Leadership from a Servant Perspective

Submitted by Les Comee

Introduction

Some of us in Young Life have had the extraordinary privilege of working with visionary leaders who approached their calling as a way to serve others. We could sense that the primary concern to them was not their program, goals, and vision ‑ all of which were very important. They were led by a vision of the Gospel and touching kids’ hearts. They exercised their power and influence in significant ways. They expected a lot from us and we wanted to give them the best. But deep down we knew their primary desire was that we would grow into the people God wanted us to be. We were more than just a way to get a vision accomplished. They led us not just by assigning work, but by being with us in the work.

We also knew that this was not a strategy on their part. It was grace. God’s grace had given them something. They were bearers of grace in a special way. People grew in their presence. Gifts were utilised. Risks were encouraged and we continued to learn more about reaching young people in new ways.

One of the descriptions of Jesus I have most appreciated is “the Man for others.” That seems to me to be at the heart of servant leadership. Some wonderful books have been written about servant leadership. I want to discuss some of the simple implications for people who want to ask God to lead them in this way.


i. Leadership from Within

Each year, for the past several, I have encouraged our staff to listen to God for a special scripture, then to ponder that scripture and let it shape their vision, shape their prayer, and shape their speaking. Jesus did this with Isaiah 61. He used it when He preached His inaugural sermon in Luke 4. It under girded His ministry. It focused His prayer life. When the disciples wrote the Gospels they remembered that Jesus’ vision was not His own ‑ it was given to Him. He listened first.

If we are going to be servant leaders, we begin with a listening posture, to our Lord in Scripture, to the leadership God has given us, to the people we are called to serve.

It is an important question we need to ask ‑ how am I doing at listening? How clear am I on what I am being called to do? Am I being faithful to that vision in the midst of whatever struggles I face?

All leadership begins from “within.”

There are a lot of different ways to talk about this. For the leader, the real issue is always an internal one. This is a hard lesson for me to learn. I want to change or blame everything but myself, “Young Life expects too much. Not enough leaders are committed. We do not have enough money.” All this may be true. The issue for a leader is to begin to understand what is blocking him or her from hearing God’s Spirit. What are we to do that will allow us to be open to God’s grace? What, in me needs to be transformed?

This is another way of saying the servant leader has to be open to change, to listen, to hear the voice of God. So, the leader has to live with the paradox of being clear about a sense of call and vision, plus open to God and others. This is one of the many tensions with which a servant leader lives and works.


ii. Servant Leadership and Cost

John Stott, in Imitating the Incarnation, said, “Evangelical theology is essentially a theology of the cross.” There is no other way to understand Christian leadership than leadership that is self-giving and costly. Four times in John 10 Jesus talks about laying down His life for the sheep. It is something He does by His own free will. It is not something pushed on Him by a “program” of any sort.

A good deal of my ministry has been spent trying to understand the meaning and implication of these ideas. How do you lead and serve in this way? Being honest/vulnerable with the people we serve is one thing that we see in Jesus’ ministry. It was misunderstood then, and we can expect the same response now.

In America, we are taught to expect to move from victory to victory. Our lives and ministry grow and grow from one mountaintop to the next. I have never heard an area director take scripture and teach his or her leaders how to deal with lack of response (or failure). Jesus took the time to warn the disciples in Mark 6 as He sent them out in mission by twos. Everyone will not “buy” the Gospel (Mark 6:10‑11), and He gave them a sign to allow them to “let go” when people did not respond. He helped them deal with one of the outward stresses of ministry. He told them the truth. People do not always respond. They had not responded to Jesus in Mark 6:1‑6. Do we ever talk with our leaders like that?

But, soon after the sending of the disciples, Jesus begins to prepare them for the inner cost of leadership. He begins in Chapter 8 of Mark and continues in chapters 9 and 10. Like me, the disciples are not interested in hearing about this. They want things to go smoothly, painlessly. In fact, in Chapter 10 they want glory and honour. Jesus then gives His most clear teaching about servant leadership. It has to do with suffering. It is the way God has chosen to transform us. In fact the primary paradigm for the Christian life is death (deny self/let go/give up) and resurrection (new life/gift/renewal). Jesus modelled it and the disciples misunderstood it.

It seems to me there are numerous ways we may be called to suffer. We may be called to walk with brothers and sisters through their pain, suffering and darkness. The disciples did not want to do this with Jesus.

Then there is the more subtle call to death that comes with facing our own need to let go of power and control. It may be the call to face our own places of sin and darkness and surrender them to Jesus and our fellowship. How do we lead when we are tired, in pain, or not “together?”

Tom Wilson has amazed me with his vulnerability as a senior vice president. I invited him to our region one year to “G-up” the troops because I was too tired to do it. Instead, he shared his own struggles he and his family were facing. The whole meeting moved to a new level of honesty. Leadership can confer this gift if leaders serve by honestly sharing the suffering they face ‑ suffering due to ministry or our personal lives.

When teaching the disciples about the cost of being a servant in Mark 10:45 or in Luke’s more expanded account in chapter 22, Jesus never says that being a servant means giving up leadership. He redefines what leadership means, but He expects them to be “the greater” or “the one who rules” (in Luke). He just does not want them to rule by “lording over” people like the Gentiles. Their calling was to lead ‑ Jesus’ purpose was to reframe the meaning of leadership.

