Archive | Young Life RSS feed for this section

Young Life Leaders Wanted: Gays Need Not Apply

1 Dec

Young Life Watch

Image result for Gays need not apply

(Photo source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/indiana-gov-mike-pence-signs-gay-discrimination-bill)

For a long time I’ve wanted to highlight the fact that Young Life is strictly anti-gay.  It is YL’s position that being gay is a sin and in direct opposition to God’s will and word.  It’s not an uncommon belief for Christians who believe the Bible is the literal word of God.

A couple times in the history of this site, I’ve had YL folks comment that YL is for everyone and that gays are welcome just like anyone else.  What I think they really mean, is that you’re welcome to attend club or camp in the hopes that you will see the light, confess Christ and renounce your sinful sexual orientation.

A recent comment at Young Life Watch had this to say:

I was in YL in highschool and decided to quit my senior year because they would not allow a gay man on the trip to…

View original post 181 more words

Teen Falls to Their Death at Young Life Camp

15 Jul

Young Life Watch

Very sad news tonight.

According news reports, a Florida teen has fallen to their death at Young Life’s Carolina Point camp in South Carolina.  The teen fell over 100 feet from a pendulum swing known as the “Freebird” event.

You can read news reports here, here, and here.

Young Life has released this statement:

We are saddened to report that we’ve had a tragic accident here at Carolina Point. On Monday afternoon, July 13, a camper became detached from and fell off a swing. Camp staff called emergency medical assistance and immediately began administering CPR. To our great sorrow, this young woman has passed away. All of us at Carolina Point and across Young Life grieve with this young woman’s family and friends. We do not yet know how this occurred. At the moment our focus is on those grieving over this tragic accident. This is…

View original post 58 more words

Young Life Pushed My Son to Suicide: An Update

22 Sep

About one year ago, Mechanic Dude stopped by and began to share his story.  A story that ends in tragedy…suicide.  You can read MD’s account of it here. But  beyond the tragedy of his son’s death, was the frustration he felt towards Young Life and the role he feels it played in his son’s decision to take his own life.  The reactions here on the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch have been mixed. Some Young Life folks have expressed sympathy, others have expressed a mix of sympathy towards MD but do not understand how he can blame Young Life.  But beyond that, a few have come in guns blazing and accused MD of making up the whole story, in an orchestrated effort to “take down” Young Life. The comment that pushed me to actually confirm MD’s story was this comment:

I have been around Young Life for more than a decade now and this story just absolutely DOES NOT line up with this organization. I have met people on every level of the organization, from the president and national board of trustees all the way down to the local area staff and volunteers, and none of this falls in line with Young Life. Here are my issues… Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all. Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county? But even if that is me being calloused or insensitive, here is the other issue- THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE. Young Life doesn’t own any camp property in Lake Tahoe, or Nevada for that matter. There is not even another non-YL camp called “The Lake Tahoe Camp” in Nevada that maybe Young Life may had used. The author of this story either made this place up, or seriously got some facts incorrect. It sounds like, to me, someone is on a vendetta to attack the Young Life organization and is willing to fabricate a story and manipulate the emotions of others to succeed in their vendetta. And it sounds like the moderator of this website, along with many readers, have fallen for his every word. christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt. I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd. This story just proves to me how easy it is to get on the internet and just write something, and ANYONE will believe it, regardless of how true it really is. I have seen people’s responses saying they will not have their kids involved in Young life because of THIS story. If they don’t want them involved because they don’t like Young Life’s methods, that is one thing, and i can respect that. But this is libel. Anybody (someone hurt by YL in the past, someone anti-religion, etc) could get on this site and completely fabricate a story and everyone will believe it. CA- you preach against young life’s deceitful tactics. if you want your site to be one of integrity and credibility, you should really research stories before you republish them yourself. But if it is your mission to beat up and damage an organization by any means necessary, including lies and deceit, then i guess by all means carry on.

To be honest, I was a little shocked at the vehement insistence that this story was a “fabrication”  based on a “vendetta”.  But none the less,  MD responded that he would be more than willing to confirm his story with me in private, so I could say with confidence that this is no fiction and that this is a real Father who is grieving a real son. I have to say, that I felt wrong about making MD prove his story to me.  I’ve never made other folks who state “I’ve been a YL area Director,  I am a current Young Life leader, etc….”  have to prove these claims.  Why make MD do it?  But after a long break from the blog, I was able to converse with MD off the blog and he provided just enough information for me to confirm for myself, that his story is true.

