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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Young Life

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Philanthropy, Voluntarism Promotion, Youth Development - Religious Leadership

Mission: The vision was born in 1938 when Jim Rayburn, a young youth leader in Texas, was challenged by his senior minister to focus on the local high school and pioneer a path to connect with non-churched kids. After exploring several possibilities, Rayburn decided that the best setting for the proclamation of the Gospel was at a Young Life club, held in the home of one of the kids. Club involved lively singing, a skit and a short talk about Jesus Christ. He believed every kid had a right to hear the message of Jesus Christ and decide how to respond to the Gospel. Young Life leaders provide kids with factual information for making good decisions. Leaders work hard to provide teenagers with the basic facts concerning Jesus Christ. The information is presented in a non-threatening manner in terms that kids can understand.Young Life leaders have the highest regards and respect for a young person's right to choose where matters of faith are concerned.

Target demographics: middle school and high school kids and college students.

Geographic areas served: all 50 states of the U.S. and in over 100 countries internationally.

Programs: Young Life's efforts to reach out to every kid, everywhere have resulted in a number of specific ministries. Each of these apply the basics of Young Life to meet kids just as they are through friendship and faith. In alphabetical order our specific ministries are: Capernaum: Young Life's ministry to kids with disabilities, named after the town where Jesus performed many miracles. College: Young Life's outreach to college students both in the U.S. and internationally. International: Young Life's outreach to high school and middle school kids in more than 100 countries around the world. Small Town/Rural: Young Life's ministry to kids in one-high-school towns of fewer than 25,000 people. Urban: Young Life's minsistry to racial and ethnic minorities, focused on kids who live in high-density communities and who are historically, socially and/or economically disadvantaged. WyldLife: Young Life's ministry to middle school kids. YoungLives: Young Life's ministry to teenage moms. Young Life provides healthy, creative fun. From weekly clubs to seasonal camping experiences to daily outings with leaders, Young Life is known around the world as an organization that knows how to have fun. Club meets once a week and has been described as "controlled chaos." Leaders combine songs, humor, and group interaction to create an hour of energetic fun where kids can express that teenage tendency to push the limits-but within the controlled context of a safe environment. Campaigners is the name for Young Life's Bible study program. Kids often meet in small groups with a Young Life leader during the week to discuss their ideas and question about faith and begin exploring the Bible. These groups were named from a term we've kept around since Young Life was called "The Young Life Campaign" in the early '40s. Camping is one of Young Life's specialties. Kids can discover adventure and prove their prowess by climbing through a ropes course in the tops of trees, barreling down a water slide from hundreds of feet up the side of a mountain, riding horseback along scenic trails, water skiing, parasailing, racing go-carts around muddy tracks and enjoying what Young Life leaders promise to be one of the best weeks of their lives.

Community Stories

285 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This organization has been a positive life experience for my son. While some may have experienced the organization years ago (bday), I have not seen anything negative about the organization, the kids active with the organization or the leaders of the organization. In fact, my son's group has leaders consisting of a Dad, a Mom (another family) and a helper who are present at all activities. This is a great way for kids with good values (or are looking to have a positive influence in their life) find that group. It's a mix of all types of kids who wouldn't have had a chance to get to know each other due to the cliques in high school. This organization helped my son grow into the fine young man he is today. He heads off for college in the Fall and I can only hope there is a Young Life chapter on campus.

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

This cult creeped it's way into my High School almost two decades. It offers an artificial environment for lonely kids. They manipulate social groups, send very young University students to act as leaders and counsellors. It was a negative, abusive system, luring kids with fun organized activities - to camp. Then the religious brainwashing starts. Keep your kids away from this group, I hope it is banned for all schools. I went to a public school, and this garbage should have been kept far away, like all cults and creeps.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

