Despite Young Life’s creation in 1941, this year will be the first that the organization enters Grant County.
With the help of Michael Redding, Young Life’s associate regional director for central Indiana, the youth ministry-based organization will be arriving in the Upland, Indiana, area soon.
Young Life is a large organization, existing in all 50 states and over 100 countries, that focuses on ministering Christ’s love to adolescents. Redding stresses the Jesus-centered nature of the organization and how that impacts everything they do.
“I think (I appreciate) the focus of just Jesus, and then second, relationships,” Redding said. “Our camps are amazing and our events are amazing, but we aren’t event-focused, we’re relationship-focused.”
He believes that the relational aspect is a defining characteristic of what Young Life is.
Redding is still close with his childhood Young Life leader, 27 years later. He also has officiated several weddings of his former Young Life kids, thus displaying how deep the relationships formed through the organization go.
Another key characteristic of the organization is that the leaders meet kids where they’re at.
“We’re at the skate park, we’re at band concerts, choir concerts, just showing up in the lives of kids,” Redding said.
This aspect of Young Life plays a significant role in the development of long-term, meaningful relationships between leaders and young people.
Thinking about Young Life’s arrival in Upland, Redding is excited about the opportunity to reach more young people, with the help of Taylor students.
About 28 Taylor students who were involved with Young Life in high school expressed a desire to continue their involvement at Taylor. This year, these students each received a Young Life scholarship and are part of a group that meets weekly to receive leadership training.
The group is helping plan and prepare for the establishment of Young Life chapters in Grant County’s high schools. Redding’s vision is that eventually, Young Life will be present in all five high schools in Grant County, with Eastbrook High School being their first focus.
This semester, the team will focus on leadership training and preparation for their events and clubs. They also plan on visiting Eastbrook multiple times to get acquainted with the kids there.
“The goal is to meet 200 kids to know their names before we start what we call Young Life Club, which will probably start next semester,” Redding said.
After a kid comes to Young Life Club and decides they want to get more involved, then they have the opportunity to get involved with “Campaigners” — a bible study that introduces kids to a life with Jesus and helps them grow in their faith.
A big dream and goal of Redding’s is that his team would be able to take a group of kids to Young Life camp this summer. He sees this as a lofty goal but believes that with the help of Taylor student Young Life leaders, it is possible.
One of his hopes in connection with the university is that the Taylor community will help Young Life share the gospel with more kids.
“I think Young Life does a great job of bridging the gap between the world and the church, going to where kids are, entering their worlds, forming friendships with them in hopes of sharing the gospel with them,” Redding said.
Along with this, Taylor students will be offered, through Young Life, more opportunities to serve the community of Grant County and get involved with the ministry.
Redding encourages students who are interested in being a part of the mission of Young Life to consider getting involved.
“If you're someone that loves having fun, loves Jesus, loves community and relationships and wants to be bold and kind of step out of your comfort zone to reach kids (of) the next generation for Jesus, then Young Life is for you,” Redding said.
Linking back to the community, Redding is excited to love, partner with and support the community of Upland.
He is hopeful that Young Life will become beautifully integrated into the Upland community as they partner with high schools, Taylor and beyond.
“We're not just this little ministry thing for kids,” Redding said. “We want to become a fabric of the community.”