I recently saw a tweet that implied one of many negative stereotypes about Young Life.

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Thank you, Rich Homie Yuan. Your contribution to the extremely clever “starter pack” trend is noted.

I don’t give a care if you retweeted this. I really don’t. I could go on and on about high school drinking and how it’s illegal, but I’ll refrain. You’ve attended a D.A.R.E program, and chances are if you pander to rudeness like your retweet exemplifies, you probably think wearing your D.A.R.E. shirt ironically is hilarious.

I really just want to explain what I think this tweet means.There is a widespread stereotype about “the type of people” that go to Young Life. I’ve heard “partiers,” “posers,” and “fakes,” to name the nicer labels. There’s also a widespread stereotype about what Young Life is, from both believers and those not of the faith. I’ve heard it’s “just an excuse to party,” a place to get a boyfriend or a girlfriend (or drinking buddies), or a “watered down church.”

First of all, Young Life isn’t church, nor does it claim to be. Young Life is an organization rooted in Christianity and run by Christian leaders, yes. Their mission statement is simple and awesome: “Every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him.” But it’s not church. Their mission statement is basically the same statement that we’d hope the youth groups of our church to have, but that’s not always the case. During my senior year, I felt so much more welcome at Campaigners and grew so much more from the time spent there than the countless others in my church community at the time.

But I’ll start from the beginning.

I think I really noticed Young Life my sophomore year of high school. There was an awesome group of people who would yell “COME TO CLUB TONIGHT!” at the end of Student Council meetings on Mondays, and I already looked up to those people tremendously, so I was intrigued. I mentioned wanting to go to my parents one night, and they immediately talked about their high schools’ Young Life organizations:

“I remember it was the leaders who brought the kegs to weekend parties,” my mom said. “I heard so many stories about the ragers the Young Life kids had.”

I was scared off. I didn’t want to be in that scene and I still don’t want to be.

I remember thinking that I knew for a fact that the people I admired weren’t like that at all. It wasn’t something I thought I know, it wasn’t a misconception, it was a fact. I knew in my heart, 100%, that those people who smiled and wore funny Young Life shirts and yelled at me to come to club were genuine Christ-followers. I knew they pursued admirable lives. So why were they involved in this club everyone told me was bad?

My first personal encounter with it was when I met Shelby that year. Shelby was a super sweet Young Life leader who would come and sit with me and my friends at our lunch table once or twice a week. It was real awkward at first, but I appreciated it. My friend Amber and I talked with her a little at first, but we started having cool conversations about our lives and school. I found myself telling her small details that I didn’t think mattered when they came out of my mouth, but when she nodded and smiled and said something actually meaningful in response, I realized that I only thought they were dumb because no one had really ever said they weren’t.

She eventually had to stop coming to lunch because of a new policy the administration passed, but I’ll always remember her sidling into our lives and talking with us for those 30 minutes at a time.

I still didn’t go to Monday night club. I had excuses and didn’t understand what it actually was. But still at the end of every Student Council meeting, I would hear “COME TO CLUB!” and become just a little bit curious.

I met Taylor as I tagged along with some friends for Freebirds and a movie. I had come last-minute and didn’t know Taylor at all. She immediately welcomed me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so genuine and nice right off the bat. We sat two seats away from each other in the theater and were laughing the whole time. It was the Katy Perry movie and we both loved it a lot. We yelled ‘THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN MY WEIRDNESS!” to each other after the movie and it was grand. She’s kept up with me ever since.

I came to one club I think my junior year. It was incredibly fun, but I felt kind of intimidated. It was loud and fast-paced and so many people wanted to high five me, it was wild. I guess I still wasn’t convinced.

Then my friend Megan started going. Megan was and is one of my best friends, and I don’t use that term loosely. She didn’t have the opportunity to grow up in a Christian home like me, so when she got saved at a summer camp with me, her life flipped. She couldn’t go to church regularly since her parents didn’t attend, and we couldn’t drive yet. She also played competitive soccer on the weekends. Not only that, but sometimes she would get a hard time for going to Bible studies. But she made it to Young Life.

For me, I had my youth group. I had parents who were believers. I had college leaders for Bible studies through my church. I took the awesome aspects of Young Life for granted. Not everyone was like me. Young Life on Mondays was this safe place. It was fun, there was music, people danced until they were sweaty, we played games. At Young Life, we laugh collectively and guys, that is such a rare and important thing.

I met incredible, thoughtful, open, and welcoming college students. I met new people. And every Monday night, I got to hear the truth of Jesus. For me, that doesn’t get old. I’ve heard Christians, those who should care the most about getting the good news out, back out of Young Life all together because the message was “weak.” They said it was barely even focused on Christ, it was just “fun.”