How have you worked in your own life with the inner cost of leadership?


iii. Anger and Hostility / Shooting Straight

I do not know why, but I am always surprised by the amount of hostility that leaders face. In time, I have come to believe that the ability to face hostility (to work with it and through it) was an important task of a person who wanted to serve. I have always wanted to believe that if I am “nice” enough people will not get upset with me. That is the opposite of what I am talking about. I am called to be open about my struggles and encourage the same in others. All of us bring our own pains and wounds into ministry. The context a leader creates either encourages us to cover up all of our “stuff,” or allows us to be who we really are. There is a cost to allowing that kind of openness. Some will be especially upset if the leader is vulnerable. We are not meeting their expectations.

There are many other reasons a leader faces hostility; but the issue is do we dodge it or allow it to surface and grow through it? We are faced with the decision to get on with the task/vision or work with a person. Often hostility is a clue to an important step in a person’s spiritual journey. The leader who is willing to serve by facing hostility knows that grace and transformation come at a high price to God and to the people of God.

I have missed too many opportunities in my ministry to help people grow by not shooting straight with them. I have not given them honest feedback about parts of their lives that need to change. Jack Fortin, one of our former vice presidents, used to say “Confrontation + Tribulation = Transformation.” Are we willing to take the time, energy, and work that is necessary, (the “tribulation”), to help people grow?

Along with this question, it seems to me we are called to accept people where they are. It is one of the principles we teach early in ministry. How do you live with the tension of accepting people where they are and honestly giving them feedback about their growth?

Following is an excerpt from an interview between Jeff Munroe and Max DePree.

Jeff Munroe: What are the marks of a servant leader?

Max DePree: A servant leader is one who approaches leadership with the thought that the leader owes things to the followers. The leader owes opportunities, recognition, good orientation, reality.

There is a myth afoot that shows itself in our language, when a coach talks about “my team,” or a manager talks about “my work team” ‑ that’s the wrong language. You don’t own them, they own you. Servant leadership starts with this concept: Leadership is a posture of indebtedness.

To carry that out, some further attributes are necessary. Integrity is always at the top of the list, but I think vulnerability may be the point at which most of us struggle in trying to be servant leaders. It is very hard to be vulnerable, that is, open, to the gifts that others bring. When we interact with our children, whom we love dearly, it is not so hard to be vulnerable, but when we transfer that concept into the work place, it is more difficult. Being vulnerable to what other people bring is one of the things that is at the heart of servanthood.

Another thing that is at play here is that when you move steadily up the hierarchy of a really good organisation – an organization that is vital and has a mission that is worthwhile ‑ you become more and more an amateur, because there is such a gap between the actual work that goes on and what the leader shares in. The leader cannot share in all the work that goes on in a good organization so he/she has to be educated in order to make decisions. If the leader understands that he/she is an amateur, the odds are much better that he’ll/she’ll be able to be a servant.

Download – Leadership from a Servant Perspective

Giving an Effective Message

Adapted from an article submitted by Dr Chap Clark

 

Young Life has always been noted for its effective communication to young people. From the early pioneers to today’s staff and volunteers, there remains a commit­ment to effective messages targeting youth. But productive communication, especially to a highly diversified and dis­interested youth culture, is becoming increasingly more difficult. In order to reach the kids of today and beyond with the truth of the Gospel in a way that they can understand and are drawn to, it is vital‑ that Young Life messages be as clear and relevant as possible.


This article recommends a relatively sim­ple, add water and stir method of prepar­ing and delivering an effective message. This approach has been handed down in one form or another for decades. There is nothing new, but the plea in this approach is for simplicity and a return to the roots of what makes a good talk. The time‑honoured speaking traditions in Young Life still provide one of the best possible methods for reaching disinter­ested kids with the wonder of Jesus Christ.

Before looking through the method below, listen to what Steve Gardner has to share on preparing your first club talk.

Method

Order of preparation

  • Controlling Thought
  • Conclusion
  • Body (Scripture)
  • Introduction
  • Application
  • Transitions

This order is useful every time you approach a brief message to any audi­ence where you have one point to convey. A banquet talk, for example, may require the exact same preparation method in order to stay on target and not lose focus.

Components of the Message

These are the essential six components of an effective message.

    1. Controlling Thought: This is your target statement. When the message is finished and someone is asked, ‘What did she say?” he should be able to repeat this phrase almost verbatim. Throughout the talk, no matter how lost or nervous you get, as long as you keep this one phrase in mind, you can­not help but communicate clearly.
    2. Conclusion: After writing down the thesis statement, the next task is to formulate a conclusive paragraph or summary. The reason I prepare this second is because it provides a framework within which the controlling thought can be couched and delivered. When the thesis is clear, the conclusion will be clear.
    3. Body: In almost every talk of this kind, the body represents the Scrip­ture which illustrates the thesis. In most preaching classes, students are taught that the controlling thought flows out of the Scripture. But for a specifically evangelical or informa­tional message, where the controlling thoughts have already been formulated and agreed upon (in Young Life, the Statement of Mission Purpose and Doctrinal Statement), the Bible becomes the tool to illustrate the truth being communicated.
    4. Introduction: The point of an intro­duction is to draw the attention of the crowd to the speaker and interest them in what you have to say. Sometimes this is a personal story, current news or school occurrence or an anecdote. It usually has some sort of natural tie to the Scripture (or sometimes the controlling thought). The danger for most speakers is a tendency to spend too much time with an illustration, thus taking away from the point of the talk and diluting the. impact and focus on the controlling thought.
    5. Application: This is one of the most neglected components of Young Life messages. We will communicate life­ saving truth to students and then leave them without an avenue to implement the information. An effec­tive talk must always have a clear and simple application that can be both understood and carried out. For example, after a talk on the identity of Christ, ask kids to answer the question for themselves, “Who do you say that I am” or challenge them to complete this statement on their own: “I believe Jesus is ______ because ______.”
    6. Transitions: Perhaps the biggest mis­take that is made by speakers is the lack of attention given to transition statements. Between every point there must be a sentence or phrase that bridges the gaps between thoughts. It can be smooth (And if you think I was hurting, let’s look at a woman who once lost everything she had,” and turn to Mark 5:21) or rather abrupt (Enough about school, let’s get into some real exciting stuff . Last week we saw how Jesus…”). The point is to make sure that each tran­sition makes sense and maintains continuity and flow from point to point, making sure that the thesis statement is the objective.

