. 

Polaroid Posters

I bought a Fuji Instax Mini 8 Polaroid camera for $59 at Best Buy. You can get one here for $50 on Amazon: Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 8 Instant Camera (Blue)Description:

Then I ordered a bunch of film online. You can get 3 packs of 20 (60 pics total) for $36, here on Amazon: 
Next, I bought three heavy duty foam poster boards from the dollar store and had a leader help me tape paperclips to them. We decorated one for sixth grade, one for seventh grade and one for eighth grade.

At our first club, we took a photo of each student who attended and explained that this is our new check in system for club. When kids arrive for club, they grab their photo from the table and put it on the board for their grade. When they leave, they take the photo down and drop it in a box to check out. We take a photograph of each board during club to keep track of attendance. I also regularly take photos of all of the Polaroid photos of each grade to send to our leaders so they can keep praying for and remembering kids by name.

We will let kids take their photos home at the last club of every year. I’m working on ideas to put something special together with their photos – like cards with notes from their leaders. We’ve seen that some kids even come to club for the first time because they want their photo on that board – they want to be a part of something bigger. It’s been an incredible way to love kids and make them feel connected and a part of club.

We’ve used the same sort of idea for high school as well, but we don’t use it as a sign in/sign out system. Instead, each time students come to club for the first time, they can add their photo to the poster. By the end of the year, we’ll have a poster with a photo of every kid who has come to club. (See below.) They have loved the idea just as much as our middle school students.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why Do I Still Go? by Eve Sarrett

Why Do I Still Go? - Chattanooga Young Life from Chattanooga Young Life on Vimeo.

Why Do I Still Go?

It’s the start of the school year and the weekly practice of contact work at the high school begins. It’s nothing new. Young Life leaders have been going for decades. Going where kids are. Being seen on their turf, in their world. Yesterday was no different. I jumped in my car and raced to catch first lunch. On my drive to the high school, I wondered, "Why do I still go?"

When I was a sophomore in college, showing up in the lunchroom, scared to death, afraid kids would mistake me for a sophomore in high school. At that time I was thinking, “I’m like their big sister” and I went faithfully because my Area Director told me that’s what Young Life leaders do. So I went.

When I was in my late 20’s, showing up in the lunchroom, scared to death, kids probably thought I was one of the teachers, but I was thinking “I’m like their favorite aunt.” I went faithfully because Young Life told me that’s what Young Life staff do. So I went.

Stepping back into the world of teenagers as a 42-year-old, mother of 2, I was still scared to death that someone might think I hadn't read the parent handbook which says “no parents allowed.” But I was thinking “I am someone’s mom, just not anybody here.” I went faithfully because the young Area Director in our town said the new school in our district needed Young Life leaders to go to the school. So I went.

Now, many years later, I have silver hair (I prefer silver, not gray) and it is fall of 2016, and I’m driving to Ravenwood High School and I am asking myself “Why do I still go to the lunchroom?”

I go because my Savior and my YL leaders modeled that for me. 

I go because it’s a “thin place” (where heaven and earth collide). 

I go because I have to trust Jesus, otherwise I will sit in my car in the school parking lot and hear that voice. The one I have come to recognize as the voice of the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. 

The voice whispers: 

“Aren’t you too old? 
“Don’t you have friends your own age?” 
"Is this what successful looks like?"

I go because it's the only place I can go to see, and be seen, by the entire school. 

Football or soccer games don’t give me that opportunity. 
Club or Campaigners don’t give me that opportunity.

So to the lunchroom I go. I still go.

Yesterday, a group of sophomores (Tess, Caroline, Maya, Audrey, Cameron, Taylor, Kennedie, Sara Beth, and Caroline) helped me remember their names by telling me they played volleyball, became class president, worked out at the climbing gym and danced. My prayer is that when I left that table full of sophomore girls, they were left with the aroma of a God who came near. A God who moved into the neighborhood. A God who said you matter to Me.

You matter so much so that an old-enough-to-be-your-grandmother YL leader would still show up in the lunchroom to remind you just how loved you truly are.

Written by Eve Sarrett, YL Staff, Tennessee Region.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Surprise Gift for your Campaigners Group

Last May, we went to an end of year picnic at our son's preschool. Sitting on each child's desk was a surprise gift for parents. The teachers had put together a scrapbook for each kid, documenting the entire school year: field trips, holidays, daddy-doughnut breakfasts, and even fireman visits. Our 4-year-old, Hutch, loved getting to show us the pictures and remember the highlights.

