Meeting Kids at their Turf

Teenagers need support.  They need an adult in their life pointing them to the only thing that will satisfy them….a relationship with Jesus.  For most teenagers, no one in their life fills that role.  As they face daily pressures from peers, parents, and culture, often nothing encourages them to grow in their faith.  Some simply feel unsatisfied with what the world has to offer.  Many feel hopeless which leads to depression.

Here in Bellevue, there is a group of young adults (and some who act and feel young!) that build friendships with students to point them to Jesus.  They are groups of Young Life leaders at Interlake HS, Bellevue HS, Newport HS, as well as at many of our middle schools.  They go where kids are…to their turf…and build the friendship and trust of teenagers with the hope of introducing them to Jesus.  Whether a kid wants to follow Jesus or isn’t interested, they keep caring for them.

One of those kids recently graduated from Bellevue HS.  Outwardly, you would think Alicia had it all:  a nice home, nice clothes, good grades and even a boyfriend.  On the inside, Alicia was lost.  Her parents were fighting and eventually divorced.  Her boyfriend made her feel pressured and judged.  Her friends were all getting straight A’s.  It seemed impossible to keep up.  She felt like a failure while watching her family fall apart.

Alicia came to Young Life camp after her 8th-grade year.  It was the first time she had heard the gospel shared that made sense to her.  She says now that it was the “bridge” she needed from hearing about Jesus as a small kid in bible stories to making Jesus matter in her life now.  Along the way, she met a Young Life leader who befriended her at camp.  That leader wasn’t just in Alicia’s life for a week in the summer.  They both came home from camp and the leader started to text Alicia, call her and invite Alicia out for coffee or to just hang out.  As their friendship grew, so did Alicia’s understanding of who Jesus really is.  That happened because her leader modeled the love, caring, compassion and pursuit that Jesus offers all of us.

As Alicia went through the challenges of high school, she had a Young Life leader by her side.  Wrestling with anxiety in school and the heartbreak of divorce, there was someone pointing her back to God’s Word and her relationship with Christ.  That long-term friendship of a Young Life leader was the difference between Alicia having a great week at camp, versus having a meaningful relationship with Jesus that sustained her life.

Young Life is a Christian organization that introduces teenagers to Jesus Christ and helps them to develop a Christian way of life through activities that contribute to their academic, physical, social, and spiritual growth. Young Life offers summer camps which are often a teenager’s first experiences hearing the word of God.  Young Life is in need of more volunteer camp leaders due to the popularity of their camps. 

Why Young Life?  

It’s easy to be discouraged about teenagers by looking at the headlines. Depression and suicide rates are on the rise. Church attendance rates are dropping and too many teenagers enter college and abandon their faith.  It’s easy to be alarmed and wonder how the next generation is going to choose to follow Jesus.

Right here in Bellevue are 35 adults investing time and energy to introduce teenagers to Jesus and help them grow in faith.  Those 35 adults are Young Life (YL) leaders living out the Great Commission: going directly to middle and high school kids and “sharing not only the Gospel of God but (their) very lives as well.”  1 Thessalonians 2:8

Over the last 2 years, a YL leader Greg has been invested in the life of Russ, a high school sophomore.  They met at a Young Life summer camp where Russ attended with quite a few of his friends.  At camp, there’s always a lot of fun and adventure during the day and a message of Christ every night. And Russ was a challenge for Greg.  He wasn’t interested in hearing about Jesus and even made fun of the kids who were.  Russ’ attitude made it almost impossible for Greg to have real, authentic conversations with the others in the cabin because Russ mocked anyone for any ideas or thoughts they expressed.  Greg was discouraged and felt like a horrible leader.  Camp ended and Russ’ attitude hadn’t changed.  For Greg, it seemed like a wasted week.

But Greg stayed with it.  He continued a friendship with Russ.  He went to Russ’ basketball games, texted Russ to check-in and then, invited Russ to bible studies. Slowly, Greg started to earn Russ’ respect.  Russ didn’t attend many things Greg invited him to, but he saw Greg keep showing up in his life.  Without pushing or being annoying, Greg just stayed consistent.

This last summer, Russ went to Young Life camp again.  Greg was excited to have Russ back but was hesitant to have him in his cabin.  He didn’t want a repeat of two summers ago and he didn’t want the week ruined.

This time, Russ was a different person.  Because of the hard-earned friendship, when Greg talked, Russ listened.  When Greg asked questions, Russ responded.   When Greg asked Russ to be respectful of others, Russ was.  Before the week was over, Russ decided to follow Jesus.  Because of God’s grace and Greg’s consistent caring, it was a huge first step in a faith journey for a challenged teenager.

Young Life works when a leader shows up in the life of a teenager, sharing not only the gospel but their very lives as well.  Whether at Camp, a monthly Club gathering, a Campaigner group bible study, or a kids’ basketball game….Young Life leaders just keep showing up.

Thank you to all at BelPres who, by your support of our staff and our leaders, allow us to keep “showing up” in the lives of teenagers, bringing them the hope of Jesus Christ that can change lives forever.

We are grateful!

Scott Didrickson, Area Director

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Young Life leader in Bellevue, please email  bellevueyloffice@gmail.com.  To financially support Bellevue Young Life, please go to younglife.org