“Fundraising in this city shouldn’t be this hard.” That was the driving thought that brought together a group of friends of Young Life to figure out how to raise more support across Cincinnati for all of the seven distinct areas. As we unpacked this issue, we discovered just how stretched the staff were in each area. The numbers that stuck out the most to me were 12 staff, 400 volunteers. That’s roughly 33 direct reports for each staff person. From my perspective, we were in desperate need of middle management.

Some people bristle at that idea, but I teach management, so I have a special appreciation for it. What’s more, Jesus only had 12 direct reports; should our staff people have roughly three times that? Fortunately, we already had some of these middle managers in place — volunteer team leaders (VTLs). So we decided to invest more in VTLs by creating a basic handbook and gathering all the VTLs across the city once a semester.

We created the handbook (click here to download) with the idea of it being a short, quick-reference tool for all VTLs, but especially with new VTLs in mind. The aim of the handbook is to give an overview of what a VTL does, why they do it, what are the expectations for each responsibility, and what are some best practices. This serves as a baseline for new VTLs to understand the role. We introduced these handbooks at one of our first all-city VTL meetings.

The vision for the all-city VTL meetings was to encourage, honor and train the VTLs. Every staff member in the city strongly wanted to convey their deep gratitude and appreciation for what VTLs do. We executed on this by holding our 2.5 hour meeting at a unique location, catering lunch, and bringing in a top speaker to develop the VTLs. Our speakers were typically former staff or local business leaders who would teach on leadership skills. Our aim was to develop them more broadly than to train them solely for Young Life leadership. Themes were conflict management, learning from failure and personal growth among others.

The second half of each meeting involved structured sharing among VTLs. We organized VTLs in different ways each meeting — by ministry type, by club size, by tenure as a VTL — and gave them a topic to discuss — preparing for camp, initiating new leaders, team conflict and more. The VTLs consistently told us that the sharing time was the most beneficial time for them. Encouraging each other, commiserating, and sharing ideas proved to be the best nourishment, which in turn makes them more ready to serve and lead their teams.

Typical Meeting Schedule

11 a.m. to Noon — Speaker

Noon to 12:30 p.m. — Lunch

12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Small Group Discussions

Over the last three years of meetings, we have consistently heard from VTLs that these times together encourage and honor them. New VTLs join other leaders of leaders in community, and veteran team leaders learn that it does not have to be lonely in leadership.

Get our handbook and make a plan for VTLs in your own ministry! (click here to download)

Written by: Chris Welter (


teachers think

There is a large pool of potential volunteer leaders in your area right under your nose. Many have a vibrant faith, love teenagers and all of them are on campus doing contact work every day.

Who would that be? Teachers!!

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you actively seek out teachers to be members of your team?

  • Do you do contact work with teachers, seeking out believers, striving to know them and helping them to become missionaries to their classroom?

I highly encourage you to do this. Teachers do more contact work with kids day in and day out than you or I would ever be able to accomplish. Partnering with teachers to know more kids will help ministry grow and go deeper.

During my 11 years in the classroom, I found myself connected much deeper to kids than my 10 years as a non-teacher volunteer or my last five years on full-time staff.

Our area has been blessed to currently have over a dozen teachers actively serving in my area. Some of these teachers simply lead a Campaigners group, while others serve in a full-on capacity. Many of our teacher-leaders have a minimal role in club but a considerable role in introducing our other volunteers to kids from their classroom.

When allowed, our teachers champion club and Young Life events. In more closed schools, they merely introduce kids to leaders at after-school events. I spend much of my time with teacher-leaders, encouraging them on how to be intentional with kids.

Here are just a few examples of the impact teachers can have when they are involved in their local Young Life area:

  • They can spend one passing period per day being intentional in the hallway.

  • They can use their before-school duty station to start conversations with kids they don't know well.

  • They can spend one planning period per week connecting with other Christian teachers to pray for the school.

  • Imagine what happens when a new teacher catches a vision to invite a cabin full of kids to summer camp.

Much of the expectations for teachers is the same as is is for my other leaders, but some of it is more flexible. I seek to be intentional to avoid events during busier school times (quarterly exams, meet the teacher night) or not expect to see them at club on those days.

Ultimately, I discovered during my time as a teacher-leader that ministry gave me life even when I was overwhelmed by my teaching load. Being connected to students deeply through the Young Life ministry gave me a greater purpose and led me to pursue my calling versus just having a teaching career. Leading Young Life during those years kept me in the classroom for years longer than if had I simply been teaching my subject.

Seek to help teachers find their calling and fulfill the calling to truly be missionaries in the classroom through the mission of Young Life.

For more information or resources for connecting to this vast pool of potential volunteers in your area, contact Carrolton Area Director Michael Cone at

Learn more about teachers in the mission HERE.



The longer you serve on Young Life staff, the more you will be confronted with three simple questions. They are asked at banquets, summer assignments, staff conferences and trainings. They will be posed by adult guests, committee chairs, staff associates, senior staff and peers. On the surface, the questions seem harmless, but if you look closely, they reveal one of the secrets of the mission. Here they are:

Question 1: “When did you come on staff?”

Question 2: “In what communities or schools have you led Young Life ?”

These first two are obvious and even expected. They speak to your tenure, experience and to some level, your resume — where you served, roles you have had and the ministry context. However, there is a third question, and it may be the most important. It speaks to your lineage and DNA in the mission.

Question 3: “Who Trained you?”

This third question speaks to something totally different. In a ministry that values relationship, contact and teaching, the question of where your training came from speaks to your ministerial family tree. In many ways Young Life is an “oral tradition” ministry that is passed down from person to person, and the role of the supervisor/trainer is to ensure that the principles and values of the mission are passed onto the next generation. Jesus did this the best, and if a disciple is a student, then a disciple-maker is a trainer (1 Corinthians 11:1). That is why we see some phrases continue to surround the Young Life mission:

  • “Incarnational Supervision:” The premise that the relational style that we employ with students should be our model with supervision.

  • “The greatest expression of love is wasted time:” In an age where time is currency, the most important investment we could make is the ability to spend time with those we supervise and train.

  • “Walk alongside” Leadership: The biblical style of training that doesn’t just send but goes with.

  • “Young Life-caught, not taught:” The realization that the beauty of good Young Life work is in the nuance and details. Not necessarily taught in the classroom.

  • “I do it — you watch; you do it — I watch; YOU do it”: The beautifully inefficient and wonderfully effective slow style of local training.

I have been on staff for 28 years in 12 different schools, several communities and a geography that started within a school district and has grown in scope every year. I learned a good bit in every community, role and setting, and have had countless mentors, coaches and trainers, but I smile every time I am asked question #3 because I get to answer. “Ray Donatucci was my trainer!” Ray is one of the most senior staff in the mission, incredibly gifted and a legend in Young Life. The mere fact that I am associated with his training grants me access to any room in Young Life.

The Secret of Young Life is: “Everyone is a Trainer!”

