The Young Life Club Defined in One Sentence!
by Caitlin Carr, Area Director, Lubbock, Texas
YOUNG LIFE CLUB: “RELATIONALLY getting as many kids as possible through the door, then CREATIVELY clearing the path for them to hear the Gospel.”
That’s a great definition of Young Life’s club ministry! Relationships should always be the beginning of a healthy club. This prevents us from leaning too heavily on gimmicks or the latest ‘how to’ for reaching an age group. When our creativity supports our relationships- the result is powerful! If we have any other starting point- we risk a short-term boost without a longer lasting effect.
The most compelling attribute of our Club ministry historically is the pursuit of simple, authentic relationships. In the United States, the average numbers of kids in club at our largest enrolled schools hover between 24-28 kids per week. Traditionally, we profess a desire to have a ‘dynamic presence’ in schools where we know 20-30% of the population. If that is true, then we currently have relationships with hundreds of students while only a fraction is attending Club weekly! Something is missing!
Below are some Direct Ministry trends in the U.S.:
- # of Volunteer Leaders- 49,760 (2012) - 76,070 (2017) - 31% growth!
- # of students in Discipleship - 68,090 (2012) - 136,300 (2017) - 73% growth!
- # of Ministries- 5,470 (2012) - 7,780 (2017) - 31% growth!
- Average kids in Club- weekly 157,110 (2016) - 148,960 (2017) (- 5%)
- Average kids in Club at schools over 1200/enrollment- 25 weekly
- Percentage of US High School Clubs with more than 100 kids weekly- 3%
This quote from Tom Wilson (YL employee #65), long time staffer and current Regional Director in Houston says it beautifully:
"I think club needs to be the centerpiece for the presentation of the gospel. As if that may be the only week a kid will hear it. It’s a place of fun, where every kid feels like the leader knows who they are and that everything that's done is done for them. A relational, fun, clear and compelling message, where a leader touches, talks to or at least makes personal eye contact with every kid, leaving them where they can’t wait for next week. I’ve seen too many clubs that try to just mimic form, but missed the essence."
It’s challenging to continually remember our essence. It’s relationships! That is what is at the heart of the Incarnation. That is the secret to the richness and longevity of this ministry, and that is why club can truly be at its best, “55 minutes of organized chaos, with a purpose!” There are NO substitutes! Online resources, Club Themes, and Social media are some tools that at times can serve the busy Volunteer team leader but nothing replaces the rewarding work of:
- Being physically at the school
- Seeing kids face to face
- Remembering names
- Practicing the art of Hospitality
- Being Inclusive
Young Life leaders don’t tend to take ourselves seriously, but we take the Gospel very seriously. It’s true, the greatest expression of Love is wasted time. For decades, YL leaders have been wasting time with kids. That is the secret to our success. Perhaps now more than ever the poignancy of the simple gesture of spending time with a student, listening well and being present in the life of another person may be the best way to reach the next generation of students.
Years ago, I noticed a neighboring club doing some amazing things… club was bursting at the seams, strong student ownership, schools and lives changing by encountering Jesus. After talking to the Area Director, we noticed 7 Key Principles worth adopting:
- Summer Camp is the beginning of your year, so strong camp follow-up in some form is essential.
- Give kids a reputation to grow into.
- Young Life should be in the heart and fabric of the school... every kid should be invited.
- Kids make room for what they own.
- Every element of club should create contact work for our leaders.
- Love kids enough to have a plan.
- Dream big dreams and pray big things.
With those core values front and center, our area went on mission again… prayer, invitation, more contact work, better contact work, kids stacked hands, adults in the community took notice and joined our efforts. The excitement was contagious and everything grew! As a matter of fact, our club grew so much over the years that the Fire Marshall came to “shut us down.” As we walked around our club space, he pointed out our violations. In tears, I told them why it mattered that our doors opened to the inside instead of out. I have always been worried about a kid getting trampled running in – because they are dying to get inside… and they don’t want to leave. No one was ever trampled trying to leave.
Club excellence is about much more than an internet list of songs, skits, themes, and memes. It’s a mission-minded person, building a team of people who aren’t interested in settling. It’s a creative and a wild party. It’s an entire club chanting a kid’s name. It’s kid’s busting down a door. It’s having to find a bigger room because the Fire Marshal says-so. It’s a trusted friend sharing the name of Jesus Christ to a room packed full of kids waiting on pins and needles because the table has been perfectly set. It’s RELATIONALLY getting as many kids possibly thru the door, then CREATIVELY clearing the path for them to hear the gospel.
For information more on the Ministry Strategy plan, visit the Ministry Strategy Channel on Young Life Access.