Global Training



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 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 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!  


Global TRAINING | "Now That's An Acronym I Can REALLY Use:" IDP

Welcome YL’s newest TLA (Three Letter Acronym)

We do love our TLA's in YL. I’m sure you can think of a few right now.  Today, we want to focus on one really important TLA: IDP.


“The IDP, or individual development plan, is a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help employees reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance. An IDP is not a performance evaluation tool or a one-time activity.”

This amazing tool (which comes in many shapes and forms, ours is at the link at the end of this article) is for you, me, and every person that works for YL. It’s a simple, structured way to think about your development as a person and an employee of YL. It will make all of us better servants of the Kingdom.

More Clarity Around The IDP:    

  •  The IDP is not your set of goals for the year. It is focused on your personal and professional development.
  • You are responsible for developing your IDP. Hopefully you will discuss this on a regular basis (3 or 4 times a year) with your supervisor, but it really grows out of your particular desires for growth as a staff person.
  • It is a tool that will help you get clearer about what your gifts are and what you are really passionate about.
  • It is to be used regularly! It is simple, one page, and made for efficiency. You can add as much to it as you want but it is great ast  is: 4 simple (and rich) questions.

Experience is a great teacher... IF you learn from it. Similarly, the IDP will be a great tool... IF you use it. JUST GET STARTED! Right now follow these links (or put it in your schedule to do):

Look at the IDP, find some time to fill it out, and then schedule a time to go over it with your supervisor. This conversation could help decide your next YL training, camp assignment, or even ministry assignment. You can also get input from a mentor, your committee chair, or anyone who knows and cares about you. Now put “review IDP” in your schedule every four months. You’re on your way. You’ll never regret it! This is one of the best investments you can make, in yourself, in Young Life, and the Kingdom.


Written by:  John Evans    


The Best LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Training I’ve Ever Experienced

Author:  Julie Gertenrich


Two years ago, myself and 30 other Young Life staff received an invitation to a new training course called the Legacy Leader Project that was researched and designed by staff as an “advanced leadership” training course.

I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got off the plane to the first training I was struck by the diversity of other YL staff who would be joining in with me in this group.  Our first meeting brought me literally to tears. Senior Mission leaders welcomed us, and each proceeded to offer a heartfelt apology.  The apology consisted in their realization that to be a staff person of multicultural ethnicity or a woman on Young Life staff has often been a lonely, sometimes wounding experience in our mission. They shared their frustration, wanting to change the face of leadership in the mission, and yet year after year, it continued to look the same.  The Legacy Leader Project was their attempt to provide training and preparation to be able to launch us to advance. For me, the honesty of this conversation was worth the price of admission. To me it signaled a new day had dawned for us in the mission of Young Life.

We started with a two- day training on the spirituality of the Enneagram Personality Test.  It has been one of the most significant tools for self-awareness and growth in my whole faith life.  Rather than a static assessment tool, within the Enneagram there is both movement for health or disintegration and I can finally understand others who are wired differently. It has been huge not only for self-understanding, but as a way to understand others.

The Legacy Leader training team alone was stellar.  We also spent time with Christena Cleveland, Ruth Haley Barton, and Shane Claiborne.  We played a ministry version of Shark Tank where we entered into a competition to win grant money for ministry projects.  In the end, we were each given a $2,500 grant for a ministry project to grow and match at home in our areas. I was able to grow my $2500 grant to $30k for a leadership pipeline and Staff Associate in my area, through prayer and sharing vision.  

In a mission with leadership that doesn’t look or act like you, it's hard.  It’s hard to see yourself sticking around for long, to believe you belong, and to see your longterm value in the mission.  The Legacy Leader Project was a loud statement to me: “We believe in you. You belong. We value your voice."

Many of us in this first cohort have recently taken jobs as Regional Directors or Associate AD's.  I just was hired as Metro Director myself. Through Legacy Leader training, I am walking into this role equipped with tools and confidence!  I want to be known for my leadership, my heart for Christ and kids, and my development of others.  As you have conversations with your supervisor regarding your development, ask if they can submit your name to receive an invitation to be a part of Legacy Leader Project.


