(This is a modified version of what I got to share at our YL Banquet last night…it’s a bit longer than usual but worth it if you care about YL!)
You’ve already gotten to see and experience what Young Life does. But why does it work? How is it that the sum total of all this chaos is transformed lives; kids coming into real relationships with Jesus? That may seem like a pretty big jump so I’m going to try and unpack that a bit.
I met Annie at the YL camp Castaway Club after my junior year of high school. She was great and I had a great week. But at that point in my life I wasn’t interested in having a relationship with her or with God.
Fast forward a year and Annie has pursued me, prayed for me, and I end up doing work crew – serving at a YL camp for a month. In the midst of that month I found myself wanting to follow Jesus. But I got home and didn’t know where to start…
Let me explain.
That summer, after I did work crew, a YL Leader was moving into the basement of another YL Leader’s house. The basement was a gross disaster – completely unlivable in our opinion. (That’s a “before” picture to the right.)
So while they were both out of town for a couple days, Annie arranged for us to “while you were out” their house. They gave us a (small) budget and we got to work. (A couple more “after” pictures below.)
It took three days of really hard labor but we were SO proud of ourselves. And I spent every waking and sleeping minute of those couple days next to Annie.
THIS is why YL works.
When I came home from work crew, ready and wanting to follow Christ I wasn’t given a book or ushered into a seminar series. I was embraced in a relationship.
Annie taught me what it meant to follow Jesus (and still does) by being available, by loving me, and by inviting me to do really fun things with her.
This isn’t just the Young Life model; it’s what Jesus did. He took a few close friends with him for 3 years of a wild adventure. Of apprenticeship and teaching on the job. He didn’t hold lectures or write how-to manuals. He simply did his life and invited his friends to join.
And then, in the craziest plan ever, he called them to go and do the same.
It’s the same place. Almost the exact same picture. It’s the same message and the same Jesus we get the privilege of telling kids about. What changes, what has kept YL in the game for the last 70 years, are the relationships.
Because Annie invited me to walk alongside her I naturally learned to do the same. And so each year, each week, YL leaders show up in kids’ lives. We love them. We do fun things with them and we take them with us on the adventure of life with Christ, hoping and praying that they leave high school to go and do the same.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “We loved you so much we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
There is a relationship behind each of us involved in Young Life. Sure we love playing games and singing songs at Club. We may even like learning about Jesus at Campaigners. But the reason we’re here, the reason why this whole thing works, is because someone loved us into this room. Each of us is so very dear to a leader. Dear enough that they wanted to share the transforming power of Christ with us, but also so dear that they want to share their lives with us, too.
Imagine with me what the world will be like as we go out and do the same.