This is what has enabled our mission to flourish for 77 years. We have a world-class Training department that is the envy of much of the non-profit ministry world, but the majority of our training (over 75 percent) occurs locally, and that is at the heart of a ministry of presence. We have over 70 courses, classes, experiences, and cohorts that facilitate the growth and development of all of our staff at every age and stage, but if the local training isn’t intentional and dynamic,all of our missionwide training is wasted.

That is why Ray entered my mind immediately. Words he said, priorities he instilled and challenges he extended my way all had their effect. It is one of the secrets of Young Life. The slow, subtle, transforming style of training.

Biblically, we often hear about rabbinic teaching where students would walk so closely to the rabbi that they would “collect the dust” from their sandals. That is Young Life training at its best because it leaves a mark on the person being trained. There are lots of avenues for training from several perspectives — missionwide to divisional and regional — but with the conviction that we are all trainers and it is all of our responsibility, everything changes!

Now, two questions for you:

1. If everyone is a trainer — who trained you? Maybe take a moment to thank them!

2. If everyone is a trainer — who are you training and how? Maybe go spend some time with them and leave a mark.

In Young Life we never just SEND someone to training, we prepare them for being SENT.

Written by: Ken B. Tank.


The video above is in my “hard-day” list of bookmarks in my browser. Regardless of the challenges in front of me, I know I can take three minutes to watch it and leave encouraged. It tells the almost-mythical-but-true tale of how Young Life started. It wasn’t Jim Rayburn — it was Clara Frasher, a kind older woman, who sat on a front porch across from Gainesville High School with her friends praying for the students for years. It would be awhile before Jim showed up to birth Young Life, but those prayers were the beginning.

I’ve been blessed to have a prayer warrior on my committee or support team since I came on Young Life staff 18 years ago. I want to be one, but I’m still a work in progress. Lately, I’ve been swept up in the trend of "prayer moments.” My team prays every day at 12:11 to remind us of Revelation 12:11 and the triumphant blood of the Lamb. I’ve heard of others who pray at 9:38 (Matthew 9:38 — Lord give us the harvest workers!). The options are endless.

For others it isn’t tied to a particular Scripture, but to an action. Maybe you pray at the same intersection every time you approach the school. Or decide as an area team to pray whenever you brush your teeth or turn on your car. One committee I know had a conference call … every day … at 5 a.m. …to pray for a season (s/o to D.C. YoungLives!).

Here’s the point: As a community of believers, and particularly as committee, we make all types of commitments. To raise money. To visit club. To bake cookies. My challenge to you today is to make an area-wide prayer commitment. It might manifest itself in a couple of annual events (pray at the schools, prayer vigil at the Young Life house), but I’d say make it routine. Martin Luther said our prayers should be “short, often and strong.” Choose a verse, a time, a landmark or something else that unifies your team, and start praying. Start sharing at monthly meetings and at leadership gatherings how you see the Lord moving because of your faithful obedience. I firmly believe you’ll be glad you did.

Clara Frasher’s 1933 prayer echoes around the mission and Kingdom today. May we be thoughtful, strategic and prayerful in adding our own voices to that glorious chorus, one hope-filled word at a time.

Written by: Josh Griffin (


One of the most tritely spiritualized phrases — “God is love” — is also one of the most profound theological truths: God is Love.


Thanks to the webs and the socials, our world goes crazy for pithy quotes and feel-good mottos that can be blasted across the cosmos in a split-second. Encased in a hipster font. Overlaid on an angsty photo. Accompanied by a looping indie soundtrack.

But followers of Jesus are not nourished by pithy quotes or strengthened by feel-good mottos. When we say “God is love” without considering or understanding its doctrinal depth, we sabotage truth and diminish sacred Love to an empty cup of meaningless blather.

If reduced to merely a feeling, a response, a motto, or an action, Love is just another viral blip on the digital horizon.

But we know better, for:

  • God LOVED us enough to take on flesh and carry our sins unto death.

  • Christ LOVES us as the Father LOVES Him.

  • God’s lavish LOVE enfolds us as His children.

  • God’s great LOVE leads us from death to life.

  • Nothing in all creation can separate us from the LOVE of God.

    …And perhaps most pressing of all:

  • The world will know we are followers of Christ by the way we LOVE each other.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives shape to this kind of LOVE, extending far beyond feeling, response, motto, or something to do.

LOVE is ...

  • patient

  • kind

  • not jealous

  • not boastful

  • not proud

  • not rude

  • not demanding

  • not self-serving

  • not irritable

  • not bitter

  • forgiving

  • just

  • truthful

  • persistent

  • faithful

  • hopeful

  • enduring

We love this description of Love, overflowing as it is with supernatural significance and spiritual wisdom.

But lists are easily set aside, checked off and skimmed.

By their very nature, single words (especially when extracted from their surrounding context and exported into a tidy list) are at risk of being folded into a sound-byte, a motto, or an empowering quote.

Paul’s letter protects against this, if we would simply pay attention to the surrounding discourse.

The “Love is” list — (each individual item of which should utterly infuse the head, hearts, and hands of all disciples) — is preceded by a compelling and convicting explanation of what Love means in daily, actual and obedient practice.

To really drive home the essence of Love, Paul juxtaposes it with the most esteemed and deeply desired ministry gifts of that day.

We would all do well to follow suit, in our specific ministry setting, in which case:

  • If I were the most clever camp program director of the decade, funny enough to do stand-up comedy on the professional circuit, able to write a clever schtick with a mere moment’s notice, renowned for both my slapstick and sophisticated humor, but don’t love, I would be nothing but a bag of meaningless cheap laughs that gives birth to despair.

  • If I were the most articulate speaker in my area, who engaged listeners with exciting narrative and compelling illustrations, confident and calm in front of a crowd, wondrously clever and memorable in each club talk, adored and admired by all the kids (and probably all the other leaders), but don’t love, I would be nothing but a bag of hot air that dumps poisonously empty words on all who hear.

  • If I were the most influential ideator of my division, who developed fresh organizational theories and enacted fierce strategies that result in exponential growth and expansion, outpacing my colleagues in advancement and recognition (and maybe other things, too), but don’t love, I would be nothing but a lifeless quantifier that diminishes ministry to a means, and dehumanizes people from imago Dei to item.

If we would both be and form disciples, we must remember that God is Love and we are called to love as Christ loves.

So what about you? What piercing If I were statement might you need to face and then reject? What “greater gift” of ministry — whether you have it or desire it — threatens to destroy your one and true call to Love?

If I were _______________________, but don’t love, I would be _____________________.

Written by: Crystal Kirgiss, V.P. of Discipleship (

October 2018 Training

“Our staff are always out of the area.”

“I am being pulled out of the area and away from my family.”


How often have you heard, said or had these thoughts? If you are on staff, you can feel pulled in different directions. If you are on committee, you’re invested in the local area but also recognize that there are reasons for staff to be out of the area. If you are a spouse you feel the strain of the ministry schedule every day, not to mention when your husband of wife is out of town with Young Life.