And I would think: when’s the last time you sat down with people coming from everywhere, all types of homes and families and living situations and heard the gospel shared simply and beautifully? How often do you hear the “rowdy” kids sing an acoustic worship song?

Jesus continues to be present in our lives because there are people who haven’t encountered him yet. He offers healing and peace. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

But honestly, if you’re going to be judgmental, you’re sick too.

We are closed up in church walls. We keep the good stuff in. I was a greeter for my youth group, so I understand the purpose of visitor’s forms (I’m the one who handed them out), but man, we make people fill out visitor’s forms!

We automatically label you a visitor. We all too often let you alone to sit with whoever brought you because we have our friend groups. Third row from the front, two seats in, homies all around was my usual. I’m completely guilty of that, but I’ve been working on it and so is the church as a whole.

But at Young Life, were you ever a visitor? NO. You were merely on your first step to being a regular. That’s how you’re viewed. You’re a new person to high five, a new person to listen to, a new person to grab McDonald’s with after club. And that’s special.

I started coming senior year. I still wasn’t an every-weeker, but I made it when I could. I remember going to a girls-only sleepover with all of the area’s clubs. We were all so different. The room was hot and smelled like feet. But towards the end of the night, these girls, these leaders, sat on stools in front of us and poured themselves out. They talked about stuff I’ve never heard of anyone being brave enough to admit. They said they were dirty and ugly, but through Jesus Christ they were changed for the better. We worshipped after and I cried and cried and cried. There were so many tears coming out of me and I couldn’t breathe and I don’t know what happened. I was pretty embarrassed. I haven’t cried since.

And then we had several more leaders write cardboard confessionals. They wrote the sad, terrible parts of themselves on pieces of beat-up cardboard. Then they flipped them over and showed how they had found peace, cleanliness, and comfort through Jesus Christ.

I did that for the very last club. I wrote on one side that I was always second choice. A lot of the times, I didn’t feel like people prioritized me. On the other side, I wrote that Jesus died for ME. And I did it with girls I have never loved more: my Campaigners group.

Campaigners is the part of Young Life I champion with every fiber of my being. We met on Wednesday nights with Taylor and Shelby. A few of the girls were good friends, but most I hadn’t spoke with the entire time I’d been in high school. We just dove into the Word and got questions answered and somehow it worked. I have no idea how. We laughed and sometimes our voices trembled because we were sad or felt hopeless, but we found joy and unity and love. Most of all of these, we loved.

At the start of Campaigners, my friend came whom I had been praying for for two years. And I felt like I needed to limit myself. I needed to not offend her, but I wanted so badly for her to hear the truth. I chose my words carefully as she listened silently the entire meeting.

And then, towards the end, she started talking. And talking. All about all that she had been through. I won’t share it all because it’s her own beautiful story to share, but she had been in the dark, and now she was here. She was sitting next to me on this big comfy couch with the fan whirring and people leaning in to hear her. I didn’t cry after she left that night. But I remember telling Taylor as I left, “I can’t believe this. I’ve been praying for her all this time and then she comes here and everything changes.”

I am forever grateful for everything Young Life and Campaigners and my beautiful leaders have done for me. I have a singular experience, I know. I can’t speak for the entirety. And neither can you. I know there are flaws with Young Life. But there are flaws with the church, your Bible study that meets in a hipster coffee shop, or whatever it is that those who are Christians have deemed superior to Young Life.

Currently, my College Life small group has been such an important part of my transition here in Austin. There was something special, invigorating, and so comfortable to me the moment I met my group and my two leaders. You don’t just find that anywhere.

In my experience with Young Life, I have noticed a need for more accountability. I hope to be able to be held accountable and hold others accountable as I train for leadership next semester and beyond. Any organization is made up of imperfect people. We all mess up. Maybe we don’t change right away. But what I can say for certain is that for about two hours every Monday night, there was a group of strangers meeting in a small room. And for those two hours, nothing else pressed in. Not school, not families, not drinking, not the struggles that make up our days and weeks and lives. How did you spend your Monday nights? Because I sang and I danced and I loved Jesus and others.

And if I stayed home, I regretted it.

