Three Things I Love About Young Life

I’ve been in this position in Young Life almost 13 years and I’ve come to love many things about this mission. I’d like to highlight three that put a bounce in my step and gratitude in my heart and I hope they will do the same for you.

First, I love the fact that after almost 65 years of reaching out to kids, we still proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ in a winsome and direct way. We have not compromised on our presentation of the Gospel and I love that! If you went to camp or club in the ’50s (and some of you reading this article did just that), you might notice a few changes. The music certainly is different; the activities are still exciting but maybe slightly changed; and the way kids look and speak may not be the same. But, the talks at camp clubs would seem familiar as, over six or seven days, the incredible love story of God pursuing us is carefully, winsomely and prayerfully crafted and communicated.

In 65 years of ministry, an organization can make a lot of mistakes, and we have. But I sense that God continues to bless this mission because our wonderful staff and volunteers are not ashamed of the Gospel and present it with passion through the power of the Holy Spirit. I like that!

Second, I love the fact that we really do care about all kids and we pursue them whatever the cost. “Every Kid, Everywhere, for Eternity” is not just a catchy motto. It’s a way of life and I like that! Let me list the types of kids we pursue for Jesus’ sake.

  • Kids in the suburbs. This is where we got our start. Now the suburbs have changed but we’ve adjusted and kids in the ’burbs continue to meet Christ.
  • Kids in urban areas. Our urban staff say that Young Life is the largest urban youth ministry in the United States. It’s hard to measure but I believe that statement is true. For years and years we’ve been pursuing kids in the ’hood, and we will continue to do so.
  • Kids in small towns and rural areas. This has been one of our newest initiatives but we have been aggressive in caring for kids in small towns. There are hundreds of thousands of kids in thousands of small, rural schools where there is little ministry presence, and we want to change that.
  • Kids outside the United States. Our international work is thriving. We are in 54 countries now with several types of ministry — our ministry to kids who live on military bases, our ministry to nationals and our international school outreach. This is our fastest growing division and we are devoting more resources than ever before to fulfilling the Great Commission worldwide.
  • Kids of all colors. It doesn’t matter what ethnic background kids are from, we want them to have the greatest of all opportunities — we want them to come to know Jesus.
  • High school kids. This is where our ministry began 65 years ago. High school is still our predominant “people group.” We will continue to go after high school kids regardless of how tough it might be in some places.
  • Middle school kids. This is our WyldLife ministry — the fastest growing segment of what we do. Adolescence has expanded. What high schoolers faced when we were kids, middle schoolers are facing today. We want to be there for them. We want them to meet Jesus early and have their whole lives to live for Him.
  • College students. You will hear about this more in the future but we believe God is calling us to invest more time, energy and resources in introducing college students to Christ, discipling them and recruiting them to serve as volunteers or as future staff.
  • Kids with disabilities. This is our Capernaum ministry. There are not a lot of ministries who devote the resources Young Life does to coming alongside kids who face developmental and intellectual disabilities. We do. And I like that.
  • Unmarried teen moms. We call this Young Lives. It’s our mentoring program to young women who are struggling with a new baby and are trying to make sense of their lives and their futures. This ministry continues to expand.

We want to reach every kid wherever they live, whatever their background, whatever their pain. I like that!

And, finally, I like the fact that Young Life leaders continue to be flexible. Three years ago, for instance, when a large group dropped out of our family camp at Trail West, we knew we’d need to scramble. No one wanted to have Trail West sit vacant for a week in the middle of the summer. So a group of flexible, creative folks under the leadership of Tiger Dawson (I also like the names of our leaders!), quickly recruited and funded a week at Trail West for military families from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was a phenomenal success. That led to two weeks last summer and this summer we will have three weeks, thanks to a group of donors who have the vision and gratitude for families of our troops stationed overseas. And this is just one example. Every day, our leaders are making adjustments to reach a culture that never stops changing. I love that about Young Life.

Like you, I could think of dozens of other things I like. And maybe I’ll share those in future articles, but for now, I’d encourage you to give thanks with me for these three things!