What is the appropriate amount of time out of the area and how do we have a discussion about it? How much time are staff actually out of the area? While we will not be able to be exhaustive here, hopefully we can help to direct the conversation and put some better definition on “time out of the area.” In 2013 we did a study about what takes staff out of the area and for how much time. The study included 438 staff from all divisions. While the study is now five years old, the results are still very relevant. Below are some highlights and insights to help foster conversation between staff and committee, supervisors and family.

Below are general categories, the averages from our survey and general insights.

My Area: I am out of the area but it is related to the local ministry.

  • My area’s summer camping (one week).

  • My area’s weekend camping (one or two weekends, outreach, discipleship).

  • Volunteer leader/committee development ( weekends).

Insight: Although I am out of the area, I am with kids, leaders, and/or committee from my area. This impacts my family if they are not with me, but this should be considered area work.

Other Areas: Part of a staff’s job description is to be available to serve other areas in assignment team roles, whether it is in the summer or during the school year.

  • Other area’s weekend camping (one weekend, if applicable).

  • Summer Assignment. (one month, if applicable).

  • Assignment Team Training (three days, two nights, if applicable).

Insight: Serving others is important for our mission to function. These are great opportunities for staff to grow and develop skills that will benefit the local area. Summer assignments are generally a great blessing for families if they can attend but difficult for them when they cannot. Some of the staff that are more stressed about time out of the area are also those who say yes to too many extra weekends (two or more) that are not related to their area.

Regional Staff Meetings: As a supervisor, the regional director will gather the regional staff for development, encouragement and organizational alignment. Some regions can meet for a day. Others, due to the geographical scope, need to hold overnights. (Average of nine days throughout the year. Some grouped as overnights)

Insight: The biggest impact on family and local ministry is whether or not the meeting includes an overnight.

Training and Staff Development: Staff will be out of the area for theological and practical development.

  • National Training School: New Staff Training, Winter Training, Area Director School, Training Timeline, others (one week).

  • Ministry Summits: YL College, YoungLives, Capernaum (three days, two nights).

  • Regional Training Groups: (14 days throughout the year if applicable).

Insight: Young Life has a rich history and rhythm of training conferences and ongoing training in the field. These are relatively consistent with other professions. All of these are designed to have direct impact back into the local ministry and staff.

Vacation: We need to make sure that staff are taking time off for their health. The amount of time varies greatly due to how long people are on staff. The conversation here should not be about taking time off (unless it is being abused), but rather when the time is taken. There are better times during the ministry year to take time off and should be coordinated with the supervisor per the new PTO policy.

So what is the right number of days/nights out of the area? As you can see it depends. Not all time out of the area is the same. Not counting summer assignments (not everyone has an assignment) nor vacation, the average staff will be out of the area with Young Life for four to five weeks worth of days and about two-thirds of those will include the nights. That means that most staff (including assignments and vacation) are still in the area for 40-45 of the 52 weeks.

Because opportunities come up that can take staff out of the area for additional time, we encourage a healthy conversation between staff, supervisor, committee and family to maintain an appropriate schedule. Have a regular and ongoing conversation to understand the reason and impact (positive and negative) to being out of the area.

— Written by Mike Cramer ( )

CLOSER THAN YOU THINK … The Mission Community Coordinator

The car I drive has a passenger side mirror that states, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” I’m guessing that many of you also have this message etched on your mirrors. Similarly, I’m guessing that many, if not all of us, share a need for more —

  • Committee.

  • Volunteer leaders.

  • Donors, friends of Young Life.

  • Advocates.

What if I told you that these people are “closer than they appear,” and there is a committee role that can help you find them while also helping your committee operate like a great Young Life team?


The MISSION COMMUNITY COORDINATOR is a role on your committee team that you may never have heard of, but can be a game-changer. As Young Life staff and leaders with kids, we know the value of getting away, playing together and having shared experiences. The same principles apply to adults. and releasing a committee person to focus on this will pay exponential dividends in your committee and your ministry impact.

It’s easy for an area committee to get into a pattern of only spending time at committee meetings, and only getting together around an agenda and area needs. In today’s busy world we all agree that it’s prudent to be careful how much we are asking of people. At the same time, we all know that a committee that plays together not only stays together, but is contagious and cannot help but experience growth. We also know that people expect a Young Life experience to be relational, adventurous, fun, Christ-centered and life-changing. Imagine if you were to charge one of your committee people with focusing on the following core responsibilities:

  1. Facilitate regular committee social experiences outside of committee meetings. (Social times with no agenda other than being together and, possibly, inviting other adults to join in the fun.)

  2. Keep community-building opportunities in front of the committee at meetings and via email. (For some ideas, see the attached pdf: “10 Opportunities for Your Committee to Operate like a Young Life Team.

  3. Partner with Young Life Alumni and Friends to find, greet and engage your local alumni, friends and former staff. This could include regular YL Connect searches for new alumni and friends near you, facilitating gatherings and preparing for future anniversaries or reunions.

Like a good passenger side mirror, your mission community coordinator will help to create a connection between those who have been impacted by Young Life in the past and your ministry goals in the present and the future. As a committee chair and area director, take some time soon to meet, pray and task one of your committee people with this valuable role.

Written by Jonathan Schultz (

Download Here: 10 Opportunities for Your Committee to Operate Like a Great Young Life Team

A 1% Difference For Your Ministry

Football has started, kids are in school, and fall is in full swing. Of course the reality of Young Life is that “fall” is in full swing by mid-August. Here at the “beginning” of the year I’d like to offer a few thoughts, things that might make your year more productive.

An idea that has captivated me recently: Kaizen (the term means small continuous improvements).

“Put simply, the Kaizen approach is based on the belief that continuous, incremental improvement adds up to substantial change over time.”

Small adjustments can make a BIG impact:

Here’s the effect of a one-degree change in a flight plan:

  • After 100 yards, you'll be off by 5.2 feet. Not huge, but noticeable.

  • After a mile, you'll be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference.

  • After traveling from San Francisco to L.A., you'll be off by 6 miles.

  • If you were trying to get from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., you'd end up on the other side of Baltimore: 42.6 miles away.

  • Traveling around the globe from Washington, D.C., you'd miss by 435 miles and end up in Boston!

Sometimes this is called “1 Percent Improvement.” Over time, 1 percent can make a big difference. The question is: WHAT 1 percent are you going to focus on? What small thing could make a big difference for your area, committee or club next year? What would produce the greatest impact if you focused your energies on a few critical small changes*, and didn’t get distracted by the hundred loose ends tugging on you daily?

*Notice I didn’t say “easy changes,” (they never are), and you have to stay with them doggedly to get the benefit.

ACTION STEP: What if next year … ?

  • You spent more time planning committee (or club) meetings and always finished on time?

  • Every adult meeting started with a great devotional, a kid sharing, or a leader giving a ministry update?

  • A group of adults prayed for club every week?

  • You identified the 10 most important donor relationships for the area and did a great job thanking them and keeping them informed?

  • You identified the three critical things that would make your area/club better and focused on that till it happened?

You get the idea. I don’t know what your 1 percenters are, but you do. Think about it. It’s worth it.