Going from MILK to SOLID FOOD in Your Small Group Discipleship

Author:  Brad Banks, Divisional Training Coordinator, South Central Division

Once when my son was an infant, I changed his diaper and found an undigested black bean. He was nursing at the time so this wasn’t just weird—it was impossible.

It turns out my wife had eaten at Chipotle the day before. As best we could figure, the bean had simply fallen into our son’s mouth while mother and baby fed, then traveled from point A to point B wholly undigested. His tiny body could digest milk just fine, but it couldn’t handle solid food.

The author of Hebrews uses similar imagery. In 5:12, he critiques his readers’ lack of spiritual progress. He wanted them to go deeper, but they weren’t ready. They had reverted back to spiritual infancy and become like babies who “need milk and not solid food.” This critique doesn’t necessarily apply to our Campaigner friends (who often are new believers who actually do need milk), but it does inform our approach to Campaigners and those entrusted to our care.


Regardless of our ministry focus, one of our primary responsibilities is to walk alongside our friends as they discover the Scriptures for themselves, serving not only as their guide but also as their digestive aid. This means we must be spending time in Scripture ourselves, reading and digesting the solid food it contains. Without a doubt, this is THE most important step in preparing for Campaigners.

But all too often we spend irreplaceable hours poking around online instead of peering directly into God’s word. We scour blogs and other resources, ultimately consuming the digested meals of others. You can survive on that, but shouldn’t we aim higher than survival? Consider an alternative.


FIRST digest the text for yourself.



1. In a single sentence, summarize what the passage said THEN.


What did Paul write to the Philippians? What did Jesus tell the Pharisees? Immerse yourself in the words and passage. Then filter the passage through the immediate context, the culture in which the text was written (think in terms of the first-century or ancient Israel*), the covenant that governed God’s people (Old or New), and the person of Christ (how did his life and death influence the inspired words?). This carefully filtered view will frame and guide you through the next step.


2. In a single sentence, summarize what the passage says ALWAYS.


This requires interpretation. Some passages are easy and obvious: “Do not lie.” (Colossians 3:9) Others should bring pause: “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18)


3. In a single sentence, summarize what the passage says NOW.


Arrive at an imperative that speaks to you today. So for example, Exodus 22:18 might become, “Take sin seriously.”


THEN digest the text with your Campaigner friends.


Repeat the same process above, but invite the observations and experiences of everyone in the group. As you read and discuss God’s word together, use good questions that will unveil what your friends see, uncover how they feel, and unearth what they think.

What you will find is that together, you’ve feasted on what’s true and eternal. That will be far more satisfying than sampling something that’s pre-made or pre-packaged.






**If you’re interested in knowing more about the first-century world of Jesus or ancient Israel, check out these resources:

The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan)

Old Testament Today, 2nd Edition (John H. Walton and Andrew E. Hill, Zondervan)

IVP Bible Background Commentary, NT Edition (Craig S. Keener, IVP)


Guess This Best Kept Secret of YL Training?

Author:  Pam Moore

“This has been one of the best and most useful trainings during my entire tenure in Young Life!”   -YL Senior Staff after a Training Timeline Class  


We're going to clue you in on one of the lesser known secrets around Young Life.  Training Timeline courses are designed for Senior Staff and emphasize specific training for both the ‘Age and Stage’ of the staff-person. Simply, “The training you need at exactly the right time!”  Staying sharp in your role with a changing culture is a challenge. That is why we are always learning and growing in both our faith and ministry skills. That’s why Training Timeline programs are so vital.  Below, you will see that next year’s classes are tied strategically to the YL Forward pillars of Innovation, Together, Deeper and Grow.

If you’ve completed your initial (Core 1) staff training, these classes should be on your radar!  Our current list of Instructors are a who’s who of theologians, experts and senior staff around the YL mission like David Livermore, Brad Systma, Pam Moore, Crystal Kirgiss, Newt Crenshaw, Donna Hatasaki, Terry McGonigal, Ken Knipp, Brian Summerall, Sha Farley and several others.

Young Life’s commitment to training is one of the elements that sets the mission apart.  It is integral to the yearly Leadership and Spiritual Development of every staff person and it’s customizable!   TRAINING TIMELINE classes are created with you in mind! These offerings are a response to your requests for more robust teaching and training to help you fulfill your role. This year we will have several offerings:

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  • 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

  • Centurion 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

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 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!