We asked Billy to share a little about his journey with music and Young Life.
"I first became involved in Young Life in high school when I was 15 years old. I had just become a Christian and had no idea what it meant to live that out in my life. I remember my Young Life leader, Jim, coming up to me randomly one day when I was kicking a soccer ball with my friends at school. From that day forward he became a constant presence in my world and helped me process who this Jesus was and what that meant to follow Him. A couple of years ago I told him, “Jim, I don’t remember all that you said to me or taught me during those years, but I remember that you were always there, no matter what, loving me and walking alongside me.”
I moved to Nashville, TN in 1999 for my music career. It had been years since I had been involved with Young Life, but I met and became friends with the Area Director here at the time. The Lord used that relationship to create opportunities for me to play at weekend camps, banquets and summer camps. I discovered that playing music wasn’t just about building a career, but that it could be a powerful tool in the hands of the Lord.
One of the great, humbling blessings of my life has been watching the Lord speak the Gospel into the hearts of high school students and leaders through my music; people from different cultural, socio-economic and faith backgrounds. We serve a God who is calling His kids home and I’m deeply grateful that He has let me be a small part of that story through Young Life.
I’m very excited about serving at Frontier Ranch this summer. Frontier is a special place for me. It is not only where I served on my first assignment, met my wife and built so many life-long relationships, but it is also where I have seen the Lord call thousands of people to step from death to life. It is holy ground."
I’ve worked with Billy numerous times and have loved every minute of it. His music has a depth and honesty to it that makes you want to lean in and soak it up. I can’t drive through Buena Vista, Colorado without putting “AM Radio” on the car stereo and rolling down the windows. His words, voice, and guitar playing always bring a smile to my face.
-Brian Summerall, Young Life Director of Ministry Strategy, Dallas, TX
Billy’s music is real, raw and connects with all kinds of people. He’s a storyteller that finds a way to weave truth, pain and God’s goodness into his lyrics. Billy is a listener. He adds wisdom and humor to every assignment.
-Jason Archer, Area Director, Young Life Wichita Falls
Have you ever felt like you lost control of a room?
It happens...at club, at Campaigners, and it might even happen on your upcoming bus ride to camp. What do we do when kids get out of hand? How do we respond when they go off the rails?
Sometimes it’s just something silly that might take them off track at Campaigners. But sometimes it’s more serious...like making fun of other kids, or distracting people during a Young Life talk, or just blatant displays of disrespect.
How do you address a middle, high school or college friend when this happens?
Below are four appeals you could make, but they all hinge on your relationship with the student. No matter what happens, I try to remind myself that if things aren’t going smoothly, going deeper relationally is my best next step.
The Four Appeals
If there’s a problem with someone (let’s call him Steve) I’ve learned that my best approach is to talk with him one on one at some point in the near future. I’ll typically try to do it right before our next meeting because the first time we meet should be fairly close to the first time they have to try out what I’m suggesting. I’ll ask him if we can grab dinner or a shake before our next campaigners.
It’s when we’re just hanging out that I’ll go to one of four appeals.
The Appeal to Leadership.
If I see a leadership gifting in Steve (and only IF) I’ll say, “Steve I really believe that you’ve been given a gift and that gift is leadership.” The truth is that often the kids that are taking folks off track have a real leadership gifting, but they’re misusing it. “Steve, I believe that God gives each of us gifts and I think you’ve got a pretty great one in you. I’ve seen how you can lead others and I’d love your help in leading Campaigners/cabin time. Here’s what we have planned.”
I’ll then go over our next Campaigners. Worst case - Steve is now going to go through Campaigners twice - with me one on one and later with the group. It’s a win even if it doesn’t totally connect. I’ll tell Steve that I’m hoping to get everyone involved and what I’m hoping people will walk away thinking about. This lets him understand that there really is a thoughtful plan behind what we’re doing and we’re not just sort of hanging out and talking a little about the Bible. At some point I’ll ask, “How do you think we can get other people involved?" or “What are some good questions that will help people discover the deeper meaning behind this?” As Steve helps me plan Campaigners, he’s getting invested in how it’s going to go and he’s naturally going to be more aware of how he’s interacting in the group.
