YOU need to make this 15 year Innovation part of your YLForward Plan

Author:  Vern Hill, Cesar Castillejos

“This experience changed the way I saw myself, my life, the world, God’s love, and everyone around me! -2017 SLP Student Session II

Since 2002, the Young Life Student Leadership Project (SLP) has been ushering in God’s kingdom by training students to be Multi-ethnic leaders and sending them into clubs, communities, and the world.  

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Make SLP part of your Froward Plan to transform kids who will transform your club, area, and the world!

SLP is a 10-day leadership development/discipleship program for high school students completing their junior or senior year of high school. To promote a deep sense of mission, each SLP group is racially diverse, gender balanced, socieo-economically varied, and host students from different parts of the country.  This summer approximately 100 students will attend SLP at sites in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Paul, Minnesota; and St. Augustine, Florida. Nearly all students who have experienced SLP’s transformational program of classroom instruction, service, and personal formation become active professionals and volunteers in ministries and nonprofits in their communities!

The purpose and content of SLP mirrors FORWARD’s goals. This makes it easy to include SLP in any FORWARD Plan. SLP has four “Pillars” of learning that interlock with Forward’s four strategies.

Deeper – SLP students learn and apply spiritual practices. Students are taught and have quiet times in scripture and prayer each day. In addition, students experience worship and regular prayer times with others.

“I learned hearing God and understanding is a matter of practice.”

Together – Cultural Awareness is another pillar of SLP.  Students explore the impact of their own ethnicity, learn about healthy interactions with others, and experience cross-cultural life with their SLP peers.

“I found there is something to be learned about God through every brother and sister I have in Christ.”

Innovation – SLP students learn to be effective, innovative leaders by understanding their Calling. Primarily called to love God and serve others, SLP students explore how to do successful ministry based on their unique passions, talents, life experiences, and the opportunities God places in their lives.

“Sometimes we decide something for our own future, but God has better plans.”

Growth – Using the example of Jesus, SLP students learn Servant Leadership principles.  Students are challenged to identify a personal mission for the 12 months following SLP. This year this will include organizing a project in their area in conjunction with YL Expeditions “YL Serves” on MLKJ Day, 2019.

Here are some practical ways SLP can serve your ministry:

  • Areas can send a student to SLP to help advance FORWARD in their community.
  • Big Areas and Metro Areas can send several students for a shared SLP experience to help initiate multi-ethnic ministry between schools and within a community.
  • Regions can send a cohort of students to SLP to create a network of young leaders in the region and promote student led projects.
  • Divisions can support an SLP site for their Division, identify and send students who show staff potential as a gateway to staff development.

Learn More:

Contact: Vern Hill ( 612-414-8157 or Cesar Castillejos 612-619-1532


101 Uses For Your Training Timeline Funds (Or, at least more than 10!)

Author:  Pam Moore


One of the things I absolutely love about Young Life is our commitment to training. I think it is easy for us to take this benefit for granted, but as I interact with other ministry organizations, I am aware that our commitment to training and leadership development at every level of our mission truly sets us apart.

Many of us realize we have these great opportunities early on in our ministry career as we come on staff initially with New Staff Training and basic theological training, but what about those who have been on staff eight…ten years… or more? What about those who have completed Core Training Phase One and Two? TRAINING TIMELINE classes are created with you in mind! These offerings demonstrate the commitment we make as a mission to ongoing, continuing education and to personal leadership development.

Training Timeline classes are a response to requests and needs that are articulated from the field. This year we will have eleven different offerings:

January 27 – February 1st ACADEMIC TRAINING TIMELINE (which includes Old Testament and Christology) will be held at Sharp Top cove

February 25th – March 1st PRACTICAL TRAINING TIMELINE classes will be held in Colorado Springs. This year we will offer:

  • Kingdom of God and Cultural Intelligence I and II – taught by David Livermore

  • Discipleship: Growing Deeper – Taught by a team of veteran YL staff specializing in Discipleship principles and methods.

