On two occasions, the risen Christ had significant but very different encounters with people as they travelled on specific roads.

When Paul walked toward Damascus to oppress and imprison Christians there, he was blinded by a bright light, knocked to the ground, and overwhelmed by a booming voice from heaven that identified itself as, “Jesus, the one you are persecuting!” (See Acts 9 and 22 for the whole story.) Today, when someone has a sudden and radical life-altering encounter with Jesus, it’s often referred to as their “Damascus Road” moment. This summer, thousands of adolescents will have this type of experience during outreach camps at Young Life properties.

On another occasion, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, discussing everything that had happened in the previous few days, most notably the crucifixion. Suddenly, they were joined by an unknown third person (Jesus Himself, though they didn’t recognize Him) who asked what they were talking about. They gave a summary of the events, including this admission: “We had hoped [Jesus] was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” (Read the story in Luke 24:1-34). The stranger called out their shortsighted disbelief, and “took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” What an incredible seven-mile long Bible study that must have been! And yet the two travelers still didn’t get it. It wasn’t until they invited Jesus to stay with them for a meal that they finally recognized who He really was. I imagine after Jesus disappeared from their midst, these travelers’ lives were never the same. They likely continued to follow their traveling companion, Jesus, for the rest of their lives.

The difference in these two road encounters is much like the camping ministry we do with adolescents. At our outreach camps, we introduce them to Jesus Christ in a Damascus manner. Under bright lights, in a context of bold proclamation, crowds of kids have a radical change of heart.

Our adventure camps in Young Life are more like an Emmaus experience. Things aren’t flashy or fancy. Usually there are no sound systems or stages, big events or bold surprises. Things are smaller, simpler, quieter and more drawn out. Whether at base camp or on the trail, discipleship experiences offer a slow walk outside, a chance to ponder Scripture, eat a meal in a small group, and allow God to make our “hearts burn within us,” just as He did with His two disciples near Emmaus thousands of years ago.

Both types of experiences are needed. Bold proclamation and steady growth are equally valuable parts of our journey with Jesus.

My wife and I have had the privilege of serving in Young Life for over 25 years; the first 10 were working directly with kids, first as volunteer leaders and then as area directors. There was a heavy focus on introducing adolescents to Jesus, but we were always sad if a teenager walked away from their initial commitment to Jesus. For the past 18 years we have fully given ourselves to the second part of Young Life’s mission statement — “helping them grow in their faith” — through running discipleship adventure camps in Santa Cruz, California  and Baja Mexico. These discipleship experiences, like all of our Young Life adventure camps, have a profoundly lasting impact on teenagers as they fully embrace following Jesus for life. In that sense, they are surprisingly like that simple walk to Emmaus.

We invite you to start thinking now about how you walk with your high school or college friends at an adventure camp next summer. As you head home from outreach camp, and while the excitement of kids standing at Say So is fresh in your mind, please consider what the next best camping opportunity is to help build the new faith of your friends. Young Life adventure camps exist to equip teenagers with the tools they need to live life with Jesus beyond the “camp high.” Whether it’s through daily adventures, pioneer living, sea kayaking, backpacking, or learning to serve others in Mexico, these discipleship camps provide experiences designed to help kids encounter Jesus through being in an intimate community and learning to spend time with Him.

What road are your teenage friends on? Are you ready to take the long slow walk to Emmaus to help their “hearts burn within them” as they learn to follow Jesus for life?

Click HERE to view the YouVersion Young Life Reading Plans to go deeper with your students!

Writer: James Thomsen



The Committee Chair/Area Director Regional Summit

Here is what we knew:

  1. We knew the WORKING RELATIONSHIP between the committee chair and the area director was important.

  2. I am not sure we ever appreciated how key THE FRIENDSHIP between those two individuals would be.

The conversation about an Area Director and Committee Chair (AD/CC) Summit really started way back in September 2018 for us. We both were in the planning stages of our largest regional times of the year; the Annual Committee/Leader Weekend was imperative to provide some solid, intentional training for all of of our local committee and volunteers. The training was always good and appreciated, but we wanted committee care to be an emphasis, and how to demonstrate that care was the challenge.

We decided that in addition to training the hundreds of committee members annually, we would FOCUS on the dozens of committee chairs with an entirely separate summit. Elevating the key role of our committee chairs across our regions became the linchpin to our vision for the Summit. The missionwide committee office shared a global vision to build relational ownership between the local area director and committee chair. Concentrating on that relationship with energy and focus tapped the much-needed expertise in the mission. When we announced our goal of an inaugural AD/CC Summit, the excitement was immediate. The themes of the relationship between committee and staff were obvious:

  • Transformation rather than transaction.

  • Partners more than fans.

  • Joint ownership and vested interest and partnership.

  • Aligning the needs of the area with the gifts of the committee.

  • Shared responsibility.

We had undervalued and underappreciated the role and significance of the committee, and specifically the committee chair. That was going to change!

From that moment the prep work began for the Summit.

We benefited from some of the work the larger Young Life mission had done regarding committees, but the real game-changer was our “lead team” that involved local and regional board members. They planned, designed and led our time. It was nothing short of amazing. Step by step we had advice and direction to how the day would flow and how to really prioritize the AD/CC relationship. They were all instrumental in making the day come together.

The agenda was simple. Sample Schedule

  • All areas were asked to come (committee chair and AD).

  • The whole summit was six hours total (four to five discussions/trainings/conversations).

  • Each person filled out an area assessment before the day (provided by YL).

  • Interaction and specific training toward the CC/AD relationship.

  • The time was nationally facilitated and regionally owned and taught by staff and committee.

  • We highlighted healthy committee chair/AD relationships that were attainable and transparent.

While fun and engaging, it was groundbreaking to not only rally the key decision makers and our staff at the same time, but also for us as regional directors to see vision come to clarity. Even though we are in different phases in the process, we both see the landscape shifting toward more community-centric thinking and relational equity building in the local area. This is KEY.

A few stand-out highlights:

  • Everyone heard from two co-committee chairs from Akron, Ohio, — Chad Crawford and Josh Stephan. They provided an honest look into how the deep-rooted community within the Akron committee had sustained them through some challenging times in the area.