It might not 100% stick on the first try, but I’ve never seen this hurt. Ideally, Steve asks if you can start meeting once a week to think through how to make Campaigners better and you’ve got a new discipleship relationship happening. You can take a relationship that’s hurting the group dynamics and turn it into one of your strongest relationships.
The Appeal to Friendship
Sometimes I’ll meet with someone and I honestly won’t see a natural or God-given leadership gifting in them. What I’ll do then is try to appeal to our friendship. “Steve, I’ve been a leader for the past two years and I’m really struggling with Campaigners right now. You’ve been around and always seem willing to help me with stuff, so I was wondering if you could help me out? I’m leading Campaigners later about X and thought maybe you could help me think through how to put this together in a way that will connect with folks and help us stay on topic.”
All you’re doing is asking a friend for some help, while also giving Steve two looks at Campaigners and an insider's view of what you go through when leading a group. Why would Steve know how to lead a group? It’s unlikely that he’s ever had to do it, so he wouldn’t naturally understand how annoying it is when people you’re trying to lead go off track. You’re basically appealing to him as a friend while also helping him to understand the point of why you are having campaigners.
The Appeal to Decency
Maybe you don’t know Steve well enough to know if he has a leadership gifting and you can’t really appeal to a friendship yet. That’s when you can simply use this time to get to know him a little better and also appeal to decency.
“Steve, I’d really like your help this week in a couple of areas. Do you remember when Sarah finally shared something last week? Do you remember your response?”
“Yeah, I made that joke that was hilarious.”
“How do you think Sarah felt about that? I grew up in a house where we kind of joked around with each other, but not everyone has that same background. I’m really hoping Sarah can come out of her shell and share more at Campaigners, but I’m afraid she’s unlikely to if you’re always dominating the conversation or you make fun of her if she shares.”
Honestly, this might be the first time Steve’s ever taken a second to consider how others in the group might feel.
The Appeal to Authority
I can’t remember a time I’ve had to appeal to authority, at least at Campaigners. Sometimes at camp, if there’s an issue that could involve safety, I’ve had to pull out the big guns though. In a case where people are continuously being harassed, belittled or you’ve met time and time again with someone and they just don’t care...you’ll have to appeal to your authority. “Steve, my great hope is that you’ll be a part of what we’re doing here, but I can’t keep having this conversation with you. People are telling me that they don’t want to come because of the things you’ve said/done and this time is too important to me that let this go on. Let’s figure out how to make this right. Ultimately I’m in charge of this time and if you can’t follow what we’re doing, even if you disagree with what we’re saying, I can’t have you continue."
Keep in mind, I've never gone to this one, but the only answer to someone that continues to keep people away or make people feel unsafe is your authority as the leader. If you’ve walked the steps of leadership, friendship and/or decency and they have no plans to follow your leader and are only there to cause a problem - you have to lead, even when it’s tough. You have to have this tough conversation with them.
Written by Sean Michael Murphy.
"Murph" is an Area Director in Wayne County, Ohio. He went to the University of Cincinnati, where he met the Lord, thanks to some volunteer Young Life leaders living in the dorm! He partners in life and ministry with his beautiful wife Annie and three incredible kids: Griffin, Cooper & Parker.
places in the United States where there is no cell phone service or Walmarts within an hour drive?
Did you know that we have Young Life in some of those small towns?
Our county has the lowest life expectancy in America. We have an opioid overdose rate that’s 8x the national average. 55% of children live with NEITHER biological parent.
What a great opportunity to share the love of Christ with those who often feel on the outside!
Our Young Life area is bringing in two interns for the 2019/2020 school year. We’ve already hired one, but are still looking for one more.
The funding model is for interns to raise partial salary and supplement that with substitute teaching. We have a brand new “Young Life apartment” for housing. This opportunity would be a great training ground for launching into full-time ministry within another small town Young Life community.
Our Family’s Story
God called our family of five to McDowell County, West Virginia in 2016. Before that we lived in the suburbs of Pittsburgh in a cul-de-sac neighborhood with great careers and volunteered as Young Life team leaders. Our extended families were within a 30-minute drive and life was so good!
