Responding to Crisis: Knowing Where to Get Help / Refer to Support Services

By Glyn Henman

Working with people is always a messy business because we are people, and young people are no different and that is what makes Young Life both fun and challenging. In recognising this, we need to understand that we are not in a position to provide suitable care for every possible situation that we encounter.

As a result, we need to be aware of our limitations in the service that we provide young people. We are not health care professionals, we are not mental health professionals, and we are not professional counsellors or family therapists. We are concerned adults who believe that all young people need to be introduced to Jesus by someone they know and trust.

When do things get beyond the service that Young Life provides?

Situations that often go beyond the realm of Young Life’s expertise are: drug addiction, eating disorders, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, criminal activity, depression, suicide, homelessness etc… All of these plus many other issues may fall outside the skill level and capacity of individual leaders and Area Directors. At that point, you need to know what to do and where to turn for help.

What do I do when the issue is bigger than I can handle?

  1. Tell the young person you are working with that you will need to get outside advice on what to do next. This builds trust with the young person.
  2. Go and speak with your Senior Leader or Area Director. They often have had more experience and will know if outside help is required.
  3. Develop an action plan with your Senior Leader or Area Director and share that plan with the young person you are working with. Depending on the issue, you may need to include parents in the action plan.
  4. Action the plan together and involve the suitable external services as required.

Note: Young Life Australia Policy states it is mandatory to report all cases of sexual or physical abuse against a young person. Failure to report in some states and territories is a criminal offence. If you sense that a young person is about to disclose this type of information, you need to inform them of your responsibilities before they disclosure.

What services should I seek out?

  1. Local GP: Establish a relationship with a trusted GP in your community. This relationship will pay huge dividends on physical health issues in general and may be a first point of call for mental health issues etc.
  2. Community and Family Services: This office will be able to provide correct procedures and responsibilities for reporting abuse of young people in your state or territory. The how, when and why will be covered. Each state and territory will need to be acquainted with local laws.
  3. Police: Often they have a Youth Liaison Officer who deals with youth and community issues dealing with young people.
  4. Accommodation: Research any crisis, medium or long-term accommodation facilities in your community for young people who find themselves homeless.
  5. Professional Counsellors: Research any youth and family counsellors operating in your community.
  6. Local Council: They often have a youth interagency meeting once a month, where all the local youth agencies meet together to share information. Many also have a community grants program to help support local work.
  7. Phone Help Lines: These are not only useful for young people, but can be great resource for you in your leadership. There are some of these numbers listed on the web page. and click on resources.
  8. School: The school you are working in may already have many of these relationships established so that may be a good place to start. If they do not have this established, it may be a great way to serve the school by compiling this information.
  9. Church: Some local churches have set up community support programs that you can tap in too. They may also have suitable professionals in their congregation who may become an invaluable resource for specific areas of training for you and your area.
Download – Responding to Crisis

A Prayer Strategy for Club

Adapted from an article written by Kit Sublet

“Prayer is surely one of the most spoken about and written about subjects in Christianity. Unfortunately, it is not the most acted upon subject in all Christian­ity. We constantly emphasize the impor­tance of prayer but seldom heed our own words. The quality of the staff (volunteer) reflects the quality of the individual’s time in his/her closet with the Saviour” From Back to the Basics by John Miller

I am sure all of us pray for our Young Life club. Without prayer, club is no more than an entertaining evening with some friends (if it is even that), and you are no more than a neat guy or gal who has an attractive personality. The power of prayer cannot be overstated. It powers our lives and empowers our ministry. When we are prayed up, we are instru­ments of the Holy Spirit finely sharpened and ready for spiritual warfare.

We all have a picture in our mind of what great Young Life ministry is sup­posed to look like ‑ energetic singing, amusing skits, winsome club talks and, of course, lots of contact work. It is possible, however, for all of these things to be tak­ing place ineffectively, because it lacks the power of having even one person pouring his or her heart out to Christ, asking for the salvation of the kids that are involved. Andrew Murray says, “God seeks intercessors. God has need of inter­cessors. God wonders at the lack of inter­cessors. Rest not till God see that you are one.”

