Levels of Contact Work

Adapted from articles by Neil Atkinson, Dick Langford and various other Young Life veterans


The Three Levels of Contact Work

  1. Being seen at school affairs and wherever teens are. It is important for the leader seeking to build friendships to express his/her inter­est by attending events that are important to the teenager. This could be a school play, athletic event or practice session, or some other activity in which they are engaged. It could be a shopping centre, or street corner, or park. The leader might not say anything to anyone, but his or her presence there speaks of interest. It is good to remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “We preach Jesus Christ and, when necessary, we use words.”
  1. Conversing with a young person. Before long the leader must step up to this second level and actually talk with someone. If he goes on just hanging around, suspicions will grow about his purposes. Real friendships can be built only through communication, and this communication must be more than an occasional “Hi!” We must remember to look at things from a young person’s point of view and learn to speak about things which are of interest to him or her.
  1. Enjoying activities with young people. Of course, this is the finest way to get to know a young person. Fast friend­ships are built when we live one of life’s experiences with him or her. Suggestions follow:

Water and snow ski trips, fishing trips, college and professional athletic events, golf, having young people over for lunch or after a game, telephone vis­its, working on school projects or dec­orations, slumber parties, parade float building, touch football and pickup athletic events, weekend trips to the beach or mountains or cities, bicycling, handball, swimming, bowl­ing, weight lifting, chaperoning school events, athletic officiating, visiting a college or university, music (give gui­tar lessons or take lessons from teens, listen to their group practice), arts.

Leaders should use their imagina­tions and be constantly on the look­out for activities, which they may share with young people.

Established Clubs Need a Larger Picture.

Besides the three levels, we need to have in mind three categories of high school people. Think of it as a series of circles. The small circle consists of Campaigners. The Campaigners are the smallest segment of a high school popu­lation. A larger circle surrounding the Campaigners is the circle of club attendees. Club attendees make up the next largest seg­ment with which we have contact. The last group of young people, by far the largest, is the non‑club attendees. These are individuals, who for one reason or another, don’t come to Young Life.


As Young Life leaders, we need to inten­tionally make contact with teens in each of the three categories: Campaigners, club attendees and non‑club young people.  What fre­quently happens is that contact work is done with Campaigners and club attendees and is not done with non‑club kids on a regular basis. Seldom, if ever, do we get to level three contact work. Many Young Life leaders do nothing with non‑club attendees, not even converse. No wonder clubs don’t expand! We need to go back to rela­tionship development and get to non­-club kids at level three. We have to do something with them.

When Do We Do Contact?

In order to be effective, we must be regular in our approach to teens. It might mean going when we don’t feel like it. It is essential that a leader do contact weekly. Vary the time and type of your con­tacts. Do not give the young people the idea that you are there to build your own ministry or event. On the other hand, consistent attendance for a certain sport you are targeting can help provide the trust needed to develop relationships.

Download – The Signature of Young Life – Part II

What is Campaigners?

Campaigners (discipleship groups / small groups) are traditionally a group of students committed to growing in their relation­ship with Christ and sharing this rela­tionship with others.  Whilst going through this section, consider those young people you are currently working with.  Are there any that haven’t yet made a commitment, but are interested in finding out more?  Are there any you seen have leadership potential and enjoy being with you?  If you don’t have a group of young people who have made a commitment, consider starting a group with a group of young people who are willing and wanting to meet with you more regularly and model to them what a small group is all about – pray for them and see what The Lord does with you and them in the context of a small group.

Committed to a Group

God works through a group, a “body,” a team – His Church. We learn about our­selves and His love for others as we live and work together.

Committed to Growing

As leaders, we recognise that kids are in different places in their journey with Christ. Keeping this in mind, Campaigners is still for those who desire to grow in their faith. In club, we aim at the lowest common denominator. The club message is basic so the kid far­thest away might understand. In Campaigners, however, we are running with the big dogs. Although our Campaigners will be at various levels of commitment to Christ, this is still a time for those who want to be challenged to grow spiritually.

