Young Life is an evangelical Christian ministry that focuses on reaching middle school, high school, and college-aged youths. The ministry is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and works in all fifty states and ninety-eight countries with the help of 35,000 volunteer leaders.
Young Life was founded in 1941 by Jim Rayburn, a Presbyterian seminary student in Texas. Rayburn was challenged to come up with ways to interact with and promote the gospel to high school students who showed no interest in Christianity. He started hosting a weekly club that featured a skit or two and a simple message about Jesus.
Young Life continues to use weekly clubs as a basis for teaching and fellowship, and the ministry also sponsors week-long camps and wilderness adventures and publishes a quarterly magazine. Through the years Young Life has expanded in its scope to include ministries that specifically target pregnant teens, disabled teens, military kids, international exchange students, and teens in rural and impoverished communities. The main objective is “introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith” (from their website).
Although founded by a Presbyterian, Young Life is and always has been a non-denominational ministry (not affiliated with any particular denomination). It is a parachurch ministry that seeks to complement what the local church is doing. Young Life’s core beliefs affirm and follow essential biblical truths; however, one concern is that staff and volunteer positions within Young Life are open to Catholics as well as Protestants.
Young Life’s commitment to reach youth where they are, develop relationships, provide fun experiences, and help kids reach their full potential is good. Add to that Young Life’s emphasis on the life-changing message of the gospel, and it’s easy to understand why the ministry has had such an impact through the years.