But we began to sense a call to Third World or “tribal missions.” We prayed, but found no clarity until someone told us about a county in America that’s been hurting for generations and where students report such large feelings of hopelessness that we wept when we heard their stories. Within six months, we raised funds, sold our home, quit our jobs and moved to small town with a population of 213 people.
There is so much good work to be done and God has opened doors all around us. School board members and administrators are actively pursuing bringing Young Life to be in every school in order to combat behavioral, emotional, and addiction issues in the student bodies.
At the school where we currently do ministry, there are 475 students and 1 out of 5 students are plugged into Young Life. We had 90 folks attend our first local banquet and we raised $233.
We received this letter below from a Young Life leader who would like to remain anonymous.
Young Life Leaders,
Our club’s a little different- we have it at a volunteer fire station. And it’s really small. Not a lot of kids. We’re in year two of doing contact work at a school that’s never had Young Life before. In the fall we had our first club ever and this semester we’ve tried to do it weekly, but it’s been a struggle.
There have a been a few weeks where not enough kids have shown up to even have club. It’s hard to play dodgeball with 3 kids.
I’ve heard stories of new clubs exploding right off the bat and kids coming out of nowhere, and I wish it was the same for our school, but it’s not. It's been frustrating at times – obviously, I want club to grow and thrive, and when it doesn't, it feels like we're doing something wrong. But God surprised me last week.
I recently met a sophomore named Chris. Last year he moved to town from another state and he doesn’t have a ton of friends. Each day after school he heads to the hardware store to work until 7pm. After that, he walks over to the fire station and volunteers for the rest of the night.
When our club first started meeting at the fire station in the fall, we ran into Chris and invited him to join us for club. He politely declined.
Each week since then, when we've shown up for club, Chris pops his head in to check on us. Each week we invite him to join us. And each week he politely declines.
This week we went to set up for club as usual, and as 7:37 inched closer, only a handful of kids had shown up. We were discouraged.
But it was a warm night, so we ended up bringing the sound system outside, setting up some music, and playing volleyball out back of the fire station. After a little while, Chris came out carrying a frisbee. He cranked up the music, and then he started playing with us!
Ten minutes later there was a call to the fire station and Chris had to go. Before he left, he yelled, "This call shouldn't be long, please don't leave until I get back!"
We grabbed some slushies at the Sonic next door and put one in the fridge for Chris to have when he returned. Before we knew it, he was back and we played ultimate frisbee with Chris and some other firefighters until 10pm!
Even though I want God to bring 100 people to club, I think he's teaching me to recognize the smaller, but just as significant, ways he is working. I am trying to remain faithful by continuing to go to the school daily, meet new kids, and hang out with the ones I know. And even if only a handful of kids show up for club, I’m trusting that God is sowing seeds through me.
Would you join me in praying for Chris? Pray for our relationship with him to continue to grow as we try to show him the love of Christ. And as we pray, and as we go, may we trust that God is at work even when it feels like things are moving really slow.
My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
Disclaimer: We haven’t listened to every song on these playlists, so you’ll need to double check them yourselves!
If you have other Spotify playlist for club or camp to share, email us here. --
Written by Marissa Brogden.
Marissa is currently on YL staff in Livermore, CA, having recently served with Young Life Military/ Club Beyond in Germany. She is focusing on developing Young Life and Wyldlife in her area and loves reality TV shows and boy bands.
Wolfgang first became involved with Young Life as a sophomore at Riverside Brookfield High School in Illinois. He went to camp that year at Frontier Ranch and the Lord captured his heart. "I remember sitting in the club room listening to Jonah Werner playing his music and realizing the power that lyrics and music have to connect us with the deepest parts of our being," says Wolfgang. He has been a volunteer Young Life and Wyldlife leader for the past 8 years and has played 3 summer assignments and numerous fall/winter weekends over the past 4 years. Outside of music, he is a high school math teacher. Wolfgang will be playing this summer at Castaway. He recently finished recording an EP, Rustic, which he is excited to share with students this summer at camp. Wolfgang says that faith and hope are at the core of his songs.
Wolfgang to play at your Young Life camp or banquet.
What People Are Saying:
"My love for Wolfgang is deeply rooted. I’ve known him and been cheering for him since he was a sophomore in the club I was leading at in 2008. I got to be his leader for three years and was with him as he welcomed Christ into his life. Over the years I have watched him grow from a shy sophomore kid to a confident leader in college to now a high school teacher and gifted musician.
