Tuesday, August 16, 2011


We have a dilemma.

Three weeks ago I spoke at a church about Young Life. After the service, a guy in his mid twenties approached me, excited about the possibility of getting involved as a leader. Ten years ago he had been a student at the same high school where I lead. He said, "
After hearing that today, Young Life makes sense to me now, but when I was in high school, it just seemed like a big clique that I wasn't a part of."

Here is our dilemma:

How do we create a place of belonging
without being a place of exclusion?

Currently our Young Life team is considering ordering some sweet Young Life shirts specific to our school. We've also tossed around the idea of creating custom stickers like the one above with "WFYL."

I love those ideas. I feel like they give kids a sense of belonging. But it's also quite obvious who doesn't belong when a ton of kids in the lunch room are wearing the same neon green YL shirt, and you're not.

I remember my senior year of high school when I set foot in a YL club for the first time. Everyone else knew to chant some crazy phrase after one of the leaders said some crazy phrase, but not me. Everyone else knew the song lyrics, but not me. I felt like an outsider. Part of me wanted never to return, because I hated that feeling. But another part of me had to return, because I didn't want to remain an outsider. I wanted to know the chant, the songs, the leaders. I wanted to belong.

Jesus was inclusive of everyone. He hung out with the outsiders.
But Jesus was exclusive as well. He only invited 12 men to be his disciples.

How do we as Young Life leaders create a place of belonging without being exclusive?


  1. I think it comes down to how do we as leaders approach the new kids that come to club? And how do we set up our Campaigner kids to also be leaders? Are we encouraging them to bring their friends and be welcoming, accepting the "outsiders", cheering them on, and making them feel like they are included? And are they being inclusive to those new kids OUTSIDE of club, when they are walking the same hallways with them? And for myself, am I looking for those new kids and saying hello to them, engaging them, when I am doing contact work?

    I don't think there's anything wrong with t-shirts to help promote club - I want my kids to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. But I also want my Campaigner kids to realize that what they are doing is bigger than just Young Life - it's about being Jesus-with-skin on to their school, their families, et. al.

    I think we also have to realize that we can't control what a new kid is going to feel walking through those doors (which I'm sure is a mixture of dread, excitement, curiosity, and trepidation). But we can control how we interact with that kid.

  2. Lauren, Thanks for those helpful thoughts! I think you are right on. I need to do a better job of casting that vision to campaigner kids. I think the most helpful thing you wrote for me personally is to realize that we can't control how they feel, only what we do. Thank you for sharing! Drew

  3. Do things that are specifically aimed at being inclusive. In our area we have created an Ultimate frisbee league. Even in name its called "the Ultimate League for Non All Stars that Still Enjoy Ultimate." It worked, we have kids from all kinds of backgrounds, atheletes, drama kids, band kids, nerdy kids. They all like it because of the very fact that its specifically inclusive. Then, by the time we meet new kids at Ultimate and then get them to club, they know people when they get there. Doesn't have to be ultimate, or even a sport, just as long as you're getting kids to hang out together. Once they do that, they realize they should have been friends with these folks all along. Not to mention about how contact work like that strengthens and opens the doors for new relationships.

  4. Thanks for this helpful comment. I'm going to blog about the ultimate frisbee idea tomorrow. Grateful for your insights!