  • Supervision and Organizational Leadership – taught by a team of Senior mission leaders including Newt Crenshaw.

  • Theology of Incarnational Witness taught by Dr. Terry McGonigal

In addition to these classes, YL offers five Training Timeline Cohort Trainings focused on leadership and spiritual development that are by invitation only from an SVP or RD. These include:

  • Area DIrector School 2 – led divisionally with two cohort meetings/year for ADs with 5 years of experience

  • Centurian – each year a mission-wide and one regional cohort meets three times and focuses on executive leadership development for ADs with 6-12 years of experience

  • Legacy Leader – this is a diverse group of leaders who meet for advanced leadership training over a two-year period.

  • Mission Mover – a divisional senior staff team selected by an SVP to do an action learning project/proposal within the division

  • Spiritual Formation Cohort (s) – this will be a new offering by Donna Hatasaki which will meet three times throughout the year to focus on personal spiritual formation

  • Integrated Ministry Strategy Cohort- A 2 year Regional cohort developing a wholistic year-long ministry strategy from Contact Work to Discipleship and everything in between.  

And...we are still adding more!!  Stay tuned!

Your next step:  JUST DO ONE THING!

Step 1:  NOW set up a conversation with your supervisor or the staff person you supervise about which of these would be the best fit for you this coming year. Your yearly Leadership Development Review is the perfect timing. Registration will be open the first week of August for the Academic and Practical Training Timeline classes.

Here’s to being a lifelong learner and to taking your own leadership development to the next level!


Three Little Letters: The Difference "ING" Can Make

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Ask ten people to define discipleship and you will get ten different responses. Ask fifteen people to describe what’s involved in discipleship and you will get fifteen different lists. Ask twenty people to identify the main goal of discipleship and you will get twenty different ideas.

Overwhelmingly, Christians believe that discipleship goes hand in hand with following Jesus.  And yet, according to a 2015 Barna study (The State of Discipleship), Christian adults, educators, and leaders struggle to clearly articulate the what, why, and how of discipleship.

Perhaps we are over-complicating a straightforward reality. Or maybe we are over-simplifying a profound mystery.

Whatever is behind the current discipleship conundrum, the global Young Life mission remains just as committed to the second half of its mission statement — helping adolescents grow in their faith — as to the first half — introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ.  

In order to do that effectively and collaboratively, we need a clear and concise working definition of not just discipleship but also disciple-making or discipling. One of the confusing issues is that many people conflate these two things. When I recently asked a trusted theologian for some recommended titles on discipleship, he asked me: “Do you mean discipleship? Or disciple-making?”

Aha. Gotcha. Epiphany.

Words matter.

So let’s start with discipleship.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines discipleship this way: “The habit or fact of devoting oneself to following the teachings and example of Christ.”

The Barna study offered several definitions for people to choose from. A majority of laypeople chose this one:  “Discipleship is a lifelong process and journey rooted in a relationship with Jesus.”

A majority of religious leaders and teachers preferred this:  “Discipleship is the process of learning to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, seeking to observe all that Jesus commanded, by the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father.”

We could boil these down to something as simple as:

Discipleship is becoming more like Jesus.

That means disciple-making or discipling could be defined as simply as this: Helping others become more like Jesus.

But we are practical people, so we want to talk about how, not just what. If we expand our definition by just one little word, the practical takes the stage:

Disciple-making is helping another become more like Jesus by…

Read the gospels to see what Jesus did with his disciples, then finish the sentence. By…

  • spending time with them

  • teaching them

  • encouraging them

  • letting them help in his ministry

  • correcting them

  • asking them questions

  • welcoming their questions

  • using everyday objects and situations to illustrate important truths

  • using stories to explain difficult concepts

  • talking to them about scripture

  • talking to them from scripture

  • praying with them

  • praying for them

  • speaking truth about their true identity

  • giving them a clear purpose


And so much more.