In the summer of 2017, Wolfgang and I reunited on assignment as I spoke and he led club music and was the special musician for the month. For three weeks I got to watch this once shy sophomore lead music with enthusiasm and giftedness. I cried as I listened to his songs that oscillated between poignant and celebratory, between hurt and healing. And I cherished the moments where I’d watch him humbly sit and talk with any kid that wanted to talk.
And perhaps this is Wolfgang’s best attribute: his humility. The stench of arrogance never rests with him. Pride doesn’t know who he is. Gentleness, quietness, humility, these are what define him. And it comes out in his interactions and in his music."
-Jonathon Gorny, Chicagoland Regional Director
"Wolfgang Maximilian Recht. The name alone is worthy of respect. And what's not earned by the name is earned by his love of Jesus, students, leaders, and music. I have gotten to know Wolfgang well over the past 7 years, seeing his music and ministry lead him to a place of consistently impacting lives. Having been a Young Life student, he has long known the impact that a Young Life leader can have on a student's life and out of that realization, he brings everything he has into his leading and his music. While his music stands on its own (so check it out... seriously click the link and give it a listen), there is something found in spending time with him that makes his music even more real. He invests well into those around him (his students, his co-leaders, those he serves with at camps, and most importantly the students whose camp experiences are enriched by his music and presence). I promise that getting to know Wolfgang and his music will ignite in you a desire to lead out of a genuine place... one where stories are shared, lives are changed, and students come to know how dearly the God of the universe loves them."
-Ryan Soderberg, Area Director, Young Life Wauwatosa (WI)
"Wolfgang is all around one of the most gifted camp musicians I have encountered at Young Life camp. His songwriting is original, points toward Jesus, and speaks to the struggles kids come across in their lives. While at camp this summer, my guys were immediately captivated by Wolfgang's humble yet confident stage presence and the lyrics to his music. They further were served by him when he took his free time to eat ice cream, give a private concert, and call them by name around camp. Any camp is blessed by his performances and then his off-stage character and service. Also, to put my money where my mouth is, I am likely responsible for 1/20th of this Spotify plays. Wolfgang is the man and a servant of Christ!"
I recently read this post by Chuck Bomar and thought it was worth passing along. I've edited his questions to fit specifically with Young Life.
Chuck writes, "Companies and organizations often do 'exit interviews' and they do so for many different reasons. But the biggest one is that they get really honest answers. They do this so they can learn, become better at what they do, and more faithfully care for their employees."
Young Life leaders need to do this too. Asking graduating seniors the following questions can help you become better at what you do, be more in tune with the actual needs of your high school friends, and provide a natural way for you to give a few things for them to think about as they move onto the next stage of education. But mostly it’s about asking them questions and keeping your ears open."
10 Questions To Ask Graduating Seniors
1. What is one thing you would NOT want to see changed in our Young Life club?
2. If you were me, what two things would you do differently in leading this ministry?
3. What tough questions are you thinking through in your life right now? (Note: this is a good one to ask because it can clue you into which questions you should answer for the next years seniors!)
4. What do you think the biggest need is of the students at your high school?
5. What aspects of Young Life do you think are the most effective in helping high schoolers grow in their faith? Why that one? Anything we can do better?
6. What do you think the students at your school want the most out of life? What is a way that we can meet/address that desire?
7. What was it that helped you best connect in Young Life?
8. What could we do better to help future high schoolers feel more connected and invested in?
9. Was there anything in YL that made you feel uncomfortable or discouraged?
10. What did you find to be the most encouraging thing about YL?
Drew is a pastor in Greensboro, NC and also on part-time staff with Young Life in the Global Innovation and Training department. Drew started The Young Life Leader Blog in 2010 and has written a best-selling book for Young Life leaders called "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."
Teenagers have a natural instinct for adventure and the upcoming summer offers fantastic opportunities for spontaneity.
For the past twenty years I’ve been taking high school guys on a summer adventure trip in the North Carolina mountains. We hike, camp, fish, jump off cliffs, and ride down waterfalls. We sleep in enos, build campfires and have cabin time under the stars. And it usually costs less than $75/person.
