I Visited Young Life
In this series, we're visiting Southeast's Mission Partners to understand their vision and how God is using them in the community.
By Carla Williams
As I planned my visit with Louisville’s Young Life leadership team, I realized I really didn’t know all that much about the ministry. I vaguely recalled students from my high school youth group being involved in Young Life, and that they were always talking about adventures. And I knew it somehow involved schools. But I had no idea of the scope, passion, or community I would encounter that day.
YOUNG LIFE OF GREATER LOUISVILLE
For the first part of my visit, I sat down with Amanda, who leads Young Life in Louisville. She’s been a leader in some capacity since she was a senior in high school, and her excitement about how God is working through the ministry in the lives of teens and students is contagious.
Amanda filled in the many gaps in my knowledge about Young Life and its purpose. Volunteer leaders go into schools as coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends, where they can easily invest in the lives of students on their own turf. In Louisville, there are four main areas where Young Life is serving: they serve in Ballard and Eastern High Schools, they lead a chapter at the University of Louisville, and they host a group of students with disabilities.
As a seeker-friendly ministry, Young Life offers big adventures, consistent and engaged adults, and an open invitation to learn more about Jesus at any time. There are events purely for fun and events geared more toward spiritual depth, and they go to a huge camp each Summer where many kids’ lives are changed forever. The team has great fun, tackles hard topics, and walks in faithfulness with every student God entrusts to them.
PASSION AND COMMUNITY
Before long, Amanda and I moved on to the leadership dinner. Each week, even during the Summer, the Louisville leaders gather for dinner, encouragement, celebration, and to study the Bible together.
While we ate dinner, I was able to talk with several volunteers. Like Amanda, most of them had life-changing experiences with Young Life as teenagers, and that passion had carried them into leadership roles where they could continue that cycle with more students. Each leader loves the students in their care, and God is using the leaders to draw students into His grace.
I talked with Nick and Rachel, who lead the disabilities group, Capernaum, for Louisville’s Young Life ministry. Each week, they bring their students together with volunteer buddies from all over the area. The students with disabilities feel included and celebrated, and the volunteer buddies get to love and serve selflessly. It’s an amazing experience each week for everyone involved, and it’s showing the students that God loves them and has chosen them. They interact regularly with Southeast’s Disabilities Ministry, with several of their students participating in both Shine and Camp Freedom.
After we ate dinner, we all moved to the basement for the meeting part of the evening. As they piled on couches together, I got a look at the deep community they have created as a team. Each of them belonged there. As they are investing in and leading students, they are being poured into in undeniable ways while they grow and thrive together. There was a very clear moment when I realized I was witnessing something really special.
The day I visited, the high school leaders had just returned from camp a week earlier, and they were all still glowing from excitement. They took more than 70 students with them to the Ozark mountains, and the campers had a powerful and impactful experience. The leaders encouraged one another with highlights from the week and conversations they’d been able to have with their students in the days since they’d been back home.
The Young Life leader team ended their evening by opening the Word and wrestling through Scripture together. As each person contributed to the discussion, the others were attentive and engaged, responding thoughtfully and with wisdom.
I kept thinking of all the students this team gets to serve and how each student would get that same level of attention, respect, and consideration. I could easily imagine these same conversations about Scripture, sin, and our response to God’s direction happening at the Young Life events and in those relationships. It made me excited for those students, who very well might one day be the next group of leaders.
There’s definitely something special about the Young Life team in Louisville. They’re providing hope and consistency for students, and I can’t wait to see how God is going to use them for His Kingdom—one big adventure and simple conversation at a time.
To learn more or get involved, visit yllouisville.younglife.org.