Trouble Shooting: Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Overuse of Illustration: The point of a talk is to lift up Jesus Christ and not ourselves. We must keep in mind that every illustration is simply a tool to get into the Scripture, which in turn high­lights the thesis. If an illustration goes beyond this purpose, it will often over­shadow the thesis, which would cause a reaction like: “Great message! I’m not sure what was said, but it was sure funny!”
  • Muddy Conclusion: Usually caused by lack of adequate preparation, where the most common mistake is to take either our favourite Scripture or illustration and force it into a talk.
  • Lack of Direction or Flow: Again, often caused by preparing the compo­nents out of order, or not thinking through transitions. The key to a smooth flowing message is keeping a clear focus on the thesis and supporting it.
  • Poor Use of Scripture: Scripture deserves careful attention in our messages. We must make sure that our interpretation is true to the original intent of the passage, and that we are not stretching the text to make it say what it does not intend. Every passage should be thoroughly studied and prayed through before speaking to kids in the name of the Lord.
  • Poor Delivery: An effective Young Life message can be invalidated by poor delivery. It helps for the speaker to be aware of deficiencies and work on the delivery prior to speaking regularly. Such things as gum chewing, holding the Bible like a shield, speaking in a whisper or monotone and avoiding eye contact will diminish the effectiveness of a message. On the other hand, if the leader is known (and presumably liked) by kids, has a clear and simple message with a specific thesis and application and is willing to share with kids as friends, an unpolished delivery will still make a huge impact on the lives of the students.
  • A wise, old sage once remarked to me, “Your message is only as good as the breath mints in your pocket.” Not a bad piece of advice as someone approaches you after a talk.

Download – Giving and Effective Message


Download – Club Talk Checklist

Download – Young Life Club Talks & Campaigner Lessons Resource

The Foundations of Young Life

In 1938, Jim Rayburn, a young Presbyterian youth leader and seminary student in Gainesville, Texas, USA was given a challenge. A local minister invited him to consider the neighbourhood high school as his parish and develop ways of contacting kids who had no interest in church. Rayburn started a weekly club for kids. There was singing, a skit or two and a simple message about Jesus Christ. Club attendance increased dramatically when they started meeting in the homes of the young people.

After graduating from seminary, Rayburn and four other seminarians collaborated, and Young Life was officially born on Oct. 16, 1941, with its own Board of Trustees. They developed the club idea throughout Texas, with an emphasis on showing kids that faith in God can be not only fun, but exhilarating and life changing.

Young Life’s mission remains the same — to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in their faith. This happens when caring adults build genuine friendships and earn the right to be heard with their young friends. For more than seven decades, God has blessed the Young Life staff, increasing its numbers from five to more than 3,300 — from one club in Texas to clubs in nearly every corner of the world.

Young Life Goes Global & Comes to Australia in the ‘70s

Young Life’s outreach to kids outside of the United States began in 1953 with the work of Rod and Fran Johnston in France. That ministry, under the name of Jeunesse Ardente, continues to this day. At present, a mix of American and national staff and some 19,000 volunteer leaders are reaching kids with the Gospel through more than 700 ministries in over 70 countries.

Young Life Australia has two separate histories in New South Wales and Victoria, dating back to the early 1970s. Young Life literally bounced its way into NSW in 1972 when a team of Young Life basketball players from North America visited Sydney under the umbrella of Campaigners for Christ. As a result, of that visit about 35 kids met Jesus Christ through Young Life’s relational approach in the camp setting. These new Christians and a handful of leaders wanted to start Young Life clubs in their schools at Killarney Heights, Carlingford, Northmead, and Caringbah. Sydney’s first Young Life clubs were hosted in 1973 by John and Laurice Waller in Killarney Heights, Ivor and Joy Lewis at Miranda, and Dave and Jo Lindsay in North Rocks.

In 1973, a schoolteacher on exchange from Colorado, U.S.A. at Rosebud High School in Victoria began a Young Life club in his house. Cliff and Liz Johnson, because of their years of involvement in Young Life U.S.A., did not know another way to minister to kids in that community other than to invite them around to their house. And come they did, up to 70‑80 kids every week. Most of these kids had never been to a church in their lives! Australian young people were ready for a relational ministry!

The 80’s and 90s on the main were good years for Young Life. Under the leadership of Daryl Redford in Victoria and Arthur Ongley in NSW, the respective state organisations saw healthy clubs and camping ministries develop. With large numbers attending clubs each week (up to 150 people) volunteers were the mainstay of Young Life at every level. From regular schools based contact work, community engagement, club, camping, small groups and serving on committees and boards, volunteers where the life of the ministry. They lived and breathed ministry, many went on to serve in churches and overseas mission agencies and continue to do so to this day.