Defining disciple-making in this way clearly states the goal of our mission and also empowers staff and leaders to tailor things for their unique ministry context, community culture, personal giftings, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

We are a disciple-making ministry. It’s right there in our mission statement. More importantly, it’s in our DNA.

We introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ (by our presence and our proclamation), and we help them grow in their faith (by grounding them in The Faith). That’s who we are. It’s who we’ve always been.

Leadership conversation starters on discipleship and disciple-making.

  • How would you define discipleship, based on your personal journey and experience of following Jesus?
  • Is that different from disciple-making / discipling? In what ways?
  • How does Young Life’s mission statement — both parts of it — drive your local ministry?
  • Based on the definition provided above, what does your local ministry include in the by list for disciple-making?
  • What is your ministry doing well when it comes to disciple-making? What areas need growth?
  • How do your leaders - both individually and corporately - focus on their own discipleship?

Crystal Kirgiss (PhD, Purdue University) is the VP of Global Discipleship. She’s married to Mark, a Young Life Senior Area Director. For over 30 years, she has been involved in youth ministry as a Young Life and WyldLife Leader, a youth ministry trainer, and an author and speaker. She can be reached at

You can find a summary of the Barna Discipleship Study HERE.

You might want to check out The Skinny on Discipleship: A Big Youth Ministry Topic in a Single Little Book (Group Publishing, 2015) by Katie Edwards, a veteran youth worker. Her book was the inspiration for the simplified and streamlined definition of disciple-making offered above.

Your Banquet Season Is All Year Long!

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All throughout scripture banquets represent celebration, abundance and the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Lately though, within Young Life, the term ‘Banquet’ can make some Young Life staff break into a cold sweat. If that’s you, I hope this short article can give you a new perspective on what can be the best night of the year for your area. After all, what could be better than gathering a few hundred adults from your area, eating a meal together, laughing hard, and telling them about Jesus and what He is doing in the lives of kids?  Time after time we hear adults proclaim after a banquet, “Could you have Old Life? That was amazing!”

With that positive experience in mind, there are three numbers that will help you accomplish that feeling as you look forward to your next banquet: 2, 12, and 15.


2- Aspects

Every banquet has two aspects. The PEOPLE and the PROGRAM.

Most Staff and Committees are familiar with program. You know how to set up the room, tell that one story to communicate the heart, passion, and commitment of Young Life. The issue, more often, is getting people into the room.

The process of getting people in the room for the banquet is not much different than getting people in the room for club.  It’s all about contact work. A club full of kids is a celebration of excellent contact work. A banquet full of adults is a celebration and natural extension of great contact work with adults.  Just like a club flyer should not be a kid’s only invitation to club, the physical banquet invitation should not be the first time your guest has been invited to the banquet.

What if you pursued adults in your community like you do kids in the local school?  What if you “sold” the banquet and planned for it months ahead of time? What if you were committed to helping people get there because it’s a chance to experience what God is doing and to be a part?


12 - Months

After a week at camp, you probably begin thinking about next year the next day (if not on the bus ride home). I’d be willing to bet camp crosses your mind almost every day of the year.

Banquets need to be the same.  While camp can be the best week of a kids life, the banquet can be the best night of the year for your community.  We should look forward to that night with great anticipation all year long.

The best banquets are done on with a 12-month strategy, just like camp.

A 12-month cycle means follow-up after the banquet is essential, like reviewing those commitment cards and actually sending people information about the golf marathon. Maybe there’s a banquet reminder in your Christmas letter, or you’ll casually mention the banquet next time you meet a donor.  


15 - Minutes

Take 15 minutes today. You’ve read this article.  Now watch the video in the link below to get a better picture of this process.  Next, write down “people” and three things you can do over the next three weeks to invite people to be part of what God is doing, which is always an invitation to fuller life.  No matter how far away your next banquet is, the process starts today. Be excited.

And if you want to smile when you think about banquets, schedule time (not today) to think through the two aspects, People and Program, and what you can do each month to make your next banquet a no-sweat success.