I don't understand the bad views? really I have never even heard of Young Life until college. At my LUTHERAN school, there is a Young Life for college kids and I sa a flyer and decided to go with my friend. No one was manipulative or tried to diobolically persuade us to join. We chose on our own. When we got there, everone was really nice and kind. None of them tried to tell us to "hate gays" or whatever some of these people are claiming... Most of the leaders were my age or a couple years older. The student were very involved and sometimes got to do there own service and talked about their own personal experiences with God. Every word said to me has encouraged love and positivity. The community is a kinf group of individuals who just want to get together, sing songs, and appreciate their religion. I don't know who these people are claiming it's "radical" and "hateful". Maybe their Young Life group just sucks. I have noticed though, that most people making the complaints are parents, not the actual teens/children/college students that experience it for themselves. I don't know. However, I can tell you for a fact that not all of the Young LIfe groups are as evil as some of the angry parents claim them to be. Please don't be too quick too judge a whole organization on a few negative perspectives. If, however, your religious group is encouraging hateful ideals and such, I would not blame you to remove yourself and your child from the environment- in fact I would encourage it. If you have read the Bible, Jesus said that the most important thing was to love your neighbors and he said that you should even love your enemy. Hate is the opposite of what Christians are supposed to represent. I am giving my experience with Young LIfe four stars, because it was a little awkward in the beginning trying to make new friends because both me and my friend are shy. Also, I think it would've been more fun if we played more games like my youth group in high school. I don't care if I'm a "legal adult" I want to play freeze tag and make friends. Overall though, I really felt a greater appreciation for the universe and a better connection to my religion, and whenever I am having a bad day, everyone is always so happy there, and it makes me happy to.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

I can honestly say that my decision to go to young life was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had never been insanely religious or anything and it's helped me to grow as a person. I have learned more about God and all He does for us and it's just been an amazing experience. However, the main reason I am so happy with my decision to start going to young life is that I have met some of the most amazing people. The leaders are so caring and so dedicated to helping us whenever we need anything, whether we need to talk or whether we just want to hang out. They are the most caring group of people I have ever met and I thank them so much for everything they have done. I can't even explain how amazing the leaders are. I am blown away by their caring personalities and their true kindness towards everyone. They are so great and I am so thankful for the opportunity I was presented with and so happy with my decision to try it out.

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

Young Life is a life changing organization. It provides kids with meaningful relationships and the opportunity to ask questions/ learn more about their faith. The leaders do nothing but love on the kids. The camps provide a glimpse of heaven and help the kids dive deeper and deeper into their faith. It provides kids with the perfect "getaway" from the real world and is GUARANTEED to change their life - I know it changed mine back in the day!! I can honestly say that I would not be the person that I am today without the love and support of my Young Life leaders and my experiences at camp and campaigners. Thank you, Young Life!!

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I DO NOT LIKE WYLDLIFE FOR MY CHILDREN. As a mother I tell you why I do not like Wyldlife or Young Life. First, the leaders are very MANIPULATIVE with teenagers. They act COOL and Young even though some of them are in their late forties. Second, parents are not encourage to attend any event or group. For example, my daughter attended some meetings about Wyldlife in my neighborhood but of course I was not invited to stay. My daughter at that time she did not say much about it, so I stay out of it since she appreciated the time she shared with her friends form her school. However, after some time my daughter mention me how cool it was to have a counselor and a mentor that she could trust and have fun with. As a mother I did not like that idea and I told my daughter that she could not have any counselor unless I give her permission to have one. Another aspect about WYLDLIFE I DO NOT LIKE is that they get them to excited about camp....once my daughter told me "that's going to be the best time of my life!"(Camp). CRAZY!!!! The leaders are not honest with parents because they do not tell about their religious influence on children. I think we need MOTHERHOOD for our children not random counselors playing to be cool with our kids to get them to like Christianity using their own theology without parents consent. THINK ABOUT IT. I DID. THANK YOU.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Young Life is an amazing group. Many people writing negative reviews do not understand the dynamics of the organization. Young Life is an amazing place to send your teenager. It keeps yhem level-headed and builds a strong relationship with God. The friendships created in YL last a lifetime. Young Life Club allpws teens to gather and rejoice with people who share a common interest with them. Young Life leaders are kind and create a no pressure environment. YL has many trips and leadera are great about assisting people who cannot afford the trips. Young Life is the best thing ever

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Young Life has changed my life! Having a caring adult come alongside me during my adolescent years made all the difference for me. Young Life volunteers care genuinely about the lives of students and are role models of positive choices, good communication and living life for more than just the daily grind. I would highly suggest getting involved with your local Young Life club!

Review from Guidestar

15

Client Served

Rating: 1

Avoid this Organization at all costs! This is the true definition of a cult! These people should not be in Public Schools recruiting children without their parents present. They lure kids in with fun and games and sports, and then they take them to a basement or other building and then preach hatred of Gays and others. This is not the religion we want our children learning. If you don't either,Stay away ! The positive messages on here are written by members to make this org look good, Trust me if you love your kids , KEEP THEM AWAY!

