Sunday, 18 February 2018

C Columns

Young Life - Organization Shows Teens They're Valued

Young Life programs are held year-round. Currently, Young Life members are preparing to participate in summer camps. Fun is a high priority at the camps, along with a Gospel message of love. (Photo provided by Young Life)

By Gaye Bunderson

Everyone needs to know they're loved — loved by other people and loved by their Creator. The mission of Young Life is to reach teenagers with the knowledge that someone cares about them.

Though Young Life is all about reaching out to youth, the organization itself is 75 years old, having been launched in Dallas, Texas by a seminary student named Jim Rayburn. It has been in the Boise area for 45 years, and Matt Romberg, who is currently the Boise area director, has been with the organization for 15 years.

For the most part, Young Life hasn't changed much over time. Its mission statement is solid and unwavering: introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith.

“We go where the kids are, and we earn the right to be heard,” Romberg said. “Young Life seeks to go and build relationships with them and show them they are loved — by us and by God. We meet kids on their turf. We want to be around so they know who we are.”

Teen turf might be a school athletic event, for instance.

Young Life volunteers come from all walks of life, all church denominations, and all ages, from 17 to 65. They are thoroughly vetted and trained and include teachers, principals and coaches, among other professions. (Romberg himself once worked as a teacher after receiving his degree from Boise State.)

For youth who are interested, there are weekly and bi-weekly club meetings, sometimes in churches and sometimes in homes. “We invite the kids to come to the clubs, and for many it's the highlight of their week,” Romberg said. “They come, play games, sing songs, laugh like crazy, and be themselves.”

The teens' right to be themselves is a high priority for Young Life and its volunteer leaders, who use the Lord as their example.

Said Romberg: “Jesus came to walk beside those who struggled, and He still does that more than 2,000 years later. We operate on the Christ model. He loved people no matter where they were in life. We walk alongside the kids no matter what they've been through, or haven't been through yet.”

Romberg refers to “the C's of Young Life” and defines them as follows:

• Christ: helping cultivate a personal relationship with Him

• Contact work: connecting with the kids

• Club: events that are as fun as a good party

• Camps: summer camps and camps during the school year

• Campaigners: Bible study and small group interaction

• Church: getting plugged into the body of Christ

Young Life has a number of branches within the Young Life organizational tree, including:

• Young Life, for high school students

• WyldLife, for junior high and middle school students

• Young Life College, for college-age students

• Young Life Capernaum, for kids with special needs

• Beyond Capernaum, for older youth age 25 and above with special needs

• Young Lives, for teen moms and their babies

“They are all at different phases in life, with different needs, but they especially need to know they're loved,” Romberg said.

“We are passionate about being an outreach,” he continued. “We have kids who don't have much spiritual interest (and were raised without that at home), and we have kids who come from spiritual lives (being raised that way).”

Though the foundations of Young Life have withstood the test of time, the dynamics of modern life are very different from 75 years ago. That has lead to ongoing training for volunteers.

“The culture is changing, and how to connect with kids and be honest and real is always changing,” Romberg said.

There are three Young Life groups in the Boise area, he said, with close to 100 volunteers and four full-time staff members. The three groups include Boise, West Ada, and Young Life College. (There are also groups in Canyon County, including Nampa-Caldwell and Middleton.)

Numbers vary, but according to Romberg there are currently 2,000 to 2,500 local youth in Young Life, and club size varies from 10 teens up to 150 in the college-age group. The volunteer leaders come from 15 churches throughout the valley.

Summer camps are ramping up. “We give Young Life members an incredible adventure all over the West. It's like a resort; the kids are spoiled,” Romberg said.

There is a speaker every day who shares the Gospel, and camp locations include:

• Washington Family Ranch in western Oregon (60,000 acres in size)

• The Malibu Club in British Columbia

• Capernaum Camp at Lost Canyon in Arizona

Young Life has more than 20 camps in all, said Romberg, and fundraising efforts help pay the way for many students.

He has some thoughts on what has made Young Life such a vibrant part of the local community for 4½ decades. “No. 1, God is in it. We couldn't do it if it weren't for Him. No. 2, we have an incredibly vibrant community of volunteers who love God and love kids and aren't afraid to step into the gap between the two. There's a great sense of passion, adventure and joy that the leaders have, and we invite kids into that. Our leaders are absolutely brilliant, and they contribute thousands of hours a year.

“One of the best parts of relational ministry is leaders get to walk alongside students for years, and even decades. It's a great honor. Relational ministry based on the Great Commission is to go, and going brings great fruit; and learning to go can prepare our kids and leaders for a lifetime of ministry.”

For more information, go to Matt Romberg may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Christian Living Magazine


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