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31 thoughts on “Y the L not

  1. I am a sophomore and I go to a Christian school that has a young life group. The other week I was sitting in class and a ton of people were talking about going to a young life camp. Everyone seemed so excited that it was only a few days away. It was then that a kid in my class, a kid that is particularly quiet and not really accepted by the regular crowds, spoke up and asked what they were talking about. The class proceeded to let him know that it was a young life camp. The boy then said that he had once been to young life but he felt alone and not accepted there. What he said made me sad to think about because he seemed to always be alone. What happened next really seemed to turn me away when a boy in my class said, “well it’s not for everyone.” At first it didn’t affect me, but later I was thinking about it. Shouldn’t something that is rooted in Christ be open for everyone? Shouldn’t a foundation meant to be an environment of Christ be accepting to everyone? I had wanted to start attending young life for a while but when this incident occurred it made me think that maybe I would be one of the people young life wasn’t for. I wanted to know your opinion on this because I want a place that I feel safe and that I can love Christ and not be ashamed. I have heard all of the stereotypes, but I don’t believe them. At this point the only thing I believe is that young life isn’t for some people, and the reason I believe that is because a regular attendee told me that not everyone is accepted. Can you please answer this post because I don’t want it to be true but I am afraid that it might. I hope you can encourage me in this. Thank you for your post!

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    1. Hey Sarah! Thanks so much for taking time to read this post and for your questions. I totally think an organization that has a foundation in Christ should be for everyone! Everyone should be welcome and feel loved. I’m super sorry that the boy still felt alone. I think the best way to interpret what the other boy meant (“Well, it’s not for everyone”) is that club itself is really, really pumped up and energetic. Some people would prefer a smaller crowd or less noise for example. YL is super fun and loud and I personally loved that. I really recommend giving it a shot. Also: I would totally call Young Life a safe place. When you come in, get pumped and try to talk to a leader. Don’t be afraid to get your groove on and get into games! Bring some friends with you and start being a regular. And remember, all clubs are different. It may take some time or adjustment to figure out if it works for you. Just let Jesus be the first priority and pursue Him however you can.

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    2. I think typically when people say “it’s not for everyone” they don’t mean that everyone isn’t welcome. They just mean that everyone doesn’t like it/isn’t interested in it. For example, I listen to country music, but I think it’s “not for everyone” just because some people don’t like country music; not because I think certain people shouldn’t listen to country music. That boy could have been Jewish, or Muslim, or an Atheist, or Buddhist, etc., so maybe he didn’t like Young Life because he doesn’t believe in Jesus, so he felt out of place. I’m not saying that Young Life isn’t accepting of people with other religions. I’m sure they are. Maybe he just felt out of place anyways.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback. I do care about the tweet, because I believe it to be wrong. My point actually was that I don’t care about the people who retweeted it. I wanted to be sure that my post wasn’t attacking those who held up those stereotypes. My main purpose was just to share my perspective and get a better sense of truth out there.

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  2. I think your article is well written and insightful. I agree that there are a lot of great thing about YL, but what’s your opinion on the lack of accountability? I went to a large high school where the stereotype that you described was very true. While the message of Christ was given (which is great), it was largely just a hang out for “popular” kids who drink or whatever on the weekends to go during the week. While hanging out in a fun and healthy environment hearing about Jesus is awesome, at what point does YL intervene in their lives enough to make a difference in their choices? My issue with my school’s YL was that if it was really a difference maker in these teen’s lives then their lives would reflect that and they would act in a way that reflects Christ. Not trying to attack at all, merely curious. I think what you’re doing specifically in your YL is great. God bless

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    1. Hey Allison! Thanks so much for your question. I think it all comes down to the leaders. My experience with the leaders was that they met up with me outside of club on Monday nights. They made an effort to come to extracurricular events, get dinner, or just sit down and talk. This continual love and time does impact choices. There is someone else out there looking out for you and talking with you about Jesus besides your parents or a distant pastor. I would say the issue with accountability is drawing the line between being a friend and being an accountability partner, which every single Christian in any relationship struggles with, not just in YL. Club is merely a platform for starting these godly relationships, but isn’t an end-all. Also, Campaigners is a Bible study part of YL where we get deeper and are impacted deeply. We were encouraged to find community outside of YL too.

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    2. Allison,
      Young Life’s purpose is to introduce HS kids to the gospel who may have never had the opportunity to hear it and help them grow in their faith. I do not believe that the actions and decisions a HS kid makes are a reflection of Young Life as an organization. A HS kid is going to make the decisions they want to make regardless. Nicole talked about this thing called Campaigners – that’s an opportunity to go deeper, a time to open up the Bible and think about what it actually means for our lives. When a HS kid has an effective YL leader who is pursuing and pouring into that HS kids life, it is then the HS’ers decision whether they want to follow Jesus or not. Jesus is what changes a HS kid, not YL. YL is simply a means of introducing them to Jesus and helping them walk through what life with Him looks like.