Committed to Sharing

Our growth in Christ will show itself in our love for others. Campaigners is more than simply gaining biblical knowledge, although it most definitely includes this. As we grow, we will want to reach out to others. Campaigners are our student leaders, the backbone for our club work.

Mark 12:28‑31: “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘of all the commandments, which is the most important?’”

“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.””

The heart and soul of Campaigners should be to help students (and our­selves) obey the great commandment:

  • to love God above all else, and with everything we have and are
  • to love our neighbours ‑ families, friends, peers, those of various backgrounds and cultures, the less fortunate ‑ as ourselves

But this doesn’t just happen.

Good teachers take time to design lesson plans.

Good coaches take time to prepare their strategy for game day.

Good builders work closely with their blueprints.

Good Campaigner leaders

  • are motivated out of their love for Christ and His truth.

  • are going somewhere. They have a plan and are working on it.

  • are developing their own leader­ship and discipleship skills.

  • are prayerfully dependent on the Lord to produce His fruit.

Begin With the End in Mind

  • Your discipleship will take the shape of whatever you believe to be your goal.
  • For some this goal is informational. “If we can just get Campaigners to read the Bible and learn biblical truths, we have succeeded.
  • For others the goal is sharing. “Our teenagers need adults who create a safe place for them to be able to talk about what they are feeling in a non‑judgmen­tal setting.”
  • Still others may see the goal of Campaigners as building the Young Life club at their school. “Kids need a form of outreach to learn how to serve the Lord among their peers and club provided the opportunity.”

Each of these goals is worthwhile. Our discipleship needs to be marked by bibli­cal teaching, open sharing of who we are and the challenge to walk our talk among our friends and family. But none of these is the primary goal of our time together.

The primary goal of Campaigners is to help students love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbours as them­selves.

This is the great commandment. The great commandment warrants our great­est attention. It is the end that we must keep in mind as we set out.

How does Campaigners help us love God and others? By giving us a true understanding of the One we worship and our need for God (biblical literacy). By allow­ing us to know the Lord’s healing and compassion (honest sharing). And by giv­ing us opportunities to live out our faith in an unbelieving world (service and mis­sion).

When setting out to lead a Campaigner group, remember the end we have in mind is to love God with all that we are and to love others more. Keep asking yourself, “How does this help my friends love God and others more?” Begin with this end in mind!

Taken from the Campaigner Handbook.

Download – What is Campaigners?

Young Life in 30 Seconds

You will be asked so often, “What is Young Life“?  This brief video below will give you an overview and the Young Life in 30 Seconds document will help you answer that question!

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 – Young Life in 30 Seconds

Neighbourhood and School Research

Neighbourhood and School Research

1. Get to know the school and community in which you will work.

  • Size of school.
  • Intensity of school spirit.
  • Economic, social and racial strata within the school.
  • See who the school leaders are. Read the school paper or yearbook, and be sensitive to changing or new areas – positive or negative ‑where leaders are involved.

2. Learn as many names as possible. Keep a list.

  • Follow the athletic programs in the local papers.
  • Cheek to see who on the faculty might be sympathetic to Young Life.
  • Learn any special ground rules for visitors on the campus.
  • Get the school calendar of events and activities.
  • Find out what other clubs are operating, especially other Christian organisations like Scripture Union and Youth Dimensions. Meet
  • with them to determine if there is a need for Young Life as an additional ministry.
  • Be aware of any local high school customs or local slang words and their meanings.
  • Invite local congregations and individual Christian people to begin praying for specific students. And by all means, have your own prayer strategy!

3. Public relations contacts.

  • Make sure local law enforcement agencies know of your work (local Police).
  • Call on school administrators with staff and local committee members or adult friends. Be positive and open to them. We are there to give information, not to seek their endorsement. Answer their questions concerning purpose, support, endorsement, church relations, program, and personnel.
  • Find out what other agencies and churches in the community are at work with young people. Get to know and pray with the leadership of these groups if possible.
  • Carefully plan to meet the parents of the students whose friendship you make in the early stages of club development, explaining the program and answering questions. Also, check out your own attitudes toward parents. Are these open? Respectful?
  • By showing them the proper respect, seek to get to know school officials, coaches and sponsors as friends so they understand why you are frequently there.

