A Review of the Original Young Life Leader Training Manual Part 5

IMG_7786 This is the fifth and final post in a series that is a review of the Original Young Life Leader Training Manual from 1942.

If you are interested, here is the link to the copy I made of the manual with a letter from Jim Rayburn.

4. The Young Life Club and Promotion

The last two sections are about club and promotion of club. From the very start, the manual says that there is no set procedure for the club meeting. The manual consistently reminds the reader that Young Life is done best when it is molded to the local context.

As the manual starts to explain club, it is obvious that the context is 1940 in Texas, the Bible belt. It says to start club off with something unusual. Great idea! Then it goes on to say a great way to start club is with a prayer “for the Lord’s leadership and blessing upon the meeting… it will quiet the crowd down if they are rowdy, and often be a real eye opening testimony to new kids.” I’m not sure this would have the same effect in my club. Nonetheless, a prayer with your leadership team is something we always do every week.

Club should always have “an attractive, poppy song service”. It is funny that it says, “If someone else leads, be careful not to let it ‘bog down’. Interrupt if necessary, with ‘Say, here’s a new chorus I’d like to teach you.’” Club should not “bog down”, but I think it would be pretty harsh and/or funny if someone interrupted the leader in the middle of a song and took over! I see a skit in this somewhere.

Another element of club in the manual is the announcement time. During this time you welcome new people and have a “time of testimony”. This time would be a spontaneous testimony or story from one of the student. I don’t see a lot this today but maybe we could do this more!

Until this point, there were quite a few differences between the 1940s Young Life club and the modern club. But when the manual starts to talk about the message those differences start to disappear. The message is to be “down-to-earth”, “talk, don’t preach”, and ” be conversational”. It suggests that 25 minutes is long enough. Agreed, and it should probably shorter today. It teaches us to say what we have to say, “get it said and quit.” We should know how to make our point and then stop!

One of the best parts of the manual is how it talks about the gospel proclamation. It teaches, “Never avoid giving the gospel. It is not a boring subject; don’t make it so.” I have seen people criticize our relentless teaching on Jesus and the gospel. “When are you going to get to Paul, creation, king David, etc?” they ask me. Usually those people don’t understand our audience, or we have the wrong audience in our clubs. If the gospel is boring, the problem is with us, not the gospel. The gospel is the most captivating, life-giving message in history, past, present and future of all time. Each of us need to respond to the manual’s challenge, “if you have to drum up enthusiasm about the gospel, you have no business in the ministry.” Well said.

After the message is done, the manual gives some instruction about how the kids can respond. If an “alter call” type situation is appropriate it say, “Don’t ask for raised hands when eyes are closed… Urge a bold testimony by those who have taken Christ as their Savior.” I love those words. We certainly are gentle, understanding, not pushy about so many things, but one thing that we do not want to be wishy-washy about is out stand for Jesus Christ.

As the manual starts to sum up the message in club, it concludes that in the message, “Don’t assume that they know more than they do.” The general club aims are to “REACH and TEACH”, “always trying to reach the unsaved”.

At this point the manual takes time to teach about Christian growth. It doesn’t call it campaigners in this manual, but I believe this is what they were talking about. “Encourage the growth of Christian young people… stress these three: Bible study, prayer, personal witness.” Furthermore it tells us to be an example of a true Christian in our standards of living. Once again it mentions the idea of club kids giving money. It uses the term “dime cards” which today sounds like something totally different! I think some kids in my club have more “dime cards” then money to give to club.

The manual then talks more about club “officers”, which were student leaders in the club who helped run club and invite their friends. Several approaches in Young Life today seem to be emphasizing student leadership more and more. The manual says of the officers, “Here you will often see your greatest growth in spiritual stature”.

These junior leaders were encouraged to bring their friends and the club was to be promoted by a variety of means including, “printed invitations, handbills, posters, announcements on class room blackboards, radio publicity, newspaper articles, school paper announcements”.

At this point the manual abruptly ends. Interestingly enough there is no explicit mention of contact work by the leaders, though it may be implied several times throughout the manual. Young Life in those days seemed to be mostly organized by a staff person and high school student “officers”. The role of the adult volunteer had not been evolved as much as the message, the club, the organization, etc.

Questions for Discussion

1) Several times the manual talks about club techniques which are outdated for our culture. How have you seen the Young Life club change in the last 5, 10, and 20 years if you have seen it that long?

2) Announcement time include an opportunity for a student testimony. Is this something we should reconsider?

3) We all experience ups and downs, but do you feel like you have to “drum up enthusiasm about the gospel”?

4) How can we encourage a bold stand for new Christians?

5) How can we utilize student leaders better in our clubs?

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