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    3. Hey Allison, YL isn’t a ‘behavior modifier’. You asked “at what point does YL intervene in their lives enough to make a difference in their choices?” That’s not Young Life’s goal at all. You don’t follow God to make better choices. It’s about the heart not outward actions. Grace takes time. As a YL leader I’ve poured my heart out to kids, cried with them, prayed with them, seen them really experience Jesus and yet turn right around and party the next weekend. It’s their choice. All YL does is love kids a whole lot and point them to Christ, that’s it. It’s their decision with what they do with that.

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  3. I’m going to start off by saying you can never form a true opinion of a sect by one particular group of individuals. YoungLife, when well ran, is a great tool to reach out to people who don’t necessarily like to go to church for whatever reason that may be.

    I’m not here to say your post was incorrect, but merely to point out the fall of YoungLife in my community. In the early to mid 2000’s, YoungLife was thriving in my area and my parents’ youth and Sunday School students were learning a lot and growing through the program. However, something changed around 2006. I went to YL at my school because of the great things I heard about it growing up. I went to the club meetings a total of 3 times before I realized that I had yet to hear any mention of Christ or the Bible. I stopped going because it seemed to be more of an introduction to fraternity life and a place to find people to hook up with, party with, etc. I’ve been out of high school for 4 years now but am still involved in helping with my church’s youth group and hear the things that go on at their clubs. Needless to say, churches all across my community have stopped supporting YoungLife financially due to the lack of leadership in both their “corporate” and young leader settings as well as moral and ethical issues that have taken place. I decided to see for myself what was going on at my former high school’s club before I rushed to judgement. I was allowed to spectate a meeting and what I found was a bit shocking. I’ve noticed lately that the phrase “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” is often used to describe modern day, American Christianity. While it may be technically correct, it allows for the recipients of that message to make out God to be whoever they want to be if there’s no strong, biblically based Christian leadership to help the listener see what God and the Bible are all about. The message that night was a borderline Joel Osteen message where the speaker (who regularly presented a lesson) claimed that God was there to only bless us and would give back triple the amount of money that the students donated to YoungLife. He continued to include that God will not look at the students’ sins but only the good deeds they did while participating in YoungLife events. I was interested in how the students would respond, but needless to say, $437 were donated by the 16 students. Some were even pulling out their parents credit cards (or so they said) to donate through PayPal. One even said, “I’ll just tell my dad that I gave $50 but we’ll get $150 back, so he should be cool with it.” I left that meeting wondering how such a great organization would allow that message to happen, but I tried to stay positive and not let one night ruin my thoughts about YoungLife. Then, not two weeks after that meeting, Facebook posts were spreading about how the club was trying to reach a goal of having $1,000 donated in one club night. They barely missed the goal, but for the next three meetings they kept trying to hit that mark. That was 2 years after I had left high school and luckily those goal nights aren’t around anymore. Now, my old school’s club is using their YoungLife as pregaming (no alcohol is involved, but students gather after the club to go party as soon as it lets out) and several leaders will attend the after party for whatever reason.

    Overall, I still do believe that YoungLife is a great place for students, I just would encourage students to not follow YL (or anything in life for that matter) because it’s trendy or the cool thing to do. Hopefully, brighter days are ahead for YoungLife in my area and it can become the organization that it once was.

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    1. MC, thanks so much for taking time to explain your situation. I totally get that. I spoke of my singular experience, as mentioned in the post. I know of so many YL organizations like that, and other organizations that start off great, and then turn sour. And I am also 100% with you on your perspective of religion vs. relationship. To tie that in, I did say that YL struggles with accountability, but it is a problem that leadership does strive to repair. Like I replied earlier to a comment, YL is a platform for building godly relationships. At my club, Christ was always mentioned and we always had worship time. That’s the model that an authentic Young Life meeting should follow. It pains me that yours wasn’t at all Christ-focused and that it became a “pre-game” or an excuse to raise money. I know in my experience, we all went to McDonald’s afterwards to continue to get to know one another and continue discussions. I ultimately see club as a way to get people in an environment that should direct them towards Christ. That is the good news all believers want to share. So for churches to turn away from YL? That’s not good either. If anything, set examples. Work with them, not against them. And remember that being a Christian doesn’t mean perfection. We mess up, and that’s not trendy. I’m praying for YL to be restored and to be healthier, just as I pray that for churches. I’m going to work in my part of our big world to make that that difference happen.

