There are a few constants in the ministries of Young Life and WyldLife. One is that it is relational, and another is that kids grow up and go through transitions. So how do we maximize the numbers of kids who make the transition from WyldLife to Young Life?
Here are a few things we've discovered in our area over the last 43 years running "YoungerLife" and WyldLife clubs. (We called them YoungerLife until Young Life branded the ministry WyldLife.)
Beginning with the constant of relational ministry, we have worked hard at developing relationships between high school students and middle school students. The bulk of our WyldLife leaders are high school students, but historically, most of our WyldLife leaders graduate as their WyldLife students are making the transition to high school. If we didn't address this fact, the new ninth graders would not know any of the Young Life leaders as they entered high school. We need to introduce our WyldLifers to our younger high school friends who can befriend them in high school.
So, what we have done at Oakbridge summer camp is to pair “junior” leaders with our senior leaders. These leaders have not typically been leaders during the school year, but they are moving toward being WyldLife leaders in the fall and helping with the transition from middle school to high school. As the WyldLifers enter high school, they will have some sophomore, junior and senior “big brothers and sisters" they met at camp to help them to make the transition.
These "big brothers and sisters" will invite them to our lunch clubs at the high schools and our traditional evening clubs in the homes of students. These high school friends will help them to find their classes the first week of school, invite them to school functions, and encourage them to get connected to the right group of friends.
As we've done this, we have seen the number of healthy transitions grow significantly. We have noticed a positive impact on the junior leaders as well as in the incoming ninth graders.
Another simple thing that has been a tremendous help is that we use club cards almost obsessively, and one of the key entries is the year of graduation. Once we collect club cards, I add all of our kids’ information into Apple Contacts, and in the “notes” area I include the year of graduation.
At the end of this year, I will type “2020” in my spotlight, and all transitioning eighth graders will appear. I then text each of them and ask them what high school they will be attending in the fall. I drag their names to that high school in my contacts, and done! They are now receiving weekly texts inviting them to our lunch clubs, evening clubs, and activities. I will do the same with the class of 2016, asking them what college they plan to attend and then passing the information on to our YL College staff. I also drag and drop them into our “Alumni” group.
What have you done to be intentional and help your WyldLife kids transition to Young Life? Share your ideas with us and we can add them to this post.