Guiding Thoughts

1. Keep clearly in mind that our goal is that every young person should have the opportunity to see and hear of God’s love for him/her in Christ through what we do and say.

2. We must be aware of influential teens within different groupings. If we touch these students, we may have the potential of touching others. If we ignore them, we may automatically ignore many who would have been influenced by them.

The key teen concept was based on a sound theological principle. It also has been the target of much criticism over the years. Our call first and foremost is to every young person and we must use whatever strategy possible to reach every teen for Christ. In some schools, the teens who traditionally would have been Young Life key teens are actually the objects of ridicule and scorn. We should love teens unconditionally and offer Christ to all.

3. Most important of all, we must seek to be led of the Holy Spirit. The Lord will often lead us to people who do not seem to be key teens. Many times these will turn out to be the real disciples.

4. You are representing Christ before teens; therefore, it is essential that you are not always with the socially “in” crowd. To spend quality time with all sorts of young people and groups is good. This example is worth a thousand words at club. Your treatment of the “least of these” will prove who you really are.

5. Adult volunteers who come to club but do not do contact work are not Young Life leaders. They might be “club specialists,” but the required behaviour to be a Young Life leader is contact work.

Download – The Signature of Young Life

A Checklist for Running a Local Camp

Although Summer Camp is often seen and spoken about as the pinnacle of the Young Life calendar, each area should be attending or running 3 – 4 local camps / year.

The camps could be run with other nearby areas, they could be run with multiple clubs from your town or city, or they could be aimed at a few key teens you’re working work.

Examples include running a Wyld Life Camp, or a Discipleship Camp, hiring a couple of cabins near a lake, taking tents and setting them up and going hiking for the weekend, doing a canoe trip … the list is endless! 

Why local camping?

  • Helps growth of relationships with the teens you’re working with
  • Novel environment and experiences strengthen relationships and understanding
  • Another avenue for discipleship without the many of the worlds distractions.
  • You can target a certain group of teens you’re working with.
  • You can target a certain need.
  • You can build closer community with teens / leaders in your club or area.
  • Costs can be greatly reduced

What are things you need to think about before you run a local camp?

Who?Who is your target group?
Why?What do you want to achieve with the group?
What?What kind of activity are you going to use?
Day trip? Camping? Activity based? Discipleship or Evangelistic?
When?When is it happening?
Where?Where is the best place to achieve your goals?
Transportation Needs?
Distance for time
How much?What are all the costs involved in doing the camp (accommodation, transport, food, activities, programme, equipment)?
What is my price range?
Other Factors to ConsiderHow are you going to publicise the camp?
Who is going to do program? No need to go big and flash (a simple programme doesn’t mean we skimp on doing everything we do with excellence), unless you want to, what type of program is going to meet your goals for the camp? The value is in spending time with the kids.
What equipment do you need and where are you going to get it? Plan your programme and go through it step by step so you know you have everything you need-don’t get yourself in the position of having to find things for a game after you are at camp
Who are the leaders who are committed to going? Give them jobs to do and they will be there. Delegate jobs in the planning and at camp so people are engaged in the process, more ownership of the camp if they have contributed and are contributing (they feel more needed because they are needed).
Transportation? What transport do you need? Whose cars are going? Who are the drivers? Do they know where they are going? Maps? Do they know what staying together means? Do they know what responsible driving means?
Have you done a risk assessment of the camp?
Are you equipped to do the type of camp you are planning? Don’t do something you are not equipped to do (difference between stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what you are not equipped to do) example: White water canoeing, canyoning, caving, etc… with no qualifications.
Who is going to do the catering? What is needed to make it happen? Who is cooking? Who is buying? etc…
Who is qualified to do first aid? Do you have an equipped first aid kit? Who is bringing it?
Do you need a Work Crew? Who is recruiting the Work Crew? Who will train them? Who will be the bosses?
Have you had everyone fill out a Young Life Indemnity form?

