Open House Policy

When Area Director Bob McGinnis had breakfast with a man who had been to his Young Life club more than 20 years ago, he was thankful to be able to catch up with someone who, as a high school student, was not heavily involved with Young Life. He had no idea this rekindled friendship was part of God’s plan to realize a dream for them both.

Each man wanted to give local kids a fun, comfortable and safe place to hang out, but they weren’t sure how to make that happen.
 
“It’s one of those things you sort of dream about, but you don’t have a plan to execute it,” said McGinnis, area director for Alleghany Valley, near Pittsburgh, Pa.

More than 100 kids were coming weekly to the club, which was held in the basement of a local church, but it was feeling cramped, so they discussed options for larger spaces. They considered other churches, but no idea seemed quite right. McGinnis’ friend showed him a three-bedroom house, but most of the rooms were fairly small, and remodeling was needed to create more space. McGinnis wasn’t convinced the house would be a good idea.

At a Christmas party in 1999, McGinnis’ friend gave him a small wrapped box. Inside of it were the keys to the same three-bedroom house. “Do whatever you want with this,” his friend told him.
 
A dream unfolds
McGinnis knew there were plenty of renovations ahead, but he didn’t know how they would get done. While McGinnis was out of town in early 2000, his friend took care of some of the major initial renovations, knocking down a wall between the living room and dining room to create what is now a 900 square-foot club room as well as closing in the front porch.
 
Word started to spread about the house. And just about everything — from drywall and paint to appliances and sound system equipment — was donated, including the labor to get all the work done. McGinnis estimates that all the donated materials and labor added up to nearly $20,000.

“We did not have to work hard to make it happen,” he said. “Lots of things came as blessings. We had to do our part making phones calls and legwork when we needed to, but it’s been God’s work.”

During the last few years, as rooms have been painted and given kid-appeal, McGinnis said it’s been like watching God unfold a dream. As they’ve thought of things to add to the house — the snack bar, for example — God has provided the resources to make it happen.
 
Today the 5,000 square-foot, two-story house is a place that “screams kids”: a club room, game rooms with pool tables, foosball tables, ping pong and video games as well as a meeting room for leaders, the area’s office and a snack bar and sitting area. And kids have taken ownership over the décor: some walls are covered with kids’ signatures; others are adorned with T-shirts and memorabilia from their area’s Young Life events.
 
“This house is so big, and it’s all ours,” said 17-year-old Leah Whitcroft. “It’s just a good place to go to get away from stuff.”

Outside, there’s more: a sand volleyball court, an 18-hole disc golf course, a basketball court and the house’s namesake: a grapevine.

“We wanted a name that would convey our mission to those on the inside, but be just another name to your average everyday high school kid,” McGinnis said. “Christ is at the heart of everything we do, and He is the vine. We didn’t want Christian icons everywhere. In fact there are none except for in my office. We want the kids to ‘see’ Christ in us.”
 
Location, location
Not only does the Vine, which sits on a 100-acre tract of land, have plenty to keep a teenager’s attention, the house’s location couldn’t be better. Eight of the high schools in the area are within an eight-mile radius of the Vine. Kids from several high schools attend club and hang out at the Vine, which is set back about 100 yards on Freeport Road, a well-traveled thoroughfare through the neighborhood.
 
“Kids come to camp, and they are blown away by the excellence and quality there,” McGinnis said. “This house is also cozy and comfortable. This place embraces them. It breaks down their walls and gets their attention.”

The house is not only a hangout for all kinds of kids, McGinnis said, but especially for students who aren’t drawn into other high school sports and activities.
 
“Kids’ needs are so acute,” McGinnis said. “Their lives are very complex. A lot of them are involved in so many sports and clubs. But in part of that culture, you’ll find ‘fringe kids.’ They don’t have anything like that in their lives. These kids really need something like this.”
 
Hangout for all
Sixteen-year-old Nathan Matt spends at least two afternoons a week at the Vine.
 
“I like that it’s here all the time,” he said. “It’s our house, and we can play around.

“It’s a place for anyone — if you’re a jock or one of the popular people or one of the not-so-popular people. Everyone comes here just to hang out. I think people feel like they are able to let loose more and not stay inside their shell.”

Regulars at the Vine bring friends, and now that it’s open on Friday night, it’s attracting kids who may not usually come to club. For leaders like Heather Grice, the Vine helps them meet and get to know kids.

“There is the familiarity here for me as well,” she said. “I know what kids like to do and don’t like to do, and I can meet them on their level.”

More than a popular hangout, the Vine is giving teenagers a place to be comfortable — away from pressure of school and home — relaxing on a couch or around a pool table with friends. But it’s also a place where they can be comfortable to be themselves and experience the love of One through others who abide there.