Day 7: The Start of Your Ministry Year


Written by Brian Summerall

Summer camp is not the end of your ministry year!  It’s actually the starter’s pistol for your fall club start.  There is no other place or time in the world where your kids will be more enthusiastic about Young Life and sharing Christ with their friends than during the last days of summer camp.  If we don’t take advantage of that fact, momentum and opportunity will be lost and be nearly impossible to get back or recreate six to eight weeks later when school starts again.

Day 7 of the camp experience is one of the most important days.  There are plenty of staff folks who believe the area meeting at the end of the camp week to be a pivotal time of vision casting and celebration for kids (and leaders) on a summer camp trip. You might even be a trip leader who would value some direction on how that time can best be utilized.

Some elements that may be of interest to you for that time could include: 

  1. Explaining what’s ahead in the days to come (camp follow-up)

You’ve just eaten 21 meals in a row together.  Without proper planning, 24 hours from now, many of those kids will be sitting on the couch at home alone eating something out of a fast food wrapper, wondering if what happened this past week was real.  

Who does the lion attack? The sheep in the middle of the pack or the one who is off on their own?  Who does Satan attack?  The kid who is in the middle of the pack or the one who finds himself suddenly alone?

Within 24 hours of being home, your entire crew should all be at a local burger place swapping stories, breaking bread together, laughing hard, and living life together.  For the next two weeks, we need to provide a place daily for kids to gather and learn to spend time with the Lord.  (Resources for these camp follow-up weeks can be found below.)

The adventure has just begun!  Don’t dare wave at the bus and say we’ll get together in a week.  That’s too LATE!  

2. Share the story of Jerry Kirk and Cy Burris, the two Silver Cliff work crew boys who “prayed big things.”

You can download the story HERE, about how two sixteen-year-old work crew kids prayed for Frontier Ranch.  The idea is to let kids know they can change their school and that God wants to use them!

I always ask my high school friends after telling this story in our day seven meeting at camp, "What are you praying for your friends... safe things, easy things, anything? Or are you praying "big things"" because we have a big God? Two sixteen-year-old kids prayed big things 60 years ago, and many of your lives have been changed. Two sixteen-year-old kids prayed big things and thousands have come to know the Lord at Frontier.  You can do the same!!!

3. Vision casting for the upcoming school year with Young Life and how to get their friends (and new freshmen) in on it. 

Talk about (with great enthusiasm) what the upcoming school year could look like if “we all” stacked hands on making Young Life great at their schools. What if we dreamed big and prayed big? They could be the difference makers! Give them a vision for a reputation and legacy to grow into! And give them a vision for doing something REALLY different...embracing freshmen and bringing them along for the ride!

 4. Have a few kids talk about how this camp week impacted them.

It might be a great thing during your area meeting to hear from two or three kids about how this camp week impacted them in ways they didn’t see coming. Give them 30-60 seconds to give a “quick word” about their week. Or it might be an excellent time for a second timer to share about the importance of sticking together after camp and also being a part of the camp follow up things.

 5. Have each kid write to a donor back home on a postcard.

Nothing fires a donor up more than hearing first-hand from a kid! The area meeting is a great time to have each kid on your trip write a postcard or two. Put a template on a screen or flip chart to show the “bones” of what to write. But don’t make your template force words they’re not prepared to write. Give them options of sentences to write. 

Take your area picture on Day 2 after the volleyball tournament or rodeo and then use an online company ( or or the Service Center and have them quick shipped back to you at camp before the area meeting.  It may cost a little bit, but it’s worth it!

6. Handing out area t-shirts so everybody can wear them on the last day.

Everybody longs to be a part of a bigger story, to belong.  There’s just something about everyone on your trip running around with the same shirt that reminds kids and leaders that we did not experience this week alone.  Not only that, we don’t go home alone.  We came to camp as individuals, but we leave as a family.  Trip t-shirts help create that feeling and serve as a reminder back home of the decisions and relationships that were made at camp.

REMEMBER: The Area Meeting on Day 7 is yours to run with. These are merely some ideas to help get your wheels spinning... not meant to overwhelm you with “have- to’s."  The time is yours. Use it well! 