Downloads to help you plan:

Local Camp Planner

Download – Local Camp Checklist

Camp Sell Calendar

Below is a snapshot of a year and the things you can be thinking about each month to get as many young people as possible to Summer Camp.

Camp Sell Calendar Download – Camp Sell Calendar

The Six C’s of Young Life

Before you begin to look at what we do, have a listen to these young people share about the way their Young Life leaders have impacted their lives.

Club Resources

We hope you find these resources useful.

Once you have completed the YL 101 course, you’ll have access to it as well in the Lesson: Resources.

Please note that these resources are Copyright to Young Life Australia; this means that you can use them for your use as a Young Life leader, but they can not be distributed to other youth or church organisations without first seeking approval from the National Office.

Download – Young Life Club Talks & Campaigner Lessons

Download – Young Life Club Talks

Download – Club Games Resource

All our young people attending club should be registered on Care Monkey, which your Area Manager will allocate access for.  If  a child attending is unable to complete a Care Monkey profile, one of these forms must be completed by their parents / guardians. Your local Area Manager will collect the completed forms.

Download – Club Consent Form

Who’s Who on Camp?

The roles below are predominately seen on Summer Camp, however when you are running local camps or regional camps, the different roles may also be utilised.  This document will be really helpful for you to come back to in the lead up to Summer Camp if you are not familiar in the way that camp runs, as the roles are referred to often.

Just a note – when you sign up for Summer Camp, you will be assigned one role.  Please keep this in mind as well when you are recruiting other volunteers for camp.

Before any volunteer attends camp, they must complete camp training, which can be found here on the YL Hub.  You can click on any of the buttons below to be taken to the training for the different roles.  You can complete the training at any time.

Cabin Leader Training

Summer Staff Training

Work Crew Training

Camp Roles

Camp Director: The Camp director oversees the whole camp and is responsible for the smooth running of camp. The camp director ensures that all the elements of camp are working together.

Program Directors: Responsible for the total camp program. The P.D.’s run the social interaction and fun part of the program etc . At all times however this should enhance the spiritual impact of the camp allowing quality times of interaction between cabin leaders and young people. The program director should be a facilitator of fun and not the centre of camper’s attention.

Head Cabin Leaders: This is a male and female role and entails the task of encouraging and uplifting the group leaders in their task of being with the campers and facilitating cabins leaders to succeed during the camp week.

Cabin Leaders: The cabin leader’s role in camp as far as the campers are concerned is a most significant role. They are the closest person to the kids. They eat, sleep, and play with them and model Jesus Christ to campers.

Camp Speaker: The person who has the tremendous opportunity to direct kids’ thoughts to their relationship to God. The presentation should be enjoyable, reasonable in length and most importantly, clear in understanding. The messages should be a springboard for leader/camper discussion and it is often helpful for the speaker to pose questions to be discussed in the cabin time.

Work Crew Boss: Oversees and has authority over the work crew team. The role also enables the “boss” to have a ministry to the work crew kids themselves in the serving capacity that this function entails.

Work Crew: The work crew serves the needs of campers from unpacking buses, serving meals and cleaning toilets. They are the engine room of camp.

Summer Staff Coordinator: Coordinates all Summer Staff positions on camp to assure the smooth running of all the extra activities. The coordinator plays a pastoral role with the Summer Staff.

Summer Staff: Summer Staff are responsible for the extra activities and may also serve in a supervisory role with Work Crew working in their areas of expertise. They often have jobs which include responsibility for camper safety such as abseiling, water sports, etc ….

Cooks: The all important task of preparing and presenting meals that kids will eat and enjoy. They have the task of obtaining the food required, keeping a list for future reference of food used and the cost.

Adult Guest Hosts: The Adult Guest hosts act as cabin leaders to any adult guests on camp. They ensure that the adult guests are having a great time and are getting involved in as many activities as possible.

Adult Guests: The Adult Guest program is used by areas to involve adults from the community in a Young Life camping experience. The adult guests may be people interested in supporting Young Life or who the staff would like to get interested in supporting Young Life, parents of kids in club, church members who want to know more about Young Life.

Download – Camp Roles

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