  • We took a different perspective of strategic planning via committee member, Dave Chalmers.

  • The committee chair is the most important volunteer in the local area. We now do all we can to foster that relationship. The AD/CC Summit was the catalyst to propel us in this relational endeavor long-term.

  • We heard from many that one of the main highlights was the time together traveling to the summit, conversations around a meal, knowing that there are other committee chairs “out there.”

It’s amazing to see what happens when the Young Life area “decision makers” get in a room together. Committee Chair/Area Director Summits are being scheduled (by U.S. regions) for next year. Next year there are ONLY eight total dates available! If you are interested, email the national committee office here and contact your regional office.

Have questions about what we did in Ohio? Email us!

Rich Dargenio, Regional Director — The Buckeye Region (richdargenio@gmail.com)

Chris Kessick, Regional Director — The North Coast Region (ckessick@gmail.com)

Dave Chalmers, Regional Board (chalmersdj5@gmail.com)

Todd Long, Regional Board (toddlongyl@gmail.com)

Written by: Rich Dargenio & Chris Kessick


I have been on staff for 28 years. That’s a lot of contact work, J.V. sports, Chipotle burrito bowls, last-minute mixers, whipped cream, and Monday night clubs.

When I add up all the summer assignments, fall weekend camps and countless summer experiences, I realized that I have been on a trip, at a camp, sleeping under the stars or on a bottom bunk for over 4.5 years of my adult life. Literally that is “years of camping.” With so many trips over the last few decades, you would imagine that they are all a blur, however, it is not hard for me to identify my favorite type of trip. NOT favorite property, adolescent generation or graduating class, but my favorite style of camping.

The answer? Adventure camps! Whether backpacking, houseboats, mission trips or sea kayaking, those have been some of the richest experiences I have ever had with students.

What happens on these trips that is different?

  • The 168 hours (a seven day week) of an adventure camp is a rare un-programmed event so you have to be INTENTIONAL.

  • On a trail, or in a boat you are forced to talk, and over time the conversations go from the superficial to the REAL.

  • Most of these trips are designed toward second-timers or students at an “AGE AND STAGE” that is pivotal in their discipleship and maturity. Those “crossroad” moments are few and far between.

  • In a culture that can be comfortable and numb (physically, emotionally and spiritually), BROKENNESS is rare.

  • Jesus was “dangerous” in a few contexts: when He asked questions, when you were with Him one on one, and when you encountered Him on a road or trail. ALL THREE of those happen during an adventure camping week.

  • Believers grow when they ask heartfelt, sincere QUESTIONS too. It takes time to ask the question behind the question.

Over the past few years we have had an opportunity to focus on the second half of the mission statement through discipleship experiences. When you design your camping plan for all 11 years of ministry (from junior high to college) it makes sense to include some of the gems of our adventure camps.


This fall you will have the opportunity to apply to be part of an adventure camping pilot where Young Life areas that have not yet had a long history of camping at these camps would be given the opportunity to schedule trips, receive a discount and foster a culture of discipleship camping.

The draft application is on this link. The application opens up in September and each U.S. region can submit one area that fits the criteria. We want Young Life areas that have NOT traditionally utilized adventure camps to start fostering a culture of discipleship camping. The pilot application process opens in the early fall of 2019, but look over this LINK and contact your regional director.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Written by: Ken Tankersley


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Like many city school districts around the nation, Pittsburgh City Schools are on a lottery system, which means kids can apply to a different public school than the one in their district area. Young Life leaders in a given community can do contact work in a neighborhood and meet kids who attend schools all over the city.

Doing contact work at dismissal is pretty universally utilized by Young Life leaders across the board and is still effective in the city. However, trying to find alternative places where critical masses of students meet and hang out can pose a real challenge. Recently, I had the opportunity to brainstorm with some of our staff and leaders in the city about different means of contact work and going to where kids are as we attempted to think outside the box.

Someone brought up that they had noticed waves of high school kids after dismissal hanging around the Wood Street Subway Station, which serves as a main transportation hub for mass transit in the city with subway cars and multiple bus stops. We became more curious about what contact work would look like post-dismissal at the station. After deciding to see for ourselves, we fought through traffic and eventually found some parking spots near Wood Street. Two of our staff members, Sly Williams and Olivia Horner, were able to join me.

We walked down into the subway terminal and took a loop around. Discouragement was beginning to set in as we hadn’t seen any students at this point. Suddenly, we bumped into two kids. One student attended Taylor Allderdice and the other Perry Traditional Academy, the two schools that Sly and Olivia lead in. We were encouraged by this Spirit-led interaction! It re-confirmed the brilliance of the intent to “go where they are” and “meet them on their turf.”

We persevered, and as we began to meet more kids, we thought, “OK, this is not a bad option and can be somewhat useful.” Soon after, the subway car pulled up and 100 students poured out!

We were surrounded by high school and middle school kids:

We talked to them and realized while they were from schools all over the city, a vast majority of them attended Brashear High School. We do not have Young Life in Brashear High School currently.

Since that day, I have been praying and brainstorming about what it would take to get Young Life going there. The idea of being able to do contact work in the station with access to so many high school kids spurred imagination and excitement. The day was a huge success and sparked multiple conversations about hitting up other stations in town and strategic bus stops in the city. At one point Sly, Olivia and I rode the train down a few stops and popped out where we thought there might be other critical masses of students.

Stopping and thinking outside the box with our team was a thrill for all of us, and it helped us unlock and discover new and innovative ways to reach kids. We’ve now even begun discussions on what it would look like to run a club near the Wood Street station so all the kids would have access to transportation. This had been one of the most energizing times of contact work I can remember! It truly was the best 45-minute window of contact work I could imagine.


  1. Pray for the Lord to help you think in a different and creative manner about the kids He would like your team to reach. No idea is too far-fetched. Pray for a “God-sized” vision.

  2. Identify the challenges in your “context” to reaching students at school. Busing, district policies, scheduling issues, distance and more.

