Ministry reaches out to area youth
Monday March 20 was a scene of controlled pandemonium at the Belton Christian Youth Center as kids from Belton High School played elbow tag and kickball.
After the games, the bedlam became a little less controlled as students were treated to a plastic rain gutter full of ice cream.
The event was sponsored by Young Life, a Christian organization dedicated to ministering to high schoolers. Young Life hosts clubs every Monday
Matt Lambro, the area director for Mid-Tex Young Life said, “At club we sing songs. We play games. It is a lot of humor. It is very surface level, but we present the gospel in bits and pieces over the course of a year.”
As an organization, Young Life is intentional and relational. On average most leaders spend 12 or more hours a week with the kids in their ministry. The Young Life chapter of Belton started two years ago.
Lambro began his ministry in the school cafeteria. There, he met an unusual student.
“He was crazy. We were like who is this guy trying to talk to us? I had that impression for a while, but he turned out to be a pretty cool guy. He gave good advice and good insight,” he said
Most Young Life leaders become close to the young people in their ministry. To get involved in kids’ lives, leaders will attend sporting events or go out to eat with them. Many appreciate the friendship and mentoring that comes from their leaders.
A Belton High School sophomore said, “Having someone there means a lot.”
Sophomore pre-physical therapy major and Young Life leader Katilee Ralph said, “It has impacted my life. Yes, I’m here for the kids and I have impacted them, but they in turn have affected me in such a positive way. I go home and my mom says, ‘You have grown up so much.’ I tell her it is Young Life. Honestly, Young Life helped me grow to be a better person.”
The organization has been around for more than 70 years. The word “teenager” was not used until the 1940s. It was around this same time that Jim Rayburn, a seminary student at Dallas Theological Seminary, founded the organization for adolescents.
“He started the Young Life campaign and rented a tent and put it in Fair Park in downtown Dallas. He put the word out and told everyone on the radio,” Lambro said. “At his first talk he opened by telling people about someone who knew how to turn dirty water into the best tasting alcohol that anyone had ever had and that was his niche. He was talking about Jesus but he knew that he wanted to reach people that might not otherwise hear about God.”
It has grown significantly since its beginning, reaching more than 70 countries.
The original focus was on high school age youths, but Young Life has expanded and created different divisions to minister to teenage mothers, middle school children, mentally challenged individuals and college students.
Camp is one of Young Life’s big events. Participants are encouraged to attend a week-long camp at a high-end resort somewhere in the U.S. There they are given mostly leisure time and opportunities to learn about the Gospel.
“Young Life is a great avenue to reach people. It is an ambulance, and the church is the hospital. If we are not going out and getting people, there is no one going to the hospital sometimes,” Lambro said, “We are all called to be ambulances as believers … Young Life in the way they carry it out is the ambulance you want to be in.”