What to Do When Young Life Converts Your Teen?

27 Aug

When I went to Young Life as a teen, my parents were fully aware of the Evangelical nature of Young Life and it’s desire to convert and disciple teens into their version of Evangelical Christianity.  My own involvement caused no tension with my parents or their religious convictions.

When I was a senior in high school, I invited a girl friend to Saranac Lake.  She went and converted to Young Life’s version of Christianity.  This did not go over well with her family who was Roman Catholic and felt that my girlfriend had been preyed upon by Bible thumpers.

Her family was always kind to me, but they let it be known that they were unhappy with the decision to let their daughter be involved with Young Life.  But at that point, it was done and she continued to be adversarial towards her parent’s church and faith.

Recently, two comments have been left on the Is Young Life a Cult?-Freedom Responds post, expressing worry and one asking for advice.  I do have some thoughts, but I’m certainly not an expert and wanted to highlight their comments.  Please feel free to respond to our worried and Janet’s concerns and what you think they might need to do.

worried left this comment:

So, My question is what to do next? My son is now 18. He has gone to several young life “get togethesr” over the past couple years. It was fun to him & many of his friends also attended. He just graduated high school and a couple friends talked him into going to the camp at Rockbridge. First thing that threw me off was they take their phones from them as soon as they get there. He went there as a free spirit excited about just having a good time before college. He came back six days later praising the camp, letting me and everyone else know (via social networking) that he excepted Christ into his life and that he is a changed man. He’s acting strange and I just don’t like any of it…What now? What happened there? Six days and my son is a totally different person, praising God & praying for me …lol. I want to support my son in every way but something just doesn’t sit right with me.

and Janet recently added this comment:

Worried, I’m having the same fears about my daughter. She started going to a “church” at our high school, which I considered cultish itself. They even allowed her to get baptized at age 17, without us knowing or our consent. I found out about it on facebook! The thing is, she was baptized in a catholic church when she was a baby.
She started going to more and more young life and church related meetings, camps, etc.. She even started reading the bible all the time, and she doesn’t read books ever!
Now, she just started college and of course, not knowing anyone, the young life people she had “met” through twitter and facebook over the summer, swooped in and became her best friends in just a day or two. These over the top Christian kids are the ONLY one’s she’s become friends wtih. The only organizations I see her expressing interest in are Christian organizations – Campus Crusaders, Young Life, etc. And I’m afraid that she’s going to even give up the one thing she absolutely loves – volleyball, because the practices and try-outs are the same night as young life leader training.
I’ve told her that I don’t want her to go to college, just to spend her time at the high schools, recruiting kids for young life. We’re paying out-of-state tuition for her to attend the “school of her dreams”, and little did I know that it would turn into a religious pilgrimage. If in fact she does give up the volleyball, which she’s wanted to play in college since she started playing in middle school, I don’t know what I’ll do. She’s already missed a lot of the freshman fun things to do (a ventriloquist, etc.), because of deciding she’d rather go to a young life barbecue. She went to 4 church events (all wanting to bring college kids to be as one with Christ), in the first 3 days……
When I’ve asked her about friends, she talks about the young life people and how “nice” they all are….
I’m really worried. I don’t know what to do or how to talk to her without her rebelling and becoming even further entrenched. :(
I’m not paying for college – especially out of state tuition – for her to go to church!
Any advice is greatly appreciated. I’m at a loss and worry constantly about it. :(


12 Responses to “What to Do When Young Life Converts Your Teen?”

  1. graceone August 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I think young people of college age need to be able to explore and come to their own thinking relating to issues of faith. I would simply listen, ask good questions, and convey your love and acceptance.

    Have to add that if I was paying for my child’s education, I would be pretty hard core about also keeping their grades up, and focusing on their academics as well as spiritual interests.

    My experience is that with time and life experience all this tends to balance out. There are certainly worse things that kids can get into in college than hanging out at church, IMO. 🙂

    Janet, to share a different perspective, you also could ask your daughter to look at EWTN, The Journey Home, with Marcus Grodi. Marcus was a former evangelical Christian pastor who converted to Roman Catholicism. You certainly would be hard pressed to find anyone more committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  2. christianagnostic September 2, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    well…I can honestly say that we haven’t overwhelmed our guests with advice on this one 🙂 .
    I’ve hesitated to offer advice, because I haven’t walked down the road of trying to relate to my children as they become adults and are away at school.

    My best guess, is to try and keep the communication open, even taking an interest in their involvement with Young Life, so that you can begin to understand why it has become so important in their lives. I look back at myself at early college, and I think I would have written off anyone who tried to tell me that Young Life posed some risk or had used manipulation to get my involvement. I just wasn’t capable of seeing it at that point.