Here’s what I learned after about 10 minutes on the internet: MD’s son was a minor (17) when he committed suicide on the campus of his High School.  Some of the postings I found on-line were fellow classmates of his son and they describe essentially the same details that MD describes about his son.  He was bright, well-liked, and the sort of person that no one could believe he would ever do such a thing. For all those who believe that MD’st story is a fiction, you are wrong. It is not a fiction, it really happened and I’d appreciate it if you’d show a little respect and sympathy for a man who has lost a child in the most horrible way you can imagine. I think most of us will understand if your experience of Young Life is different than his….but he is entitled to say what he feels about Young Life,  just as you are free to disagree with what is said.  But it’s time to move past the petty arguments of whether this event actually occurred .

A Response 

Without trying to speak for MD, let me try and clear up some of the questions that were raised in the comment above:

  Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all.

Well you can, but you’d probably have to know who you were looking for, and since MD does not wish to splash his family’s name all over the internet, then it may be hard for you to find any info online.  Also, suicides do not get a ton of press…I mean, yes-if you were already famous-then it will get lots of press.  But in my own recent experience, I know families who have lost son’s to suicide-guess what-no press, no articles, no nothing.  They were minors, so if the police were involved, the child’s name would not be released to the public or the press.  Your assumption that this sort of information would be all over the internet is incorrect.

Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county?

I really don’t know for sure, but it is my understanding that you can not request a police report over the phone.  And again, you’d have to know which incident or investigation you were looking for, in most cases.  You can click here to see what it usually takes to receive a copy of a police report.

THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE

Actually, there is a YL camp in Soda Springs, CA.  When I lived in Norther CA, we would have referred to this whole area as the Lake Tahoe area.  Soda Springs, Truckee, Emigrants Gap, Donner’s Pass, are all within a short drive of the actual west side of the Lake and would qualify as part of the Lake Tahoe area.  Even Reno’s airport is named the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.    Besides all that, Young Life does sometime rent facilities it doesn’t own.  In my own experience, YL would rent a facility in Harvey Cedars NJ and we also held some YL weekends at hotels in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area.

christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt.

Well this comment feels like a back handed compliment.  I appreciate this person taking the time to read my blog for years and the compliment that you find me thoughtful and careful.  As for biased,  I am not sure what to say.  My experiences and opinions are my own, but I also allow anyone who differs with me to do so.  If I were completely biased, I wouldn’t allow you or anyone else who disagreed with me to comment.   You may want to ask yourself, how much of your own emotions and bias come into your allegation that MD’s story is not true.

I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd.

I am glad to hear that this is your experience.  In most of my own time in Young Life,  I saw pretty much the same thing….but not always.  I did witness some pretty hostile reprimanding at a Young Life camp on more than one occasion.  I’ve even seen some pretty unkind arguments between leaders and area directors at some others.  Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

After all,  I’ve never witnessed YL leaders sexting teens, but it has happened.  I’ve never known leaders that were having sex with one of their YL kids, but it has happened at Timberwolf and Castaway.

Suffice to say, experiences of Young Life can be very different from person to person. I just plain tire at the accusations that I am out to get Young Life, or that MD’s story is the reason some kid doesn’t get to go to camp.  I am out to share my story and to allow others to share their stories as well.  If a parent reads this site and then decides that their kid isn’t going to camp or Young Life-then you haven’t earned the right to be heard.

Lastly, if you read something here that you disagree with-by all means-feel free to post your feelings about it.  I may or may not have to time to respond, and others may or may not agree with you.

But please do me a favor…play nice.

Especially with those who are sharing stories of abuse and suicide.  It’s just a common courtesy to show some respect for those who are hurting and grieving.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or even believe them…but please remember that there’s enough pain and tragedy in this life.   Can we not add to it by beating up on those who are already beaten down?

Young Life Search Phrases

26 Mar

I find the list of search phrases people use to be revealing.  When it comes to Young Life and the people who end up on this blog, the search queries reveal what sort of information or concerns they have about Young Life.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of the searches that end up here:

 

Is Young Life a Cult?

What is Young Life?

Young Life Reviews

Young Life Issues

Denny Rydberg Salary

Is Young Life Bad?

Young Life Cult or Religion

Young Life Beliefs

Banging My Young Life Leader

What happens at Young Life Camp?

Young Life camp rape

Can a Young Life leader still lead if they had sex?

Young Life Leader sexual abuse

What Church is behind Young Life?

Young Life views on Homosexuality

Young Life cliques

 

As a point of reference, the phrase “Is Young Life a Cult?” or some variation is by far, the number one search phrase that brings people to this blog.