At the time I was given Hutch's book, I remember thinking I'd love to do something similar for my Campaigners group. These days most pictures never make it to print and just stay in the digital cloud. A printed picture is much like a hand-written note, far more memorable than an email or text message. 

What if you started now secretly collecting great pics of your Campaigners group? Pics of them cheerleading at the Powder-Puff game, singing arm-in-arm at club, on the Giant Swing at fall camp, all snazzed up for homecoming. You could collect them all digitally in an album on your Photos app. Then, come May, you could get enough pics printed to make your own scrapbooks for each person in your group.
There are tons of sites online where you can make custom photo books. I like Mixbook. I've also used where you can make a 24-page custom mini book for less than $5. I've also used,  which simply turns your Instagram feed into a book of 50 pics for $8. You can select which pics you want it to include.

Start planning now and you could have some thoughtful and affordable graduation gifts to give. Next summer will be here before we know it!

Friday, October 21, 2016

15 Ideas for Costume Club

Who doesn't love a YL style Costume Party? Below are a few ideas to help make it YL'd and festive.

Costume Scavenger Hunt
If your club meets in a home, check with your host to see if it's a good neighborhood to pull off this scavenger hunt. It's similar to "Bigger, Better, Best," but teams are searching for items to collect in order to make a costume for one of the team members. Divide up into teams of around 5 folks. Each team picks one person to dress up and one or two streets to hunt on. Don't let teams overlap streets and hit up the same house. Teams go door-to-door, asking at each home for one or two items they can use in creating a costume for their model. At one house they may get an old hat, at another some lipstick, at another a wig, and so on. Set a time limit, and a limit of 2 items per house. When teams report back to club, hold a competition for the best costume.

Pre-Club Photo Booth 
It's a great night to get some photos to post on Instagram throughout the week. Ask a high schooler to shoot the pics and post them up.

Entry Music
Here's a video you could have playing on the screen as kids enter the club room. It's old school, but still fun- a Halloween light show to Gangnam Style.

Monster Video
Use JibJab to make a Monster video with pics of 5 of your YL kiddos. It costs $ to download the video, but makes a funny transition between different club elements.

Costume Contest
Instead of your typical club mixer, hold a costume contest. Build a runway. Invite everyone wearing costumes to participate. Identify the best costumes before club starts, as those folks cross centerstage, pull them aside. Once you have the top 5 and everyone else is sitting down, vote by audience applause. Award 3 prize catergories: Creative, Insane, & Hilarious. Give a good prize.

JigJaw Jack-O-Lantern
This works well with a smaller club or larger Campaigners group. Divide into teams of 3 people per pumpkin. Give each a good cutting knife and ask them to be careful. Works best if there can be a leader with each team. They have 3 minutes to cut the pumpkin into 10 pieces. Play music while they cut (see songs below). Then have the teams rotate to a different pumpkin. Have a ton of round wooden toothpicks available. Give each team just 2 minutes to put the jigsaw puzzle pumpkin back together, using the toothpicks to hold the pieces in place. The first team to finish is the winner. Pumpkins must be able to stand alone to be considered.

No Costume Smackdown
You know those folks who are too cool to dress up for Costume Club, well this game is for them. Call up 4 folks without costumes and tell them you found the perfect costume for them to wear, then make them put on a sleeping bag. After they're wearing sleeping bags have a wrestling match. Pair off 2 at a time, winners face one another for the championship. Just a Costume Club spin on the old sleeping bag wrastlin' game. Make sure you don't do this on a hard floor. Carpet is key.

Pumpkin Head
Carve out some real big pumpkins with some funny faces. Cut a hole big enough in the bottom where kids can actually wear them as masks (while holding them). The funny part is the people actually wearing a pumpkin head, once that happens, you can go a few different directions with the game. Either have a running race, which is hard since they can't see well. Call it the "Pumpkin Run.'  Or you could cover the pumpkin in cake icing or whipped cream and have kids throw Halloween candy at the people wearing pumpkin heads, seeing who can get the most stuck on their pumpkin.

Seed Spittin'
Kids race to cut open a pumpkin, pull out the seeds and spit them towards their partners who are holding a plastic jack-o-lantern. The one with the most seeds after 90 seconds (with loud music playing in the background) is the winner.

Pumpkin Smash 
If your "Costume Club" happens to fall AFTER Halloween, you can get a good deal on pumpkins. Hold a pre-club "pumpkin smash."