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  4. Thank you for a cogent explanation of your YL experience, and the true purpose of this ministry. Having been involved for 35 years as a volunteer leader, Committee chairman, and parent of two YL kids who served as Work Crew, Summer Staff, Summer Intern, and year-long intern at various YL camps, I am fully aware of the negative stereotypes that many have of YL. You are spot on with the one true mission of YL – bringing the Good News of Jesus to high school folks. Unfortunately, since we are humans and the organization is run by humans, there will always be failures of intent or execution in our ministry. I can’t imagine a club where there was no mention of God at all, or one where kids were asked for money, and there are levels of management and accountability in the organization that should have stopped that immediately. Nevertheless, I’ve seen kids who drink and drug and sex it up for a couple of years, then one day the repetition of God’s love and grace finally hits home, and what He creates from a wasting life becomes an amazing person who loved God and loves others. I think of so many kids I saw as goofy teenagers who are now leaders in their communities, churches, and other Christian ministries, including Young Life. If those hypocrites hadn’t regularly come to Young Life where they met Jesus, their lives may have been very different today.
    Thank you for continuing to serve and be served in this ministry that has opened doors for God to work miraculously in so many lives.

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  5. Great perspective – thanks for sharing! I began a relationship with Christ as a college student in part because of YL’s presence at my high school. Although I went to just a handful of YL clubs, and never attended a YL camp, YL made an eternal impact on me. As a high school student, I noticed a certain YL leader’s consistent presence with my friends – visiting during lunch, meeting us for pizza, and even attending a few of our soccer games. Julie (the YL leader) was welcoming, loving, and always inclusive, which seemed to be a stark, yet refreshing, contrast to some of my openly Christian classmates, who I knew were partying on the weekends and judging “sinners” during the week. My perspective of YL was that it was a place of acceptance and tolerance, but also consistency. And, while I only went to YL a few times, it was more than I had gone to a church youth group (which was never). Because of Julie and YL, I encountered Christ “in my world.” There were (and are) a lot of fantastic, dynamic churches and youth groups in my city; but I never attended them. If Julie had not brought the message of Christ right to me, how else would I have heard about a God that created me, loves me, and has never stopped pursuing me? If Julie & YL had not been at my school, and stirred an interest in my heart to learn more about “that Christian thing,” I may never have looked deeper as a college student. Rather, I could still be judging all Christians, based on the hypocritical behavior of some of my high school classmates. I’m grateful for Young Life, even with its faults. Young Life leaders (many of them college students) care about kids enough to sacrifice their own time, money, gas, relationships, & college experiences all for the sake of bringing Christ to those who might not otherwise encounter Him. To me, it’s a sweet picture of Christ.

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  6. Well I think the main reason you’re going to get a lot of kids at yl who are “party goers” is because those kids already have good social skills and when they hear about something fun to do during the weeknights they’re all in. Obviously yl wants everyone to come so they’re not gonna turn those kids down. Although there’s a goal to reach out to those “quiet” kids. The ones who don’t really have friends or anyone to talk to, and it’s a little more difficult to get those ones to come out. So the majority of the kids you see at yl are gonna be the “party” kids, not only that, they’re gonna be takin front stage makin noise during club having fun while at first and possibly most of the time, those “quiet” kids will sit back and watch and not really participate. It should probably be mentioned that I am an non-believer or an atheist, whatever u wanna call me, but despite the fact that I don’t really support teaching the bible. I think yl is a great organization to reach out to the lonely kids and just give the some nice, clean social interaction. Even though at the time I attended yl I was a skeptic of the bible and didn’t really consider myself and athiest or a Christian and I didn’t care for bible studies. I attended every campaigners because it was so interactive with your fellow “young lifers.” It was just a relaxed setting where everyone just talked about just how their week went or anything that was troubling them, and even though I had to sit through a bible study I felt it was a great thing. Some might say “well clearly they didn’t focus enough on Christ if you’re still an athiest.” Which may be true, I’m not sure how much pressure needs to be put on before you can convert me. However, I’ve always been skeptical so I pretty much ignored the Christian influence and just focused on the relations I had with leaders and yl’ers and I would recommend club campaigners and camp to any high schoolers. Especially those who feel lonely in life.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this! I agree that Young Life is an amazing organization that is centered and grounded on Christ and His word. Young life’s mission is to reach out to kids and show them Jesus’ love regardless of how they act or respond. “we love because He first loved us” -1 John 4-19..this is exactly what young life does. now how kids respond is between them and God.. if you take a youth group and see how many kids drink or party on the weekends but still continuously come to youth group you’ll find the same numbers as kids who do those things and attend young life.. the difference is they don’t hide their sins at younglife like they might at youth group because they feel welcomed and loved despite the sin in their lives. Yet, by no means does younglife encourage kids sinful behavior, it just shows them love anyway like Jesus does. Young life leaders pour into students lives so that the students may come to know Christ by witnessing His love being poured out through these people.. yet if the kids still decide not to commit their lives to Christ, younglife leaders will continue to love and accept them. They will also continue to pray and ask God to change the hearts of their students but they won’t pressure kids into becoming a Christian. Young life is a true example of the quote “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary use words”
    Just in my experience, I served on work crew with young life and got to see everything that goes on behind the scenes of the ministry during that month and what I witnessed was some of the most godly, Jesus-loving people devoting their time and efforts into creating an environment that was loving and welcoming to kids so that they could hear about Jesus. I have never seen so much prayer go into something, and that month I saw God work in tremendous ways. Also, at every young life event I have been to, when kids come to know Jesus and accept him as their Lord and Savior they ALWAYS tell kids to get involved in their church and to be in God’s word everyday. Young life is not a substitute for church, it’s a Christ centered ministry that basically goes on local mission trips to their high schools to reach the kids where they are. That’s how I see it.

