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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

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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!!

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!

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.

11

Client Served

Rating: 1

Young Life is an evangelical fundamentalist Christian organization that seeks out children when they are out of their parent's view. They send college aged kids to your child's school, lure them with donuts before school in the parking lot, or lurk around after school while they are at sports practice. They tell the kids they are going to be in the gutter soon: drinking, druggin;, wanton sex OR they are going to find Jesus (via emotional manipulation and group dynamics). No other choice. YL realizes they are in violation of many Supreme Court rulings prohibiting religious proselytizing on public school grounds, so they clandestinely pull the parking lot/sports practice deal. Creepers. YL caused the biggest rift in our relationship with our teen we had ever experienced before or since.

Previous Stories
12

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

My daughter got involved with Young Life because a friend was into it, as was her high school assistant soccer coach. It was promoted as a fun thing for kids to do, and it is. However, it is also, and it states so clearly on their website, an evangelical Protestant organization. Their Articles of Faith sound quite fundamentalist to me. Eventually my child got sucked in because she is a teenager (15) and teens love to hang out with peers, party, go to fun camps, etc. Oh yeah, and they are indoctrinated and encouraged to accept Christ, whatever exactly that means, read the Bible every day, etc. Nothing has caused such a rift in our family as this Young Life experience. My daughter will not talk to me about what all goes on at the camp and the meetings, because she knows her parents are not Christians. I find it weird that adults and young adults will do things like go to my kid's sports games, theater performances, etc, pick them up after school to take them to their house to 'talk' and study the Bible. Obviously, Young Life knows that kids of this age are very impressionable and easily influenced by their peers, and especially by peers slightly older than they. This is an evangelical organization, it is not quite upfront about its intentions, and it is manipulative in targeting middle school/high school, and thereby very easily influenced, children.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have close, and first-hand experience with Young Life as former YL "kids," adult committee volunteers, parents of YL kids and as donors.



I have known Young Life personally for more than 34 years and in all that time, in so many encounters, Young Life never ceases to amaze me.



I am thoroughly impressed by the caliber of their people, the winsome ways of their relationship building, their professionalism in all business matters, the hospitality they extend to kids and adults alike, their investment in first-rate resort facilities to give kids the best week of their lives and the honest, relevant, and respectful way that they share the truth of God's love with words kids can understand and with actions that demonstrate what his love looks like.



I am convinced that my encounter with Young Life changed the trajectory and purpose of my life, my husband's life, and now, our children's lives. I remain ever grateful for the gift of Young Life and whole-heartedly endorse and commend its work in the U.S. and around the world.



Every teenager should hear the words that they are precious, and priceless to God with a purpose that only God can imagine. I love that YL takes seriously the charge to make certain that EVERY kid hears that message and brings the rest of us along to partner in that work.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a senior in high school and have been a part of Young Life for two years, the BEST two years of my life might I add. I grew up in a Christian home, though my family wasn't very active, but Young Life helped me to take my relationship with Christ into my own hands. I now am a student leader, or "campaigner," in the group and attend weekly bible studies. My favorite part of Young Life isn't the fun games, great messages, or dedicated leaders. Although all these are fantastic, my favorite part of Young Life is watching high school students meet Christ and change their lives around. There are countless numbers of kids that have passed through my school who have gone from spending their Friday nights drinking and getting into trouble, to using their free time for volunteering, studying, and fun less-destructive activities. Another favorite part of Young Life is the acceptance of all people. The kids involved in YL are willing to cross social boundaries that most aren't willing to. It AMAZES me how loving and accepting the kids involved in Young Life are! My favorite story is of a girl whose parents are divorced, and whose mother has cancer. Her first years of high school were spent searching for some sort of comfort in her life. Young Life helped her to find Christ and comfort. Her life is now free of destructive activities and full of love and peace. What a gift this organization has been for students!

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I was 13 my family moved from Australia to the U.S. It was the biggest culture shock of my life! But since I was near a military base I got involved with MCYM and then in high school I got involved with YoungLife. After going to two camps, countless clubs, and campaigners I can strongly say that with out Younglife and it's amazing leaders I wouldn't be the adult I am today. They showed me a God that loved and forgave, no matter what. I learnt that Christianity doesnt just mean going to church every sunday and then maybe attending the odd youth group or bible study, I was able to create a relationship with Christ and now share it with others. Younglife is the best outreach organization out there!