What I am trying to say here is that we must be sure that prayer is every bit as much a priority as the rest of the pro­gram. Young Life has become so pro­gram-oriented and so specialized that we have a tremendous amount of gifted peo­ple. It is possible, and likely, to pull off what would technically be described as good ministry without ever praying. Something that has the appearance of godliness, but lacks the power.

So, what is the importance of prayer?

Prayer ‑ secret, fervent, believing prayer ‑ lies at the root of all personal godliness.” (William, Carey)

It is the key ingredient to the recipe for a successful ministry.

Has anything new been said about prayer? Of course not! However, is it pos­sible to begin new prayer practices that will empower our ministry and help pro­duce eternal fruit for the kingdom? Yes, definitely. But, like everything in Young Life, we need a plan. We plan certain talks for certain times of the year; we plan our music to bring kids out of their shell and enhance the message; we plan skits to show that Christianity can be fun; and we even have three levels of contact work. Doesn’t it make sense then, that if prayer is the most important ele­ment of our ministry, it should have a plan as well?

Following are some possible plans and strategies you might be led to try:

  • Pray for a manageable number.  Whether this means separating the names on your club list throughout the week or throughout the leadership team ‑ keep it reasonable and specif­ic.
  • Pray them through these basic lists:
    1. Kids you don’t know: Start with a list of kids you would like to meet. Pray. Hopefully, they do not stay on this list too long.
    2. Kids you’ve met: Pray for an oppor­tunity to get together.
    3. Kids you spend time with: Pray that the conversations will eventually reach beyond the surface level of getting ‑to know one another.
    4. Intimate relationships: Pray for an opportunity to share your life with them.
    5. Meeting Christ: Pray for them to give their lives to Christ.
  • Assemble a group of committed mums and dads who are sold out to the idea of praying daily for a list of kids that you give them, and to meeting once a week together for prayer. (Preferably during the hour your club is meeting.)
  • Keep a prayer notebook.
    1. Don’t casually promise to pray for someone or something. Make a seri­ous commitment and record the requests and results.
    2. The blessing in prayer is to be able to look back and recognize how God chose to answer the requests.
  • Have a prayer partner. Meet weekly with another person to pray solely for the team and for kids. The partnership will keep you accountable and comes with a promise, “for where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst,” Matthew 18:20.
  • Keep kids’ names in front of you: on bookmarks, on the back of the visor in your car, on the refrigerator. Create constant reminders to be an intercessor.
  • Don’t forget to pray during club and have others pray on the night at home.

Remember, your prayer strategy need not consist of all, or even any, of these suggestions, but you need a systematic plan by which you lift up the individuals which God has placed in your care.

Download – A Prayer Strategy for Club

Why Go Camping?

Watch the clip below.  Alex served on the Young Life Staff and as a volunteer in Bathurst; Dylan is one of the young people we had the honour of walking with during his high school years.  The clip is based upon a discussion between Alex and Dylan; it shows Dylan’s experiences and highlights with us, and shows the importance of taking young people on camping and shared experiences.

Why Get Kids to Camp?? – by Alex Cuttiford

I asked Dylan to think about his last 3 years with Young Life and to write down his top 10 experiences. What he wrote revealed to me the fruit of the process Young Life has.

Dylan’s Number 1 experience was when Mel demonstrated how to go to the toilet in the bush on Newnes camp 2013.  Why? because it was hilarious!

His Number 2 experience was P’ish having to come get Dale out of bed every morning on Summer Camp 2015.  Why? because he used a different instrument each time.

Number 3 – when Bon Jovi “Living on a Prayer” was played at summer camp 2015 and everyone sang along.

Number 4 –  picking John up in his swag at the Lake Lyell Ski Trip 2015 and dropping him on top of P’ish. Why? to start a prank war with John.

Number 5 –  the first time I came to club and met Alex, Heather, Josh, Lloyd, John, Rachel, Christie, Adrian, Eric, Sam and Tal. Why? because the relationships I have with the people mentioned above have been amazing even if some haven’t been for long.

Number 6 – having wrestling match with Tim C. at Newnes 2014 because it went for ages and I almost won.

Number 7 – fire breathing by the 2 Tim’s. Why? it’s not every day you get to see people do that.