A lot of people are focused on football right now, but I’m thinking, what will be the few “1 percenters” that will be my highest priority this year?

— Written by John Evans ( )

The Power of the Word GO!


In a recent “Forbes” magazine article, writer Dan Diamond makes some interesting observations about the Apple Watch.

“All the Apple Watch has to do to be successful — all it has to do to make us healthier — is do one thing: Get us to stand up. And the device is perfectly designed to do just that.”

Why is standing up so important?

Diamond goes on, “Simply standing for a few moments matters because we're increasingly a nation of sitters. The average American adult now sits between seven and nine hours per day between work and during the commute — basically, we spend more time sitting than sleeping. And this ‘sitting disease,’ as puts it, shortens our life expectancy and increases risk of heart disease and cancer.”

What does this have to do with Young Life? While this “sitting disease” shortens our life expectancy, a similar “sitting disease” in Young Life can shorten our ministry effectiveness and impact.

See if you can relate to a few examples of what might be deemed “Young Life sitting disease.”

  • Texting kids from the comfort of your desk or couch.

  • Posting a club flyer or promo on Instagram.

  • Downloading this week’s club skits and songs on the Internet.

  • Ordering club or camp T-shirts from a jpg sent to you by another staff.

  • Keeping up with your kids via social media.

Are any one of these things in and of themselves completely wrong? No! But if you’re like me, and begin to rely on such sedentary things from the comfort of your office or home, then the individual symptoms can collectively become a disease. This Young Life sitting disease’s main effect is that it makes us forget one of our most important mandates from Jesus: “Go.”  In other words, contact work.

It’s been said that the worst thing that can happen to a church youth minister is that you give them an office. I wonder if the same is true for a Young Life staff person. In our high tech, social media, instant-access world, it can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are “in a world of kids” when actually we never step foot in it.

How would the above list look differently if we cure the “sitting disease” and actually “go?”

  • Get off the couch or out of the office and take a stroll through campus before or after school. You might be surprised at the conversations God brings your way.

  • Gather with a few kids to make an actual physical flier that can be taken to the school (if allowed) or places where kids gather. Give them to kids so they have an excuse to walk up to a table of underclassmen and invite them to your event and maybe leave behind a phone number if a ride is needed.

  • Meet a group of kids at Starbucks and create a song list. Search YouTube or the Young Life Leader Blog TOGETHER to plan next week’s club.

  • Meet a group of kids at the mall, grab Chick-fil-A, and search the stores for new T-shirt ideas. Gather kids at your place to vote for the most popular design.

  • Call your leaders and show up at the game, musical or school event. Then you’ll be in the pictures with kids on social media from the event rather than just “liking” them.

All of the above aspects of your ministry should create CONTACT WORK. If our MacBook Pros and iPhones have provided a “workaround” that no longer requires us to go where kids are to do ministry, then we are not doing ministry. We are simply administrators of events who will eventually pass away from this ministry sitting disease.

Now reminding Young Life staff to do contact work is kind of like reminding Starbucks employees to make coffee. It seems ridiculous. How much time have you spent in the office this week or in meetings about ministry in relation to how many hours you have spent where kids are doing contact work?

How can we cure this Young Life sitting disease that causes us to leave contact work behind and settle for technology from a distance? Let’s go back to the Forbes article …

"My own research in the workplace has shown that a prompt on the work computer every half an hour, reminding people to stand up, reduced prolonged sitting by 40 minutes a day," writes Philippa Dall, senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Apple Watch will go further than a computer prompt … “it taps you on the wrist," according to Apple marketing material — to remind you to stand up every hour, along with a digital reminder: "You've been sitting for a while," a sample Apple Watch message reads. "Take a minute to stand up.”

What would it take to make sure you get a “prompt” to do contact work every day? There’s no app for that, but perhaps a discussion with our supervisor or coworker about contact work accountability is in order. How can you daily remind each other to keep contact work front and center and not let it get lost in the shuffle?

And don’t forget to pray. During those times we are tempted to fall into sedentary ministry, pray the Holy Spirit would nudge you (or at least tap you on the wrist as the Apple Watch does!) and remind you to get out of the office. Go where kids are! After all, Jesus didn’t sit around the temple all day hoping people who needed Him would stop by.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has even called sitting "the new cancer.” That might be a bit extreme as sitting is not actually a disease but a chosen behavior, but I still get his point. It’s a real public health issue.

Lack of contact work is a Young Life health issue and a threat to a healthy ministry. The cure is to “GO.”

Need some inspiration to get up and go? Read the words of Lauren Bocci, Young Life committee member and marketing director.

“Go. You have permission. Permission, to do what we’ve always done.

Go show up in lonely places. Show up in the stands. Show up in the hallways. Show up where no one else would think to go.

Go. Share your life side-by-side with a kid. It is the method of Christ. It is the method of Young Life.

There is no other thing. There is nothing better. Go.

Go waste some time with a kid today.

Go in the name of Jesus.


Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will GO for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!”
— Isaiah 6:8

— Written by Brian Summerall (

Announcing Brian’s New Book

and a chance to win a free copy!

First 10 people to email with the subject line “TELLING STORIES” will win a free copy!

Now available for pre-order at and can be purchased in bulk ($10 each for orders of 10 or more!) for donors, committee, and leaders by emailing

"I’m excited to order Telling Stories for our leaders, committee, and donors . christian Brian is a great story teller and I love the way he thinks about life, people and Jesus!”           - Jason Archer, Young Life

"The art of telling a story is a lost one.  One needs to look no further than this wonderful book, Telling Stories, by Brian Summerall, to find it recaptured.  Put one more gift under the tree this Christmas for your leaders and staff.  Buy Telling Stories today! - Craig Hutchinson, Young Life College

"I had the great privilege of editing and publishing “The Diaries of Jim Rayburn” and “Letters to a Young Life Leader” by Bob Mitchell. I am happy to add “Telling Stories” by Brian Summerall to that list. This is a great book and it will be a blessing to all who read it; it certainly has been to me. Like Brian, it is funny, insightful, and encouraging. As a former staff person myself I know “Telling Stories” will be a great gift for leaders, donors, committee, and even kids. It’s not a “Young Life book” — Brian wrote it with a general audience in mind — but since Brian has been on staff for decades, it has a real Young Life sensibility to it. Giving this book to someone is like giving them a little bit of Young Life. I am really excited about this book! - Kit Sublett, Whitecaps Media

The Roots & Fruits of Disciple Making

The Bible is a book of both concrete truth and creative metaphors. God is gentle, and God is a rock. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, and Jesus is living water. Humans are selfish creatures, and humans are branches. Yahweh is faithful, and Yahweh is a shepherd. God is divine, and God is a king. And metaphor within metaphor — God’s Kingdom has arrived, and it is a mustard seed.


As words, metaphors give shape to non-concrete realities. As images, metaphors invite us to see, discover, understand and experience the embodied truth.

One of the most commonly mentioned things in the Bible is also one of its most powerful theological metaphors — trees. (Check out this article for more thoughts on trees in Scripture.)

