Young Life is a nondenominational, Christian youth organization that aims at implementing innovative approaches of youth ministry to meet the needs of teenagers and young adults in today’s world. Young Life was originally founded in the United States and today is one of the largest Christian youth organizations worldwide. 4.300 full-time staff and over 63.000 volunteer leaders reaching out to more than 1.6 million adolescents per year. In the region “Mid Europe” for which I am working, Young Life currently operates in Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia. In 2014, more than 60 full-time staff and many volunteer leaders build relationships with over 5.000 adolescents and college-age students. In Germany, Young Life was founded as an organization in 2007.
Out there in the world of kids. Young Life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with adults concerned enough about kids to go to them, on their turf and in their culture, building bridges of authentic friendship. These relationships don’t happen overnight — they take time, patience, trust and consistency. So Young Life leaders log many hours with kids around the world — where they are, as they are. Leaders faithfully attend football practices in the Minneapolis suburbs, mingle with teenagers at a mall in Stockholm and play pick-up soccer with former child-soldiers in Liberia. We listen to their stories and learn what’s important to them, because we genuinely care about their joys, triumphs, heartaches and setbacks. We believe in the power of presence. Kids’ lives are dramatically influenced when caring adults come alongside them, sharing God’s love with them. Because their leader believes in them, they begin to see that their lives have great worth, meaning and purpose.This is the first step of a lifelong journey; the choices they make today, based upon God’s love for them, will influence future decisions … careers chosen, marriages formed and families raised. All ripples from the time when a Young Life leader reached out and entered their world.
Who is Young Life for? Everyone is welcome in Young Life! Our programs are custom-made for kids throughout their adolescent years. Young Life is the name of our organization and is also the term we use for our program with high school students. We call our middle school program WyldLife. Young Life College is our program for college and university students. Young Life’s multicultural ministry, focused on kids in diverse cultural communities and those in economically-depressed areas, is arguably the largest of its kind in the United States. We refer to our ministry to kids with disabilities as Capernaum and to our work with teen moms as YoungLives. In a partnership with Military Community Youth Ministries, Young Life reaches military teens through a program called Club Beyond. The Small Town/Rural initiative brings Young Life to communities of fewer than 25,000 people, and Amicus is our student exchange and hosting program for international kids.
„I am thankful for Young Life, because it shows me how I can open up my heart to God.
I have found love, hope and faith through Young Life
as well as the best friendships that you can ever imagine.”
An adolescent Young Life participant
Caring for kids — Contact work. Because kids don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care, Young Life leaders show they care by going where kids are, meeting them as they are, believing in who they can be. Within Young Life, we call the persistent going out into the world of kids “contact work,” but kids just call it friendship.
A party with a purpose — Club. What is it about Young Life club that makes it the best night of the week for thousands of kids every week? We like to think of it as a party with a purpose. It’s controlled chaos that’s almost impossible to describe, but kids know it when they see it. And before the party ends, we share a simple message about God’s love for them. After all, that’s what the celebration is all about.
The best week of their lives — Camp. Kids consistently tell us that Young Life camp is the best week of their lives. That’s a rousing (and unsolicited) endorsement! But how else would you describe a week where deep relationships are forged in the midst of mind-boggling fun and you experience and listen to what we believe is the greatest love story ever told?
A time to questions, learn and grow — Campaigners. Campaigners is a weekly gathering for kids who wish to learn more or grow in their faith through study, service and leadership. We invite kids to actively follow Jesus Christ — and we’re with them for the long haul to help them take those steps of faith with unconditional love. Along the way, we encourage kids to celebrate their faith through participation in a local congregation.
Adults who care — Committee. Young Life is making a difference in the lives of kids around the world, because we are supported by adults who care about kids in their community. For every talented Young Life staff person, there is a team of dedicated volunteer leaders who work directly with kids. In each community, the local “committee,” comprised of parents, Young Life alumni and civic leaders, provides a foundation of financial, administrative and moral support for the local Young Life team.