As adults, choosing to leave margin for building relationships can be incredibly difficult in our busy lives. We tend to get overstretched trying to keep up with our fast-paced culture. Oftentimes, we wish we had more time in the day to prioritize relationships.
But what if we already know how to find the joy in making time for relationships? What if we had it figured out in high school but just forgot how to do it or how it feels? Perhaps, our teenagers can remind us how to make more time for relationships.
Our Sloan Creek Campus high school students are prioritizing Young Life every Monday night. Each week, they focus on their relationships and reap the rewards of being connected to others.
For those of you who have not heard, Young Life’s volunteers and employees have a mission to bring “fun, adventure, friendship and a sense of significance….we earn the privilege of talking to them about something that we think matters most of all—the truth about God and His love for them.”
After attending just one Young Life meeting, I clearly understood that relationships and connections are the heart of this program. One dedicated Young Life Leader, Sara Stewart, began volunteering after attending her local Young Life group in high school. She says she comes back because of Young Life’s mission and the opportunity it gives to students who may not have grown up in the church to have a comfortable and casual way of connecting to others.
Upon walking into the meeting on Monday evening, I was greeted with genuine, smiling high school students and volunteers. As I entered the meeting, I saw teens throwing a football around, sitting on surrounding picnic tables talking, playing games, and exchanging stories that happened over the summer.
There were quite a few new people attending, and I was shocked to find that they were so comfortable interacting with everyone. Their comfort level was the result of a rare group of teens that let go of their egos at the door. The leaders were fantastic at finding new faces, introducing them to students who regularly come to Young Life, and finding a common ground to help them connect.
After a half-hour of casual hang-out, two doors flung open, and the teens raced into what seemed like a concert-space with bright bulbs and loud speakers. They locked arms, jumped around, and danced to great music. The meeting included thought-out games and ice-breakers that involved the whole group. This allows everyone to work together while making room for everyone to get out of their shell and to start interacting with newcomers.
The leaders do a wonderful job of engaging the students, making the students want to come back for more. Katy Park, the woman behind these Monday nights, is incredible at creating an unintimidating, laughter-filled environment and at making the meetings run smoothly. She uses Young Life to bring these students into a closer relationship with the Lord and with one another. At the meeting, Katy communicated more opportunities to connect such as the much-anticipated paint fight that was scheduled for the next week and the opportunity to be involved in a small-group Bible study called “Campaigners.”
Comfortable and casual describe what happens on Monday nights at Sloan Creek. A “meeting” may be a term that is too formal when there are a bunch of friends just hanging out, dancing, laughing, and learning God’s Word.
When asked why she attends Young Life so avidly, one student expressed that she “first came because it sounded like something to do on a Monday night, but I stayed because of my relationship with the leaders.” She emphasized that she gets to hang out with her friends and have fun.
It is no surprise that the bond these high school students have with their leaders is strong. Their leaders are intentional and devoted. Kat Phillips, one of our volunteer leaders, admitted she found this program by literally running after a car that read “Young Life Mondays 7:31 p.m.” to try to find out where she could get involved with a local Young Life group.
Although Young Life is a large, long-established program, it is not lacking in its ability to create friendships and to transform the high school students that attend each Monday. The stories of friendships and personal transformation are truly inspiring.
These students have mastered something we can all learn: prioritizing and building friendships to find real connection.
If you would like to find out more about Young Life or where to find their next meeting, check out their website at www.younglife.org.