The Great Pumpkin Hunt
Check out this link for all the details! 

Candy Apple (Onion) Eating Contest
All you need are 3 apples, 1 onion, 4 popsicle sticks and some caramel coating.  Cover the onion to look like an apple and have that eating contest. Pretty hilarious. Provide milk and breath mints for the contestant who draws the short straw.  

Pumpkin Prize
For one of the games or the costume contest, award a pumpkin with a crown on it as the award for being the 'Pump-king."

Background Music (to play on iPod during games)
Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
Rock Lobster (B-52's) 
Ghost Busters (Ray Parker Jr.)
Monster Mash (Boris Pickett)
Thriller (Michael Jackson)

Club Songs 
Thriller (guitar chords) Download the Thriller lyrics on ppt slides here.

Ghost Busters: It's pretty simple to play on guitar, just five chords. Here's a guitar chords link.  Download the Ghostbusters lyrics on PowerPoint slides here

Lean On Me: We re-wrote a Halloween version. You can download the lyrics and ppt slides here.

Pumpkin Olympics
If your club meets after Halloween, you can likely get really cheap pumpkins. If you have 30 kids at club, buy 90 pumpkins, so you have around 3/kid. Divide into at least four teams for the Olympic events. It's messy, so have them dress appropriately. Below are 8 different events you could use.
  1. Dodge Pumpkin. Everyone sits in a large circle with one person in the middle. Choose a large pumpkin and roll it at the person in the middle, trying to hit the person. Roll it, don't throw it. To make it interesting, increase the number of pumpkins. If a pumpkin splats, replace it.
  2. Pumpkin Bowling. Set up empty 2-liter bottles, cans, or bowling pins. Each person rolls a pumpkin once and tallies the total number of pins knocked down. A leader can be constantly resetting the pins.
  3. Pumpkin Toss. Similar to an egg toss, two people from a team toss a pumpkin back and forth, stepping farther apart each time, until someone drops it.
  4. Pumpkin Put. Put (as in shot-put) a pumpkin through the air and measure how far it goes. Competition may be based on using the largest person from each team, the smallest person, the largest pumpkin, or the smallest pumpkin.
  5. Pumpkin Catapult. Using a cinderblock with a board over it and the pumpkin on one end of the board, jump on the other end and measure how far the pumpkin goes.
  6. The Great Pumpkin Relay. Set up an obstacle course. Players carry a large pumpkin as they negotiate the course, then hand the pumpkin to the next player.
  7. Pumpkin Soccer. Dribble the pumpkin around a cone or other marker and back to the starting point, where the next person takes a turn. Time it.
  8. Pumpkin Pick-up. By the end of the Olympics, the grounds are a mess, so have a clean-up contest. Provide plastic trash bags and award megapoints to the team that collects the most pumpkin debris. Have a scale on hand to weigh the bags if possible.

Make sure the winning team takes home a prize!

*We found some of these great games on

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cultivating Community on Your YL Team by Zach Gurick

Written by Zach Gurick, YL Metro Director for Southwest Florida. 

I’ve had the privilege to serve on a lot of different YL teams over the past 15 years. Some have had a rich sense of community and deep bonds with one another that I still cherish. Other teams have not meshed so well. 

This fall a theme keeps coming up in my life and ministry - missional community. I’ve been asking myself the question, "Is it possible to have a club team that cares deeply for one another, shares life together, encourages and supports each other, and loves each other so well that ministry naturally flows out from within?" I believe it’s a tall order, but one we should all strive to make a reality. 

What if our big goal was that kids, other leaders, and the community around us would all say about our teams, “Look at the way they love each other, I want to be a part of that!” Loving each other well may be the best witness we have to offer!

How Can We Cultivate Missional Community On Our YL Teams? 

Share life stories.

Over the course of a month, semester, or year, depending on the size of your team, start off every meeting by giving team members a chance to share their story. Take 15 minutes to do this—10 minutes of sharing followed by 5 minutes of questions. It’s helpful to set a timer at the 9-minute mark so people know to wrap it up soon. Be the first to go to set the standard of how you want people to share.

This allows everyone on your team to have deeper insight and understanding into one another’s lives. It allows for grace and understanding about choices, actions, and motivations that team members bring to the table.

Get away together.

