Written by Ken Tankersley
WyldLife Leader and Senior Vice President, Northwestern Division
I have been a Young Life leader for a long time but have only been a WyldLife leader for the last four years so I am still learning all the specifics of early adolescence. I constantly take down notes or adjust my thinking of junior high students and what they can do, how they can learn and my expectations of them. Over the last few years, there has been a consistent theme in the WyldLife training that I have received. A few tried and true tenants like:
- Play lots of active games and mixers.
- Keep the talk illustration concrete, clear and short.
- And…. ‘Junior high students don’t sing!’
I am not sure I agree with the last one. We sing at our WyldLife club, and it is one of the highlights of the night.
Here is what I have come to love about junior high students.
- They have a lot of energy (always good for singing).
- They can scream better than anyone else I know (another positive).
- They respond to instruction (mandatory).
The first time I led my WyldLife students in a song, it happened by accident. We had run out of things to do and games to play so we were desperate to fill a few minutes. I knew that a junior high student could smell fear, so I felt like I had to lead a song with courage and conviction. We had no guitar. We had no youtube lyrics, we didn’t even have karaoke, all we had was me standing up front.
First, I gave the ground rules: we were named WyldLife for a reason so the next few minutes were going to be wild!
- We weren’t going to sing – rather we would scream! (seemed an easier goal)
- We weren’t going to sit – in WyldLife, we stand and jump around.
- We weren’t going to sway to the music – in WyldLife, we dance and sweat!
Finally, without giving them much time to process or protest – we jumped right into singing and it was awesome.! The next few minutes were a blur of dancing, energy, jumping around and laughter. Over the years, I realized a few things that I love about WyldLife students and song leading. Here are a few:
- INSTRUCT: If we lead clearly and don’t give much time for second-guessing, students will follow beautifully.
- INVOLVE: Singing is a group activity – look for ways to involve everyone.
- INVENT: Motions, moves and gestures are key elements to every song.
- INVEST: I have to lead by example. I am committed to our singing and no one will out-sing or out-scream me!
I think it honors our faith and the Gospel when the fullness of life is expressed in singing that is unfiltered, fun and alive. WyldLife kids sing, I think we just have to give them permission.