22

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

This organization finds it way into middle and high school and seeks out kids. School boards should forbid them from contact with minors. Please don't support this organization. Keep your kids away from this organization.

9

Donor

Rating: 5

I cannot think of a better non-profit to give your money to that truly makes a lasting and even eternal difference in your community. As a donor for many years now I have always felt privileged to partner with such a great organization with equally as great people. Never mind the nay-sayers out there. The same way one may misinterpret the intentions of a person, the folks who dislike YL have merely misinterpreted the intentions of the organization. The entire organization strives everyday to emulate Jesus in what they do by being friends and mentors to teenagers and experiencing life along side of them, the same way Jesus did with his friends. All in all, I have loved giving both money and time to Young Life and will continue to do so.

Review from Guidestar

19

Donor

Rating: 1

be warned of this organization. My wife and I are now dealing with a son who has spent all of his college money volunteering for YL, is making horrible grades, is showing cult like behavior, has turned his back on all of his friends, roommates and us. It is a disaster. We have lost our son to this cult disguising as a Christian organization when I now see that it is just a cult where those at the top are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and the organization is worth millions. Young Life is the devil hiding in Jesus clothing. Read this thread: http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?14,15330,page=1

Review from CharityNavigator

8 Mary151

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Young Life is THE main reason I became a Christian in High School. Young Life is not always fully understood unless you have been personally involved or impacted by it. That is why I highly suggest na-sayers to learn more about YL or talk to those of us who have been involved with it before making up their mind. If it were not for Young Life it would have taken me many many years before I was obedient to God and his plans for my life. YL has taught me that you can be you and have flaws but still be striving to do God's will. Please give Young Life a chance and research it!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

To potential donors, I love YL because we really make a difference in kids' lives. As leaders, we provide a substance-free party called "Club" for them every week, at the end of which we talk a little about Jesus. If kids want to know more, they can come to a Bible study called "Campaigners", in which they learn more. We also have camps in the winter and summer, which include a series of Clubs, lessons, really fun activities, and heart-to-heart talks. We also act as friends and mentors to teens. Leaders are people they can trust and rely on. All leaders have passed criminal background checks and live by a pretty strict moral code outlined by YL to ensure that we model good behavior. All that being said, I feel like I should write to dispel a lot untrue information being spread on this page. (If it is true for your local chapter, I would say that's a shame because YL does not work like that on the whole!) I became involved in Young Life as a leader last year. I am not evangelical by any stretch of imagination, but I do love working with kids. One of the best things about YL is that we don't cram Christianity down the kids' throats. Yes, coming to Club means that they hear a five-minute talk about Christ, usually a personal story about how my relationship with God has worked this specific way in my life or something similar. We don't tell kids they're horrible, going to hell, or anything else of that nature, and we certainly don't judge their lifestyles! Those are the things that usually turn us all off to Christianity, right? Kids can either listen or not listen, but they get to keep coming back to have fun and hang out even if they never buy into it. Another awesome part of being a leader is just being there for kids who are going through life struggles. Even if they're from the best homes imaginable, they still carry burdens they won't talk about with their families. We are good role models who listen and help them make good decisions. I've seen our care and kindness influence kids to stop partying, drinking, and doing drugs. YL leaders also engage with the parents of kids, keeping them in the communication loop and being very open and honest about Club, Campaigners, Camp, etc. We don't sneak attack your kids with Bibles, and the intention is never to turn a teen against his/her parents. I have yet to meet a parent who has had an issue with the organization, and most parents have gone out of their way to say what a difference we have made to their sons and daughters. We occasionally hang out with kids we know at school--meet them for lunch or attend a sporting event, and other kids will come sit down for a chat and wonder who we are. Of course we don't turn them away. And Club is clean, rowdy, substance-free fun, and those kid who regularly come to Club go tell more kids, and they start coming and tell more kids. Sometimes parents want their kids to go, and sometimes they don't, and we are respectful of the decision either way. We also get to know kids and what's important to them, often attending plays or football games just to show that we care, because we do! We want them to do well and know that we're not just out to convert, but that we actually care about them. I'm not a leader because I'm "creepy", racist, misguided, homophobic, or brainwashed. It's not some underhanded plot to indoctrinate anyone. It's just simply to be there for teens as the navigate this rocky age, and to share our own stories with them. Many of them choose to come to Christ, not because we pressured them, but because they see the way we live, care, and interact, and they see this promise of a God who is forgiving and full of love, who holds every child precious in His eyes and bears their burdens, and who gives them strength and guidance for every stage of life.

