This weekend our Young Life group from Byron Center joined the rest of the clubs from the Grand Rapids Southwest area for Winter Weekend at Timber Wolf Lake in Lake City, Michigan. We had a blast snow tubing, rock climbing, playing octoball, and singing. So, what IS Young Life?

Byron Center Young Life

Byron Center Young Life


Young Life is a faith based organization for high schoolers built on mentoring, friendship and leadership. The structure of Young Life includes contact work, clubs, and camps that are lead by a group of like minded adults called 'leaders' - creative name eh? Jeff and I lead (along with 8 others) at Byron Center High School which is one of 7 other clubs in the Grand Rapids Southwest area. 


Contact work can be anything from attending one of our kids basketball games to joining the kids for lunch at school. At Byron Center one of our signature moves is Free High Five Fridays. Every Friday morning we hand out free high fives to the kids as they walk into school and wish them a, 'Happy Friday.' Of course everyone at the school gets fives, not just the kids who come to YL. This ends up being a conversation starter at the very least, "Do you guys get paid for this?" we've been asked. Or, "So you guys are the ones who give high fives on Friday. Why do you do that?"  "Ah yes, let me tell you..."  I can only imagine the impression I'd have of us if I were still in high school, "Why on earth would you get up this early if you didn't have to? How ridiculous!" 


Club meets once a week, for us it's on Mondays - a good night of the week for high schoolers because there's not much else going on. Club really is the 'heart' of Young Life. On Monday's we spend one hour together watching short videos, performing skits, singing songs, and playing games. It's a bit of pop culture and ridiculousness, mixed with a whole lot of laughter. Each week at the very end of club a leader takes a turn speaking on a topic of their choice. Topics have included everything from dating, drugs, and alcohol, to sinning and self comparison. Leaders share personal stories and readings from scripture to help support their talk. I'm not certain about other clubs, but during talks at Byron Center you can hear a pin drop. After a quick prayer the whole group heads to McDonalds (unique to Byron Center) and takes over their dining area armed with flurries, small fries, and their iPhones - a whole lot of instagramming and tweeting happens here. You never know what kind of photos will turn up from club. 


Young Life camp is where it's at. The head honchos call it 'party with a purpose' and they're pretty spot on. While there's a few different kinds of camps offered by YL (depending on the season) I'll touch on just one: Winter Weekend. YLWW happens once a year for each area. This year the kids and leaders from all 7 schools in the GR Southwest area gathered at Timber Wolf Lake in Lake City, Michigan for an entire weekend of snow activities like tubing and broom ball. While camp is a lot about laughing and having fun, it's also about time for reflection. Each day at camp there is a club (like mentioned above). After club, campers and their leaders join in their separate cabins for what we call Cabin Time. There we share and reflect on the message from club. 


There are two other parts of the YL structure that I didn't mention before that I'll just touch on for the sake of being thorough: campaigners and committees. Campaigners gather kids in smaller groups and take a deeper dive into faith based conversations that we aren't able to cover at club. It gives the kids another option to connect and get answers to their questions. Committees consist of local community members who support their perspective area leaders. They are the ones responsible for fund raising, organizing leadership and much much more. 


Growing up we didn't have YL at my high school (or really anything even close to YL for that matter). And while Schoolcraft is a predominately Christian community, we didn't talk much about God. We had bible study, we went to church on Sundays, and we prayed around the dinner table but there was never any casual conversation. Young Life is that middle ground between casually hanging with friends and church. It's a welcoming place to chill with like minded people and talk about the good word. Furthermore, high schoolers deal with a lot of 'stuff'. Young Life and it's leaders are an added resource to their already existing (and sometimes even non-existing) communities where they can let that 'stuff' bare. And last, if anything else... it gives kids another fun thing to do that's not sitting on the couch with Mario.

{  N.R.K. }