Young Life members feel renewed sense of faith and community
Kaelyn Rodrigues | Staff Writer
High school is a time of finding identity amidst constant change. For members of Young Life, one constant they look to is their faith and the community that comes along with it.
Young Life is an organization which currently has over 700 youth ministries that aim to help students strengthen their faith. The Mason chapter meets each Wednesday at one of its’ members homes to participate in a variety of activities centered around Christianity.
Junior Kara Flynn joined the ministry’s Mason chapter after her older sister acquainted her with the organization. Flynn said that growing up, she wasn’t as connected to her faith until she started going to Young Life meetings.
“I grew up in a Catholic family, so I would go to Mass every week,” Flynn said. “I always hated church. I had to go to Sunday school every week, and I was always the one who had to leave sleepovers early to go to Sunday school. I just kind of dreaded going to church — that’s how I grew up until high school when my sister started going to Young Life and Crossroads Church.”
Although Young Life is a Christian organization, several of its members do not practice Christianity. Junior Dharma Patel, who was raised by Hindu parents and identifies as non-religious, first started attending Young Life meetings after being introduced to the organization by a friend. Patel said that although she is not Christian, she felt comfortable being herself and enjoyed building relationships with new people.
“Everyone there was super welcoming,” Patel said. “They never pushed me to become a Christian, which was nice because [there wasn’t] any pressure. It was just a safe place where I could talk and be friends with some good people.”
Another benefit of Young Life, Patel said, is that it allows students to develop relationships not only with their peers but with Young Life leaders as well.
“There are Young Life leaders who are in college, so I was able to make relationships with people [who can] give advice to me and help me through high school,” Patel said. “At the end of the club, one of the leaders talks about one of their life experiences and how God impacted them. They do a good job of helping people follow their faith, but they don’t push it to where you feel uncomfortable if you’re not a Christian.”
While many people are familiar with the club aspect of Young Life, which is primarily social, it is not the only experience the organization offers. Senior Carson Suer, who joined when he was a freshman, said that most people who look down upon Young Life don’t know about campaigners, which is the Bible study that occurs prior to club meetings.
“I think what a lot of people see is just the club,” Suer said. “[It’s] mostly people hanging out, and then 10 minutes of talking about God at the end. But [there’s also] campaigners. Before club, we read some scripture and talk about it. It starts out with a prayer and then the question, ‘[How have] you seen God this week?’ After that, whoever is leading will give a lesson on how that a specific Bible passage points to God and possible ways to apply that to life.”
Flynn said that while the structure does not differ very greatly from the foundations of the religion, many of the criticisms regarding Young Life deal with the organization’s non denominational take on Christianity.
“Young Life is one of the only ministries that isn’t affiliated with a church, so that’s why some people have a big problem with it,” Flynn said. “But they’re teaching everything from the Bible. Everything they’re teaching aligns with Christian beliefs, but they also share the importance of being connected in a church and trying to pursue religion outside of just Young Life.”
According to Flynn, Young Life has personally affected her by reigniting her interest in Christianity and inspiring her to further engage in her faith.
“It gets people hopeful,” Flynn said. “At least for me, having trust that I have a bright future ahead of me is something that Young Life, and my religion in general, has taught me. Young Life is what made me decide to start a relationship with God.”
Similarly, joining Young Life has led Suer to pursue religion more. However, he said that it acts more as a way for God to reach him rather than an actual source of his faith.
“I think Young Life has affected my faith by just being an instrument that God has moved through to help me grow in my faith,” Suer said. “After hearing the gospel at a Young Life event my freshman year, I started actively following God and trying to model my life after him. It’s [something] I grow more in my faith through, but it’s important to know that it really isn’t what grows my faith; it is simply something God moves through.”
Photos by Henri Robbins.