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    1. My gripe is that you have young kids coming together and just doing fun things bonding and having a good ol time. That is something any kid of that age would enjoy. Then you express to them that basically the reason all this is possible is because the love of Jesus Christ is flowing through one another or something along that line. Then Christ takes credit for something that is natural without the need for a god. Not saying that your doing this with malicious intent, but that its unnecessary and there’s clearly an agenda to evangelize kids while they’re young and still not really rational adults, whether most ppl in the organization believe it or not. Where as I am an atheist and i reject a god, but at the same time if i were to do all the activities and have all these connections with kids and leaders. The end results would be exactly the same except without the mention of Jesus, God or the Bible. I think Christians are somewhat taking advantage of kids in a vulnerable spot to preach their gospel rather than genuinely caring about the well being of these kids.
      “Young life’s mission is to reach out to kids and show them Jesus’ love regardless of how they act or respond. ” That’s a pretty clear indication that the no.1 priority isnt the well being of the kids, but to introduce Christ to them.
      “Young life leaders pour into students lives so that the students may come to know Christ by witnessing His love being poured out through these people.. yet if the kids still decide not to commit their lives to Christ, young life leaders will continue to love and accept them.” Somewhat of a counter argument to my previous statement, and ill admit. My leaders did basically reveal everything about them and their past, nor did i feel pressured to accept Christ. but this created a bond, but not through Christ, but just person to person. This is just how natural connections form between ppl, no need for Christ.
      I see a couple other comments on here from what i assume other atheists who probly assume yl camp is some kind of cult camp where they really hit the kids hard with the Christian aspect of it. However I went to camp, and it was about the same atmosphere you get at club or campaigners, just with ylers around the world and on a bigger scale which is not a cult for sure and there isnt a lot of pressure, just an obvious influence . Imo and experience it is a great org, just tainted with Christ, as it is unnecessary to bring religion into this idea to reach out to troubled kids and just give them companionship. The focus should be completely on the relations the kids are developing among each other, not some god that only exists by word of mouth and man made texts.
      As much as i believe the bible is bologna, i try not to offend others in their beliefs. So i apologize if i offend you or anyone. However I get offended when ppl take young kids at a vulnerable spot and try to push beliefs on them even if its just a slight influence such as what YL does.

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      1. YL is a Christian organization, and it seeks to share the good news of Jesus Christ with anyone who encounters the organization. Attending YL is a choice. No one is forcing attendance. Loving and forming healthy relationships with kids is the goal. As a Christian, I can see that every relationship I have is going to be influenced by my beliefs, just as your relationships will be influenced by yours. There should be no offense taken in our delivery, as anyone who comes is taken as they are. As with any organization, there is a purpose to it, and at meetings, the purpose and goals are often shared. There are many non-Christian organizations that are also great for reaching the “troubled kids” you mention, and are accessible to anyone who absolutely can’t stand the Christian aspect of YL. From my perspective, there is always a need for Christ, and I understand that you don’t feel the same, but YL is coming from a perspective similar to mine.

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  8. awesome post… I am a YL leader who thought over the summer I had to buy beer for my kids to be accepted, I realized that I am the one who was hurting the most and I so regret the teenagers lives I impacted so poorly, my area told me I had to step down so I moved to another area where they do not know my past and I am trying to make better choices. Now I am leading with this BIG secret and I am always worried they will find out. I still find myself connecting with my old YL kids through social media telling them I love and miss them, I guess its my way of coping with what I did. Please pray for me, you sound like an awesome young lady.