  3. Identify the opportunities or non-traditional and “out-of-the-box” ideas that could be available, like the Wood Street subway station opportunity.

    1. What could be a ripple effect of the ideas you’re discussing? (new schools, ministries, clubs)

    2. What could help us reach new kids, different kids?

    3. Are there any adjustments we would need to make as a team to ensure success? (Funding? Travel? Commitment for consistency? More volunteers?)

  4. Try Something! Land on an idea or two and try it. Give it several weeks. Be faithful and consistent.

  5. Measure/Debrief/Tweak what you tried. What worked? What didn’t? What should be changed? What next?

  6. Thank the Lord! You listened, you acted, and you were obedient. That is the heart of contact work!

Contact work is the most flexible, informal, innovative and creative thing we do. As we reach a new generation of students with immeasurable challenges, our “out-of-the-box” thinking should be vibrant. Try something! What could go wrong?

Written by: Mike Chilcoat


The prophet Jeremiah harkened, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls,’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

5.4 verse.jpg

Three years ago we came to a crossroads in Young Life. Our leadership conducted a missionwide listening exercise and clearly heard a few core things.

  • We want to go deeper in Christ as a mission.

  • We wanted to give a renewed focus on the second half of the mission statement.

  • We wanted to have significant depth in our own life in Christ.

  • We wanted to lead our volunteers in a way where their experience of faith was transformative.

These convictions led us to one question:

“What will we offer our staff in response to this clearly stated need and desire?”

This spring we are completing the first year of a three-year pilot designed to answer that question, at least in part. The Good Way is a Training Timeline cohort dedicated to deepening our lives in Christ in the midst of the unique and complex demands of ministry. The feedback expressed to our senior leadership suggests we are meeting a felt need. Here is a representative example:

“This has been the single-most valuable training I have been to in 17 years of Young Life staff. I hope and pray that all staff get to experience The Good Way.”

The Good Way consists of multiple cohorts of 24 senior staff that meet three times across the course of the year. Check out the Staff Resources page for more information and/or to register, then have a conversation with your supervisor to determine your plan. Judging by the feedback, the LORD is making foundational changes in our staff that is generating a new rhythm of rest for their leadership and their lives through The Good Way. We invite you to prayerfully consider whether you are drawn to this offering at this time.

Registration Click HERE.

Written by: Donna Hatasaki (DHatasaki@sc.younglife.org)



This spring I took 15 college guys from Colorado to the West Coast for a week.  Our daily itinerary was simple.

  • Morning: Sitting with the Lord for several hours.

  • Meals: Sharing meals and life together.

  • Afternoon: Random adventures and surfing into the evening.

  • Nighttime: Process what we saw, what we learned, what is being changed in our lives.

We have been doing this trip for 10 years. It is popular, it is a highlight, it is compelling, and it is needed. I'm thinking about the richness of this trip over the past decade as I mull the question: "Where are all the men?"

In the mission of Young Life, we have seen a steady decline in involvement from men.

  • Less men in Campaigners and discipleship.

  • Shortage of men in summer staff.

  • Oftentimes less men in leadership or attending Young Life College.

  • Fewer men applying for field staff or other positions.

  I think boys and men today have a deep longing for apprenticeship, which requires a master artisan. I know that in our culture we are losing the deep wisdom that comes from sitting and doing something slowly and repeating that process for years until we are masterful in our craft. I believe the art of making disciples (building Christ into boys and mending Jesus through a man) is one of those tradecrafts where there are fewer and fewer masterfully skilled workers to be found. Part of the reason why the art is being lost is because it takes so much time.

Even the new ways to connect, engage and train men are found lacking. Purchasing an app or going to church on your phone from the comfort of your couch, listening to a podcast and going to a weekend retreat don’t address the core problem. The make-a-disciple curriculum we watch Jesus employ stands in stark contrast to what we practice today. With 12 and with 72, Jesus' method was one of radical submission to His authority, shock therapy and enormous amounts of time spent together. I do not believe that the result of the new ways offered today will yield formed young men who can weather the elements and be found standing as old pylons against a rising tide. But we need those kind of men.

Young men are being discipled in a culture that teaches and rewards people for gaining "followers" who do not actually follow you anywhere. This inevitably bleeds into our understanding of what  it means to follow Jesus. I think if we want to see pockets of authentic-faith, character-compelling, follow-worthy men arise, they are going to graduate from a different line.

I believe if we want to be a part of shaping the hungry hordes of guys looking for someone to tell them the way, we are going to have to lead from a different cut. We must be the ones who are marked not by efficiency but by lives of withdrawing often to lonely places to drink deep droughts with the Lord. Then we return. We spend much time with a handful and freely give a few the best of what we have fought for in Christ and hard-won through obedience so that they can outrun us … and our names are forgotten.

To not lose the men, we need to spend the time to do a few key things.

  1. Make yourself available.

  2. Run with the men who run and ask to be poured into.

  3. Give parameters of the relationship and make sure your voice has “weight.”

  4. Be committed to the cost of discipleship — time.

I see men who are hungry, starved and desperate. If we raise our expectations, they will come running!

Written by: Greg Hook, Area Director (Young Life College Director), Fort Collins, Colorado  greg.younglife@gmail.com




“Do I have the time to travel to Colorado this weekend?”

“Is this camp going to be lame?”

“Is anyone cool going?’

“Are we going to be singing “Kum-ba-yah” the whole time?”

Although these statements could be quotes from an average high school student (anywhere in the world) before they experience camp, in this case they weren’t.  Rather, they were the questions I was getting from men who were going with me to MAN CAMP at Frontier Ranch this past month. To be honest, I had some of the same questions myself!  250 Men at a YL Camp for a Weekend? I couldn’t only imagine the possibilities for something less than great.  I was a little skeptical going into that first year; I had no idea what to expect. I’ve had the privilege the last three years to attend the Young Life Man Camp at Frontier Ranch, and thankfully, none of my fears or hesitations came true. Actually, the reality was the opposite.

