Brandon Heath (Q and A)

A renowned contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, Brandon Heath has been awarded the GMA Dove Award for Male Vocalist of the Year in 2009 and 2010. He has three number-one singles: “I’m Not Who I Was,” “Wait and See” and “Give Me Your Eyes,” which won the 2009 GMA Dove Award for song of the year. Jonathan Schultz, director of Alumni and Friends, recently caught up with Heath and the two discussed his deep involvement with Young Life …

What was life like for you when you were young?

I had two very loving parents. Their marriage didn’t work out, but both were always very loving toward me. According to them, I was a good kid! I didn’t get into a ton of trouble. I was an only child and had plenty of attention from them so I think it was maybe just hard to get into trouble. I had a hard time in school, especially middle school. I don’t know too many adults who loved middle school; for me it was awkward and math gave me a headache. In high school, though, something clicked for me. I think I just decided to apply myself one day and I did. I made some good friends who have remained close through the years, and I learned to play the guitar, which was a good move I think!

How did you become involved with Young Life?

Caroline Baugh and Karen Gray deserve the credit for that. These two attractive young ladies who were friends of mine had been going to club and wouldn’t stop talking about it. They invited me to come along, and the next thing I knew I was signed up to go to camp — Malibu in British Columbia, Canada. That year, 1995, was the only year that Young Life Nashville ever went to Malibu. I’ve been back every summer since and I have a lifelong commitment to that place. I gave my life to Jesus on the ninth hole of the frisbee golf course.

How did you come to Christ?

A guy named Jim Caldwell was the speaker at camp that week. I would say he was the first to share the Gospel with me. But it was my Young Life leaders in Nashville who followed through and kept challenging me. I just had dinner with one of those leaders and his family last week.

What did your faith mean to you then, shortly thereafter and into adulthood?

I had never known hope or love like that of Jesus. It was deeply impactful to me then and almost immediately began a change in my heart toward others, especially my dad, with whom I’d become estranged. Forgiveness is something that transformed me, first from Christ and then my own forgiveness toward others who’d hurt me. I let go of things that I felt entitled to before, like bitterness and revenge. I realized that it can cause a person a lot of distress to hold on to pain and even hurl it toward other people. God captured my heart and my motives toward others. If it’s not to love, it’s not good enough.

What were the most impactful experiences you had with Young Life and/or Young Life leaders?

Campaigners was a big one early on. We met every week and that’s how I learned to “do” the Bible. But the biggest was my time at Malibu. I was an intern there for two summers in a row. I learned about healthy community and met some of the most influential people in my life there. Not surprising, the first people who became fans of my music were in Young Life. They were the ones who not only bought my first recordings, but also urged me to keep going. I have kept going and it’s been an amazing ride. God’s made sure of that.

How have you been involved with Young Life since then, and how has that impacted your life?

My career keeps me very busy and on the road, so being a volunteer leader is out. I do a handful of fundraisers all over the country still. I tell my story to a lot of folks and how Young Life played a big part in that. I shout it from the stage every single night, “Any Young Lifers out there tonight?” Without fail, there always are.

Why are you an advocate of the Young Life mission today?

It’s obviously made a lasting impression on me. I want people to know how I heard about Jesus first. I make a point in explaining that a ministry like Young Life can reach kids who are the furthest out. I was one of those kids. They’ve been doing it for a long time and the fundamentals haven’t changed. Kids need to know they’re loved by God. They are searching for a piece of truth, hope, love. Young Life, as far as I’m concerned, wrote the book on how to share that with a kid. Fun and friendship.

If you were talking to someone considering involvement with Young Life in some way, what would you say to them?

I would say it’s a lot of work, but you’ll never have more fun and feel more honored to be loved back by a kid. I would stress that each of us have a different gift. To hang out with a kid, your gift doesn’t have to be “I’m good at being goofy on stage” or “I’m really good at singing club songs.” Kids are different from each other, too, and it takes a lot of different personalities and gifts to reach and impact the multitudes.

Brandon Heath is just one of thousands of alumni still closely connected to the mission of Young Life. To visit the Alumni and Friends website, join, update your information and reconnect with your Young Life friends, go to