Number 8 –  the amazon game at Summer Camp 2015 when the girl’s had to try and break the grip of the guy’s. Why? the team work of the guys was amazing until P’ish and Adrian came and pulled us apart.

Number 9 – me, Tal and Ty water skiing at Summer Camp 2014 on the back of the V8 boat and getting thrown 20m at near full speed.

Number 10 –  the leaders especially Alex, Pish, John and Heather because there always there when you need them, helping with things like education, lift’s, becoming a better person, leading me towards Jesus and helping me understand the Bible.

Number 11 – being baptised

Dylan has just mentioned 16 different people in 11 experiences, 9 out of 11 experiences happened on a camp, the other 2 where about the relationships he had with leaders and the support they gave him.

Why do we go camping? Because Young Life is a relational ministry and camping is the door we walk kids through to offer it.

Young Life Australia Ministry Model

Please watch the clip below explaining the Young Life Ministry Model.

This is a key document! We recommend that you download and print this document and have it somewhere that you view it often.  You’ll also notice that it’s in the Young Life Essentials toolbar on the right-hand side of the page.

Download – Ministry Model

Club Components

Go to the Young Life Leaders Blog for some great ideas on each of the components discussed below!

Effective Announcements

  • Announcements are the vehicle we use for communicating upcoming attractions. Many of these events are key to our relationship building and proclamation. Therefore, announcements should be heard, remembered and ignite enthusiasm.
  • Typically, there is one “Big Event” a team is selling. It is good to preface the announcement related to this event with a short run‑on or skit that motivates kids to want to find out the details.
  • To get kids to remember dates, it is helpful to make up a rhyme or slogan and ask them to repeat it each week, i.e., “August 3‑9, I’m There!”
  • Create a sense of urgency to respond to your invitation soon.
  • Sometimes momentum can be generated by prompting Campaigners to raise their hands in response to the question, “Who’s going?” following the announcement of an event.
  • “So what?” is also a good question to answer. Tell them the benefits of their participation.
  • Since kids will forget most of what is announced at club, it is helpful after the speaker closes in prayer for him or her to highlight any announcements that require attention after club like singing up for something, picking up a brochure, filling out a club card, etc.
  • Sell things far enough ahead to build momentum, but not so far they are uninterested.

Effective Icebreakers and Mixers

Since a club is made up of kids from a variety of groups who may or may not know each other, it is sometimes helpful to incorporate a mixer or ice‑breaker into the club program.

A mixer is a game in which everyone participates and demands each kid interact with at least one other, if not everyone in the room. This “connection” with the other participants creates a feeling of safety for what will follow. They feel like they are all in this thing together.

An ice‑breaker is a quick, funny way to defuse the crowd and put everyone at ease. In this case, kids don’t have to interact with others, but instead share a common laugh.

  • Though not essential, sometimes it can be helpful to have a team of student leaders kick off club with a mixer. Since they are initiators rather than the volunteers, other kids may feel more free to follow their lead. Obviously student leaders must be the right kids.
  • Make the activity more fun than threatening.
  • Be sure the instructions are clear and well‑heard; otherwise, no one will want to participate for fear of failure.
  • Test the idea yourself before doing it so you are sure to lead it effectively. Be sure to have the right props.

Effective Walk-Ons

A run‑on is a short skit that interrupts the flow of club. It can be a one‑shot deal or a skit that is built on for several weeks running. It can be used to sell an event or just get a quick laugh. A continuous run‑on creates an air of anticipation for what is coming as kids look forward to the next act.

Weekly Run-Ons

  • The characters should be clearly defined and easy to stereotype.
  • Some of the dialogue should be repeated each week so the kids can say the lines along with the characters.
  • Each episode should build toward a finale.
  • It is effective, where desired, for the underdog to experience victory in the finale.
  • Don’t drag it out ‑ either by over‑milking individual episodes, or by carrying it out for more than six or seven episodes.
  • Pick an appropriate theme song to kick off the run‑on so kids know its coming and get quiet for the dialogue.