After the failure of a national body in the 1980’s, Glyn Henman saw another opportunity to unify the mission again in the late 1990’s. With new levels of trust between the respective ministries, talks began in 1999 to look at forming a national entity once again. With Andre Linossier (VIC), Paul McConnell and Glyn Henman (NSW) leading the discussions, there emerged a strong commitment to form a National organisation once again. By March 3rd 2000, the deal was completed with Amicus Young Life Australia Inc formed out of the two organisations. Andre Linossier was the first Chairman of the new board and Glyn Henman was appointed as the National Director (CEO). By the end of July 2002, we had settled on Young Life Australia INC as our official name.

Since 2002 there has being the usual challenges of getting a new organisation established in its own right and setting the priorities for the years ahead. 2008-09 were difficult years with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) impacting the organisations capacity to reach more young people! Despite the challenges Young Life has seen rapid growth in all aspects of its work with young people. With new ministries in Bathurst, Dubbo and Maroubra (NSW), the Barossa Valley (SA), Hobart (TAS) and Redlands (QLD) and the placement of staff in Belarus and Macedonia. Young Life also partners with schools to place chaplains as part of various government programs. God was growing the work.

2015 saw a watershed moment with the purchase of a training facility in Armidale. We are grateful to God for his generosity to Young Life.

At the time of writing (July 2016) Young Life Australia is poised for further growth with new opportunities emerging for God to use the organisation to reach more young people than ever before. The last 6 years has seen Young Life double its size and increase its capacity. We look forward to what God is going to do in the next 10 years.

Download – The Foundations of Young Life

The Traditional Young Life Club – Part II

Submitted by Fil Anderson

As was highlighted in the last article, the Young Life club is historically the most effective setting for the proclama­tion of the Gospel.  The following “ingredients” and suggestions for making the club effective are a guide only, although should be taken into consideration as is written from a collection of years of experience.  You know the young people you’re working with the best – do what is going to be most effective for the skills you have within your leadership team and is going to be most engaging for the young people you are working with.  Remember, the main point of club is the clear proclama­tion of the Gospel – if you are engaging unreached young people and giving them a clear Message, you are running an effective club.


Traditional Ingredients of the Young Life Club Meeting

  • Music/Singing has particular value in get­ting young people doing something together and in preparing them for the message. Good singing can be a tremen­dous asset to the meeting’s atmosphere and effectiveness.
  • The Minutes (Skits/Games). This is not just a skit thrown into the program, but rather an important ingredient for break­ing down barriers and making kids laugh and relax in a happy setting.
  • The Announcements. Mainly used to break the stride of the meeting and cover any future plans for the club. Camp pro­motion may often best be done at this time.
  • The Message. An important part of any Young Life club is when a leader has the opportunity to speak of Jesus Christ to young people who do not know Him. Give them something to believe so the Holy Spirit can do His work.
  • The Close. Brief, but important in leaving kids with a good impression of the meet­ing and what was said.

Making the Club Effective

Variety

Young Life leaders have discovered that a club is attractive in its informal, sin­cere, loving presentation of Jesus Christ. The message does not need the support of special gimmicks and tricks, special music or refreshments, to be effectively heard and appreciated. Sometimes the charm and force of a club meeting is its simplicity. On the other hand, care must be taken not to get in a rut and allow the meeting to become routine or lack­lustre. From time to time, leaders will want to try a special effect, or club meet­ing, just to introduce some needed vari­ety. See Module Seven – Further Resources for suggestions.

Discipline in Club

Discipline is built upon respect. Most problems may be solved as we get to know the young people we are working with and as they know and respect us. Teenagers are naturally enthusiastic. In a setting as informal as a Young Life club, they will undoubtedly pose discipline problems. Good leadership will ensure that the same problems will not continue week after week.

Christian kids can cause trouble with an “I’ve head all this before,” attitude. Disinterested students are often careless, not malicious, in their inattention.

  • Pray for wisdom.
  • Try to understand the reasons for inattention.
  • Work hard to win the confidence of the ones who cause trouble.
  • Keep motives in check. Are you motivated by a wounded ego or by a desire for kids to hear the Gospel?

Some Solutions to the Problem of Noise and Inattention

  • Arrange furniture and focal point so kids can see the leader.
  • Up‑front leaders should be in a good light, good enough to show facial expressions.
  • Leaders can help greatly by sitting close to trouble spots and modelling an attitude of complete attention to the up‑front leader. Attitudes are contagious.
  • At the first club of each semester, remind kids of some basic ground rules at club: We are committed to making club fun and treating you with respect. We ask, in turn, that you will listen carefully during the last 10 to 20 minutes each week.  When noise and inattention must be stopped, try:
    1. Heart-to-heart talk, jovial or seri­ous: “Hey, wait a minute. There are too many clubs going on tonight. This is way too impor­tant for us to compete with a lot of chatter.”
    2. Just be quiet: Let it become obvi­ous that someone is disturbing.
  • Work on kids individually: Chat with him or her after club about it. Show love to that kid there and everywhere.
  • Evaluate your club format fre­quently. Be willing to hear and act upon kids’ constructive criticism as well as that of other leaders.

 Special Problems

  • Kids who won’t come in: A leader should invite them in each time they hang around the outside. Be sure you are always friendly when you meet them at school. If they are making noise in an attempt to disrupt, appeal to their sense of fair play and ask them either to come in or at least let the rest of the crowd enjoy the club.
  • Kids who want to heckle you in club: Above all, don’t get angry since that would mean they won the game. If it isn’t persistent, a readiness to laugh at yourself has the best chance of ending it quickly.