 For more info/help write to: or

Click HERE to download camp follow-up resources.  

Click HERE to download an “End of the Week Area Meeting” guide along with the Jerry Kirk and Cy Burris story.



What is one of the most important relationships in your YL Area? 

QUESTION:  What is one of the most important relationships in your YL Area?   

(Hint:  It's not what you think.)

ANSWER: _______________________________??

The Area Director/Committee Chair Relationship

Written by Eric Protzman Committee Chair, Intermountain Young Life

The relationship between the Area Director and the Committee Chair may be the most important relationship for introducing kids to Christ and helping them grow in their faith.  Over my tenure of involvement with Young Life, I have grown more and more convicted of the truth of this statement because I’m part of the community.  I'm not staff, I’m a Committee Chair. Let me tell you what I see.

If you ask the question “who really owns Young Life in your community?” a common response is “well, um, actually, it's the Area Director or staff.” It’s true that our current model defines Area Directors as having the greatest vested interest and at times it seems like the the AD “really owns” the local ministry, but if that is our reality we ignore and neglect a tremendously significant group:  the local community and the YL Committee!  As a missional organization, a Young Life staff-person may serve in several communities in their tenure, while the adults who make up the local Committee remain. The adults in a YL Community communicate the ministry of presence as strongly as anyone in town!

The flawed premise of exclusive Area Director ownership can promote the ‘outsourcing’  of ministry to kids in a local community to the local Young Life staff.  However, my growing conviction is that a community has a responsibility for the engagement of kids in their town with the Gospel; it is non-transferrable. Intentional cleaving of ownership from the community leaves key adults underutilized.  We can find ourselves waiting for a list of ‘tasks’ from the Area Director and take on only what we feel like taking on ranging from very much to very little. We treat what help we provide as a gift to the AD, not a responsibility to our kids. In the end, we are delighted to help, but we have missed the true calling because….

Intermountain Young Life

There is a Better Way

There is a better way:  100% joint responsibility and ownership between the Committee and Local YL Staff.

When the Area Director/Committee Chair relationship holds 100% joint responsibility for everything that happens in the Young Life Area there is a durable focal point for ministry that belongs to both the community and the YL organization.  There is division of labor tied to gifting and skill sets but the ‘secret sauce’ is not shared labor it is shared responsibility. AD's work hard, but they often work alone. In our 100% model, we are truly in this together.

There are numerous benefits to a strong relationship between the Committee Chair and AD because 100% joint responsibility says, 'whatever happens in the Area, good or bad, is at the feet of the Area Director and Committee Chair.'  Not one...Not the other...Not sometimes. It's always and both. Or, as we have become fond of saying - “It’s Our Town, Our Kids!”

our town our kids

By sharing the responsibility of the local Area between the Committee Chair and AD we gain wisdom, a partner, a friend, a brother or sister in Christ, experience, and know how.   If we don’t get this relationship right we can live in frustration and tension.  However, when the responsibility is jointly held you may discover a deep respect, admiration and love for each other.  The YL staff I have worked closely with have truly become some of my favorite people! I have seen them grow in their gifting, calling and leadership.  To be transparent, I have been changed too. Even though they may transition to other communities or roles, they have kept the same priority of having a strong relationship with their local Chair and I have now seen this model work repeatedly.

When the Committee Chair and Area Director share a common vision and commitment to the local ministry - the result is transformative.  We are in it for each other.  We are in it together. We do have a lot of work to do, but we do not walk in fear. It feels so good to have a partner. It feels so good for our efforts to be focused on introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. If this kind of relationship is what you long for with your Committee Chair or Staffer, the following 4 steps are a good place to start.

4 STEPS to building healthy relationships between the Area Director and the Committee Chair:

1) Protect a weekly one hour face to face AD/CC meeting time (meet by phone as a last resort).

2) Start your meetings with prayer for your relationship, your community and your kids.