Young Life camping doesn't just have to happen at a Young Life property. Below are a few tips to help you plan your own mini-camp experience. WHO The best way to begin is to simply make a list of 10 names of your friends that you’d like to invite on the adventure. If you have a Campaigners group, take them. If you don't, this is a great way to launch one! Start praying for the kids by name and the specifics of the trip. Experience the thrill of watching God answer your prayers. Faith is the first adventure!
You need to have at least 2 adults leading the trip. If there's not another leader on your Young Life team who can join you, consider asking a parent or someone on the committee to come along.
WHERE God has created an amazing playground in the great outdoors. Talk to outdoorsy folks you know and find out the best camping and adventure spots near you. Odds are there are some great hiking trails and water spots within a couple hours drive. Get OUTSIDE! It's amazing how clearly kids can hear God speak when they get out of their comfort zones and away from screens! (Don't allow phones, even for pictures!)
WHEN Picking the right dates is key. If you plan a trip and everyone is at football camp or on family vacation that week, it's going to be a bust. Parents know their kids schedules better than they do, so you need to communicate with them. If you don't already have their email addresses, text your teenage friends and ask them to send you their parents' emails. Write a well-written explanation of the trip you'd like to take and send it to parents. Before you send it, look at your calendar, find a few possible dates that work, create a Doodle poll, and then email parents.
SAFETY Make sure you have gone through all the proper Young Life safety procedures. Background checks for leaders, driver safety course, permission forms for kids, etc... Talk with your Area Director! And when it comes to risky adventures, sometimes being wise doesn't feel as fun. Let's remember that we are being entrusted with precious lives, so let's always lean into making the wiser long-term choice rather than the one that seems like a good idea in the moment. Bring a first-aid kit. Know where the closest hospitals are. Check for ticks.
PLAN TOGETHER Invite those kids (and the other leader) into the trip planning process. Few things are as bonding as choosing your own adventure together. When they help plan it, there's much more buy-in. Pull out a map. Google "best hikes in X area." Research together and go explore!
Most years we make a "ManTrip" t-shirt. I still see guys wearing them a decade later. It can be costly to only print a few shirts for a small group, but it's a fun keepsake and reminder of the adventure. Not at all necessary, but a fun add-on. In 2016, one of my Young Life guy's girlfriends designed our shirt. Check out the sweet "ManTrip" logo she designed pictured here as the state of NC.
Below is a sample schedule from the trip I take each summer. I've taken guys groups and co-ed groups. If you live in GA, NC, or TN- the Pisgah National Forest area near Carolina Point is AMAZING!
10- Drive to Gorges State Park and play at Turtleback and Rainbow
4- Panthertown Valley hike
6- Camp next to Schoolhouse Falls and make dinner
8- Campaigners time up top
8am- breakfast and time alone with God
9am- Drive to Paradise Falls
2pm- surprise stop
6pm- head home and eat on the way
10pm- arrive at YL office
SAMPLE PACKING LIST
-$15 for 2 meals on the road
-water bottle full with water
-An extra gallon jug or 3 liter bottle full of tap water
-eno or sleeping pad
-bible and notebook
-water shoes (chacos or sandals)
-camping chair (optional)
-daypack (backpack will work)
-plastic bag for wet clothes
-NO PHONES (bring a camera if you want)
If you need help or advice, talk to seasoned staff folks in your region. And don't hesitate to reach out if I can be a help!
--- Written by Drew Hill.
Drew is a pastor in Greensboro, NC and also on staff with Young Life in the Global Innovation and Training department. Drew started the Young Life Leader Blog in 2010 and has written a best-selling book for Young Life leaders called "Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel."
I know it’s around 150 days until your first club of the fall, but pause for a second and imagine that September day. The air is crisp, football games are in full swing, and every high school is full of brand new freshmen. Wouldn’t it be amazing as Young Life leaders to go into the new school year knowing some of these brand new students by name? Here’s an idea our area has used for the last nine years that has resulted in tons of relationships with new ninth graders. If you plan now, your fall could be full of intentional relationships with these young new students!
Peaks the interest early for upcoming freshmen and gives them a taste of what it's like to be a part of Young Life.