Spending time doing an overnight retreat can dramatically strengthen a team. The best parts are the unscheduled, late-night conversations. Plan some time to celebrate what God has done or is doing in your ministry. Play a game or make up a new team tradition like a corn-hole tournament or whiffle ball.A team that can play together will grow deeper as a missional community. Plan some time for strategizing and planning the year together as well.

Have them over for a meal.

There’s real power in breaking bread together. Great conversations happen around a table. Practice hospitality when you do this and show your team what it means to invite people into your life. Break out the good dishes, prepare quality food, and go all out to make it a great time together.

Start each meeting with 5 minutes of silent, centering prayer.

This is a great way to practice praying together. For starters, it allows you and your teammates to be more present in the meeting. It allows you to let go of the distractions you’ve had on your mind leading up to the meeting. It also reminds you all that you’re God’s beloved, chosen and called according to His purposes, and teaches you to listen for His one voice to speak to all of you collectively. I’ve found that even in silence, God draws us together as one in Him, sometimes even more than when we’re speaking.

Establish a pattern of encouraging one another in your team meetings.

Every few meetings, take 5 minutes and ask team members to share ways they’ve seen God at work in and through one another. Doing this will help to cultivate a culture of encouragement and gratitude on your team. Team members will be empowered and uplifted as this becomes a regular practice. Encourage team members to do this outside of meetings as well.

Read the Nouwen article together.

Henri Nouwen’s article, “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry,” outlines a template for how ministry should naturally flow, starting with our internal, loving union with Jesus. Through our solitude with Jesus we should be naturally driven to long for and move towards community and fellowship with others. Out of community and fellowship, ministry should naturally flow. Download the article and read it together learn a new way to live!

Start and end every meeting by circling up and holding hands or grabbing a shoulder in prayer.

Our physical posture points to and represents what we want to simulate or create internally or emotionally. If we are physically joined together this will help us think of ourselves as one unit, one body, working together. I’ve done this with groups of as few as three or four, and with groups of as many as 150—it’s always a powerful picture of what we are really after. It’s so simple, just make it a point and give it a try!

Lead in transparency and vulnerability.

Have time in your team meetings to share what’s happening in your lives and lead that off by being honest, transparent, and vulnerable about real struggles and joys that you are experiencing. Invite your teammates into the realities of your life and ask them to do the same. We are after authentic relationships and authentic ministry. You have to lead this with your team to make it okay for others to do the same. Create a space that welcomes vulnerability and honesty.

Have a giant late-night nacho party after an event.

Cover a table with nacho chips and pile on the cheese and toppings, then invite your team to share stories, laugh, and play games as you try to take down the whole table of nachos. Be creative and create fun memories of warmth, hospitality, and authentic friendship.

Read more from Zach Gurick at

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

WyldLife Wednesday: "Choose Your Side" Club Game

Keep kids moving! It’s an important rule of thumb for any WyldLife club. 

Here’s a simple mixer that can be adapted to fit almost any theme and can be used with any size club.

Tell kids they are going to choose their favorite in each round. Put two images on the screen – or use posterboard for the low-tech version. For example, on the left is a picture of McDonald’s french fries and on the right is a picture of Chick-Fil-A french fries. Kids move to the side of the room to show their preference. Other categories you might use:
  • Coca Cola v. Dr Pepper
  • Football v. Basketball
  • Mountains v. Beach
  • Taylor Swift v. One Direction
  • Instagram v. Snapchat
  • Superman v. Batman
You can also use the same format for a trivia game that gets the entire crowd involved. Ask the questions and put two images/answers on the screen. Kids move to the side of the room which they think has the correct answer. At a recent Olympics club, some of our questions included:
  • Who won the gold medal in the gymnastics all-around competition? (SIMONE BILES or Aly Raisman)
  • Which is the flag for the country of sprinter Usain Bolt? (Bermuda or JAMAICA)
  • Which event appeared in the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2016? (Field Hockey or RUGBY SEVENS)
  • Which country won more gold medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics? (China or GREAT BRITAIN)
  • Which basketball player played in his first summer Olympics in 2016? (KLAY THOMPSON or Kevin Durant)
  • Which was the first country in South America to host the Summer Olympics? (BRAZIL or Argentina)
  • Who would have won the 100 yard dash if they had competed in Rio? (BRAD or CURTIS – two of our WyldLife leaders)

If you have a big crowd at club, you could offer four choices or answers in each round – kids go to the corner of the room that includes their preference or the answer they think is correct. There all kinds of ways to adapt this game to your club!

Written by Julie Clapp.