3) Tackle the topics, of Faith, Family, Fears and Ministry - nothing is out of bounds.

4) Connect, follow up and encourage each other several times over the week and create a partnership.

If you honor these four simple steps - you will tranform this critical relationship and you will be able to watch it ‘trickle down’ to the rest of the Committee and Community.  Trust me. The Committee Chair is the highest level of volunteerism in your local area. The Area Director is the Senior staffed position in the local area. If the relationship between these two roles embraces the command to ‘love one another’ (John 13: 34-35)  then you stand as an example for everyone else in your community. It’s ‘Our Town, Our Kids!’


Feel free to contact me with questions or let me know how it goes!

Eric Protzman, Committee Chair (

You Have Never Seen This Kind of Cow!

The Central American Camp On Wheels (C.O.W.)

Written by Rodolfo López and Kevin Suwyn


Young Life Staff are Creative, Entrepreneurs and Innovators.  Innovation is not just something we are giving attention to now - but rather - it IS who we are as missionaries, pastors and leaders. Over the past few decades the International YL staff and leadership have exemplified the heart of Innovation as much as anyone in the Mission. Taking a concept from the ‘idea’ stage to something that is translatable across geographies and leadership is sign of a true genuine ‘movement.’  One such idea that has slowly made its way across the mission is the Camp on Wheels or COW.  

There are a few simple steps/questions that a leader needs to answer to create a Movement/Innovation.  Read below to see how the staff in Central America answered those questions step by step.   

Step 1 DEFINING the Problem/Opportunity

We know it’s true: camp was the best thing to have ever happened to so many of us as teens. Marty Caldwell and Dan Jessup were prodding us to consider how mobile camping could help us with high quality camping even though most countries don’t (and probably won’t) own their own facilities.  We had to take everything we loved about the ‘core’ of YL Camping and fit it to our International ‘context.’  

Step 2: DEVELOPING a Solution

As we met together to consider, dream and pray with the local Costa Rican team, other questions came to the surface as well: 

  • What about the thousands (and millions) of our young friends who won’t ever get to go to camp? 
  • How do we remove hurdles of funding and distance?
  • How do we train and support new ministries (countries) in leader-centered, gospel-centered camping?
  • How could we take camp to them, if they couldn’t come to us?

This pushed the conversation to new places as we considered implementing a Camp on Wheels.

Step 3: DECIDING what to Measure

In a “Mega Club” (a one-day activity) we have the capacity to bring together more than 700 kids simultaneously, providing a place that is safe, healthy and fun. We have witnessed first-hand the success of this project as a highly attractive and innovative tool for the most disinterested kids to hear about Jesus. In Costa Rica, the last five COW's have been a key strategy to helping double our impact of kids reached over the year. 

In countries like Nicaragua, we have had the opportunity to carry out a series of Mega Clubs helping local areas impact more than 3000 kids over a months’ time (30% being first timers). This happens in coordination with local team of volunteer leaders and community adult support who are the key facilitators during these events.

The teams in Panama, Honduras, and El Salvador have benefited tremendously by traditional-camping support, and now have developed their team toward healthy leader-centered and gospel-centered camping. COW still is on-call to join in, but as countries have grown, more responsibility is being taken locally in each country.

Step 4: DESIGNING the Pilot


Going back to the planning stage: We moved forward, not really knowing what to build but knowing that we needed to act on something. We shared ideas with Skeet Tingle (Camp Manager at Wilderness Ranch) who made vital decisions, built the COW, packed it, and shipped it. Meanwhile, in Costa Rica we worked on the “urban day camp” or Mega-Club idea. 

  • The COW team would work in concert with the local area leaders, prepare a place, obtain the permits, and involve parents and former leaders. 
  • Leadership teams would invite their far-out friends and campaigner groups would join this effort as they reached out to their friends as well. The COW team was gathering volunteers to set up, run, and take down the “camp.” 
  • One version of COW would be this amazing day event with unique leader/kid events, hospitality, and closing with an evening club event.  This also became a way to model and reinforce great “club” principles and proclamation to the local leaders.