What DID I find? I found myself laughing, resting, being challenged, entertained, inspired, and having meaningful conversations with men that I have been friends with for years as well with others I met that weekend. My revelation was that ‘most of the men in my community are longing for deeper relationships, but they either think they are too busy to cultivate them or have no idea how to make it happen.’ Man Camp was the vehicle to help those deeper relationships flourish.  I can honestly say that each year I have gone I have returned changed! Not an easy thing to do.

I think Man Camp provides a great place for guys to begin the journey of sharing life and space with other guys. We desperately need safe, humorous, life-giving places for men to be able to be themselves, while still being called to live into all that God is calling them to be. It is so fun to watch a room full of adult men laugh, sing, listen, and truly experience Christ in such a freeing, significant way. We all know how beautiful camp is for our teenage friends.  What I’ve always believed, and have come to know, is that adult men are just as hungry and open to God as our adolescents, they just don’t have many spaces where it is provided for them. In fact, although the ages change, the questions remain the same surroundingife, and God and what life with God could look like. Get a glimpse of Man Camp by clicking this LINK.

Man Camp is an easy way to invite some guys into something more, with typical Young Life excellence, humor, and focus on Jesus. It can be a great reminder or introduction to Young Life for men in your community. EVEN BETTER, have you ever wondered how to get your COMMITTEE or a group of dads better connected to Jesus or the world of Young Life? Invite them to a weekend with you at Man Camp, and watch their love for each other and Jesus deepen! Better yet, get one of your committee guys to own Man Camp for your area and help them fill a cabin like we do our teenage friends.

They will thank you, and even if they can’t come, being invited to be involved does wonders for people.  

* BONUS!  If you want your Committee Men to go, contact (Jonathan Schultz jschultz@sc.younglife.org) and be entered into a drawing for $500 in Campership (to help keep the cost down for next year’s weekend).

Written by: Rodney Huffty (rdhuffty@gmail.com


As pain often opens the heart of an adult, fun and laughter pry the lids off the hearts of kids.” — Charley Patten


“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance?!” In 1994, the movie “Dumb and Dumber” had every high school guy in America quoting that line and dreaming of riding a moped to Aspen, Colorado. At the time, my friend Tim was about to enter his senior year of high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of his Young Life leaders, Eric, invited Tim and his buddy Jason, on the adventure of a lifetime:  a road trip to Aspen.

Eric made the guys clear it with their parents, but later Tim confessed that he’d just ask his mom if he “could go to the mountains with Eric.” He didn’t tell her he meant the Rocky Mountains.

Their four-day road trip began with a 24-hour sprint to Colorado, only stopping when they needed gas. Once they hit the Rockies, they decided to keep going and eventually detoured through Mexico on their way to L.A. and the Pacific Ocean. On the way home, instead of stopping in Raleigh, they passed through their hometown and added four more hours to the drive, just to put their feet in the Atlantic Ocean and make it official that they’d driven “coast-to-coast.”

6,000 miles. 26 states. 4 days. 3 friends. 2 countries. 1 Ford Explorer.

Tim is now 40 and has been doing Young Life for close to two decades. I once asked him when he started following Christ. That’s when he told me the story of their trip. Tim told me, “Over those four days, Eric not only talked with us about Jesus, but he showed us Jesus. And that trip sealed the deal for me. After that, I was all in with Christ. Cold turkey. My life has never been the same.”

When you read the Gospels, you may notice another road trip: one that happened 2,000 years ago.

3,000 miles. 13 friends. 3 years. 1 Rabbi.

The Teacher had a few years before He was heading off to His Father’s house, so He invited 12 guys, maybe some around the same ages as Jason and Tim, to take a three-year road trip with him. The plan was to go about 3,000 miles on foot. The Rabbi asked them to drop everything, to abandon their jobs, leave their families, and to follow Him. And they did.

Isn’t that what most teenagers would’ve done when given the choice between responsibility and adventure? Over the course of those next three years, the Teacher showed them what real love looked like. That trip sealed the deal for 11 of them. After those three years, they were all-in with the Teacher. So much so, that 10 of them died a martyr’s death. They were so convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, they gave up their very lives, cold turkey.

What would it look like for you to tap into your teenage friends’ instinct for adventure?

The summer offers great opportunities for spontaneity, and it doesn’t just have to happen at a Young Life property. For the past 20 years, I’ve been taking guys on a summer adventure trip in the North Carolina mountains. We hike, camp, fish, jump off cliffs, and ride down waterfalls. We sleep in ENOs, build campfires and have cabin time under the stars. And it usually only costs about $75/person.

Here’s a link to help you plan your own mini-camp.

The best way to begin is to simply make a list of 10 names you’d like to invite.

Start praying for them (and the trip) now. Brainstorm with them.

Few things are as bonding as choosing your own adventure.

Written by Drew Hill (yldrew@gmail.com). Drew is a pastor in Greensboro, North Carolina, and has been doing Young Life since the ’90s. Ten years ago, he started the The Young Life Leader Blog and last year released a book for Young Life leaders called “Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel.”

YoungLifeLeaders.org || AlongsideTeenagers.com


Recently, my pastor began the Sunday morning message with this statement:

“I am best discipled through my eyes.”


It was a powerful statement that led me to wonder: How am I best discipled? How is each person in my family best discipled? How are the ministry volunteers I lead best discipled? What about the kids in my high school and middle school — how are they best discipled?

As ministers of the gospel — whether in a staff position or as a volunteer leader — it’s very important that we consider the many varied ways that individuals and groups are best discipled.

As in all things, Jesus is our model for this. When we look carefully at His life, we see that He had deep wisdom and discernment on how to disciple each person He encountered.

  • The bleeding woman was discipled best through touch ✋ (Matthew 9:20-22).

  • Peter was discipled best in the simple, routine context of his everyday vocational life of fishing 🚣‍♂️ (Luke 5:5-11).

  • The Samaritan woman was discipled best simply by being acknowledged, spoken to and heard 👂 (Luke 4:17-26).

Jesus knew how to specifically disciple individual people by doing a few very basic things: being with them, listening to them, and asking them questions. In other words, Jesus’ individualized discipling strategies didn’t depend on His divine power or knowledge, but rather grew out of His intentional and relational humanity. We can, and must, follow that example.