Publicising the Club

Of course the key to this is the student who is really sold on Young Life, perhaps a Christian who was greatly helped to personal faith through Young Life. Word of mouth invitations to others to come are most effective. These may be supple­mented by:

  1. Printed slips or flyers or pencils, giv­ing information on where club meets, when etc. (Some school authorities object to these being given on campus. We must observe their wishes.) Some leaders see as much as a 25 percent increase in attendance due to flyers.
  2. Posters or PA announcements are sometimes permitted on campus. Again, special care must be given to not violate school rules.
  3. The leaders may become involved in some school activity, helping to offici­ate at a game, speaking to a class or assembly, working with a teacher or dean on some special program or proj­ect.
  4. Be careful that your friendship with kids is not conditional on club atten­dance. Encourage kids to do most of the inviting of their friends.
  5. Some kids need an invitation from a leader they have met. A good rule of thumb is to specifically invite a student once, and then pray for wisdom and sensitivity about bringing it up again.

Encouraging Decisions

Young Life leadership is determined not to use embarrassing button‑hole tech­niques. Yet, we must keep in mind the young person who might respond with a more directed and guided chance to trust Christ at a Young Life club. We do not need to wait for camps or special meetings to expect kids to make their commit­ment to Jesus Christ. If we give a closing prayer, we may help them phrase their own prayer of faith.

Leaders should be available to kids who might want to talk. We must make it as easy as possible to see us. We may want to encourage them publicly to come, let­ting them know we would like to help in any way possible. A direct question from the leader is in order with those we know very well, such as, “What do you think about all of this?”

It could happen at any time or place when a leader senses the young person wants help in meeting Christ in a per­sonal way.

Pitfalls

A few assorted problems in club work are as follows:

  • Do not use the summer camp enter­tainment skits for the minutes of club. This ruins it for all who go to camp and it is too often done.
  • Beware of clocks, chimes and phones during the message. Stop them prior to club, if possible.
  • Leaders should carefully avoid any situation where they might be alone with a young person of the opposite sex, such as taking him or her home from club.
Download – The Traditional Young Life Club – Part II

The Importance of Knowing Why We Do What We Do

Listen to Brian Summerall explain the importance of knowing why we do what we do in Young Life!


Adapted from an article submitted by Ken Knipp

Lyle Schaller tells a story of a congregation which always recited the Apostles’ Creed in their worship service facing the back of the sanctuary. This practice had been continued for many years without question. No one in the congregation knew why this custom was followed, yet the majority of the congregation was unwilling to change this practice. Finally, it was discovered that many years earlier, when the practice of reciting the creed was begun, a banner on which the Apostles’ Creed was printed had hung across the back of the sanctuary. Since the congregation did not know the creed from memory, they always stood, looked at the banner, and then were able to repeat the creed together. This practice continued many years after the banner itself had been removed.

This brief story illustrates how easily we can adopt practices without having any real understanding of the reason why we are doing them. When this occurs, we are exposed to two dangers. The first is that we will follow a very legitimate practice, yet fail to draw out its proper results because we don’t understand the reason behind the practice. The second is that we will continue a practice which no longer meets its original purpose, again because we do not grasp the reason why that practice was initiated in the first place.

There are a number of areas where this applies to the ministry of Young Life. Many staff and volunteer leaders have seen others in leadership roles doing contact work, leading clubs or directing camps and modelled what they did after the form of ministry they saw, without always understanding the function which the form intended to fulfil.

Here are some examples:

I have encountered plenty of leaders who thought that if they simply attended a game or other school events, or walked onto the school campus, they had done contact work. While going to school events or the places where kids congregate is a necessary part of contact work, that doesn’t get beyond the form. The function is for leaders to be actively present with kids, initiating friendships with them. Risking our security is involved, dependence on the Holy Spirit is involved, initiating conversations is involved, seeking to personally demonstrate the love and presence of Christ is involved. These things do not automatically happen if we simply show up at a place where kids are.

The principle holds true for club as well; in fact, it may be here where we have the greatest danger of holding onto the form while forgetting the function. The goal of club is to create a situation in which kids feel safe, where they drop some of their barriers to the Gospel, and are open to understand both a verbal and nonverbal expression of the gospel. Hopefully, this understanding will be evident in skits, message presentation, camping and every other area of our ministry. We need to have a clear idea of why we are saying what we say, and why we are doing what we do. We need to be sure that we understand the function we are trying to accomplish, or else we will be facing the back of the church after the banner has been removed.

Download – The Importance of Knowing Why We Do What We Do

The Traditional Young Life Club

Submitted by Fil Anderson

What is a Young Life Club?

The Young Life club is historically the most effective setting for the proclamation of the Gospel.

In some communities, it remains a highly effective tool in reaching out to a majority of a targeted adolescent community. Usually the meeting is held on a week night in a neutral place, such as the home of one of the kids. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. A club is under the leadership of men and women who care enough for kids that each meeting has maximum effectiveness in expressing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Young Life club should be a heavily prayed-for meeting. Even during the hour, leaders should cultivate the habit of praying without ceasing. Some club teams have been wise to establish prayer teams, which meet during the club hour to focus their attention exclusively on prayer for the meeting. This beautiful platform of expression, the Young Life club, may become one of the most powerful influences for Jesus Christ in the entire community.