Additionally, we made plans to send the COW to new country ministries with a team. This augments the substandard camp property with a camp-in-a-box set of resources. But even more importantly, brings COW-brought training, a camp speaker, and head counselor when needed. This allowed the receiving team’s leadership to focus on bringing their kids to camp and being the camp leaders.

Step 5: DELIVERING A Model

What came out was a "complementary" approach of truck/trailer and key "space" and "wow" components:

  • Augment a rented property having basic services for traditional camp in new countries.  This provides an excuse to send seasoned leaders to support the new work, do assigned team training, and model Christ-centered, leader-centered camping. It was a hit.
  • Mega-Club set up in the center of cities, offering simple points of leader-kid connection like carnival games, inflatable climbing wall, wii, octoball, field hockey etc. This has supported area leadership right at home, within walking distance, and in plain view of where kids live:  culminating in the verbal proclamation of the Gospel.

We are thankful to God for the creative and innovative way He has surprised us through COW and we are also very thankful for all the people who in one way or another support us, be it through prayers, volunteering or giving financially. This keeps us dreaming of reaching the next kid.


Think About The Llama!


Written By Dan Jessup

My leadership strategy and thinking has changed some over my 30+ years of leading in Young Life.  Today, I think a lot about the llama.  Yep, since you can find these wild and unruly beasts all over South America in the Andes Mountains, I sometimes ponder, what would happen to the mission I lead if I got run over by a llama?  What would happen if I were trampled to death?

Think about it:  one day I will not be leading Young Life in Latin America and the Caribbean, which means that one day, someone else will.  Have I led and am I leading with intentionality so that we have a robust, thoughtful, proactive succession plan (that’s corporate speak for good leadership development) in the works, just in case the llama makes his move?

Jesus knew he had only three years to prepare the leadership to spread the Gospel.  Paul seemed to know that his time on earth was finite, so he got after it with a vengeance.  The apostle Paul sure seemed to think this way in 2 Timothy 2:2. Jesus seemed to be clear in Matthew 28:18.  But for much of my 30+ years of leadership I did not think this way.  I lead, albeit unintentionally (this is the heart of the problem!), as if I would be leading forever.  Things are different now. 

Leadership Trees


For our division, there are two simple strategies that are crucial for combating the llama: the Leadership Tree and the Second Branch Project.  Chances are you have seen the Leadership Tree, you understand the principles, and you have taught the principles.  My question is, do you actually have one yourself?  Do you have one on paper, in your Bible that you look at and pray over, or pull out at area meetings and regional retreats?  Answer:  I do.  In fact, every senior leader in our division has one and by the end of this fiscal year, every volunteer leader in the division will have one!  I might suggest, if you don’t have one in writing, it is likely that you are more susceptible to the llama than you might want to admit.

Second Branches

Second, we have intentionally expanded the influence of the Leadership Tree by identifying the “next best leadership” in the division in what we call the Second Branch Project.  Here’s the simple thinking: I am fairly confident that I will develop the people on my leadership tree (those on my “first branch").  However, those on my “Second Branch” meaning someone else’s “First Branch,” are the next, next future leaders of the mission.  The Second Branch Project is a way for our divisional team to keep in front of all of us who we see as the next best leadership in the development process.  

All of this is just another way of saying we take Jesus’ words seriously about “go and make disciples.”  In doing so, we have a very intentional system of making disciples.  It is more than having a good club,  good campaigner program, large area ministry, good numbers at camp, or a kicking region.  This involves senior leaders being good senior leaders by recognizing one day, the llama will win.  When he does, our intentionality of leadership development will be what determines how well the mission grows and expands long after we are dancing in heaven!  This is not morbid; on the contrary, this is how we should lead with the Spirit as Paul and Jesus led.  

So I say – “think about the llama...”


Dan Jessup


Want to create your own Leadership Tree?  Here's a simple download where you can make your own!

Need training on Second Branches?  Contact:  Scott Miedema -