  • We must pay attention to how people learn.

  • We must pay attention to how they interact and engage with others.

  • We must pay attention to how they process experiences and information.

  • And we must pay attention to all the different ways that Jesus discipled the individual people He was with. He used sight, taste, touch, sound, tangibles, and more.

  • We must also pay attention to the different ways that Jesus discipled the large groups of people around Him.

  • The 5,000 were discipled best through the taste and sharing of a meal 🍞 (Matthew 6:1-10).

  • Jesus often discipled His closest friends by telling stories and parables. ❓

  • And He discipled the religious leaders — through a powerfully nuanced challenge — by drawing in the sand ☝️ (John 8:1-8).

As we disciple a growing diverse population of kids — different ages, different cultures, different abilities, different interests, different backgrounds, different family structures and more — are we considering all the different ways individual kids need to be discipled? Are we getting to know individual kids deeply enough that we can tailor our method, style, conversation and interaction to meet them in a way that effectively engages both their heart and mind?

Jesus’ life and ministry makes it clear that we are called to do just that. Now it’s up to us to know our kids (and leaders, as the case may be) well enough to disciple and lead them in a way that best connects with and serves them on their path to becoming more like Jesus.






Summer staff is a WIN-WIN-WIN for camps, areas and college-age students! Everybody wins on this deal.

CAMPS: When over 2,500 summer staff volunteer at Young Life camps, camps WIN because they rely on lifeguards, boat drivers, bakers, cooks, housekeepers, and landscapers, among other key roles, to make camp hum.

Summer staff work hard, yet it is meaningful service with ample doses of care, discipleship and encouragement from staff. There is still time to apply if you know a college-age student who would benefit.
Simply check out the camp’s website for openings HERE.

AREAS: Making summer staff recruitment part of your area’s camping strategy is a WIN for the area because you are providing a continuum of leadership development for alumni Campaigners and club kids.

On summer staff, they will learn, refine and apply leadership skills that can translate into solid volunteering back home in the local area. Serving on summer staff also provides a continuum of care in discipleship. It’s a rich discipleship experience as they work and live with a diverse community of peers under the shepherding care of summer staff coordinators. Finally, the community-building skills summer staff learn will only enhance your ministry community in your area.

SUMMER STAFF: The biggest WIN of all is for our college-age friends who serve on summer staff. It provides a space and place for them to live and serve as their authentic selves, which is often lacking in everyday life.

Because it’s such a win, we are in the process of enhancing the summer staff experience. Last summer we studied how we prepare and care for summer staff through  THE SUMMER STAFF PILOT PROJECT at specific camps with hand-selected summer staff. Before their session, these summer staff created personal discipleship plans in order to prepare spiritually and attended a training session led by a Young Life College staff person, who in most cases, was also their summer staff coordinator.

From the findings, it was clear that summer staff who had pre-camp preparation and a strong relationship with their summer staff coordinator experienced higher ratings of spiritual growth, ability to work hard and being prepared to live in community while at camp. These critical findings prompted us to expand the pilot project this summer to include more camps, more summer staff and more summer staff coordinators. Selected summer staff coordinators recruited students from their ministries to serve on summer staff with them.

As part of phase two of the pilot project, summer staff will receive pre-camp spiritual guidance and in-person training to help them better prepare spiritually, prepare to work hard and live in a diverse community of peers at camp. As we continually invest in and care for summer staff, the win of deeper discipleship, leadership development, meaningful service and rich community will only become stronger for all. Volunteerism, Leadership Development, Discipleship,  WIN,WIN,WIN!  - Summer Staff!! Learn more about the Summer Staff Project Pilot HERE.

Written by: Tami Ostlund yltamiostlund@gmail.com

A MASTER'S DEGREE IN 5 YEARS!  (Look inside) 

Q.  Would you like the letters “M.A.” behind your name?

Q. Would you like to complete a degree in less time and at less cost than you thought possible?

Q. Would you like to complete that degree while working full time with Young Life and completing your normal training requirements?


Fuller Seminary has recently approved a 12-course M.A. in Ministry Leadership degree that is only available to YOUNG LIFE STAFF. This degree program is built on the 50-year relationship of trust between Young Life and Fuller Seminary.

While you’ll travel to Young Life trainings such as New Staff Training, Area Director School, or Winter Training, there is NO TRAVEL or time out of the area for any Fuller classes, since they are all delivered online.

There is some flexibility in the order classes can be taken, but we imagine the typical approach will look something like the plan below. Please note that six of the courses are delivered by Young Life, and six are delivered as online classes through Fuller.

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TEN of these classes fulfill Young Life training requirements. The only exceptions are the theology and Bible electives.  As a part of this partnership, Young Life will pay the upfront tuition cost for each course, and charge staff a $650 transcription fee for each of these classes for FY20; which is about half of the normal tuition cost. Your area, or PDD, account can be used to pay for the transcription fee for all of these courses. Please talk with your supervisor and/or committee chair about your options as you think through how to budget for this degree.

We have a variety of options for staff to pursue academic degrees with any of our excellent partners, and each offers significant discounts. This new degree consists of fewer classes, at a lower total cost, than any other degree available to staff.

What would this look like for me if …

… I am just coming on to Young Life staff and starting my training track?

    • Staff who will begin with Young Life this summer/fall and come to New Staff in August can register at that time.

… I started with Young Life in the last two years and took my training for credit?

    • You can easily move into this degree program. Please refer to the FAQ document on the Staff Resources page linked below.

… I have been on staff longer than two years?

    • You can still move into this program; specific requirements will vary from person to person based on what classes have been taken for credit already, but in most instances it will make sense to move into this degree. Please refer to the FAQ document on the Staff Resources page linked below.

You can find more information on the Fuller/Young Life Partnership page on Staff Resources.

Staff who have taken classes for credit from Fuller will receive further information from Fuller and Young Life.

We’ll provide informational conference calls for interested staff this spring and summer. Dates and call information are posted at the link.