9

Client Served

Rating: 5

Young Life was one of the best experiences of my life. The people I met there have had a huge impact on my life, and I can thank Young Life for many of my best friends and closest mentors. Our group leaders are some of the best people on earth. They actually cared about us, and even now, 10 years after high school, they still keep in contact to make sure that we are living the kind of lives that will make us and our communities proud. I feel as though Young Life gave me a more fundamental understanding of the world, and a deeper understanding of myself at a time when many people feel lost. The YL camps and retreats that are offered are the best experience one could ever hope for. The bonding, and the self explorations that happen there could not be replaced for the world. I can only hope that YL will continue to grow as an organization and more youth will have the opportunity that we did to grow into wonderful, happy, successful, spiritual people. THANK YOU, YOUNG LIFE!!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Young Life was the catalyst for many changes in my life, which have resulted in a richer, more passionate, more loving, more fulfilling life through a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I had no idea who my leaders were the first time I met them- I only knew that they were some cool college kids to hang out with at the coffee shop in town. Little did I know they would be a consistent presence in my life. During an especially hard period for my family, I could always count on my leaders for encouragement, a hug, and a listening ear. We began doing Bible studies on a weekly basis. "Campaigners," as it is called, took this nice church girl's ideas about Christianity and turned them upside down. My leaders both taught and lived out some tough lessons found in the Bible, but they did so in community and with a faith that motivated their every move. They asked the questions that make me consider whether I really believed in what I had learned in church. When I went to camp for the first time, I was not disappointed: it truly was the best week of my life up until that point. At camp, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart in a real way- the speakers and my leader helped me understand my need for Christ's salvation. I realized that I was not really a Christian up until that point. The next year challenged me to live out my faith within my high school, my job, and my relationships. Our town's Young Life started "club" that year, which meant reaching out to both Christians and non-Christians for a time of fun games, great songs, silly skits, and non-threatening Biblical messages. Around December, my leader suggested that I sign up to do work crew the following summer. Work crew is an opportunity for high school students to serve, unpaid, at a Young Life camp for one month. I started attending the work crew training courses and again was amazed by the people who came: they genuinely had a heart for the Lord, and taught me so much about service to others in order to bring glory to God. I didn't get assigned to the camp that I had wanted, and I was very apprehensive about my job in the dining hall at a camp so far away from home. However, my three-week assignment on work crew was without a doubt the single most profound, life-changing experience I've ever had. It was the best three weeks of my life. The days were incredibly long. We did the work- for free- that few others would want to do. We had to learn how to put others' needs before our own. But most importantly, I learned to rely on God for strength. He was my rock, my motivation, and my vision for the time I was serving on work crew. Second most importantly, I made relationships with 40 people from across the country that I now love dearly and call my "work crew family." Between service, engaging worship and devotions, intense prayer, and confessions of our hearts and our hurts, and loving people that passionately loved the Lord (and came to love me!), I became a new person. During Young Life work crew, I went from knowing and needing the Lord to loving God with all of my heart. Leaving my work crew session early was so hard, but I went right to college from camp, which was a blessing that I didn't recognize at the time. I came into a secular college with my focus fully on God. My time with Young Life both at home, at camp, and during work crew shaped me into a person who was living no longer for the ways of the world but for the creator of the world. Because of the ways God changed my heart through Young Life, I have been (with a few stumbles along the way) striving to lead a pure, loving, and purposeful life and to be a witness on campus. I am now a leader within a campus Christian organization, where I plan large group gatherings and lead a small group. There have been other influences on my spiritual life along the way, but I give no other group more credit for changing me and investing in me. Young Life is one of the main reasons I am passing along the light of Christ to the others in my life. For myself and thousands of others, Young Life is the non-profit organization that has had the most meaningful and eternal impact on our lives.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

I went to Young Life camp two years ago an angry, bitter kid. I came from an abusive home, and all I knew was anger. When I got to camp, for the first time I saw people who were genuinely happy. Halfway through the week, a guy stood up and shared a story that was a lot like mine. I wanted to know what the difference was between us. Why he was so happy and loving and free. I wanted that. So I talked to him, and he helped me realize that God is the difference. He is the one that takes anger and turns it into forgiveness. When we got back, my leader supported me in reporting the abuse, and got me out of that dangerous situation. It gave me room to grow and change. So, without YL, I'd still be that angry kid, stuck in an abusive house. I couldn't say I genuinely love both my parents, like I can now. I am free, and it's because Young Life offered me the chance to see the peace that was there all along.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

I joined Young Life last year, my senior year of high school. And i absolutely loved it. Young Life helped me to become more outgoing and not be so afraid to talk to people. We'd play silly games where you had to get in front of everyone and do stupid things. But it really helped me loosen up in front of everyone. It was embarrasing but everyone there had done it. It also helped me get a lot closer to God and make the right kind of friends. Now my friends actually listened to what I had to say, and they treated me the right way. They also wanted me to work on my relationship with God. I got to experience Fall Weekend. It was the best weekend of my life. That was the closest I have ever been to God, and I wish I could do it again. I got to go to club every night. We got to sing and dance around and just act stupid. I remember one of my friends let me jump on his back so i could see everything. It was so much fun. I will definitly never forget Young Life or the people I met there. It was just an amazing experience.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

YoungLife goes out of their way to include students who may otherwise never have any personal connections. The leaders really reach out, and everyone has a lot of fun when they participate.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

i love younglife! all the counselors are amazing, and so fun. i get so excited every time i get ready to go. its a place you can have fun and be carefree, and everybody needs some of that. in one word, its perfect.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Young Life has had an unbelievable impact in my life, and the lives of my friends. At Young Life i saw that life in Christ meant life to the full. Following Jesus is an adventure and Young Life showed me that, i'll forever be thankful.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

A big part of my beautiful teenage memories are of young life and friends in young life. I look back and realize there are so many things that I wouldn't have experienced without young life. As an adult I'm glad that young life is still here and helping other under privalged experience life when sometimes you need to get away from your reality.