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  9. Ignoring the fact that I think your evidence is largely anecdotal and ignoring the fact that there *is* a huge issue with young life as in most places, it is more a social party club than what it’s vaguely defined purpose is, Young Life is anti-gay. I’m sorry if you’re anti-LGBT, but that’s really against Jesus Christ’s mission to love and support everyone. Also, the organization has been caught using appalling guilt techniques (“let them stew in the fact that they are sinners”) and other extremely manipulative ways to convert or strengthen their religious standpoint, if they mention it at all. At times, it resembles a church from the Great Awakening. It only takes a google search or two to read about these incidents or techniques.
    I’m fine if Young Life has made you a better person, but in a lot of places, it’s either (like the tweet said) a place for people to socialize while having something to say they “do” or a dubiously christian organization. You can love an organization and still see its flaws.

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    1. YL supports and loves all people as they struggle with sin, which includes homosexuality. We as Christians exemplify both love but also truth, the truth being that it says explicitly in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. But we don’t define people by their struggles, although it seems as if you are defining YL by its struggles. And as for “stewing” in sin, it’s merely an acknowledgement that we all are imperfect, including me and you. It’s not a guilt trip, but rather a revelation that there is hope and a future no matter how much we struggle. And the Great Awakenings weren’t necessarily bad. Unfortunately they did exemplify legalism, but at their very root, they awakened a need for God in a very passive and empty society. There are flaws with Young Life, as there are flaws in every single organization or movement, religious or secular. Young Life didn’t “make me a better person,” it opened up opportunities to connect with anyone, no matter where they’re coming from.

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  10. The fundamental problem I have with YL is its dishonestly with both the kids and the parents of those they are trying to recruit. You are an Evangelical Christian organization but do not fully disclose what your main goal is from the start. You tell kids it’s just fun with a little talk of Jesus thrown in. But there is a game plan to prey on vulnerable teenagers and make them feel welcome then get them to camp where there is a system in place to have the children then be saved and give their lives to Christ.

    This is serious business and most of the parents, unless they are also believers, think they are sending their kids to a camp for some fun with their friends. It’s a bait and switch. Many parent are dismayed to find out their child has made such huge decision that may alter their lives without having been informed. You may think you are doing them a favor by saving them but parents should be informed, many are not happy with this and you teach leaders and kids to play down this aspect to non believers.

    The tactics used at camp are similar to those used by cults.

    Why not be upfront and tell kids and parents from the start that your goal is to turn their children into Evangelical Christians? Because you want to reach as many kids as possible and that would be a turn off.

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    1. I’m sorry that you think Christianity is a turn-off. We don’t suck kids in and try to convert them. It’s their decision to make. The decision to accept salvation is not anyone else involved in YL’s to make and not even their parents. We spread a hope and a joy that is completely up for anyone who enters YL to choose to be a part of or not. Camp is clearly led byYL and parents are informed of what the camp consists of, which is fun activities and also Biblical lessons and worship. I’ve never been to camp personally, but I’ve heard of experiences that were anything but pushy or negative.

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      1. I don’t think Christianity is a turn-off unless someone is pushing their agenda onto others who didn’t ask for it. I believe there are many paths to God and many Christians are wonderful people who do great work. The downplaying of the born again aspect to parents and kids alike is dishonest. Yes, they know it is a Christian camp but for people unaccustomed to the Evangelical aspects aren’t informed of the pressure the kids get to stand up and be saved in front of everybody by the end. These are kids who are highly impressionable and vulnerable being told that accepting Jesus is the only way to be saved. The pressure is strong.

        I think it would be more honest if you told the parents and the kids up front that you want their kids to be saved. Many parent and kids don’t think they need or want saving and that should be respected. They should be informed of what will be asked of their kids at the end of camp/

        I have been to camp and it started out fun but then they break you down emotionally and then offer up Jesus as the only way out. Most kids loved it and felt special when they stood up in front of everyone to say they were devoting their life to Jesus, lots of happy tears and hugging. I’ve heard the same stories from other people at different camps and also from the point of view from parent who have their child come back from camp to declare they are now true christians and stop going to the church of their family.

        But many parents do not know about this aspect. They should be told and so should the kids.

        Then once the child has been saved they are asked to recruit more kids emphasizing the fun and not the Jesus. This is asking a kid to be deceptive.

        If I seem upset it’s because I have seen people I love either get rejected by their peers if they did not get saved, or if they did they became spiritually distanced from their family because they thought of YL as their new spiritual family.

        I know many have have good intentions but I don’t like the ends justifies the means practice of pulling in kids with song, dance, smiles, hugs, understanding and only then then trying to get them to camp to be saved which is the goal.

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  11. the tactics used at camp and YL are not cult tactics. U need to research cults a bit more. I have been camping dozens of time with YL and the camps are Christian. do u even know what a cult it?