    Trying to argue them out of it will probably drive them further in. But setting clear expectations for a child who is at school on your money, is a fair conversation to have. In my mind, I would try to set reasonable expectations for grades and involvement, and ask that they communicate with you before they take on huge time commitments like volunteer leadership and contact work.

    Hopefully, if you can keep an open and healthy relationship, there will be windows of opportunity to explain some of your concerns and actually be heard.

    • graceone September 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      Good comments, CA. Amen!!:)

      Doesn’t this hold true in so many areas of our lives. We have this tendency to want to drag our kids to where we’re at in our thinking. We don’t want to see them hurt or disillusioned.

      But, in truth, they have to be able to judge for themselves, and have the maturity and life experience to be able to discern these things as well.

      It sounds like your kids are still young. All of mine are grown, the youngest twenty-four. I am starting on a good crop of grandkids, LOL, Everyone of them a blessing. …

  3. allie July 9, 2015 at 6:20 am #

    Okay honestly if your child is interested in a certain faith, let them be. To me Christianity is honestly one of the least harmful religions. If you really learn the theology it’s beautiful. it teaches about an all knowing God who loves everyone so much that he sent his one and onto son to die and rise again to rid of our sins. that’s pretty amazing to me. also the morals that go along with Christianity are good too. your child most likely won’t be having premarital sex, drinking, drugs, stealing, etc. so let your child love his / her God and let them embrace it.

  4. JJC July 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    Regrettably, the theology of YL from what I have seen and experienced is quite harmful.

    My son did not specifically ever mention YL, but the similarities to what we experienced with him after his ‘conversion’ and the stories I’ve found here are too similar for me to ignore.

    When I found God through the Catholic faith, I became more secure in myself and fought less with my folks. I had friends of other faiths or no faith, and that continued. I disagreed with other Christian denominations, but that was all: disagreed.

    Suddenly, when my son ‘converted’ to his girlfriend’s local Baptist church, he became MORE deceitful, combative, manipulative, dropped his old Catholic fiends, wouldn’t even come to his sisters’ graduations that were held in Catholic Churches, the list goes on. Everything became about him not only seeing his girlfriend multiple nights a week, but her people at her run-down church as well. He turned half his siblings against be and the Catholic faith as well, and even though he chose to leave and move in with a family his gf picked out for him, the narrative has been sold that I ‘kicked him out’ because ‘he didn’t want to be Catholic.’

    Not true. So now in addition to other family crises and issues over the past few years, I periodically find myself dealing with this attitude with a couple of my teens and extended family members.

    Do *not* ignore the signs. This is not good. YL has been good for some, but for my family this group (or at the very least, one whose effects are indistinguishable from those described here as belonging to YL) has proven to be a nightmare that has torn my family asunder for coming up on three years now.

    • Jack September 24, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

      Well I’m not Catholic but my daughter got involved in young life I wanna say beginning of school year she was a loving and caring respectful kid she asked for a bible for Christmas cool I was excited and happy she wanted to learn about God!she goes away to yl camp and when she returns she’s a different person. She tells her mom she hates her and wants to move in with her yl leader. She basically disowns her family. It’s like she’s ashamed of us I can honestly say I don’t know who she is anymore has anyone else had the same experience?

      • Toshia October 22, 2015 at 9:21 am #

        The very thing is happening with my daughter. She just turned 18 in September and she has taken half of her clothes. I never hear from her. She won’t speak to any of her family. She won’t answer phone. Our family has always been so close and we are broken right now without her. Please help.

      • christianagnostic October 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

        I’m sorry to hear this….has your daughter expressed why she no longer wants contact with you?

        Feel free to ignore my question if you’re not up for the conversation.

        Best Regards-CA

  5. Emily Kearney March 27, 2017 at 2:42 am #

    Reading this blog has really opened my eyes to a part of Young Life that has been neglected – the organization’s relationship with high school parents. I’m noticing that so many kids are going through significant changes as they’re maturing into adults, but the parents have been left blind sided as to what is happening in their kid’s world. Especially if the parent is not a christian, this can be really scary to be simply watching your child be so strongly influenced by something that seems so mysterious to you. I am currently a middle school leader in Wyldlife for a rural club that is starting up for the first time, and I hope that I will prevent this important relationship from being neglected. Thanks for your important perspective for the organization!

    • Mechanicdude March 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      Emily- Really? “watching your child be so strongly influenced by something that seems so mysterious to you.” How arrogant! Do you even have kids of your own??? I found your comment terrifying and so emotionally cold that it is possibly sub-human… -MD

    • ... Zoe ~ March 31, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      What mystery are you talking about Emily?

  6. Mechanicdude March 31, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.- Star Trek

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