11

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Young Life is a self-serving non-profit whose main goal at the end of the day is to peddle co-ed summer camp registrations and recruit new donors to perpetuate the Young Life camping network. They offer no physical charitable benefits to the community. They use college-aged kids to infiltrate the network of cliques at local high schools and use their seniority to recruit new members (in blatant disregard for separation of church and state).

3

Donor

Rating: 5

Young life is a remarkable organization that reaches out to middle and high school teens and builds relationships . These friendships are characterized by adults(usually mature high schoolers working with the middle schoolers and post college volunteers working with high schoolers) who encourage, accept unconditionally and "walk the walk" of integrity and love for God. I've watched the impact of this organization for 33 years and seen not only teens but their families as well impacted for good.

Previous Stories
3

Board Member

Rating: 5

My husband and I have been associated with Young Life for 35 years or more as donors,parents of club and campaigner kids and committee. We've seen direct evidence of the "fruits" of this ministry in our own children"s lives as well as the lives of hundreds of other teens and their families. I've often heard it said that the one requirement for a Young Life person is laughter. Jesus Christ is always glorified... in the laughter, the lives changed, the relationships built between leaders and kids, relationships transformed between kids and parents, kids and families, kids and their friends. The more you know of Young Life, the more you'll want to be involved.

4

Donor

Rating: 5

I am writing to communicate my delight with this organization. Young Life is a non-denominational outreach to Jr and High School students with the message hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a mother of children who have been involved since Middle School, and continue now in High School I am grateful to the organization. It is wonderful to have volunteer leaders who spend time in my child's world engaging with them and their friends in a positive and encouraging way when my daughter or son have a victory or a challenge in their life, the Young Life leader is one of the first people they encounter to share with. As a Christian mom, it is wonderful to know there is another caring christian adult who would take time to love my children. Our Young Life community is supported by local businesses, Catholic and Protestant Churches, and individuals like myself. We enjoy going to fund raising events where parents can hear from students, volunteers and staff about Young Life and the impact it is having in my community. It is particularly special that many children have the opportunity to experience a spiritual journey in an environment that is not judgemental and does not emphasize what sacrament, or doctrine or theology separates the body of Christ. Rather, it emphasizes the child's ability to think, reason and conclude for himself or herself what her thoughts are about God. I would recommend to any parent the Young Life experience.

15

Client Served

Rating: 1

I was involved in YL during High School. I was part of the "in-group" of campaigners. I started questioning the virtues of evangelical proselytizing and the leaders stopped contacting me. I was dangerous I guess. I knew theology and the Bible all-too-well. I realized that I was only a pawn on the board. They needed me for they could convert kids. The organization is also blatantly homophobic and has tinges of racism. This organization finds its way into schools and seeks out kids. They try to draw them in by offering fun game, music, and food. I am a Christian, but I'm an open and critical-thinking one. Their theology is trash. They are out to tell your kids that they suck. They spent all of their theological lectures telling the kids how much they suck. Eventually they create enough theological depression to convert them by telling them that the only way to be whole is through belief in Jesus. They don't even emphasize Christian virtues, i.e. peace, love, justice, kindness. To all Christian and non-Christians out there - Don't support this organization.

10

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

As a a parent and teacher, it is disturbing that this group has access to my children and are so coy about their intentions. School Boards should forbid them from having contact with minors at school. If I were to have a similar group of atheists trying to convert the Christians, I'd be railed out of the school. Guarantee.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

Was a volunteer and then moved on to staff. I served for many years. YoungLife is a great organization but with some extreme holes for leadership. Also, coming from a donor perspective , many questions about honesty and stewardship came into play. Unfortunately, the negatives out weighed the positives when it came to this ministry. There are many shady men with in the ministry and YL does nothing to protect your children. Example: posting pictures of minors on facebook and for younglives, posting pictures of minors and their babies. They do nothing to protect their identities .