If birds can glide for long periods of time, then… why can’t I?
— Orville Wright

You May Know the "NEXT BIG THING" Already!

by Ken Tankersley, SVP of Global Innovation and Training

On December 17th, 1903, an amateur photographer named John Thomas Daniels Jr. captured the now-iconic photograph above showing the Wright brothers’ first flight on Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina.  Interestingly, since Daniels’ day job was serving as a member of the Coast Guard, the photograph was the very first one he had ever taken! He ultimately took 3 pictures that day, and it was several weeks before they were ever developed. Sometimes you don’t realize that you are in the midst of a transformative ‘moment’ until much later.  The now-famous photograph inspires all who study it to dream, endure, create and imagine the impossible.  We are all glad he caught the ‘moment.’  

Young Life has had its transformative ‘moments’ over the years which we recognize with the gift of time and reflection.  Going where kids are, the wisdom of forming local committees, the elements of our club model are just a few.  Young Life at its very core is innovative. You can easily trace many of our ministry models and methods to a creative and entrepreneurial spirit.  Even better, theologically —  the Incarnation may be the most iconic innovation in all of human history, so we have been taking ‘hints’ from the Lord since the start of the mission in 1941.

From the beginning of the Young Life Forward Initiative, questions/phrases like those below immediately surfaced:  

  • “Can we try new things?” 
  • “Can we experiment with the way we reach kids?”
  • “Can we keep the core of the mission but adjust the context of our local community?” 

The answer?  “Yes,” “Yes,” “Yes!” 

There is a pretty good chance in the new few years Young Life will identify the ‘Next Big Thing.’ It may be a new ministry initiative, funding model or way to support our volunteers, train our staff or reach more kids.  The next big thing will translate across cultures, geographies and leadership styles, too.

Each local Young Life Area is an incubator for creative ideas.  Those ideas can become movements which can be formed into a pilot program or model that can bless the whole mission! 

Below are some new ideas that are being ‘fleshed out” locally but could quite possibly be the next big thing!  

  • OUTREACH for Homeless Students, Foster Kids, Gamers, Boarding School students, Deaf students, etc.
  • TRAINING for Summer Staff
  • DISCIPLESHIP focus for College Students 
  • SEMINARY education for all staff
  • LEGACY FUNDING for Camping, Ministry Start ups and Leadership Development
  • FLAGSHIP Club cohorts
  • CARE AND DEVELOPMENT of Volunteer Team Leaders 
  • CREATIVE Camping models 
  • INTERNATIONAL ‘Fellows’ program 
  • JUNIOR Regional Boards
  • CREATIVE Discipleship  camping experiences 
  • DEVELOPMENT of a Spiritual formation culture
  • NURTURING the Committee Chair/Staff relationship 
  • COACHING and mentoring culture
  • SERVICE Projects 
  • …..and so many more

We have been given a license to try, to dream, to design and to scale the next big thing, and what’s exciting is that it is probably already happening — locally.  Maybe you are doing it.  If so, share the wealth, and let’s talk about taking what you’re doing in your area or corner of the world. If you think you have an idea about THE NEXT BIG THING, email TANK and let’s talk. Maybe it's true, ‘The best Young Life is yet to be done!’ and none of us want to miss the ‘moment,’ so bring your camera!