God’s expansive story begins with all kinds of beautiful trees, and also two very specific trees (Genesis 2:17; 3:22). It ends with two healing trees of life flanking a river of living water (Revelation 22:1-2). Within the story, both God’s people and God Himself are described as trees (Psalm 52:8; Hosea 14:8). Wisdom is a tree of life (Proverbs 3:18). Isaiah tells trees to sing and clap their hands. Those who love, fear, and hope in Yahweh are trees planted by a riverbank (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17). Those who love, trust and follow Jesus are deeply rooted in Him (Colossians 2:6-7).

Deep roots, strong trunks, healthy branches, flourishing fruit, and sometimes beautiful flowers are concrete earthly realities that reflect profound spiritual truth.

As part of the Deeper initiative, we’ve created a visual metaphor of discipleship intended to foster deep dialogue and encourage focused intentionality. At the same time, it will also help each of us:

  • Carefully contemplate what it means to follow Jesus in both general and specific ways.

  • Honestly reflect on our own personal lives of discipleship.

  • Prayerfully consider our discipleship hopes and desires for those in our ministries.

You can find a downloadable PDF of the image here.

Leadership 1, Modules 11 and 12 (in YL Access) offer some thoughts on how to engage with this image (and other new discipleship tools) both individually, among your leadership team, and with those in your ministry.

Here are some reflection questions and dialogue prompts to get you started:

  • How do the three main tree elements relate and work together?

    • Roots — “time in Scripture, time in prayer,” more.

    • Trunk — a strong core of love, trust and more.

    • Branches — expressions or displays of specific behaviors and attitudes repeatedly highlighted throughout Scripture.

  • In your current season of life, how do you engage in, experience or express each of the different elements in the tree?

  • What specific areas (within trunk, core, branches) of your personal discipleship are most in need of attention, guidance or challenge?

  • How can you lean into those things intentionally and purposefully?

  • What specific areas of your personal discipleship (within trunk, core, branches) do you naturally embrace and dig into? Why? What does that look like?

  • Think about your specific ministry focus (WyldLife, Young Life, YoungLives, Young Life Capernaum, Young Life College) and your specific ministry context (community size, location, primary culture, specific subcultures, socio-economics). Based on those realities, what are your hopes and desires for your students’ growing life of discipleship? For example, what do you hope “time in Scripture” will begin to look like for those in your small group of teen moms? Or how do you hope your seventh-grade WyldLife Campaigners guys will begin to display “faithful witness”? And so on.

  • How will you intentionally disciple your students with these things in mind?

Written By: Crystal Kirgiss, V.P. of Discipleship (

Three Questions To Ask After Your Banquet

“HOW WAS YOUR BANQUET?” These three questions will tell you the answer.


The area banquet is the one time during the year that Young Life is presented or showcased to the community. How do you know if your banquet did the job it was supposed to? I’ve seen easily over 150 banquets in my more than 40 years with Young Life. It is a good idea to know the evaluation questions BEFORE your banquet. That way you can shape the banquet to be “successful.” Here are my three questions to evaluate your YL banquet.


As Jim Rayburn, Young Life’s founder said, “Young Life isn’t just about Jesus; that’s the only thing Young Life is about.” When Young Life was explained during your banquet, was making Jesus known in a way kids can understand front and center? When our methodology of going into kids’ worlds to build relationships with them was represented, did we give God the credit for that idea because that’s what He did in Jesus? Did the kid’s testimony highlight a new life with Jesus? Did the speaker (if you had one) open the Bible and speak of Jesus?


Folks who serve on the committee have devoted a lot of their time to supporting the ministry of Young Life, and in “putting on” this banquet. They want their friends, acquaintances and community to be introduced in a winsome way to Young Life. In a way, their reputation is at stake. If they are proud of the evening, it means you met the goal of presenting Young Life in an accurate and attractive way … not just the facts of what Young Life is and what are we doing, but also THE FLAVOR of Young Life, too.


Whether folks open their hearts and their wallets and give to support the local Young Life area IS UP TO GOD. But, for goodness sakes, “the invitation” to give, or what we might call “the ask,” must not be fumbled or vague.

The financial pitch person doesn’t need to build the case or the need for Young Life; hopefully, the whole banquet did that. He or she doesn’t need to be funny or tell their whole story of their involvement in Young Life. It’s best if it’s short and sweet. Just present the funding need for the fiscal year in simple terms and ask — invite people to give and get involved. Have them fill out the involvement card, put it in the envelope and give it to the table host. Please don’t give the option to take it home and think about it. They were told that we coming to a fundraising banquet. Just ask. The rest is in God’s hands.

Written by Ty Saltzgiver (

View September 2018 Email

Assessing the Aroma of your Area Culture

Scratch and Sniff: Making Your Area Culture the Aroma of Christ


There are a lot of metaphors about what Christ followers should be and one of those is to be an aroma that others are drawn to. In your Young Life community, that “aroma of Christ” is one of the most powerful and potent elements of your fellowship. If you want to see Young Life thrive in your area, you need to become a culture-shaper. When you do — you can almost smell the difference.

Culture doesn’t have to be influenced by you, it’s happy and glad to continue evolving with or without your input. But you have influence, you can shape it. If you want to be a kicktail culture shaper, you start by being a kicktail listener.

Consider this … what if you aren’t really aware of the current status of your area’s culture? What if your assumptions aren’t true? What if your team really doesn’t like sharing ideas because they think you’re closed off? Better yet, what if this is a great moment to show your team that you want to listen to them? Having a great culture makes the work of your team more productive, enjoyable and creates a magnet for your recruiting efforts. When your area culture is thriving, people will speak favorably about their experience, you will see more and more great leaders, staff and committee come through the door, tenure of leadership will likely increase, and the snowball rolls down the hill.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” — lots of people

Do your volunteer leaders love being together? Do they feel successful? Do they feel supported in their role? Do they feel a sense of pride and ownership about Young Life in your area? Do they feel that their ideas are welcomed and valued? These may seem like little things, but THEY ARE NOT. For example, if people feel their ideas aren’t welcome, they are less likely to bring them to the table. What if their idea is the innovative thing that helps reach the next kid? What if their friend is the next best leader? What if they could be a leader for 2, 10, 20+ years? Without a healthy area culture, we may never know.

You know how you can smell if a gallon of milk has gone bad?  You have to open up the jug and pay attention. Periodically, you need to do the same thing with the culture in your ministry.  Feedback is a gift to the person on your team sharing it, and pure gold for us as leaders. Practice this two or three times a year, and you will have great intel to help you pay attention to the right things. Here’s a simple way to listen well:

  • Send a survey to your leaders (survey link here for you to copy: Volunteer Leader Culture Make sure to duplicate this survey, do not send this one. Click the three little dots in the upper right-hand side and select, “make a copy.” Change it up, make it yours, make it anonymous if you dare.

  • Ask each team leader to give 10-15 minutes at the beginning of their next meeting to have leaders fill it out.