One-Time Interupters

  • Come in suddenly, unannounced, even interrupting a song sometimes.
  • Be well‑rehearsed: A few well‑chosen lines are better than rambling dialogue (often a consequence of inadequate preparation).
  • Be short: Quit while they are wanting more.
  • Dazzle them with visuals: either some memorable costumes, I‑can’t‑believe‑they‑just‑did‑that antics, a goofy face, or by using humorous props (i.e. a bucket of water that’s really confetti).

Effective Skits

Historically, the reasons we do skits at club are as follows:

  • laughter helps break down barriers;
  • skits show humorous side of leaders;
  • kids up front invites participation for all;
  • they focus a diversity of kids on a common experience;
  • done well, they portray a commitment to excellence, which communicates caring.

Introduce the skit with a creative idea that gets everyone’s attention (funny costumes are good for this). You want kids excited about the skit before it ever takes place.

Involve a cross‑section of the kids in club (don’t use the same ones each week). Limit the number of Campaigners in skits.

Be crystal clear to the participants and the audience what the point of the skit is, and how it will run. A prerequisite of this is thoroughly thinking through the best way to run the skit.

Make sure every member of the audience is involved (cheering for their team, letting them in on the punch line, judging).

Never bore the audience. If you have props to set up or costumes to put on the participants, do it during a song. Don’t allow for any “dead” time.

Be sure the MC is loud and speaks to the audience, not just to the participants.

Be certain everyone in the room has an unobstructed view of the skit.

Protect the floor, walls, and participants’ hair and clothing from damage. Damage is never funny, always distracting and doesn’t depict excellence.

Honour the participants with a funny prize, or at least a round of applause. Make all participants feel like winners!

Be creative ‑ make audience say, ‘Wow”

Thinking through Skits

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

  • Skits need to be in good taste.
  • The whole purpose is to have fun!!
  • Usually short: 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Keep them moving ‑ don’t let it drag.
  • Never crude or in poor taste.
  • Never make humorous references to the spiritual aspect of club.
  • Skits help to break down barriers.
  • Use many different kids.
  • Be very careful about involving new kids.
  • We don’t want kids to feel humiliated.
  • Be creative.
  • Walk through the skit in your head. Think through what could go wrong.
  • Don’t become predictable.
  • Let Campaigner kids take ownership.
  • Teach Campaigners how to think through skits. Make them successful up front.
  • Always be prepared.
  • If you are going to really mess someone up in the skit, you may want to clue him or her in beforehand.
  • Make up a “skit bag:” drop cloth, paper towels, emergency skit, etc.

Download – Club Components

Download – Effective Song Leading & Song Selection

40 Ways to Get Kids to Camp

  1. Develop prayer list of possible kids.
  2. To get 35, you need 100 on list.
  3. Pray by name for kids daily.
  4. Get local “pray-ers” to pray for kids.
  5. Enlist previous campers to bring friends.
  6. Announce summer camp in club all year.
  7. Talk to kids one on one.
  8. Inform sports coaches, or school administrators about camp, camp dates, etc.
  9. Have parents give down payment as Christmas present.
  10. Have signup sheet for every kid remotely interested at club.
  11. Be prepared to answer key question: “Who is going?”
  12. Be aware of competing activities.
  13. Build year‑to‑year tradition.
  14. Build camp price around 30 paying kids if it is a trip of 35.
  15. Keep an on-going list of who has been asked. A kid who says no in October may become available in December.
  16. Keep selling camp until trip leaves.
  17. Show video in homes one on one ‑or to groups of non‑club kids.
  18. Go to homes to pick up deposits.
  19. Kids are not signed up until you have a substantial deposit.
  20. Find out what activity kids are inter­ested in and highlight that activity at camp.
  21. Get Campaigners praying for lost friends, younger students.
  22. Find out what lies behind a “no.” If a kid says he/she can’t afford it, ask if he/she would go if the money was raised. Remove obstacles in an imagi­nary fashion first, and if he or she responds affirmatively, then work with him/her to remove the obstacle. Remember, only 10% of kids who say they will go next year actually do.
  23. Summer camp looks great when the winter weather is miserable.
  24. Never allow money to be an issue. Plan effective camp fundraisers.
  25. Tell kids sincerely, “I am looking for­ward to being with you.”
  26. Get camp dates to kids early to beat holiday and family vacations.
  27. For kids to go, you must go.
  28. Have pre‑camp get-togethers for signed‑up kids and potentials (BBQ’s, pool parties, volleyball, etc.).
  29. Kids sell kids better than we do.
  30. We must believe it will be the “greatest week in kids’ lives.”
  31. Committee and other parents must be sold on camp for their kids to go.
  32. Plan and pray with the goal that Young Life camp becomes the most attractive kid’s activity in your com­munity.
  33. Never sell camp to the point of jeopardizing­ your relationship with that kid.
  34. Personally talk with five kids per week about camp.
  35. Sell summer camp on a weekend trip.
  36. With Campaigners, give vision:
    • you can affect lives for eternity
    • you can be like junior leaders before, during, after camp
    • you will see God do great things
    • pray for friends by name starting now
    • develop their own “yes, maybe, no way” list.
  37. With leaders, give vision:
    • what will this mean for their lives?
    • how will their ministry look next year?
  38. You are the camp manager for your kids.
  39. Show camp video after club for new kids.
  40. Don’t ask for commitments to go from kids in a group situation. Always ask for a commitment one on one.
Download – 40 Ways to Get Kids to Camp