Bottom line: If you’ve thought about completing a master’s, this is a FANTASTIC option. The major roadblocks of time commitment and affordability have been greatly reduced.

We encourage you to check the link and take the next step!

Written by: Ken Knipp (KKnipp@sc.younglife.org)


“Broadway” to Africa and the Middle EastHow did that happen?”  What do Broadway Musicals and ministry in Africa/Middle East have in common?  Well, at first glance...not much.  However, this innovative fundraising event actually makes perfect sense.  In the greater Denver area, there is a dynamic faith community of music lovers, theater goers, and committed Young Life fans who get together each year to put on a performance like none other.  The ‘Big Idea’ surrounding Broadway to Africa (BTA) (a vision started by Shelley Sadler and a few others) was simply to have a musical experience, focused on Broadway show tunes, with the proceeds from the performances going to support ministry in Africa and the Middle East.  What could be easier? ...just wait. 


Young Life is present all over the country and around the world.  From small towns to International, cities to college communities, to 103+ countries around the globe to over 1,300 YL Areas, 81,000 Volunteers and 5000 staff.  In the midst of being in so many locations it can become a challenge to be truly together as ONE MISSION.  The scripture verse that has surrounded BTA over the years has been Zephaniah 3:17, “...ours is a God who is with us...is mighty to save...delights in us...quiets us with His love...and (even) rejoices over us with singing”--a message we long to share.  Ours... We... Us…  Together  language!

When BTA began in 2011, there were 18 cast members, one performance, one dress rehearsal, and the event raised funding to offset the cost of one Young Life Africa Women’s Leadership Summit serving 35 staff.

Now, 8 years later there are:

  • 92 cast members, 

  • 4 months of rehearsals 

  • 10 sponsored Camps  (8 in Africa, and 2 in the Middle East). 

  • 4 performances

  • 3000 campers who will experience summer camp 

Without a doubt, the most beautiful part of the Broadway to Africa experience over the years has been the privilege of watching the Lord move in and tangibly affect not only students in Africa and the Middle East. However, the 125+ people involved in production (i.e., cast and crew, band, costume designers, directors, and “sponsors”) and the hundreds in the audience are also deeply impacted. Broadway to Africa is a really creative and powerful tool in helping change lives both in the US and all over Africa and the Middle East.   Steve Larmey (SVP A/ME)  reminds the audience each year that “literally thousands of young people go to camp and have an experience that, in Africa and the Middle East, they rarely get to have. When they may otherwise live in utter poverty, war zones, or orphanages, at camp these kids are are fed, cared for, safe, loved, known, and noticed, all in the name of Jesus.”  On the US-side Senior Director, Jennifer Condreay who has given her time to BTA since the beginning celebrates that  “each year our practice and rehearsal season is an amazing 16 weeks of hard work, joy, and fellowship!” 

It may be true that it takes a whole community to reach a community and when you do EVERYONE IS CHANGED!  That is what we have seen happen each year at Broadway to Africa. 

For more information about how you create your own ‘Kingdom-minded’ event contact Shelley Sadler  or to learn more about the production, just click here. This year the production in Denver is June 7-9th. Being one mission is not easy, but it really can be beautiful and you may just find yourself singing.  See you on Broadway! 

What Millennials Really Think About Evangelism

Where do millennials stand when it comes to talking about and sharing the gospel?


“Is it right to share your faith with other people?”

“What does it look like?”

The answers to these questions may surprise you. Millennials face more hostility and challenges in a postchristian world, causing new trends in how faith is shared. The way that looks in real life has a different spin on it than it has been done in the past. If you’re wondering what millennials really think about evangelism, this article is full of hard numbers to understand exactly what they’re thinking.

Read the full article HERE

What the College Admissions Scandal Reveals


If watching the college admissions scandal unfold makes you feel uneasy about young people's adulting journeys, you're not alone. Research studies and kitchen table conversations nationwide highlight that teenagers, both those applying to top-tier colleges as well as those making other educational and vocational decisions, face choices and challenges those most adults today never faced.

Read the full article HERE.



Sometimes I wish we knew more about Jesus as a teenager. Who were his buddies? How did he spend his time as a kid? Did he win every game he ever played? When friends wondered how many stars were in the sky, did he tell them?

I wonder, don’t you?

For whatever reason, the Gospel writers give us precious little insight into the early life of Jesus, so going on wondering is about as good as we can do.

We do, though, get one scene in Jesus’ life between his infancy and his adult ministry. It’s an intriguing aside, tucked into Luke’s careful account, that I think it is profoundly relevant to those of us who work with young people. The scene warrants a closer look.

The story is in Luke 2:41-52. Try to picture it: after joining his family on a dutiful pilgrimage to Jerusalem, twelve-year-old Jesus skips out on the return trip home. Three long days later, during which time his parents frantically search for Jesus among their fellow-traveling friends, neighbors, and relatives, he finally shows up, sitting among the religious teachers, where he’d apparently been all along . . . while his parents went out of their minds with worry.

As a dad of a twelve-year-old, I can identify with Mary and Joseph’s frantic search for their missing kid. “Son, why have you treated us so? We’ve been looking for you anxiously!” You think?! So much for not being anxious about anything. What must have gone through their minds when, after a full day’s journey away from the big city, they realized their son wasn’t with them? And how must they have been feeling when a full day after that, they still hadn’t found him?

What strikes me most about this story, though, isn’t the reunion between Jesus and his parents but rather what he was doing in the temple when his parents finally found him. Think back to what you’ve heard or imagined about this scene. How do you envision it? Most people I’ve asked—even those familiar with the narrative—picture Jesus teaching the elders.

But that’s not what he was doing.

“After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting among the teacher, listening to them and asking questions.”

Jesus wasn’t teaching. He was asking questions.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The theology here is a little complicated. Before jumping to the conclusion that Jesus already knew the answers to the questions he was asking, keep in mind that in verse 52 we’re told that from this point on in his life, he continued to grow in wisdom. Jesus asked genuine questions with the goal of gaining insight. Jesus learned. And the teachers were amazed at his understanding.