  • WAIT, don’t read responses as they come in. View the results all at once with a few trusted friends (committee member, team leader) and see what trends come up. What parts of your area’s culture are thriving? What parts need attention? What can you foresee as the leader that will have a huge impact if you invest now?

  • Pick a few things you want to influence and get after it together. How do you do this? … That’s for another day, but for now, see the resources below.

Remember, YOU HAVE INFLUENCE, and you can make a difference. The scent of a healthy community focused on Christ is hard to miss. Listen to others, love like Jesus, then notice the change. “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2: 15).

Written by: Christian “Bo” Gross (

P.S. [FREE BOOK!] First 10 people to email me and say, “I’m doing the survey,” will be sent a free copy of one of my favorite books on organizational culture. Bo Gross (

P.P.S. If you want to learn more, check out this stuff:

View September 2018 Email

The Best Way To Spend 8-10 Hours A Week

Pastor Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) says, “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time.”


In Young Life, one of the ways we let kids know we love them is through the time a leader gives in contact work. Job descriptions for a Young Life leader often list that contact work commitment as 8-10 hours a week.  

What that 8-10 hours a week looks like can look vastly different in various parts of the world.

In Munich, Germany, a week of contact work looks like the following for Nicki Walter. Nicki leads in a community of Munich public schools where he does not have access to campus. 

Monday: Grab coffee in the afternoon with one of our students who I’m mentoring.

Tuesday: Spend the afternoon playing soccer with some boys in a neighborhood park. At some point we might work on some graffiti together (in a legal spot!).

Wednesday: Grab some food or ride the subway with some guys after Campaigners.

Thursday: Hang out at the skatepark or the basketball court at a nearby park.

Friday: On the weeks when we don’t have club, I’ll plan some sort of organized event that our leaders can also bring friends to.

Saturday: Go to a soccer game for some of my kids, or we might have a breakfast in the park.

Sunday: Often I have students interested in trying out a church, so I’ll take them to church with me, or we might go try out a new church as a group.

As you can see, lack of campus access in no way hinders Nicki from going where kids are, earning the right to be heard. For every day of the week, he’s got a plan to be with kids.

In Hertfordshire, just north of London, the story is different for Beth Ann Hunter. She has access to the campus through volunteering at the school.

To get the broadest access to all kinds of kids, we’ve worked hard to volunteer at the schools. Usually just popping into the cafeteria to speak to kids is looked at as just plain weird, so we have to be a lot more creative. We have done all sorts of things — helped with school plays, gone to plays, musicals, concerts and talent shows. We’ve helped with accelerated reading challenges, and volunteered to run games at lunch times or in the library after school. Several of our schools have the library open where kids can hang before being picked up or taking their bus. The librarians have allowed us to interact and run games with kids there. In the U.K., many times the school will give access to someone who is willing to run an assembly on any topic, but especially on the Christian religious holidays as the teachers don’t always feel passionate about these assemblies.

For those of us in the states who might be reading this, I hope you are encouraged by the fact that contact work can happen without campus access, stopping by the cafeteria, or Friday night football games.

The common denominators between Nicki and Beth Ann seem to be time, a plan, and a willingness to show up. Notice, also, that none of these plans included texting, Snapchat, or online games. There is no substitute for physically showing up in a kid’s world.

After all, that’s what Jesus did for us.  

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).


***Looking for a great idea to add a few hours of contact work to your schedule this week?  Go to and enter “YLspikes’ as a promo code to receive a 20% discount.

Written by Brian Summerall (

View September 2018 Email

The Cost (and Benefit) of Living in Community

“This is a true story of six strangers picked to live in community and work together to find out what happens when people start getting REAL!”


When we kicked off the GLOBAL CITIES FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM in Hong Kong we felt like we were getting ready to live a season of MTV’s Real World “Young Life Young Life.” We didn’t know exactly what would happen if we put three 22-year-olds from all corners of the earth in one global city to live and work together for two years. It had the potential of getting messy really quick. What happened was nothing less than a miracle and far exceeded our hopes and dreams!

There are primarily two needs of every Young Life area: 1) People, and 2) Resources. Since Hong Kong Young Life’s beginning five years ago, our biggest need has been — PEOPLE! People who understand Young Life and the unique culture of Hong Kong. We had open doors at schools but didn’t have the people to walk through those doors. Since we were too young to have “grown our own,” we needed to find a creative solution, which birthed the Global Cities Fellowship. The fellowship was initially a two-year program designed for young people with Young Life experience to come to Hong Kong to be team leaders and be a part of a training leadership program all done in community to eliminate loneliness and build a greater sense of team. Time, Experience, Responsibility, Community and Fellowship became some of the tenants of this program.

We expected to have all Americans but ended up with one American , one Thai and one of Nigerian-British heritage. We couldn’t have designed things any better. Why? Because of their intentional community! They each were able to bring and share their knowledge and experience of Young Life, Hong Kong culture, and youth culture. Each week they spent three hours in training together growing in Christ, learning Young Life principles, and discussing how to implement them in Hong Kong in their individual school context. They also lived life together — shared apartments by gender, socially hung out, were inclusive of each other and treated each other like family. We learned that the combination of experience and background was far greater than just having people come who know Young Life. The fellows’ diversity has made us a much stronger team and continues to breed more diversity and unity as we identify future cohorts. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133: 1).

The benefits far outweigh the costs of the fellowship, but they are still a reality. Hong Kong is the third most expensive city in the world, and providing housing for the fellows is expensive. Also Hong Kong Young Life currently carries a majority of the burden of their cost as opposed to the traditional Young Life sending process, and your situation may be different. That being said, the fellowship answers our need for a pipeline of staff associates and helps us “grow our own” faster and develop a rich environment of diversity and cultural understanding, making our team stronger together.

Cohort 2 (Hong Kong Young Life Season 2) launched this past month with the orientation of three more fellows each with their unique background to Young Life, Asian culture, Hong Kong school culture, and Hong Kong culture. We are excited to see the outcome of this group’s community. There is a cost to community — but it is a small price to pay!

If you are interested in talking more, please feel free to email me at

Some other useful information Hong Kong Young Life Website — GCF or follow them on Instagram at younglifegcf.

Written by Suzanne Sittko (

View September 2018 Email

Who Grew? The Gospel According to Aslan

Who Grew? The Gospel According to Aslan


Though The Chronicles of Narnia were not written or intended to be an allegory (C. S. Lewis was ferociously adamant about this), they are replete with Christian imagery and allusion, which Lewis readily acknowledged.

As we become more devoted disciples, and as we disciple others toward deeper faith and understanding, a scene from Prince Caspian (the book, not the movie … never, never the movie) illustrates this in a profound way.

The Pevensie kids are back in Narnia after several years in jolly old England, where unfortunately no one had yet started Young Life. They are their normal ages again, not the adults they’d grown into during their previous Narnian life, which must have been a terrible thing for them. Just imagine having been a king or queen, taken seriously by other adults, engaged in significant and meaningful tasks and adventures, only to have it all whisked away after being dragged back home. Let’s never do this to kids when camp is over, okay? Let’s keep taking them seriously, keep engaging them in significant and meaningful tasks and adventures, and keep reminding them of who they really are. Back to the story.