Responsibilities of a Leader

Before Club:

Arrive Early – about an hour

  • Not to plan club (it’s already been laid out ahead of time)
  • Get organised – order of the meeting, skit, etc. (have it in writing)
  • Last minute preparation
  • Prepare the room (talk about homes)
  • Beat the kids there – be ready when the first one arrives so you can hang out.
  • Pray together before the chaos begins.

Patrol – help outside

  • Park cars
  • Keep kids from getting hurt
  • Greet kids outside
  • Meet parents
  • Have new kids fill out club cards (address and other information).

Hear Brian Summerall share about the start of club.

During Club:

  • Do your assigned job – be ready and practiced.
  • When not involved spread out and help control kids by sitting with them.
  • Don’t be up front unless involved.
  • Don’t take away from who’s up front by drawing attention to yourself.
  • Sing enthusiastically, laugh, pay attention.
  • Draw kids into the singing, tease them into clapping.
  • Be alert to any crisis, keep kids inside, don’t let them throw things.

After Club:

Visit with kids

  • Tell them you’re glad they were there
  • Be available to answer questions
  • Take time to give yourself to them
  • Leave to do contact work with them
  • Set up a time to hang out with them later in the week.

Get kids home

  • Again, be outside to patrol.  This is a good time to meet parents and to provide safety.
  • Don’t leave while kids are still there, whether you meet at homes or another place.
  • Clean up
    • Not until kids leave
    • Everyone help.

If at a home, be sure to vacuum, take rubbish with you and say THANK YOU!

Download – Responsibilities of a Leader

Teams / Committees or Mission Communities?

Article taken from Young Life Front Range Region Area Development Day Handbook


“Among the large number who had become the leaders there was complete agreement of the heart and soul.  Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own, but everything was common property.  The apostles continued to give their witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great force, and a wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship.  Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them.”

Acts 4:32-34 – JB Phillips

For purposes of our prayerful investigation as people in ministry, let us consider a few of the differences between the traditional view of a committee or team and the Biblical concept of the mission community.  This should serve as a yardstick for where we are in our respective relationships with any team in our area of responsibility.  As we can see by the subsequent picture, the difference is primarily characterised by two ways of thinking.  The first one tends to exalt the importance of the task and getting it done at any cost.  Efficiency and being self sufficient are some of the traits.  The second communicates the importance of maximising the individual, the fellowship and their relationship with Christ as well as to one another … at all cost to the program or organisational tasks.  The inherent assumption is that by first being concerned with people, effective program and tasks will be accomplished.  [This is not always the case, however, especially when the closeness of relationship does not result in accountability.  We must be on our guard for spiritual laziness, which can sometimes develop in mission communities]

Level Of Commitment

Committee / Team: Primarily task orientated.  “Let’s get to work and get home”.

Mission Community: “The people of God before we do the work of God”.  The task is important but it is superseded by the importance of internationalized fellowship, a sense of community, mutual love, respect and encouragement.