I thank God for this little story and for the permission it gives you and me—as well as the kids we work with—to ask questions, too.

I wonder...

  • Do you, like Jesus, have teachers to sit amongst and ask questions?

  • Do you give space for kids to ask questions, whether in Club, Campaigners, or everyday conversation?

  • Do kids feel safe asking questions in those contexts?

  • Do you foster curiosity in those you lead so that they continue to ask bigger and bigger questions?

  • Do you willingly and humbly answer I don’t know to the questions you can’t answer, or do you feel pressured to always have an immediate answer?

I recently met Charlie, a 23-year-old follower of Jesus. During our conversation, he spoke about the many doubts and seemingly unanswerable questions that for years had kept him from following Christ. When I asked him what changed, he didn’t speak about having all his doubts erased and all his questions answered. Instead he told me about a mentor whose own questions were far more profound than the ones keeping Charlie from faith.

The honest questions of a faithful man gave Charlie permission to approach Jesus in faith, in spite of all he didn’t know or understand.

As a young leader, I felt a great deal of pressure to know all the answers and to win the argument as kids voiced their questions. Sometimes I still do. It’s taken wise counsel and discipline for me to learn that it’s okay to let questions hang in the silence for a while, and that often the best response isn’t a neatly packaged answer but rather another honest and inviting question.

Let’s be people who are honest with our doubts, who aren’t afraid to voice our questions, and who give others the freedom to share theirs as well. We’re in good company. Wonder is not the enemy of faith. It’s a prerequisite.

by Josh Powell (Metro Director, Hong Kong)



Social media can be an enormous asset to your ministry! You’ve seen other areas of Young Life thrive on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and you’ve decided it’s time for you to follow suit. Social media is a huge opportunity for building community digitally, but it’s also a territory that can be very overwhelming. Because we know you’re eager to jump in and spreading the word about your ministry, here are our top five ways to FAIL on social media when you start firing off posts (DON’T DO THESE THINGS).


Don’t Start Something You Can’t Maintain

  • Don’t forget about your accounts or your audience! Establishing a pattern of consistency is key to keeping that audience and community engaged.

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin by creating a page or account you don’t plan on using.

  • Social media marketing done right can be very powerful for building a community and connecting people in your ministry. Depending on the size of your ministry, you may actually need several people dedicated to keeping your social media presence fresh and engaging.


Don’t be Overbearing, but Don’t be Absent Either

  • Be smart about how often you post, and find the sweet spot for your ministry. If you have enough good content, try posting once a day. Otherwise 3-4 times a week should keep your audience engaged.

  • Depending on the type of ministry you’re representing, social media can be a great way for kids and parents to stay engaged. Make sure you keep up with both messages and responses.

  • Keep your social media efforts natural and authentic. Your online presence should be an accurate extension of your real-life ministry. Think photos vs. flyers (promotions).


Don’t Have a Bad Design

  • Create a plan for how you want your account to look as a whole, and make sure it makes a great first impression! Today your social media presence can directly affect how people view your ministry (sad, but true).

  • For Instagram in particular, remember that your last 6-9 posts give a user their first impression, so try and keep your posts cohesive. If the goal of your social media efforts is to foster community, you want the visitor who lands on your page to want to be a part of that community.

  • Use a Young Life logo as the profile photo! For logo help, see here.


Don’t Post Things You Shouldn’t

  • Don’t post confidential or personal information about kids.

  • Consult parents for permission whenever possible.

  • It’s not a good idea to post personal opinions on a Young Life area or club account, especially political opinions. These can be divisive, and it’s just not worth the battle (at least not on a digital/public forum). Be smart about what you share on your personal accounts as well, as you are an extension of your area’s/ministry’s account.

  • You’re speaking and posting on behalf of your ministry as a whole.

  • Avoid using the first person, “I” when posting.


Don’t forget to have a plan

When it comes to your personal social media accounts, you’re totally free to “wing it.” But when it comes to marketing your ministry or organization, you need to have a plan. Developing a clear direction and sticking to your goals will greatly improve the effectiveness of your efforts.

Social media can be a powerful and integral part of your ministry strategy. It’s a great way to develop a community and spread the word about events, dates, and announcements. Our hope is to provide you with tips and tricks to use in your ministry and find new innovative ways to reach young people around the world!

Written by: Blake Anderson (banderson@sc.younglife.org)

The Banquet, ‘Our Finest Hour’


With all do respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”

In the 1995 film, Apollo 13, three astronauts are about to re-enter earth’s atmosphere. The expedition has been exceptionally difficult with a variety of complications, failures, and mishaps.  As the story goes, their re-entry is likely their demise. In this scene, two NASA directors whisper about the ensuing tragedy:

“I know the problems, Henry. This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced!”

Flight Director, Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) picks up on their conversation and offers this iconic line: “I believe this will be our finest hour.”

In Young Life, we have alot of compelling moments-  A week at Camp, the 55 Minutes of organized chaos with a purpose- The YL Club, The most beautiful thing we do via Contact Work…. and the list goes on.  

What if our local Banquets were, in fact, our finest hour?

In the North Puget Sound Region in Washington state, we’re working alongside the Field Events team on a pilot project that offers resources to support local fundraising events. We recognize that most Areas have dreams and hope to create excellent banquets and other such events; and these efforts often can be improved or elevated with the right help.

There’s a huge variance across our mission in what defines a banquet. Your event is unique, and it should be! However, we consistently hear about people reaching out to others to recruit their expertise. If you want a great speaker you pay attention to where one might be and invite them to come speak. We do the same for auctioneers, MC’s, Program teams, graphic designers, and other spaces that you want the very best.

What if our very best resources were offered from a central point?

The Banquet Project is making the valiant effort to offer a menu where an Area can piece together all they need to see their dreams realized. Earlier articles in the 5 For Friday talk about the essentials of a banquet:  two goals of every banquet and three questions to ask after your banquet. Now, we’re asking what any Area could possibly need to reach those goals and answer those questions. The team is compiling this list and forming the access point for Area Staff. Most importantly this effort could change the banquet culture.  

What if we experienced our banquet the way we experience camp?

