I was a Young Life volunteer leader for 5 years. As a leader, we were encouraged to go after the “leaders” at our school. The kids that everyone looked up to. The ones that led the pack. Decades of ministry experience showed that if you could get a “leader” to come to Young Life, their followers would come as well.
In High School, the “leaders” are almost always the popular kids. Kids with good looks, talent, or charisma. In other words, they were cool. I’ve dubbed Young Life’s method of targeting popular kids the “Cult of Cool”. Meaning that there is an unhealthy emphasis on reaching “cool” kids and making sure that Young Life and it’s leaders are “cool”.
I know, I know…cool kids need to be loved too. And I’m not saying that they shouldn’t. But there are some unintended consequences that follow when you focus on cool. One of them, is the kids that aren’t as cool, feel left out or marginalized. For a ministry that claims to love all teens, it sure seems that the “cool” ones get most of that love.
You’re free to disagree (as I know many of you do), but I want you to understand how that played out for one Christian family whose daughter attended Young Life. Here’s a brief summary from randall’s comments that I don’t want you to miss:
Young Life crushed the spirit of my younger daughter. She was “heavy” in High School, and some of the “top students” they target didn’t like her. So, after being involved and going to the former Soviet Union, she was told she could not be involved any longer. She has never recovered from the disappointment.
Are they a cult? I don’t know. Are they cold, insensitive and cruel? Without a doubt.
Responding on another post randall added this:
I don’t believe it even for a second. My daughter was/is still a victim of YL.
It wasn’t fun for my daughter when she was told she couldn’t participate because the “other” kids didn’t think she fit in (she was overweight and not part of the “popular” crowd). When we approached the Leader, she had no answer; she just walked away.
More recently, he shared this:
You should take the time to read my comments from previous discussions. I am still dealing with a brokenhearted daughter who has turned her back on Jesus because of Young Life.
Stop drinking the Koolaid…
I highlight what Randall has shared because I think it’s important to see what Young Life did in the case of his daughter. She was a normal Christian kid, willing to travel overseas to share her faith. But because she was overweight and didn’t “fit in” (read-not cool like us) the Young Life leader asked her to not come back to Young Life.
This is where the “cult of cool” can lead you. Instead of showing love and acceptance, this Young Life leader showed shallowness and conditional love. And that is a far cry from the mantra that Young Life exists to show every kid the love of God.
In the end, Young Life not only crushed this girls spirit, but they shipwrecked her faith.
I know this may sound odd from someone who no longer has faith. But it’s wrong to treat families this way. Randall was raising his daughter to be a Christian, and Young Life’s “cool” version destroyed it.
It may be a sin to bore a kid, but it’s even worse to destroy their self-esteem so that your club can stay “cool”.
PS from Randall-
It is not my desire to destroy Young Life. I hope that, if they read these comments, that real change will come and that everyone would be welcome. Ministries that “target” certain types of people (young or old) almost always damage those who “don’t fit in.” I’ve seen it and personally spoke with those who have been ignored because they were in the “target group.”
I pray that para-church groups will realize that they have responsibilities not to offend the least of these and respond accordingly.