One of my favorite YL traditions is waking kids up before school with a video camera. “Good Morning Young Life” videos seem easy enough to pull off, but there are actually lots of ways they can go wrong. Hopefully these tips below will help you not make the same mistakes I have.
PICK THE RIGHT KIDS TO WAKE UP
- Don’t necessarily pick the kids who are always on stage at club. Give some other kids a chance to shine.
- But do pick kids who are fairly well known at school. Kids talk and word will spread that “Big Joe” got woken up with a leaf blower and video camera by his Young Life leaders this morning and they’re going to show the video at club.
- Select siblings and get twice the bang for your buck. This only works if they share a room or have rooms far apart in their house. The wakeup is loud and usually will wake up the other sibling while you are waking the first one. If this is probable, get one sibling in on it ahead of time and have them help you wake up their brother or sister.
- You only have a short window of time before school, so pick kids who live near each other. If you’re going to wake up one kid at 5:30am and then another kid who lives 15 minutes away, you might be too late. Attempt to find multiple kids in the same neighborhood to limit your early mornings.
- Call them when their kids are at school or email them in order to avoid the awkward, “why did my YL leader just call you” question to the parents. Most parents will love this and it’s a great way to get them involved. You’d be surprised how many folks are currently on committee who started to get more involved in YL only after their kids were woken up with video cameras. It’s fun and shows parents how committed we are to their kids.
- Confirm time of your arrival with parents so they are waiting and not surprised themselves.
- Make sure that if they have a dog, it won’t bark when you arrive and wake the kids.
- Here’s one example video. If you search YouTube for 'Good Morning Young Life' you'll find tons of others like this one from GMYL and Dave Wilson in Santa Clarita, CA.
- If you don’t use your run-on characters, use other characters. Possibly “News Broadcasters” who do the “Morning Show” or a giant hotdog, or Big Bird, or banana suit, or some funny costume.
- This is a lot to put on the leaders doing the run-on skit for the semester. A lot of early mornings if you do it regularly. Consider taking turns and whoever does the wakeup, that leader wears the Banana suit. That way different leaders can share the load.
Make sure you have at least one leader of the same gender of the high schooler or middle schooler you are waking up. It’s not appropriate for 2 female leaders to go wake up a high school guy.
USE A GOOD VIDEO CAMERA
It works well to just use your iPhone, especially if you have the new iPhone 6, but the better the camera, the better the video, especially with the low lighting that you will have for lots of the video scenes.
FILM IN THE DRIVEWAY
It's funny to arrive early and do your run-on repeater lines in the driveway of the kid's house. If it is still dark outside, make sure you have some sort of light to shine on the characters so they will be visible.
When you enter the house, get some video footage of funny childhood pictures on the walls of the kids you are waking up. Plan some funny commentary about the pictures like in this video. If you’re nervous about the kid hearing you, just do this after the wake-up.
USE FUNNY PROPS TO WAKE KIDS UP
- Leaf blower (electric, not gas. Gas powered blowers make the house wreak of gas.) This is especially funny on kids with long hair that it will blow everywhere and also if you get a close up shot of it blowing in the kids mouth.
- Air Horn. Pot and metal spoon.
- Portable loud bluetooth speaker using a song that starts loud and fun, possibly your run-on characters theme song. I’ve also used the beginning of “Circle of Life” from the Lion King. It starts loud and abruptly! You could use the theme song from the old school show “Saved By The Bell” and make it the traditional “Good Morning YL” song.
- Bullhorn. Awesome to use, not as easy to find. Check with your local mega-church that has a gym. Chances are they will own one and let you borrow it.
Ask the parents where the light switch is in their kid’s room. I’ve sadly filmed videos where I couldn’t find the light switch and it was too dark to catch the kid’s expression. It’s tough if they use an overhead light that is controlled by a pull string on the ceiling fan or a bright lamp in a corner. Plan ahead. Lighting is essential!
Ask the parents what their child typically sleeps in. I have accidentally woken up kids only wearing underwear. This can be awkward, but avoidable if you just make sure that the covers stay on them while you are in the room with them. I’d also recommend leaving the room immediately after you get the video of them waking up to give them some time to get ready.
After the victim has had a minute to gather themselves from the surprise, use this time to do some funny morning exercises with them. Potentially use the wake up videos as a way to sell camp.
- Tell them that “camp is physically demanding, you’re gonna be doing high risk and high energy activities that require you to be in tip-top physical condition!" (name some of the rides at camp)
- Video the skit characters leading them in morning pushups, jumping jacks, etc… If they have a trampoline or swing set out back, use those as well. You can also video them putting on their makeup, doing their hair, brushing teeth. Lots of possibilities for funny commentary there.
After you've embarrassed them, give them a chance to shower and get dressed. Make it up to them by taking them with you to wake up the next kid and then take both out to breakfast, your treat. Plan so you have enough time so they're not late for school.
If the actual wakeup was just not that funny and they didn’t respond at all, consider staging a funnier wakeup. Ask them to join in on the joke and pretend to be asleep and re-film the video. This is a last resort, but one I’ve had to use on a few occasions, particularly one time when a kid cussed me out during the initial wake-up.
Get your middle or high school friends, who are way more tech savvy than you, to edit the video. It will save you a couple hours and give them ownership and leadership.
- Instruct them to make the edited video shorter than 5 minutes, 3 minutes is most ideal to keep kids wanting more and not to make it too long. This might mean leaving out some funny footage, but that’s ok, select the funniest, keep it short!
- Ask them to use appropriate background music in the video. Instruct them on when you need the actual video footage sound and when you need background music or both.
- Double it up as some great contact work time by asking them to teach you how to edit the video. Sit with them while they do it and show you how.
If you have early morning jobs that prevent you from doing this, consider doing a “midnight run” where you wake the kids shortly after they have gone to bed. It doesn’t have to be on a school day or night, but those are usually the safest bets to ensure they’ll be asleep and not at a friends house. The viewers will still think its early in the morning. I have also woken a kid up at 9am on a Saturday and set the clock in the living room that we filmed in the video for 4:15am to make it look like it was very early. We filmed the outside scene a different night in front of the house when it was dark and inside it didn’t matter.
Make it a tradition at your school. Do it often, so kids are always living in “fear” that they will be next.
Create suspense on your Instagram account. Post clues as to who might be next or clips from the full video they will see at club. Don't post the full video up on YouTube until after club, it gives kids more incentive to be there.
A good way to end the semester is by staging the final wake up where some seniors gather all of the kids who have been woken up during the semester and go and wake up the leaders who have been doing the wake ups. This should be the most brutal wake up. Possibly take the leaders outside, duct tape them to a tree and spray them with the water hose.
Download a PDF of these tips here.