They each take an exorbitant amount of energy to setup, they peel us apart at times, we spare no expense to make them excellent, and it feels like a small miracle that it all happened. However, our camping effort ends with a full heart and great memories; it spurs our ministry forward and we share the story all year! Could our banquet end with the same enthusiasm? Could you imagine standing at the front end of your main fundraising event and knowing that the end result will be the definition of the following year in ministry?

Our hope is provide every resource necessary to make your banquet the finest hour in your ministry.  Talk to your Regional Director or Committee Chair if you have questions or input—especially if you’re doing something similar in your area—and contact our office directly by replying to this email for more information

Written By:  Blake Raney (blakeraney@gmail.com)



In late January, I experienced my YL Training Timeline class at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City UT.  One day as I waited in line for my 3rd film of the day, the person next to me leaned over and asked, “Are you a filmmaker?” I laughed, “Me? Nope! I’m here with Young Life staff for training!” Another “Only in Young Life” moment.


A group of 15 YL staff joined 250 Students from 22 Organizations, Seminaries, and Universities for a week of looking at the intersection of Faith and Film through conversations with each other Directors, Producers, Screenwriters and Actors.  It was amazing and so instrumental in equipping me in my day to day work with kids. Robert Redford is credited with starting the festival in 1985 believing that “society relies on storytellers”.  Over the last several decades, the chance to share your story at Sundance has become a filmmaker’s dream. Over the course of the Festival over 40,000 people descend on Park City,UT (pop. 8,378). This year, there was an astonishing 14,259 film submissions, of which only a select 112 feature-length films were chosen! The filmmakers are truly cultural theologians in how they identify longing, brokenness, need, and hope.  One short film “Period. End of Sentence” was founded by a high school, listing a bake sale and yogathons as funding in the end credits. It felt like “us,” how we’ll do whatever it takes to fundraise get a kid to camp.

So….how did we end up there? The Windrider Forum gathers a group of believers at the Festival to explore faith in the midst of culture’s primary form of storytelling - film.   The group was named after the Hebrew word ‘ruach’, meaning “wind” or “spirit.” The class was engaging, challenging and informative. Truly, the Sundance Film Festival may be one of the last cultural events that allow the YL Staffer to truly be 1 step ahead of the culture. We were challenged to have eyes to see and ears to hear where the Spirit of God was moving as we watched.

“Filmmakers are the poets and sages of our time” was a mantra we kept hearing. Each filmmaker risks to say something, to tell a story, to ask a question about real issues – mental illness, the death penalty, race, immigration, disability. And yet so many directors paint the world as they see it – broken, dark, unjust, without any sign of hope. The average Netflix user watches 71 minutes per day….numbing, consuming, grasping for something, being spoon-fed some version of truth. When I think about my Young Life kids’ learning about life through a screen, it doesn’t seem fair, it’s not the whole story, it’s not often a complete picture.

One film called “Gaza,” showed raw and broken snapshots of daily life in a war-torn streets of the Gaza Strip. I was trying to have eyes to find a glimmer of hope amidst scenes of wreckage, but I struggled. Another YL staffer later said, “You know, they have Young Life in Gaza.” Young Life in Gaza!! I got tears in my eyes, there it is:  hope! God’s writing a way bigger story sending light onto the streets of the Gaza strip.

So we wrestled with questions - how can we, as believers, become redemptive storytellers?  How do not only be students of students but also be students of the culture? It’s what YL does so well, we go into the world of kids. What if we watched with a different lens – looking for hope?  Then we would truly have a message worth seeing and sharing.

Keep an eye out:

Some of our favorite films to look out for include “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” “The Farewell,” “Luce,” and “Moonlight Sinata.” Missed it this year? No fear, you should save the date for the next year it is offered.

Written by: Kaitlyn Ousley (kaitlyn.ousley3@gmail.com)


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32 years ago, my wife and I attended New Staff Training (NST) at Trail West Lodge.  I vividly remember the impact of the teaching, the modeling, and the Christ-centered tone with which the experience launched us into ministry.

Fast Forward to 2019, Lori and I had the privilege of serving as Small Group Leaders at New Staff Training.  Over the past fifteen years, I have popped in for a 24 hour visit to our NST to cheer on these brand new mission leaders as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime.  However, this time was different. This time we treated our visit like a Summer Assignment: engaging as many of the 300 attendees as we could.


  • Shared meals and led a small group of thirteen New Staff (which felt like Cabin Time).  

  • We also attended class each day, giving us a chance to hear what our new staff are being taught these days, and helping them translate what they heard into their context.  

  • We enjoyed how thoughtful the schedule was:  the priority was prayer, personal spiritual life and it was Jesus first.  I promise, I’m not making this up…there were many blocks of alone time to reflect and process; it felt like a good rhythm and pace.

We left our week with full hearts, greatly encouraged and inspired by the amazing people the Lord is sending to join our staff!  That room of 300+ folks truly are the future of our mission. They are an answer to prayer, as we all ask the Lord of the harvest to raise up workers in His field (Matthew 9:38).  We, as a mission, are doing everything we can to encourage and support them as they launch into this Grand Adventure of proclaiming the life-giving love of Jesus Christ across the globe.  

Here are a few take a ways I might ask you to consider.  

  • LISTEN- LEARN:  If you currently supervise New Staff, go buy them a cup of coffee and ask them to reflect on their experience.  Ask them about what feels most relevant to you now a month later?

  • VOLUNTEER:  Every year, the Training Team is tasked with recruiting 30+ experienced staff to serve in this role.  This opportunity may be one of the best kept secrets in our mission. Travel and lodging costs are covered by the Training Department.  You are well-equipped each day with resources and have an opportunity to learn from other small group leaders who have been serving in this role for years. If you’re looking for an opportunity to serve our mission, encourage and steward new staff and hear how we are equipping them for their roles back home,  please contact the training department. (training@sc.younglife.org)

* ONE NOTE: due to YL2020 coming up, NST will be held in August at WFR (Washington Family Ranch).

Written by Pete Johnson (peterfjohnson@mac.com)