Primary Considerations

  1. In a class by itself in importance is the leaders’ relationship with Christ. Club will always reflect their attitudes. They are the ones who set the whole tone of club. They should radiate Christ in actions, words and attitudes.
  2. A successful club is one in which Jesus Christ is made known. It may have nothing to do with numbers of kids, how many laughs were shared or how smoothly it was run. Club is geared to kids and where they are. Nothing is pushed or forced since Christ does not force Himself. Making Jesus known at club simply means doing things in His way, with His attitudes and His actions. The fun and games of club are all part of the nonverbal communication of Christ.
  3. Young Life club is a team ministry. Christian kids and leaders living the Christian life are of major importance. They help set the atmosphere to be that of Christ’s love. Their love and concern at club build a vital believing base for the message.
  4. When kids leave club, they should feel like something was different about that one hour. As they continue to come, they should find out for themselves that it was Jesus Christ’s presence that made it special. It was Christ in people, in the songs, in the laughs, in the message and in the attitudes.
  5. Numbers are important! Christ’s command to all of us is to ‘go to all the world’ and to every person. We will ask God to use us to reach as many kids as we can in our meetings. Well attended meetings usually have a stronger feel of excitement and interest. Obviously, then, we hope lots of kids will show up, and we pray to this end. But be careful. Numbers, per se, do not necessarily spell success.

Preliminary Considerations

The club meeting features planned informality. The leaders are in charge, but the students feel it is their club. They sit on the floor, usually in the home of one of the participants, but it could be held elsewhere. The parents are the hosts and should be within earshot of what goes on.

  1. Most clubs meet on a weekly basis, the same night each week. Continually shifting the night or calling off club will seriously impair the outreach it has.
  2. Typically, in suburban situations, the meeting lasts from 50 minutes to an hour. In some urban and rural situations, the meeting may also involve recreational and social activities, and last for an evening. In places where the majority of teens experience home as a place to escape from, club becomes a safe place to be, and kids want to stay as long as possible.
  3. It must be attractive ‑ should move along and not drag.
  4. The meeting is designed to introduce disinterested high school kids to Jesus Christ. It should not become a clique for Christian young people; we must always guard against this as some clubs become safe Christian sanctuaries.
  5. It is open to any student in the school or community. There is no such thing as membership or dues.
  6. Leaders make every effort to cooperate with school activities and to help promote school spirit. We want school, church, and civic leaders to look at Young Life as an asset to the community. Always be sensitive enough to include those who tend toward being dropouts. Strive to win them also.
  7. Special care must be taken not to conflict with the program of the local churches and to gently correct any teenagers who might consider Young Life their church.
  8. Information, both printed and spoken, must be given to parents. This may be accomplished through a prepared brochure, personal visit, phone call, or Parents’ Night. In urban situations, it is vitally important that club leaders have a letter of introduction and explanation available at every meeting for new kids to take home. Don’t leave parents guessing about what kind of group Young Life is.
  9. No club may exist under the name Young Life without the supervision of a Young Life staff representative. This means, among other things, an adequate reporting system on a regular basis.
  10. Leaders are free to experiment with new features in club just as long as the Gospel is not obscured or the club does not become mere entertainment.
  11. Careful records should be kept in the form of weekly club report cards and use of the informal club cards filled out by the young people themselves once a year. It is imperative that the club leadership knows what kids they are ministering to. A good club survey will reveal that information.
  12. Leaders must exercise care in the protection of personal property, as well as in the conduct of the young people before and after club, particularly those driving cars. Any damaged property must be replaced and proper apologies given.
  13. If at all possible, clubs should not get too lopsided with girls or guys. An even split is desirable. Each leader must be conscious of this and pray and work hard to keep the balance.
  14. The message is the climax of the meeting. All that is done earlier should prepare the way for the verbal presentation of Jesus Christ.

Atmosphere of Club

  1. Should be relaxed and enjoyable.
  2. Picture Christ’s love flowing from you to each kid.
  3. Let students know you appreciate being with them.
  4. Give them as much responsibility for the club meeting as possible. Help them to feel that it is their club. Let them participate. Here are some possible ways to incorporate students into the leadership and ownership of the club:
    a. Have kids lead songs. (They should be carefully coached first.)
    b. Have them clap, raise hands, answer questions.
    c. Have them yell for their class or team.
    d. Have kids pass out brochures, give announcements, do walk-ons and skits.
    e. At certain times in the year you may want to ask kids to share their faith, lead in prayer or give the message.
  5. Keep things moving. Don’t lose momentum.
  6. Each of the team leaders should sit in the middle of a group of kids and give rapt attention to the up-front leader at all times. This attitude will catch with the kids around the leader.
Download – The Traditional Young Life Club

Ministry of Reconciliation

By Glyn Henman

Read: 2 Cor. 5:17-21, 1 Thes 2:6-12

We are all called to a ministry of reconciliation – a ministry of reconciling those who do not know Jesus into a full relationship with Him. The Bible says that all are called. It means all Christians, not just those who have lots of extra time, are good communicators, are educated in technology, or are outgoing. All. The question isn’t just what am I called to do, but how can I best do what God has called me to do?

Young Life is a tool, one of many, and like any tool it can be used correctly or incorrectly. We need to plan together to make a real difference for God’s Kingdom.

How do young people come to know Jesus in Young Life? They know you! They have a friendship with you that says ‘I love you as Christ loves you – unconditionally.’ A friendship that says ‘I accept you as Christ accepts you – unconditionally.’ I care enough to listen. You are my friend no matter what.

