When I arrived at Grove City College as a freshman, I was shocked at the abundance of organizations and activities available for students. From what I expected to be offered at a small liberal arts college in Western Pennsylvania, walking into the Org Fair (an event at the beginning of the semester that allows students to be introduced to the various organizations and groups on campus) was a humbling (and honestly overwhelming!) experience. The room was loud, filled with excited voices, eager to share stories of experience and involvement. As I spent time navigating the tables, I signed up with my email to hear more information about a few organizations.
Fast forward. After a semester of trying to find where I wanted to become involved on campus, I was still very much unsure where I wished to invest my time. I attended many informational meetings. I met with many students who were very passionate about organizations on campus, but when I thought critically about the prospect of my involvement, I was simply not as passionate. I wanted to be sure an organization I joined aligned with my interests and what I wished my college experience would look like. Some of my best friends introduced me to Young Life as they were in the midst of training to become volunteer leaders. The more I learned about the vision of Young Life and the role of being a Young Life leader, I knew it was an organization I wanted to be a part of. Young Life is an international organization whose mission is defined as “introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith.” The ministry of Young Life hopes to do this by building on what are called the four C’s: Contact Work, Club, Campaigners, and Camp. What really struck me was how Young Life was focused on relational ministry. Young Life leaders go where kids are, this is called contact work. Leaders are present in school hallways chatting with kids, at sporting events helping coach a team, supporting kids at plays and concerts, and simply living life with kids to the best of their abilities. I loved that this ministry model was clearly based on Jesus’ life. Young Life leaders do not wait for kids to come to them. They travel to where kids are and show them an unconditional love that can only come from Jesus.
It is typical for a freshman interested in Young Life to be trained during their entire first semester at Grove City College. The thought is, this is a new time full of challenges and changes. Adding an intensive spiritual training may do more harm than good, and could ultimately leave a student feeling burnt out. Also, as Young Life is a relational ministry, it is important to make sure students are ready to be part of kids’ lives for the next few years. For many kids, becoming close to a Young Life leader and then losing this friend is a devastating experience. Taking a semester to train allows students to think critically about whether they could realistically be part of Young Life. During the first semester, interested students meet once a week on Sunday nights to engage in fellowship, listen to messages about the Gospel, and learn what it truly means to be a Young Life leader by going through a handbook. However, students who feel called to the ministry may also be trained at any point during their time at the college. I know many dedicated, passionate leaders who became involved during their sophomore, junior, or even senior years. (I went through an accelerated training second semester my freshman year).
I am now a senior. I can honestly say that my choice to do Young Life has challenged and shaped me more than any other choice I have made in my college career. The friends I have made at Mercer Middle School (where I lead) and on campus (with a community of 55 other college students who are Young Life leaders) have taught me important lessons and provided me with a great community. My faith has grown exponentially throughout these past three years. Young Life has provided me with many spiritual challenges. With each one, I am constantly reminded of the greatness of God and His providence and grace. Young Life is not for everybody, but I would urge you to get involved if you are interested. As Christians, we are called to fulfill the Great Commission. So why not spend your college years to serving in a fun, humbling, and rewarding way?