Re-visioning “Club” Part Two – Including Responses and New Ideas to Consider

I want to share with you the responses I received from my recent post about re-visioning club. I received dozens of lengthy emails, text messages, Instagram DMs, Twitter DMs, Facebook Messenger messages, and several comments in-person. All of the responses affirmed that people have felt the need to make adjustments to club. None of the responses said: “no, the only or best way to do club is the ‘traditional’ way.” I’m sure there are people who read my post and are running traditional clubs and it works well for them and they just didn’t feel the need to reach out to me. But, from the volume and consistency of the content of the messages I received – it does seem that many people have changed how they do “club.”

After evaluating all of the responses, a lot of people are doing something like this:

  1. Part 1: Food, hangout, casual semi-unstructured activities
  2. Part 2: Mixer and/or game, announcement, talk
  3. Part 3: Food (dessert maybe), hangout

Among the responses I received about non-traditional clubs: singing together is rare; skits are rare.
The major change seems to be that singing and skits have been replaced by food and semi-structured hangout time. I think there are lots of good reasons why these specific replacements are happening, but I won’t share those right now. I also saw a common theme that clubs adjust to the interests of kids and to the skills and availability of leaders more than in the past. Every response discussed the centrality of leaders being with students and leaders giving talks.

I plan to share this info with the leaders in my area and think about how I might adjust my own “club” meetings. The responses I received gave me a lot of new ideas to consider. I included some of the responses below – I think you might find many of these useful. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me to share their insights.

  • I felt the need to do something new. But, I was scared to do something different from Young Life.
  • I focus on: 1) hospitality, 2) atmosphere, 3) share Christ.
  • We start with a home cooked meal and serve dessert after the talk. Parents and community members rotate providing the meal. Kids and leaders sit at round tables and we open with a prayer, the meal, and then announcements. We do 1-3 games and then do a talk. Then we provide dessert and door prizes (via raffle tickets, 10 extra tickets if you bring someone new)
  • I’m an RD and I give my staff and leaders permission to make changes “but I think there’s a reluctance – or maybe a fear/ paralysis – to think about other possibilities.”
  • Prior to COVID, we noticed traditional club was not going well, even with some adjustments we already made. We now begin with hanging out, cornhole, games, music – like a party with snacks. Then, we run a mixer, announcements, game, YouTube “transition” song, and then the talk.
  • We have not had a traditional club in over 15 years. We started a basketball club and mentoring program. We used Tanita Maddox’s Gen Z training to help our leaders make adjustments, especially for our games and club talks.
  • We have never done a traditional club because we didn’t feel our personal gifting fit with it. We hangout for about 25 minutes of unstructured play (basketball, gaga ball, swings, trampoline, etc.), then a mixer, transition video (people are awesome videos), announcements, talk, prayer, snacks and hangout. We don’t do skits or music.
  • Our WL club is still pretty similar to the traditional club plan. But, our high school club is less formatted: hangout, games, message, hangout.
  • I wonder if some people have down-shifted to simpler plans because they are just easier, require less prep, and less commitment.
  • Is the adjustment to the pandemic & current Gen Z culture resulting in YL club feeling more like a church youth group? Are we compromising our distinctives?
  • We try to include: low predictability, humor, talks being excellent, and knowing kids’ names.
  • Club is “a gathering to introduce Jesus verbally to teens.”
  • We serve a full meal at every club, if we have trained volunteers, we do more traditional club, if we have less trained volunteers or no volunteers, we do less traditional things based on whatever the leaders can provide.
  • I noticed my 25-40 year old leaders just like to wing it, my 16-20 year olds and 45 plus are more committed to planning and training.
  • We noticed leaders trending toward “non-traditional club” simply because of the time involved to plan, prepare, purchase, and even get all of the stuff for traditional club. We moved to less songs and mostly stopped doing skits. We still run games. Our kids like theme and event nights like: trivia night, scavenger hunt, find your leader. We always do a talk and raffle.
  • It makes sense that traditional club rocks at camp because the people putting it on are investing gobs of their time into it (as they should) to make it awesome.
  • For YL, we do: food and hangout, two mixers, announcements, two mixers, talk, dance party. For WL, we do: food, games outside, TikTok dances, 2 mixers, announcements, club talk, mixer, then more food, games outside, and TikTok dances.