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  12. I went to young life twice, mostly because my friend went. I’m very faithful to my own religion but because its a form of Christianity I thought nothing negative could come from yl so I went. My friend that brought me was paid for bringing me so I thought that was the first weird thing. I didn’t really feel particularly “welcomed”. There was about an hour of partying followed by about a minute of Jesus loves you and then it was over. The second time a bunch of yl kids really pressured me to come again so I did, and i realized this time was way more about converting people than having fun. I felt really uncomfortable and wanted to leave but they had picked me up and we’re driving me home so I sat through an hour of being told why my religion was wrong and I needed to go to church with them. The whole thing was just really uncomfortable to me and I definitely didnt see it as worship. It sounds like you were lucky to have a good yl experience, I wouldn’t criticise that kids tweet because it seems to be true for the majority.

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    1. I can fairly criticize his tweet/opinion because it isn’t accurate in a significant amount of situations. Your friend getting paid to bring you is messed up, and I can’t seem to emphasize enough that all of these weird situations everyone keeps coming up with in the comments are NOT THE NORM. Just as so many people are inclined to inform me that my situation is an anomaly, I need to tell you and everyone that I was sharing MY NORM. I was sharing how Young Life is supposed to be and how it can work if organized properly. And because YL is Christian, yes, we are going to share what we’re all about. I can’t seem to figure out what you’re going for: less Jesus, or more. At first, you said there was “a minute of Jesus.” Then at the next club, there was “way more about converting” and you “didn’t see it as worship.” There should be a balance at any club, but I’m not sure which one you’re looking for based off of your comment.

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  13. Nicole,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel that many of these comments are negative or play “devil’s advocate,” but I couldn’t agree more with you and your opinion of YoungLife.

    My YoungLife group were my best friends, my only friends really. They welcomed me with open arms, no matter my background or history. That’s where I believe this idea of the lack of accountability is located. There are drunks and jocks and smokers in YoungLife because we don’t turn them away. Not only that, but those are the ones that YoungLife, as an organization, strive to reach. If only Christians went and didn’t let any nonbelievers or skeptics in, then how would the group look? How are we exemplifying God’s love in being exclusive? If we can reach one kid out of 100 that wants to leave a life of sin behind, I think all of it seems worth it.

    So thankful that you put yourself out there and shared this. It truly brightened my day. YoungLife is my heart and soul; I’m pursuing a degree currently with hopes of finding a career through them. Little messages like these motivate me. You’re awesome!! Much love.

    Mckenzie

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  14. I should’ve clarified that I got the impression that I was supposed to go to the first one and think it was really fun and then go to the second one expecting fun and instead have my beliefs slammed so I would want to convert. I was hoping it would just be kids getting together to do something uplifting and share scriptures and our experiences, but it felt very bait and switch to me. My last message was really critical and i apologize if it came off mean, I just have had really negative experiences with yl in the past but I understand that it’s been a positive experience for you and if you feel it’s brought you closer to God and it’s made you a better person then that’s all that matters 🙂

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  15. my first time at young life was a few months ago. I was very confused when I got there because I had been told by my friends that it was a bible study and stuff. I got there and we all sang and danced to like Taylor swift and stuff and it was fun no doubt, but there was barely a message about Jesus. All the guy talked about that night was the way you see Jesus. He didn’t go into depth or anything. He told us how he saw him and that was it. In your writing, you said that it gives a simple message to the people who live in homes where there is not Christianity there. If they can’t go to church or read their bible because of their home circumstances then how will they completely learn about Jesus of the only “churchy” (I put it in quotations because it’s not a church, not insulting it) thing they attend doesn’t get into depth about Jesus. How will they fall in love with Jesus if all they have is a simple 10 minute (that’s how long the guy talked at my YL) message about something? I would love to attend young life regularly, but when I went I was almost turned off by the way it went. What I’m trying to get at here, is that if people aren’t saved, don’t come to church, and go to young life, when will young life step up and go into depth in their messages and make Jesus the focus and not singing and dancing. I’m sorry if I came off rude in any way! I’m just curious! 🙂

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    1. Hey Brooke! You didn’t come off as rude at all! Thanks for your question. Young Life is a bridge. It bridges the way to deeper conversations with leaders and peers and also encourages anyone who comes to form that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accept salvation. YL isn’t church, like we both agree on, so it’s a bridge between nothing and fulfillment between Jesus Christ. It’s a fun way to start off, but the hope is for whoever comes to form a community through the deeper Bible study led by YL leaders called Campaigners and hopefully a church family as well. Young Life meets you where you are, and a lot of people who aren’t used to church aren’t going to feel comfortable with worship songs and an intense Bible study.

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