Young Life reaches next generation with the gospelBookmark this
Sharing the truth of God’s love with adolescents has been Young Life’s mission since 1941. The Christ-centered, non-denominational organization has spread to 100 countries, engages an average of 348,000 kids weekly through 8,176 schools and ministries, and sends 160,000 kids to camp. Even more impressive, Young Life reports that leaders know two million kids by name. What a ripe harvest field for the kingdom of Christ.
Over the years, Young Life has developed time-tested methods to offer adolescents hope and friendship. Their strategy appeals to young people’s love of fun and adventure. But first, adult leaders build relationships to “earn the right to be heard.”
A motto of Young Life is “kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Leaders intentionally seek out kids wherever they gather—the football game, theater practice, or math tutoring. Kids spell love, T-I-M-E, and Young Life staffers are committed to investing time to build relationships. Kids feel the love of God through their leaders' caring presence in their lives.
Young Life engages kids in several ways. The easiest ask is weekly Club—a power hour of fun. Young Life Metro Director of Greater San Antonio Annie Mays says a typical night of Club begins with group karaoke, then shifts to crazy mixer games. Leaders surprise kids with silly contests or skits, she adds, before the mood gets a little more serious. They’ll transition to Christ-focused songs to prepare hearts for the message. Over the course of a semester, leaders tell the entire gospel story, culminating with Christ’s invitation to salvation. Ideally, the kids’ hearts will be soft and ready for the next hallmark of Young Life—a camp experience.
Camp is planned to be “the best week of their life.” Kids ages 11-18 participate in a myriad of adventurous, outdoor activities in five-star accommodations.
“Adventure is part of our DNA—at camp we offer them something that cannot be replicated at home,” Annie says. Camp also provides a safe place to process, away from phones. “They have never had a mental break from the constant, stressful, distracting screen in front of their face,” she says. “At camp, they experience a level of peace they otherwise don’t have.
“Young Life kids go to camp with their leaders, which strengthens a relationship in which they’ve already been investing. Every single night they hear the gospel story unfold. Then teens have time with their leaders to ask questions in a no-pressure environment. They are clearly asked to respond, but we want their response to be their choice and to be real.”
It seems incredible that there wasn’t a Young Life camp in the entire state of Texas!
Until recently, Young Lifers in Texas had to go thousands of miles if they wanted to experience one of the organization’s signature camps. It seems incredible that there wasn’t a Young Life camp in the entire state of Texas! That all changed this spring, when Young Life purchased Camp Lonehollow, a beautiful property in the Hill Country close to Garner State Park.
The new acquisition opens opportunities for camping to many who otherwise couldn’t afford the travel time and expense.
“God put on our hearts a vision for all kids of San Antonio—including the disabled and the almost 70 percent of secondary school kids who are Latino. Our heart is for our Club’s demographics to look like those of San Antonio,” Annie says.
Since Young Life has historically attracted more Anglo-American teens, Annie's staff is working to overcome any cultural obstacles to make Club inviting to everyone. In her 15 years working with Young Life on San Antonio’s South Side, her team found nuances of the Latino culture that were at odds with traditional Young Life ways. For example, going to camp is not normative for many Latino families.
“We now have a generation of kids—even in poverty—who don’t remember a time when they did not have a daily relationship with their screen. They have never had a mental break from the constant, stressful, distracting screen in front of their face. Camp is the only place we can offer that break.”
— Annie Mays, Metro Director of Greater San Antonio Young Life
“It is not considered good parenting in many families to let your kids go away with strangers for eight days,” she says, as she strives to earn the trust of parents as well as their teens.
In addition to middle school, high school and college-age Clubs, Young Life Capernaum ministers to kids with disabilities; YoungLives reaches teen moms; and Club Beyond, teens from military families. 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.”
“There are so many great things about Young Life that are nonnegotiable around the world—building relationships, going where kids are, sharing the gospel, doing life with them—but there are some things we can do differently to make sure that we continue to reach the next generation with the gospel,” Annie concludes.
Be A Light.
Visit. Visit the ministry website and see how you can get involved. Attend. Go to a fundraising event. Host. Offer your home as a meeting place for Club. Volunteer. Become a leader or supporter. Pray. Pray that Young Life will keep reaching teens. Give. Donors are vital to Young Life. Local donations remain here to fund efforts in our community and help send kids to Young Life camps.
Young Life Greater San Antonio
1248 Austin Hwy #106-214
San Antonio, TX 78209-4821
1 Lone Star Pass, Building 41
San Antonio, TX 78264
Avanzar Interior Technologies, located in south San Antonio, produces automotive interiors for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Inc.’s San Antonio and Mexico plants. Avanzar's CEO Berto Guerra serves on Young Life's National Board of Trustees.
And an Anonymous Partner
Thank you Lord, for this anonymous donor who generously gave so YoungLife could be featured in our May/June Issue. With this generous gift, we are able to raise awareness of this ministry and the difference they are making in our community.