How do young people grow up in Christ? They know you! As you walk with young people who have made commitments, live with them, grow with them, and give yourself to them, they see someone who is their example of who Christ is.

What do young people need today? They need Christian adults of any age to take an interest in them. Young people don’t usually have adult “friends” – unless they want something from them. They need adults who are willing to love sacrificially, spend time with them, be vulnerable with them, and stay by their side through whatever life brings. They also need mature adults who are strong and able to be tough with them, when needed. We need to be adults who demonstrate the values of God. Out of this kind of friendship, we proclaim the Gospel.

“Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear your words” changes to “Your actions speak so loud I want to stop in this busy world and listen to what you have to say.”

We are His Ambassadors. An ambassador is both a messenger and a representative. He doesn’t speak in his own name or act on his own authority. What he communicates is not his own opinions or demands, but simply what he has been told to communicate. At the same time, he speaks with authority, in this case with the authority of Christ Himself. It is God’s divine love we are commissioned to proclaim.

We share God’s love with young people by our words, but even more often by giving them our very lives. It’s a sacrifice to love young people on their terms, not ours, but that is what we are called to do.

Listen to Eve Sarrett share on Incarnation Ministry.

Further verses to study: 1 Peter 2:9, Matt 28:19, Matt 9:35-38, Acts 1:8, John 15:7-8, John 15:16-17, John 10:10-11

Download – Ministry of Reconciliation

The Conversation Stack

Have you ever met someone for the first time and run out of conversation after the first 5 minutes? Welcome to the human race. As funny as it may sound, we are not all gifted in the art of small talk or how to carry a conversation beyond the small talk stage.

So what do you say to teen you are meeting for the first when you are in their environment? Especially when first starting out, contact work can be intimidating and even the most gifted person can get stuck for words.


Wiley Scott shares the power of getting to know a young person.


Each of the questions below is to help you with an initial conversation starter. Each question is designed to build upon the pervious question to help you begin to develop a friendship. The first few questions are one word response questions, but they help you build the conversation. Remember, people generally like to talk about themselves. Also, remember to introduce yourself and anyone else you may have with you.

Your job is to think of one or two other questions that you could use to help the conversation along.

1. What is your name?
2. Where do you live?
3. Who do you live with?
4. What do you do with your time?
5. Where do you go for holidays and what do you do?
6. What things are you interested in doing with your spare time/future?
7. What do you think about                                   ?

Download – The Conversation Stack

The Heart of the Mission

(A letter from Jim Rayburn to donors)

Dear Friends,

I want you to read this letter!

I am going to try to tell you something about Young Life’s strategy for reaching high school young people for the Saviour.

It is easy for me to assume that you know more about the work of the Young Life Campaign than you actually do. I am so close to it. I have watched the progress and the changes that the Lord has indicated from the very start. Some of you who receive this letter know of these matters perhaps as well as I do, but many friends have suggested that they would like to have me tell them a little more about the inside working of Young life. We do have a unique approach to the problem of reaching young people.

You see we are after the unreached. From the very beginning, the burden that the Lord placed upon us was to reach young people who were not being touched by any other methods. The vast majority of young people are not in church and never hear the truth about the Saviour’s love, so we are after them particularly. To reach them we have had to break with some traditional methods and, I am sorry to say, we have had to sometimes be misunderstood.

For example, take our contact work. By that, we mean the hours and hours that our leaders find it necessary to spend with the kids, meeting them where they are, going along with them, living with them. Now this is recognised procedure on any foreign mission field, but many well-meaning Christians have felt that we are wasting time. And yet it is this time spent with the youngster, before and after his confession of Christ, that has made Young Life something far more than the ordinary youth movement. Not only do we win a hearing among the most difficult and hardest to reach, but after reaching them, we stay with them, as a true missionary should. The winning and establishing of a soul for Jesus Christ cannot be done on a hit-and-run basis.

The Lord Jesus Himself is our example in this. His heart was tender toward sinners. He longed for them. He was not ashamed to be with them. His compassionate approach to the lost is what we are after. We try to be kind in our approach to the lost. We insist that gentleness is essential if we are to properly represent Him. I am afraid we are often times criticised for no other reason than that we are honestly seeking, under the Lord’s guidance, to be as He was, the ‘friend of publicans and sinners.’

Many people ask us about our ‘Bible Clubs.’ We do not have any! In Young Life, we have given years of prayerful study to this matter of the right kind of a Christian meeting for kids. What we call a Young Life Club is actually a Gospel meeting for high school young people. It is perhaps different from any meeting you have ever been in. But the differences are in small things. We sing, pray, and preach the Gospel in an atmosphere of friendly informality. The meeting is deliberately placed at their level. The language is that which will be understood and impressive to a modern adolescent. We avoid the clichés of evangelical terminology and present the sweet story of how Christ died for our sins in simple terms, which young people can understand and appreciate.

The Young Life Club is but a phase of this work. There are weekend camps, parties, rallies, high school assemblies and our intensive Bible study units. Then there is our summer ranch program conducted on our three nationally famous Colorado ranches where more than one thousand young people are winsomely challenged with the Saviour’s claim on their lives.

There are the leaders. We maintain a high standard of our leadership; all of them carefully trained in our own approach to evangelism. These men and women are not selected because of some personal charm or magnetism.

There is a deeper quality that makes for a successful Young Life worker. It is sincerity, warmth, a personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, a desire to see this hard job done for His glory!