Involvement Of The Whole Person

Committee / Team: People are seen in terms of what they can do for us and the organisation (ie fundraise, PR work, teaching etc.).

Mission Community: The whole person is viewed in the context of his or her involvement.  Therefore, family, job, interests, etc. are important in knowing the person and understanding what their gifts and capabilities are and what would most challenge maximise and fulfil them.

Frequency Of Meetings

Committee / Team: A commitment that is limited to “getting the job done”.

Mission Community: Meetings as often as needed so that the group can grow together and effectively carry out the function of ministry within a community.  There would be much “intra-group” meetings as two or three members would be gathering together for fellowship and working at the task.

Method Of Assignments

Committee / Team: Delegation.  “We need to get this job done.  Who will take it?”  Many times pressure is applied to coerce people to task regardless of their proficiency or interest.  Guilt is frequently a factor involved.

Mission Community: Self-assignment with group feedback.  “Is this the best way for this person to grow in Christ and be maximised?”  There is a considerable degree of ownership by both the group and the individual involved in the task.  When delegation is done, it’s in context to the gifting, interests, talents and heart of the individuals.

Responsibility For Success

Committee / Team: A low sense of responsibility and accountability often represented in a desire to hold others accountable and to make decisions for others to do but not a feeling of mutual accountability within the group itself.

Mission Community: “We are in this together.  We stand or fall together.  This is our ministry”.  There is a high degree of accountability within the group.

Task Assignment And Spiritual Gifts

Committee / Team: The needs of the institution or ministry determine the needs of the program (ie funds must be raised, more people recruited etc.).

Mission Community: The gifts and needs of the members are taken into account.  There is a real belief that the real task is not the work but it is the investing into the people, the community.  This is done not only by a ministry to the community at large but by considering the needs of the persons within the committee that they might be maximised in their own growth.  Assignments will cause people to depend on Christ more and therefore experience him at new levels.

A Sense Of Work

Committee / Team: It is a job to do, a banquet to be “put on” and other responsibilities that would be incumbent upon the group to carry out and keep the ministry going.

Mission Community: The whole is representative of a ministry to Jesus Christ where members primary functions are serving, encouraging and enhancing.  Rightly understood a member of a mission community, in any ministry, would see their function as “doing the work”.  We would be involved in relational ministry of building, equipping and loving people where they are in an unconditional way.

Spiritual Dimension

Committee / Team: Little concern for the Spiritual life and vitality of the people involved.  That’s really between them and the Lord … “We’ve got a job to do here”.

Mission community: A deep concern for the spiritual welfare of the individuals involved which supersedes the concern for the task itself, and interest in calling forth gifts and encouraging the ministries of the respective members.  The goal would be that people would be enabled for greater ministry so that when they would leave the ministry they would have a stronger relationship with Christ and a deeper understanding of their own gifts and functions in the Body of Christ.

How do we get from a committee / team to a mission community?  We must initially evaluate where our committee or teams are in terms of this spectrum; having initially evaluated we must consider some important questions in moving from many of the committee ways of thinking to those of the mission community.  This may take a good deal of time to make the transition, but we should carefully consider how we will ask people on the team or committee, what kind of training of new people needs to be done, what kind of relational support is needed to develop a mission community / team and what kind of structures besides meetings should be considered.  Such as going away for a weekend together, Bible study or prayer breakfasts, greater involvement in other serving and enriching opportunities.

One final caution ought to be considered.  There can be a tendency to identify the task as being “bad” and the relationship as being “good”.  There are inherent dangers in each.  In the task network the obvious tension of operating entirely on a business level, which would seem impersonal and inconsistent with our ministry is obviously existent.  The spiralling focus of the tasks many times can burn out and “use” people.  However, the danger of the relationship network is that a group can become inwardly centred to such a degree that we get into sharing and not serving.  Many times we see in a committee / team that younger people will tend to be relationally orientated and older ones will generally tend to be task orientated.  We need both types very much and both will help the balance of being a growing family of believers as well as a vital giving serving ministering community in the name of Jesus Christ.

Leadership from a Servant Perspective

Submitted by Les Comee


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.


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