On their way to rescue the Narnians from that stinker Miraz and his wicked nasty army, the children find themselves utterly lost in an overgrown forest. Alas, being back in Narnia and living like a true Narnian isn’t quite as easy as they’d expected. They quickly feel dejected, tired and hopeless.

At their very lowest moment, when it seems clear that their long-anticipated return is not going to be the mountain-top swashbuckling experience they’d hoped for, Aslan appears to Lucy, the youngest and most devoted of the siblings.

“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

And there you have it. That’s the magic moment. That’s the profound truth That’s the mid-chapter dialogue that should cause every reader to stop, catch their breath, and gasp at the sheer simplicity yet total mystery of growing closer to Jesus.

As we move more closely toward Jesus, gain deeper understanding of Jesus, develop more intimacy with Jesus, abide more fully in Jesus, more consistently display the love that comes from Jesus, and allow ourselves to be more completely guided by Jesus, shouldn’t we expect to feel a bit bigger — maybe not in stature, but for sure in wisdom, spiritual maturity and faith?

Isn’t that the point? To grow up into the full likeness of Jesus, becoming mature believers instead of needy babies who only fuss for milk and then conk off in long naps?

Yes, that’s the point. But the outworking of it, like all of discipleship, is a complicated paradox:

  • We find freedom by being fully dependent.

  • We find joy by embracing suffering.

  • We find fullness of life by emptying ourselves.

  • We find hope by acknowledging our helplessness.

  • And we grow not by becoming bigger ourselves but by recognizing God’s endless so-much-bigger-than-us-ness.

The more we know of Jesus, the more we realize how much we in fact don’t know. The more we become like Him, the more we realize how utterly unlike Him we still are. The more we experience Him, the more we realize how little we’ve actually experienced up to that point.

For our entire earthly life of discipleship, Jesus should seem continually bigger and BIGGER and BIGGER.

If Jesus seems the same size as when you first met Him, or the same size as last year, or even the same size as last week or yesterday or this morning, it’s time to re-enter the world of His supernatural reality, which is our true home.

May our prayer for both ourselves and those we disciple be simply this: “Lord, help us forever see and experience You as bigger than before.”


The authorized (and only) correct reading order of The Chronicles of Narnia:

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

  2. Prince Caspian

  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  4. The Silver Chair

  5. The Horse and His Boy

  6. The Magician’s Nephew

  7. The Last Battle

View September 2018 Email


Written by:

Crystal Kirgiss (

Creative Names For Campaigner Groups

Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas for creative Campaigner Group names!  Take a look at the amazing ideas across Young Life: 

  • Walk With Me
  • Boys. Bikes. Bibles.
  • Deep Questions!
  • Stammtisch (German for Regulars’ Table)
  • WUP (Walk up Prayer)
  • Starbuckies
  • Wednesday Small Groups
  • City Group
  • Donuts and Discipleship
  • D’ship
  • Tuesday’s with Hall (leader’s last name)
  • Bropaigners
  • D-group
  • Girls Club
  • Fort Club
  • Fight Club (fight to make time for community, to pursue Jesus, for 
  • friends to know Jesus)
  • Man Time
  • House Groups
  • Beyond Capernaum
  • Friday Night Lights (Guys group that meets under the lights on leader’s back deck)
  • Friday Morning B-Stud
  • Cabin Time
  • Women Around the World
  • Journey Groups
  • Beyond
  • CORE (Christ, Outreach, Relationship, Engagement)
  • Connection Groups
  • James’ Gang
  • Soup Group
  • Community Group
  • Beyond Campaigners
  • 222 (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • Breakfast Club
  • Manversations
  • Breakfast and Jesus
  • Discover
  • ECO (acronym for study, share, pray in Spanish)
  • Wolf Pack
  • Lagniappe (French for “a little something extra”)
  • Three Brothers’ Sistuhs (name of coffeeshop)
  • YoungLives Beyond
  • FYE (first-year experience for YLCollege)
  • Shakers
  • Mantown
  • CC (acronym for Conversation and Growth in Spanish; used in Costa Rica)
  • The Fellas
  • Deeper
  • Minute Men

The Two Goals of EVERY Young Life Banquet!


There are a lot of reasons to do a Young Life banquet. Here are a few: a thank you, a night of information, communication of our mission, raising funding, raising awareness, valuing leaders, giving kids a chance to shine, education, lifting up Jesus, sharing the gospel, celebration, a “stockholder” annual meeting, sharing vision and strategy, growth plans and I am sure I am leaving many out.  (Ping me the ones I missed!)


But, for today, I just want to share the two partnering reasons for banquets to think about as you plan: funding and impact.



Let’s be honest, most area directors know that the annual banquet is all about raising necessary funds to keep adding fuel into the tank so we can reach more kids for Christ. It’s a huge component of the night, and having spoken at more than 150 banquets, here are a few thoughts I have regarding this key focus of a banquet.

Funding should be sprinkled throughout the night, not just in the pitch. People need to know long before they ever step foot in the banquet hall that this night is about raising funds to enhance the mission of Young Life. It could be as simple as having it stated on all of the materials and publications that go out with phrases like “Annual Fundraising Banquet.” You also might talk about this with your table hosts so that we are inviting the right people who would want to financially invest if they knew. You also can sprinkle funding into how people talk at the event. It could be as simple as every person who takes the stage (leader, kid, committee) comments on how grateful they are that “You all came tonight and are considering how you might invest in this great mission.”


Why does Young Life exist? We exist to introduce adolescents to Jesus and help them grow in their faith. So, this needs to be the focus of the night. Focus on the impact we are making. This can happen in materials on tables, videos shown, people who get up front, the area director’s “area report” session, and certainly the testimonies given. The kids who share their testimonies need to be evidence of our mission statement. These need to be sharp, worked with, and focused on communicating how Young Life made an IMPACT.

I went to a banquet in the fall where the testimonies were a miss. The testimony might have been a great testimony for the church, or this person’s love of their friends, but it did not show a kid that came into contact with Young Life and was IMPACTED.

You can convey impact at multiple points in the night. One of the best moments of a banquet is the student, or leader, or parent who can communicate IMPACT. Another spot to share impact is in the area report session, where an AD can look back at where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.

I think that if a banquet team puts on the lenses of funding and impact as they plan out a banquet, it can make a huge difference. As the banquet and event unfold, and decisions are made about timing, food, buffet, plated, who speaks, what we do for the skit, what is on the table, and the rubric of FUNDING and IMPACT are utilized, it can make a huge difference.

Let me know if I can assist or you have more to add. Bless you all as you move into the fall and the “banquet season”!

Written By Eric Scofield (


How Many Hours Does It Take To Make A Friend?

I was recently texted an article from the Southwest Airlines inflight magazine with the headline, “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?” Immediately, my mind went to a letter written by our founder, Jim Rayburn, in 1952.

