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Young Life is a non-profit, Christian non-denominational, incarnational, parachurch ministry. Young Life consists of many branches of ministry (see below) but most commonly the name "Young Life" refers to the outreach arm of the organization directed towards high school students. Young Life staff and volunteer leaders build relationships with teenagers through a variety of social interactions, formal and informal events, and group trips.

History

Young Life was started when Jim Rayburn, a youth leader in Gainesville, Texasmarker, was given the challenge of targeting high school students who were not interested in church. In order to connect with these highschoolers, Rayburn decided to spend time and develop relationships with them (this came to be known as contact work). After establishing relationships with the kids, he began weekly clubs. Young people attending these clubs would experience singing, various skits, a game or two, and finally a message about Jesus Christ. Soon, the popularity of these clubs increased, targeting many teenagers.

Young Life in the United Statesmarker was officially incorporated by Jim Rayburn in Texas on October 16, 1941. The philosophies of this US version inspired evangelical efforts in more than 50 other countries, and Young Life reaches an estimated 1 million teenagers annually.

Purpose

Young Life's leaders state that their ministry philosophy is "incarnational" or "relational" ministry, which Young Life defines as a ministry in which adult volunteer leaders build mentoring relationships and share their lives with teenagers in order to teach them about Jesus Christ and how to live lives in a personal relationship with him and for him. Young Life's goal is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to expand the belief to areas that have limited or no Christian influence.

Young Life activities are coordinated by the Young Life Area Director, other staff members and/or volunteer Young Life leaders, who are assigned to a particular high school. These volunteer leaders are usually trained, interviewed, and screened by the area director (who sends their background information to Young Life National), who is ultimately accountable for their actions and whatever activities are planned. The training process is left to the judgment of the area director, however Young Life has a hierarchy where a supervising staff member is accountable for every staff member under them all the way up to the president of the organization.

Young Life is active in all 50 states in the United States of Americamarker and currently has a Young Life club present in roughly 2,500 high schools across the nation. It has expanded internationally, to more than 45 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Africa, North and South America. More than 70,000 teenagers spend a weekend during the school year or a week during the summer at one of Young Life's camping properties in the United States and Canadamarker.

Young Life is not limited to only high schoolers. It has extended its efforts to reach out to other children, and from this other ministries of Young Life have been created.

Capernaum: Young Life’s ministry to disabled children. Named after the town where Jesus was said to have performed miracles.
Small Town/Rural: Young Life’s ministry to children in one-high school towns of fewer than 25,000 people.
Multicultural: Young Life’s ministry to racial and ethnic minorities, focused on children who live in high-density communities and who are historically, socially and/or economically disadvantaged.
WyldLife: Young Life’s ministry to middle school student.
YoungLives: Young Life’s ministry to teenage mothers.
Young Life College: [89492] outreach to college students and recruitment to leadership.


Organizational Operation

The Young Life organization has official, intentional ways of attempting to reach out to youth through their "Five C's":
Contact work - Any instance where Young Life leaders spend time with teenagers in an informal setting is known as "contact work". Examples of contact work encouraged by Young Life staff include attending school sporting events, talking to students after school, and hanging out with teenagers during or after their school hours. Contact work is the foundation for the ministry of Young Life.
Club - Club is an evangelistic proclamation event held weekly throughout the school year; it is the organization's main outreach arm. Its purpose to introduce and present the message of Jesus Christ to teenagers. Club typically includes one or more of the following activities: singing classic or popular songs, skits performed by students and/or leaders, games/"ice breaking" activities, and a short talk about Jesus and the Bible, often related to an incident in the speaker's life. Club is the most frequent, represented, and visible activity of Young Life. Membership is open to all students and has no requirements at all.
Campaigners - An optional Bible study forum, Campaigners is a biblical discipleship meeting for students lead by an adult volunteer leader or staff member. Campaigners typically includes one or more of the following activities: Bible study, prayer, Christian musical worship, and discussion among the participants.
Camp - Every summer Young Life leaders and staff organize and arrange a trip to take teenagers to one of the camps owned by the organization. Most camps host weekend and summer trips and are busy year-round. Camp trips range from 5-7 days in the summer months and 2-4 days during the school year and include numerous outdoor activities such as sports, ropes courses, and rock climbing, varying based on the environment of the camp. Camps generally include a daily Club and designated discussion time known as "cabin time" at the end of the day, a time to reflect on what they have heard about Jesus Christ and life in general. Young Life camps are staffed by volunteer high school students (known as "Work Crew") and college students ("Summer Staff") in the summer, along with full-time camp property staff members and interns throughout the year. Work Crew and Summer Staff volunteer services usually for 3-5 weeks. The Work Crew typically does the "grunt work" jobs, such as washing dishes, serving food, mowing the lawn, or cleaning toilets. The Summer Staff volunteers are given more responsibilities in their jobs where they operate the ropes courses, go-karts, and pools/lakes or prepare the camps' meals, run errands, or work at one of the offices or retail stores.
Committee - Committee is a group of adults who are committed to supporting Young Life in their local area. Support from committee members typically includes any combination of prayer, planning, and financial donations. Most Young Life committees have a volunteer chairperson who is responsible for all committee coordination efforts. Committee chairpersons often co-sponsor local fundraising efforts, as Young Life area directors are responsible for raising the vast majority of their own area's operating budget. Banquets and golf tournaments are examples of common fundraising events.


Camping

Campers in the pool at Wildhorse Canyon (now Washington Family Ranch).
There are currently 20 Young Life camps in operation across the continental United States, two camps in Canada, and three camps in Latin America. Young Life also owns two currently inoperative camps. Almost 90,000 children around the world spend a week at a Young Life camp.

Young Life Camps in the United States



Young Life Camps in Canada



Young Life Camps in Latin America



Camps Not Currently Used

  • Clearwater Cove in Lampe, Missouri, USA
  • Carolina Point in Pikens, South Carolina, USA


Camps Under Development

  • Pinnacle Point, Brevard, North Carolina, USA
  • Unnamed Camp being built on Washington Family Ranch property. Expected to be done 2011.


References

  1. Ministry Watch Profile
  2. http://www.younglife.org/AboutYoungLife/
  3. Facts at Your Fingertips
  4. http://www.younglife.org/YoungLifeCollege/
  5. Five C's of Young Life
  6. http://www.younglife.org/Camping/ Young Life Camping
  7. http://lakechampion.younglife.org/
  • From Young Life Bylaws, Article IX


Further reading

  • Cailliet, Emile; Young Life (1963)
  • Meridith, Char; It's a Sin to Bore a Kid: The Story of Young Life (1977) ISBN 0-8499-0043-3
  • Miller, John; Back to the Basics about the early years of Young Life including a lot of Rayburn's life.
  • Rayburn, Jim III; From Bondage To Liberty - Dance, Children, Dance a biography by his son (2000) ISBN 0-9673897-4-7
  • Rayburn, Jim: The Diaries of Jim Rayburn (2008) Rayburn's personal journals, edited and annotated by Kit Sublett Morningstar Press and Whitecaps Media ISBN 978-0-9758577-7-9


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