Leading for the Long Term

From the Fall 2010 issue of Relationships magazine.

When Steve Garnier walked into a Fairfax, Va., Young Life club one April night in 1985, he didn't know what he was in for. He was about to graduate from college and, up until that point, had no prior experience with the ministry. But, after one taste, he was hooked. He became a leader that spring and was at Saranac Village, Young Life's camp in the Adirondacks, with kids that very summer.

"I was amazed at the opportunity that Young Life presented to gather a group of kids and give them an environment that was fun and exciting," he remembered. "And, it provided us the opportunity as leaders to present the Gospel in a non-threatening way."

Over the last two-and-a-half decades, Garnier's involvement has varied, but his heart for the vision is just as big as ever. Eight years ago, he shifted into a role leading Leesburg WyldLife.

"I noticed that the issues that kids were dealing with in high school back in the '80s and '90s, they were beginning to deal with in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade," he said. "We needed to start to reach these kids at a younger age."

"I think Steve really believes that Young Life works, and that it's a good thing to give his time to," said Beth DeButts, area director in Western Loudoun County. "It's been really neat to be able to capitalize on what his team built at the middle school level. Those kids come to high school looking for Young Life."

Still heavily involved in the organization, Garnier began to focus on setting his high school leaders up for relationships with middle school kids. He has also had the unique opportunity to involve his entire family, most recently leading with his wife and oldest daughter.

"It's been a family event for the last seven years at least. It's actually meshed beautifully with our family life. It's a ministry that we can all share in. In 1985, I certainly didn't envision that, 25 years later, I would still be leading club, and with my kids. It's been a blessing from a parent's perspective to have Young Life and to see them come up through it."