Before I got to Cedarville my freshman year, I asked my youth pastor who had graduated from Cedarville just a couple of years prior, “What’s your biggest advice for my time at Cedarville?” He took a second to think and told me that his biggest encouragement to me and any other student at Cedarville would be to purpose to get off campus and share the Gospel with people in the local communities who have never heard it.
I tucked this advice into the back of my head and did not think too much of it. Within the first two weeks of my freshman year, I headed out to the involvement fair to see what student life had to offer and was greeted by more clubs, organizations, and ministries than I knew what to do with! I ended up coming across the Young Life table, which began an adventure I never could have expected.
What is Young Life?
Young Life is a para-church ministry that seeks to “introduce high school students to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.” Young Life is unique as it reaches high schoolers who have never and often would never step foot into a church. This presents the obvious problem of how to meet these students. To do this, leaders meet students where they are by attending sporting events, going to plays, and greeting students before school in the morning with donuts and big smiles! We want to show them who Jesus is by how we treat them long before we tell them who He is with our words. We earn the right to be heard by our high school friends instead of trying to immediately ‘win them over’ by showing that we love them for who they are, not what they have done or will do, just like Jesus.
Personal Growth as a Young Life Leader
I have seen so much growth in my own walk with the Lord through being a Young Life leader. I firmly believe that there comes a point where it is difficult, if not impossible, to continue maturing your relationship with Christ if you are not actively and purposefully sharing your faith. Young Life has been the perfect way for me to share my faith with those who have no clue who Jesus is or how He can radically change their lives forever. Through long drives to a high school 30 minutes away, I also got to meet my future wife who leads Young Life alongside me, which has been the most unexpected and biggest blessing of my life!
Favorite Memories as a Young Life Leader
As a Young Life leader, I have made memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. These memories range from early mornings at the high school giving out donuts to picking a dozen guys up in a van every week for ‘Taco Tuesday’ to watching a student I have prayed for relentlessly come to know Jesus as his personal Savior. In the midst of all the craziness of sharing life with high school students over the past three years, two stories stick out to me that I think accurately portray what being a Young Life leader really is like.
One of the quickest and best ways I have found to build relationships with high school guys is to have them over to spend the night at my house. While I have always known high school guys like to mess with their Young Life leader, this was about to be taken to the next level. One of these guys had the bright idea to take my pillow and threaten to throw it in the shower. After a good hour of negotiations for my pillow (with the threat of being thrown in the shower themselves if they made a poor decision), they did the unthinkable and away my pillow went. After another hour of chasing these guys around my house, I had the three culprits all either thrown into a pile of snow outside or in the shower themselves. While this may just seem like a silly story, that night cemented my relationship with all four guys there and has led to more students wanting to get in on the fun. All I did was allow a safe environment for good, clean high school boy fun.
While that story is full of craziness and fun, this next one is by far my favorite of the two. One of my guys who I got to hang out with that night (who I’ll call Jeff) was consistently stand-offish and always seemed to be just a little too cool for me. Over the course of a few months of car rides together I had begun to learn that Jeff had a hard home life without much consistency. While he never seemed to open up, I was trusting that the Holy Spirit was chipping away at him little by little. One night after dropping a few other guys off, I was headed to Jeff’s house before having to switch directions (he has a broken family and the place he was going to sleep changed at the last minute). While this seemed to be an inconvenience at first, it turned out to be an amazing work of the Holy Spirit. Over the extra 20 minutes that I had with Jeff, he began to open up to me little by little and ended up bawling his eyes out in my car describing to me his broken home and how he had been using self-harm to cope with what seemed like too much to bear. While I felt wholly inadequate, I shared the only hope that I knew, the hope of Jesus. Over the next ten minutes the Holy Spirit spoke through me words that were clearly not my own as I clearly and succinctly explained the person of work of Jesus Christ and how He changes everything. I offered hope that was not from this world to Jeff during his lowest moment. The car ride ended with one of the biggest hugs of my life from Jeff, and off he went to his broken home. As of writing this Jeff is still in high school and has yet to accept Christ.
While he was broken apart that night, I saw him the next day and he was back to good ole “better than everyone” Jeff. I share this story for two reasons. First, I only had the chance to share the gospel with Jeff amid his hurting because I had formed a relationship with him built on fun and joy. Secondly, not all stories end happily. Jeff has not accepted Christ, often ignores my texts, and still has a hard home life. Through it all I can still trust that the Lord is working in his heart even when it is hard to see.
If you couldn’t tell already, I love getting to be a Young Life leader. Young Life for me has been the perfect way to share my faith while also attending a Christian university. While not everyone is going to be Young Life leaders, to my fellow and future students I say this: find a way to share your faith with those who do not yet know Jesus. That advice changed everything for me, and I hope through the power of His Spirit it will do the same for you!
Majoring in Civil Engineering, Class of 2022
Where I’m from: Springboro, Ohio
Favorite class: Infrastructure for Developing Contexts (Missional Engineering)
Go to Rinnova order: a large black coffee
Song I would listen to for the rest of my life: Heretic by Gable Price and Friends