“For example, take our ‘contact work.’ By that we mean the hours and hours that our leaders find it necessary to spend with the kids, meeting them where they are, going along with them, living with them.”

While Jim Rayburn couldn’t put a specific number on the hours that are spent by our volunteer leaders, earning the right to be heard, science is trying to.

“The Journal of Science and Personal Relationships” recently published a study by K.U. Professor Jeffrey Hall, which reveals:

  • It takes 50 cumulative hours of hanging out (contact work) to go from “acquaintance” to “friend.”

  • It takes 90 hours to go from “friend” to “good friend.”

  • It takes 200 cumulative hours to become someone's “best friend.”

“We have to put that time in,” Hall said. “You can’t snap your fingers and make a friend. Maintaining close relationships is the most important work we do in our lives — most people on their deathbeds agree.”

That should not come as a surprise to any Young Life leader, and it indeed would not be a surprise to Rayburn.

In today’s world, it is important to note that these hours refer to “face-to-face” time. Social media and texting simply won’t do. None of those technologies will ever replace showing up at the school or a Friday night game.

Let me put this in a Young Life context:

  • 50 hours — Sounds like a weekend camp to me.

  • 90 hours — That’s a great semester of contact work at lunches, games and just hanging out with kids.

  • 200 hours — Add a 20-hour bus ride to seven days of summer camp, plus follow up, and that’s what you will get.

If you are a leader struggling to get to that next level of friendship with your kids, you might consider what Hall calls a “context shift.”

“What seems to be the case is that doing something I call a ‘context shift’ matters; this means that you want to spend time with somebody outside the place you met them,” Hall said.

What Young Life calls “Level 1 Contact Work” (just showing up/being seen) and Level 2 Contact Work (conversing with a kid) has to experience that context shift to move to Level 3 (doing something together). Without that critical shift, leaders are left with superficial relationships with kids that have little or no impact.

If you are a volunteer and feel you are stuck at “Level 1,” just showing up at the school or a game for an hour or two every week, ask your team leader to help you make that “context shift” with kids. Pray that God would help you see new opportunities ahead of you to deepen those relationships.

Maybe we didn’t need the “The Journal of Science and Personal Relationships” to tell us these things, but it’s helpful to see the science to back up what Rayburn knew. Those hours and hours of contact work you are putting in are not a waste of time. The Lord is using them!

“ … (M)any well-meaning Christians have felt that we are wasting time. Yet it is this time spent with the youngster, before and after his confession of Christ, that has made Young Life something far more than the ordinary youth movement. Not only do we win a hearing among the most difficult and hardest to reach, but after reaching them we stay with them, as a true missionary should. The winning and establishing of a soul for Jesus Christ cannot be done on a hit-and-run basis. The Lord Jesus Himself is our example in this.”

Keep logging those hours, volunteers. Science backs you up. But better yet, Jesus backs you up as well!


Written by Brian Summerall (








The Main Factor In Creating Culture: Volunteer Leaders


Regardless of setting, having a Mission Community of thriving volunteers is the way to grow deep and wide in reaching adolescents and helping them grow in their faith. This was modeled for me when I became a volunteer leader in college in 1972. I could not wait to be with those leaders. I had met Christ in Young Life and served on work crew and summer staff, so this was a natural outcome because my Young Life leaders always talked about me becoming a Young Life leader. I would not have called it this at the time, but they were “casting a vision for my life and growth.”

As a young area director, because it had been modeled for me, I knew the job was

  • Recruiting (Always),

  • Training (Always),

  • Deploying , Empowering and Encouraging VOLUNTEERS.

Sure, I was doing contact work and running a good club and Campaigners, but my JOB was developing a culture where the volunteer leader was the KEY to effective, growing ministry. In the recruitment of new leaders, I invited every Jesus follower to join us because I knew they would experience Jesus in Young Life, in training and in being on a team reaching kids. Creating a culture where leaders would experience Jesus in doing Young Life was my job. There are thousands of ways to do this, so steal them all and create new ones every day. (Focus your time and talent here.)

“You can’t start or create a culture because you already have one. All you can do is develop it, adjust it, tweak it and change it over time.” — Anonymous

When I stepped into Young Life International in 2006, there were less than 1,000 volunteers outside of the U.S. I spoke with many mission agency leaders who told me that finding volunteers in undeveloped economies would not be possible because unemployment was often well over 50 percent. Stubbornly I responded, “Well, volunteers are the key to any healthy Young Life, so that is what we will aim for.” Most missionaries patted me on the head and said, “Good luck.”

All of the International leadership (tremendous, courageous staff) were in alignment on this, but we had to overcome one key dynamic: We were working with populations that had never heard of Jim Rayburn, had never seen a Young Life camp, didn’t know the term “contact work,” and more. Many of them had English as a second or third language. NONE had heard of Young Life.

In 2018, there are over 18,000 volunteer leaders outside of the U.S.!  What did we do?

1. We PRAYED. We used everything we could to prompt us to pray for laborers for the harvest: Matthew 9:38 lists, whiteboards, spreadsheets, leadership trees, maps ... we really prayed … a lot! And then repeated it. Pray for laborers of the harvest and call people to pray.

2. We DECIDED that the leaders were there in the neighborhood and we had to find them. If you do not believe they are there, you will not look for them and you likely will not pray.

3. We BELIEVED that Young Life would bless every leader who joined us with significant growth in Jesus, significant experience of mission and community (family), and they would model the hopes of the Kingdom for broken and lost communities.

4. We were CONVINCED that volunteers were the only way forward.

5. We made it FUN, ENCOURAGING, VALUABLE, JOYFUL and DEEP to be a leader.

We always say, “Being a Young Life leader will give you more joy and more sorrow that you can imagine, but it will also pull you into the abundant life Jesus has for you. It is worth it!” Bottom line: If you celebrate victories and lament great loss as a mission community, you will not only have an abundance of invested and committed volunteers, you will all experience greater intimacy with Jesus. Who doesn’t want that?

Written by Marty Caldwell (

Ever wonder about the state of the your Young Life Area's culture?  Take this simple, self-assessment quiz!  


Designing the Perfect Question With Four Words

Moving Forward with 4-Words

Getting conversations off to a good start is a basic skill everyone should possess.


Getting conversations off to a good start is a basic skill everyone should possess.

Keeping conversations active and ongoing – even after it seems like they’ve hit their end – is an art that every minister should develop. And by minister I mean every Young Life, WyldLife, YoungLives, Young Life Capernaum, and Young Life College leader or staff person.

The basic tool for advancing conversations is deeply active pastoral listening in which you truly engage, intently pay attention, make eye contact, take the speaker seriously, nod your head in acknowledgement, and remember everything that was said.

Beyond that, here are additional back-pocket tools that you can use throughout a conversation with kids (or adults) to move it forward to the next step and move it deeper to the next level.


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What other 4-word tools do YOU use? Send them to  


Remember last month?  We asked you for the names YOU use for your Campaigner groups.  Well, we got a TON of great, creative names submitted and we thought we'd share.  You can see all of these HERE.

Written by Crystal Kirgiss (