Young Life of Rutherford County gives teens an opportunity to connect with each other and Christ in an environment that isn't church.
While the Rutherford County program is entering its third year, Young Life itself has been in existence and helping youth since 1941. The program began in Rutherford County after East Rutherford High School Counselor Donna Baldwin saw the transformation her nephew had undergone after he joined Young Life.
Baldwin connected with Heather and Sam Banfield, who are area directors, about creating a Young Life here.
"Young Life is built on relationships," Heather explained.
Young Life is made up of several components, which begins with contact work, she continued.
"Contact work is where we go and meet with kids on their turf and then invite them to meet a neutral place and ask them if they'd like to come to Young Life," Heather said. "Basically, we earn the right to be heard by getting to know them. You can't share the gospel if they are unwilling."
Then there's Club, which has the feeling of just that. With music and skits, Club provides a means of sharing Christian values without being preachy. Club includes pictures of Young Life Rutherford County members past and current as well as reminders that the students are loved by God.
Young Life may bring a message, but it is definitely not church, Heather is quick to point out.
"We are the arms of the church, and we reach kids who might not go to church," she said. "Our hope is to get those kids plugged into a local church."
Currently Young Life Rutherford County has three leaders, and Heather said she and Sam hope to grow and firm up the program's foundation this year.
"Every Young Life is built by local young adults in the community," she explained. "Those adults care about kids and build authentic relations with them."
Another component of Young Life is Campaigners, which is when small groups get together. Campaigners alternate with Club, Heather explained. Then, there's Camp.
"We tell kids that summer camp is the best week of their life," she said. "Young Life puts excellence into their camp."
Camp includes high adventures, zip lines, horseback riding and more. Relationship building, as with other facets of the program, is key during camp.
"Meals at camp are served family style," Heather said, "so we all sit together to eat. Campers feel loved and are loved. It's a physical reminder that their Father in heaven loves them."
Young Life Rutherford County is open to all high school students across Rutherford County. For more information, visit rutherfordcounty.younglife.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.