Sometimes with spring sports, club numbers can feel low, so this is a great shot of energy to end the school year.
Early to mid-May. You can even do this without a ton of volunteer leaders. Get the committee and high schoolers involved. Don’t skip it just because college leaders are gone!
Start spreading the word NOW!
Make a list of every middle school in your area (use google if you need to). Ask your committee, current Young Life kids, and social media for any connections to those schools.
Print out paper fliers to take to schools, known parents, and teachers.
Fliers should have all the info parents need to know, ie: start and end time, who is invited, adults present, as well as fun- high schoolers there, free t-shirt/food, etc.
Make small fliers for people to hand out to kids.
Could any of your current high school Young Life students go and do contact work at the middle schools they attended?
Ask your current freshman to reach out to 8th graders, they will feel a great sense of purpose and probably cool returning to their middle school.
Post on your social media for Young Life students to bring 8th grade siblings, the free giveaway, and an incentive for high school kids to come and bring 8th graders.
How do you get high schoolers to still attend an “8th grade club”?
Golden Ticket idea
Hide 4 paper tickets around town after school (think the trash can at the YMCA, a fire hydrant near a popular ice cream shop), take pics with small clues and post them on social media about 20 minutes before dismissal the day of club. The ticket winners receive a prize (the 8th grade free t-shirt, or an extra raffle ticket, Young Life sticker, etc).
Free giveaways for the brand new 8th graders: food, or
better yet a t-shirt! Make it a new design, a fun shirt that doesn’t say anything about 8th graders or freshmen on it. You want them to want to wear this shirt to school!
In a dream world, they will wear it next fall and it’ll be a great identifier to upper-classmen to reach out to them.
Put a sticker on the shirt with all your social media outlets on them, so they can easily find your accounts and follow them.
The 8th graders must fill out a club card before they get a shirt.
Run a table at club with check-in, manned by leaders.
Make it the first fifty 8th graders so kids feel an urgency to show up early.
Not having a senior club? Have them run 8th grade club. Already had a senior club? Let juniors run it, that way the 8th graders have familiar faces next year.
Be very careful with upfront games. Sibling games can be fun where the older sibling gets pied, etc. Don’t make 8th graders the butt of the joke, celebrate them in a major way!
Who does the talk? Do you have any middle school teachers? They are ideal. If not, someone who will be in the room next fall, not a departing leader or staff, so the students will recognize them at the first club.
Sell summer camp in front of the 8th graders- make them think- I can’t WAIT to go to that next year! But since they can’t go…
Sell Fall Weekend and let them sign up! Bring Fall Weekend fliers, have a big poster to have them sign up on.
Take lots of great pictures!
Have people on “parking lot” duty- leaders or committee members who are comfortable talking to parents. Have them approach minivans/cars to say “Hi” and “Thanks” and remind them of the pickup time. Have Young Life fliers in case parents have questions.
Have some committee members well connected to parents? Run a parent involvement meeting at the same time as club. Bring light snacks, have it in a side room, and share with them the vision of Young Life, the whys of club, have a parent share about their kids being involved, and pass out involvement cards. These could be your table hosts in the fall!
Post those great pictures to social media, tag kids and parents!
Go through club cards and connect with kids, create a google sheet and send to leaders so they can text kids now and in the fall.
Follow/like kids on social media- get them to follow your Young Life accounts.
Promote Fall Weekend and their ability to sign up.
Invite them to one more Young Life event- Ice Cream Olympics, end of year cookout, summer campaigners, whatever you have left. This is a great way to get kids who missed out to come to something.
Have extra shirts? Give them to new freshmen at club in the fall.
Reach out and thank the parents who came and filled out involvement cards. Seek their involvement (table host, committee, etc) while they are still excited.
Thank anyone who helped you advertise to kids (schools, underclassmen, etc).
Susan is the Area Director for Young Life in Salisbury, NC, and is a leader at Salisbury High School (Go Hornets!). She grew up in Westerville, OH, was a volunteer leader while at Ohio State University, before joining the Young Life staff in Annapolis, MD. She has lived and led in Salisbury for the last nine years. She is married to Kenton, who is a teacher, and they are expecting their first baby, a boy, in August.