 

YoungLife pushed my son to suicide

17 Feb

Some of you might have read Mechanic Dude’s comments here at CA and picked up on the sad, sad story of his son’s experience with Young Life. Here is the whole story from the perspective of a grieving father who believes his son was pushed to suicide because of his involvement with Young Life.

Young Life Pushed My Son To Suicide

This is the story my son told me before his death at just 17yrs old. I have left it raw and emotional. The Young Life Organization is a Christian youth ministry with a special focus on public schools. In fact they are practically non existent outside of the public school system and their elaborate summer camps, usually located in very scenic and expensive areas of the US.

My son attended a public high school in Reno NV. My first knowledge of YoungLife was when he asked if he could go out with a friend that had a car. He said that he was older and a very nice person from his high school. At just 15 yrs. old I was skeptical and wanted to meet this person. A very young looking person shows up at the door and assures me he is a safe driver and that they were just…

View original post 1,708 more words

Opinion Piece: Young Life Is a Clique Hiding Under the Blanket of Religion

5 Feb

Interesting opinion piece written a few years ago about Young Life.  I believe this is a high school on-line paper.  You can click here to read the whole article.

A couple of highlights and then I’ll go back to my cave….

If you ask any student of Northwest who has not yet been brainwashed by this organization, they will tell you Young Life is as close to a cult as you get at the high school level. It’s a place where only the “popular” kids are welcomed.

Young life is a social organization hiding under the blanket of religion. After Young Life meetings every Monday night, you don’t see pictures posted by attendees of that night’s meeting of the worshipping they did, but instead of the wacky costumes they dressed up in and of the contests they held.

 

And from a comletely different angle, this review of Young Life was written earlier today at greatnonprofits.org :

 

February 4, 2014
I DO NOT LIKE WYLDLIFE FOR MY CHILDREN. As a mother I tell you why I do not like Wyldlife or Young Life. First, the leaders are very MANIPULATIVE with teenagers. They act COOL and Young even though some of them are in their late forties. Second, parents are not encourage to attend any event or group. For example, my daughter attended some meetings about Wyldlife in my neighborhood but of course I was not invited to stay. My daughter at that time she did not say much about it, so I stay out of it since she appreciated the time she shared with her friends form her school. However, after some time my daughter mention me how cool it was to have a counselor and a mentor that she could trust and have fun with. As a mother I did not like that idea and I told my daughter that she could not have any counselor unless I give her permission to have one. Another aspect about WYLDLIFE I DO NOT LIKE is that they get them to excited about camp….once my daughter told me “that’s going to be the best time of my life!”(Camp). CRAZY!!!! The leaders are not honest with parents because they do not tell about their religious influence on children. I think we need MOTHERHOOD for our children not random counselors playing to be cool with our kids to get them to like Christianity using their own theology without parents consent. THINK ABOUT IT. I DID. THANK YOU.

 

 

 

 

Reddit Young Life Thread

20 Nov

Interesting discussion about Young Life on Reddit.  You can see the whole thread here.

For the most part, the discussion mirrors much of the discussion that has happened here at the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch.  It vacillates between those who attended and think it was fine, mostly positive to those who didn’t like the tone or hypocrisy of some Young Lifers and their beliefs.

The comment I found most similar to my own experiences is below.  It’s interesting, although I attended Young Life over 20 years earlier than this poster, the dynamics and methods they describe are almost identical.  The bolded sentences are my doing, otherwise, this is the post in its entirety and unedited.

Past Young Lifer here. I was really involved in the program back in the early 2000’s when I was on the tail end of a really religious upbringing. I’ve been an atheist for over 10 years now, but I look back on this experience as a mixed bag of pleasant experience as regret.

Young Life was meant to be really open and fun and unlike most traditional church groups, they knew how to not freak people the hell out with a heavy handed approach to faith. Basically, it would be weekly house party (albeit a really, really tame house party) at somebody’s place where kids would hang out, maybe smoke cigarettes in the front yard, play Frisbee, chat, flirt with the opposite sex,etc. Then everyone would head inside. A bunch of guys with guitars would lead the group in singing popular songs (lots of Goo Goo Dolls and U2 back then…. mostly any song about heartbreak, feeling alone or lost). There would be some sort of group game and then a 3 minute talk about how people sometimes feel lost and without purpose (these talks would slowly build on each other throughout each semester and ultimately culminate in a big reveal that there just might be a God out there who loves you and can make you feel better.) There would always be a super strong push to get kids to sign up to go to one of their summer camps.

