On Young Life, local church, and Facebook

I don’t really get the point of Young Life. It seems kinda stupid. These were my thoughts on Young Life in high school. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I still wonder what made me go to my first College Life meeting at Furman. Was it the cool leaders I met in my first few weeks? Why did I keep going back when I didn’t like it the first few times? I don’t have logical answers to these questions, but I what I do know is that I am so glad that I did.

Young Life became one of my favorite activities at Furman. If you’re not familiar with Young Life, it is a para-church ministry to high school students. Leaders, usually college students, build relationships with high schoolers with the intent to share the Gospel with them. Everything associated with Young Life is to be done with excellence so as to point to Christ. If you have never been to a Young Life camp, I highly recommend it.

As much as I love Young Life (YL) though, it is not the local church; a distinction I did not realize until my last year as a leader. So often, para-church ministries, like YL, begin with the best of intentions, but over time lose sight of their purpose; that is to draw students into the larger body of Christ. As a leader, I often focused more on the kids who came to club and did not focus on connecting the kids at club to a local church.

Local church is of paramount importance for believers. It is through local church that relationships and growth happen. So often our relationships with other people are shallow and unrealistic – ie: facebook. Young Life tries to bridge the gap between the local church and high-school students and I believe has a place to do so, but we must not forget that the bridge must lead to a local church, not a college leader. Leaders will come and go, but the local church has survived 2,000 years and will continue to do so. My goal of this article is not to bash YL. I am so thankful for my time serving in YL. My faith was challenged in ways that would not have been possible outside of that ministry, but I wish I had focused more on the local church and not made my success as a YL leader about me and “my girls.” They are not “my girls.” They are daughters of God, created in His image and designed to bring glory to Him, to be connected to the larger body of Christ.

The fact is, we want to love real people and we want to be loved by real people. Facebook is fiction. Local church is fact—the most real community we can experience this side of eternity.” – From Tim Challies