There you have the three important phases of the Young Life strategy:

  • The emphasis on the direct and friendly contact with the high schooler. The emphasis on follow-up, follow-up, and follow-up.
  • The leaders; trained, skilled, dedicated people willing to put up with kids, to live and play with them.
  • The gracious, informal gospel meetings featured especially in our Young Life clubs, our camps and summer ranch programs.

There is much more to be said about Young Life strategy, but the most significant thing is not the technique or the people. It is, this true compassion that comes from above. Much of the gospel work today is hindered by the severity of its attitude toward the lost.

In Young Life, we try never to forget that Jesus ‘looked on the multitude and had compassion on them.’ We keep always before our minds that when He mingled with sinners, He did not condemn and judge. He treated them as friends. He longed for them to be His friends. We do too! He has led us that way. That is why a Young Life leader knows more young people than anybody in town. That is why he or she spends hours and hours sitting around soda fountains, going to ball games, wandering around the campus – doing things that may look kind of silly! But they are not silly, they are essential. We go where young people are. That is where they can come to understand a Christian leader and love him and respect him and want to listen to him.

Because we are dedicated to such principles, we will never become a statistically prominent movement, but we know of no other way to reach young people for the Lord and get results in lives that will stand the test of time. Already, in the first eleven years of our work, the Lord has honoured us with an outstanding host of young men and women who have been reached in high school and are taking a prominent place in Christian circles. Most of these would not even have heard the Gospel if the Young Life leader had not deliberately gone after them. The quality of these young witnesses across the nation is sufficient demonstration that God is doing a unique work through Young Life. Scores of these young people are vitally associated with us as staff and volunteer leaders, going after more kids like they were when they were in high school.

We feel no sense of superiority nor do we feel that we have a patent on a special kind of evangelising. We know that the Lord has used these methods in every age and throughout the world. But we also know that these truly scriptural methods for reaching the lost are sadly neglected in America today. We trust that more and more of God’s people will re-discover how basic and important it is to ‘walk in wisdom toward them that are without’ making friends and helping people for the glory of God and for the purpose of making known the Saviour and His love.

I hope that this brief review of some of Young Life’s methods will help you to understand better our work and explain it to others. Pray for us.

Sincerely in Him.

Jim Rayburn


This video will give you an overview of what Young Life does.

Download – The Heart of the Mission

Overcoming Fears in Contact Work

Adapted from an article submitted by Pam Moore

Contact work is the foundation of effective Young Life ministry. We must be willing to initiate relationships and to permeate the turf of high school young people today. We must be willing to do this with all kinds of young people, many of whom are radically different from ourselves. Often the initial reaction of our leaders to this concept is one of fear. It is a scary thing, this whole notion of contact work. We are doing cross‑cultural ministry. We are crossing boundaries and breaking down walls and stereotypes. We are going into the battlefield and that is uncomfortable. We would be naive to think it would be otherwise.

But there are some tips that can help us move forward in spite of our fears in order to further the work of God’s Kingdom. We must ask ourselves, what exactly are our fears and what are the steps that can help us overcome them?


1. What are our Fears in Doing Contact Work?

Some of the most common ones mentioned by leaders are as follows:

  • Teens will reject us.
  • We as leaders won’t know how to relate or won’t know what to talk about.
  • Teens will think we are boring.
  • We won’t know how to move the conversation below the surface.
  • We won’t know how to be ourselves; we will feel self‑conscious or try to emulate someone else (another leader).
  • Teens won’t notice us if we are shy
  • We will make fools of ourselves or draw attention to ourselves, particularly if we are outgoing.
  • We will forget names of those we have met.
  • Teens will think we are weird. They will wonder why we are there. And they may even wonder why we do not hang around people our own age.

All these fears are real. And yet to raise our level of consciousness of these and any other fears we might have is the first step in being able to move forward.


2. How do we Overcome these Fears?

  • We need to remind ourselves every time we step onto a campus or spend time with a young person that the reality is – young people are dying for adult friends. They are looking for healthy role models that they can respect, admire and confide in. Don’t underestimate your role. Don’t be intimidated. Young people desperately want your friendship. It’s often with the young people you least expect that the Lord will work most dramatically.
  • Have confidence in the One who calls you to those young people. Remember Christ and the reality of His presence in you, with you and for you. He will give you confidence as you trust Him and take risks regularly.
  • Remember that with all of your faults and shortcomings, you are still His choice for those young people. He will show Himself through you: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not us,” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
  • As for what to talk about, the key is to remember to make them the experts. Ask things that the teens can talk about freely (their sports, their families, their friends).
  • Remember to be a good listener. Learn to ask leading and open‑ended questions. Learn to ask about the feelings behind what they are saying. Learn to listen attentively and to show empathy and compassion.
  • Demonstrate an attitude of acceptance and delight in knowing them. Practice the art of making young people feel special and loving them into their potential. That takes the touch of God’s Spirit in our own lives.
  • Always let young people know you are at school primarily because of them, not because of Young Life. We are friends, not recruiters. Be willing and available to go deeper and to be one who challenges kids.
  • Demonstrate servanthood in practical ways by offering rides, helping with school. This communicates loudly.
  • We need to individualise friendships, which means we need to limit the number of close relationships. Constantly have an attitude of going deep and wide. We go deep with a handful of young people and wide with many on campus. There are always new young people to meet and to befriend.

Never forget the importance of these four aspects of contact work:

  • Regularity.
  • Visibility.
  • Availability.
  • Accountability.
Download – Overcoming Fears in Contact Work