What Young Life provided was a safe place for kids to have fun and be vulnerable with each other. For teenagers, that is a valuable commodity. It worked really well.

As a kid who grew up in the church, I already knew what the message was. I already knew what the summer camp was trying to do. I realized that this was just a watered down version of what I’d been doing my entire life, but I could see that it honestly seemed to be working on getting numbers up – it seemed like good marketing.

And so I was 100% bought it.

That’s when a few of my more fervent friends invited me to join in to a group called “Campaigners” – and this is where Young Life starts to get a bit weird.

Campaigners would meet at 6am every Monday at the Young Life Leader’s house. We’d sing Christian Praise songs, read scripture, eat bagels – normal youth group stuff. But then we would start talking about who we wanted to bring to the next group, how we should talk to them, why it was important to save their souls. It was mapped out to a creepy level of detail: Jake and I have the same class down the hall from you. I’ll start a conversation about plans for Wednesday in that class and then we’ll bump into you in the hall and we’ll ask them to come with us to the next Young Life. Someone else will ask them later that same day. Maybe a 4th person would contact our target as well – all with one very clearly stated rule: never give away that this was all planned. Unpopular kids looking for friendship and approval were very, very easy targets.

Once they came with you, your job was make sure they had the best time ever. You introduced them to all of your friends. You hung out with them afterward. You took them on family vacations. But then you’d check in Monday morning and report how all of this was going to your fellow Campaigners who would make sure they stayed on the hook. Each week at the open function, they’d be really encouraging them to go to camp this year. They’d bring photos of last year and all the cool stuff they did and tell them that they have to go. And for horny teenage boys, pictures of their crush in a bikini is usually about all it took.

So flash forward to summer camp each year, there’d be a mix of about half Campaigners and half non-religious friends up at a camp in Minnesota with sailboats, zip lines, the best food I’ve ever eaten, disc golf, games, music classes, attractive members of the opposite sex who didn’t have to act church-y, campfires, non-religious sing along….. It was basically a week of pure bliss. And each night after a somewhat ambiguous talk about needing “outside” help, they’d leave you alone for an hour with your thoughts. And in retrospect, it’s crazy how effective that is. You plant an idea and then give someone a quiet moment where that is the last thing in their mind- and then it grows. Kids were converting in droves and I felt like I was part of something important.

Unlike my super creepy church youth group that was all talk, Campaigners was like the Christian SWAT team.

But at the same time, this is the group that ultimately made my faith unravel because they made me see that to be an effective evangelical, you really had to get to know and love the friends in your life – and knowing meant listening and actively engaging. Those things have to come before your agenda. But if the whole reason you’re making friends is to serve an agenda, does that really even count as a friendship? If you are getting together weekly to chit chat about that person’s spiritual progress when that particular topic has barely even come up with them – it’s some fucking spy movie shit and your personality starts to rip. As I got to meet people outside of the flock, I began to realize that when we sang songs about being lost and genuinely bonded in our heart to heart talks that I felt every bit as lost as they did – that the cure we were pitching was every bit as empty as the drugs, drinking and pre-marital sex the prudish church had always been warning about.

We were just teenagers. Everybody felt lost and disconnected. The magic of Young Life wasn’t Jesus – it was creating a safe place where it was okay to be vulnerable.

These days, I’d be really wary of sending any kid off to a camp like that because it is run by really, really smart grown ups who have a pretty good system for indoctrinating kids. These guys are just as good at marketing as any other corporation in our country. Pretty girls in bikinis don’t have anything to do with that brand name t-shirt, but dammit I’m going to buy it because I don’t want to be alone and feeling ugly. Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with zip lines and being vulnerable with close friends, but I want both of those things and if this summer camp can make me feel this good – who is to say it wasn’t Jesus the whole time?

The whole thing was such a mind-fuck – on one hand pleasant, on the other hand just a giant trick that I helped perpetuate.

If I could recreate the Young Life experience I had and remove that religious component, we’d have something capable doing real good in the lives of teens. But that’s the shitty part: it’s hard to do much of anything without hidden agenda. If you aren’t “fixing” troubled kids, if you aren’t helping people see the light – then what you are doing is just a waste of time.

On some quiet days, I’ll sit and think about my time with Young Life – wondering if there isn’t some way an atheist can crack that experience and re-tool it to help kids grow up to be the healthiest versions of themselves instead of fucked up by religion.

So how about it reddit, anybody want to open a summer camp with a highly elaborate system of trained teenage counselors who make it their business that all the forgotten kids in their school feel safe and loved.