Young Life is a not-for-profit Christian organization with branches of the ministry spread all over the world. The organization is directed towards teenagers and tries to make a positive impact on their lives through various means that include introducing them to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
To accomplish its goals, Young Life attempts to reach out to the youth through:
- Contact work, establishing a relationship with teenagers by spending time with them.
- Club, a weekly event held throughout the school year.
- Campaigners, an optional Bible study program.
- Camp, taking teenagers to a 5-7 day camp in summers or 2-4 days during school year where participants indulge in activities like sports, ropes courses, rock climbing depending upon the environment of the camp.
- Committee, adult groups who support Young Life in their local areas.
- Teenagers are encouraged to have fun and be themselves in an environment conducive to finding answers to life's biggest questions.
Young Life has a presence in all 50 states of USA, and more than 70 countries across Europe, North and South America, Asia, North Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In USA and Canada alone, more than 70,000 teenagers attend on weekends during school or a week during summers at different camping sites owned by the Young Life organization.
Young Life is a member of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and enjoys Grade A in transparency and five star efficiency rating. There are presently more than 27,000 volunteers working with Young Life. 19,000 out of them are leaders who spend time with high school and middle school children on their turf; places where kids hangout - sports events, coffee houses, movies theaters . Apart from Young Life leaders, there are 11,000 adults who work behind the scenes and lend local support to Young Life.
Despite a history of seven decades and its expansion across all continents the mission of Young Life remains the same; introduce Jesus Christ to teenagers. Its vision is to provide an opportunity to every adolescent to meet Jesus Christ and follow him. Volunteer leaders and staff try to accomplish this by doing contact work by reaching out to kids, building personal relationships based on faith, loving them regardless of their response and helping young people to develop their skills, attitudes and assets to reach their God given potential.
The focus is still on reaching out to children and meeting them on their turf. The underlying purpose is to build mentoring relationships, share lives with them, instill confidence by conveying a message that they are accepted for what they are and teach them how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
All volunteers and staff undergo a screening process. The touchstone is allegiance to the Young Life's statement of faith that focuses on its central purpose of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and introducing it to children the world over and aiding them to grow in faith.
The activities of Young Life are coordinated by Area Directors, staff members and volunteers assigned to a particular school. These are usually trained people who are aware of and have read and believe in the organization's mission statement, policies on sexual misconduct and sexual harassment and guidelines for conflict resolution. The training process is usually left to the discretion of the area director. However, at Young Life, supervising members are responsible for the activities of all under them, right up to the president of the organization.
Apart from its primary focus on school children, Young Life has ventured into other areas as well. It has a ministry, called Young Lives, for teenage mothers. Young Life College is a ministry to college students, which also recruits and trains students for serving in clubs. Club Beyond is a ministry of clubs on military bases for children of people serving in the defense forces.
It all started in 1938, when a young Jim Rayburn, a Presbyterian leader and seminary student in Gainesville, Texas, was given a challenge to treat the neighborhood school as his parish. The challenge was to connect with youngsters who had no interest in church. Rayburn accepted the challenge and did what he thought was Jesus Christ's way. Instead of asking the students to come to him, he reached out and spent time with them at juvenile hangouts. Rayburn called it contact work.
The foundation of Young Life was unofficially laid when Rayburn started a weekly club where a simple message about Jesus Christ was pushed in between singing and other fun activities. There was dramatic increase in attendance once the meetings started taking place in the residences of the students.
Young Life officially came into existence on October 16, 1941, when Rayburn and four other seminarians joined hands to spread the club idea throughout Texas. Their one-point agenda was to show kids that faith in God was fun, exhilarating and life changing, all at the same time.
Within a matter of five years, the staff grew to 20 men and women across several states and Young Life shifted its headquarters to Colorado Springs, Colo. Young Life's contact work went beyond the shores of USA to France in 1953; the ministry set up there continues to this day. By 1963, Young Life had reached out to British Columbia, to Germany and Brazil.
It was only in the early 1970s that Young Life began ministries in multi-ethnic and urban areas, after focusing completely on only suburban high school students for more than three decades.
In 1980s, Young Life introduced two new ministries; WyldLife for middle school students and Capernaum, for disabled children. From one club in Texas, today Young Life has 700 ministries across the globe.
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