"We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well." - 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Sharing each other’s lives is at the heart of Young Life, a non-denominational, non-profit Christian ministry founded nationally in 1941, but started in the Kingsport area in the early 1990s. The organization aims to make a difference in the lives of youth via the involvement of caring adults.
“The heart of what we do is about relationships,” said Scottie Dancy, Young Life’s area director. “Our leaders build relationships with students. We call it ‘earning the right to be heard.’ We show up where the kids are: football games, band practice, the cafeteria. They show up to let the kids know they care about them.”
Young Life’s high school ministry began in 1991, first at South High School and Dobyns Bennett. Sullivan Central’s group followed. North’s group had an unusual beginning.
“We saw this epidemic of teen pregnancy in our community and we felt like we needed to do something about that,” Dancy said. “We started a ministry called YoungLives for teen moms. It seemed like the strongest need for YoungLives was at North, even though we didn’t have a Young Life there.”
YoungLives met during lunch at North and, before long, a few other students would join the young mothers. Those meetings evolved into a Young Life group starting at North.
Then, several years ago, parents started asking Dancy about a separate ministry within Young Life for middle school students called WyldLife.
“At the time, I thought, ‘We don’t have the resources. We don’t have the people. And I don’t know a thing about middle school kids, so how can we possibly start this?’” the area director recalled.
But then he saw a Young Life video about WyldLife, which mentioned that different generations developed their life views at earlier and earlier ages.
“The Baby Boomer generation decided who they were going to be and what they thought about premarital sex and drugs and alcohol when they got into college,” he explained. “Generation X thought about those things in high school. This generation thinks about it in middle school.
“Four years ago, I couldn’t see how we could afford to do WyldLife. Now I can’t see how we can afford not to do it.”
Because the groups serve different aged kids, meetings are different.
“High school kids want to be spectators; middle school kids want to be participants,” Dancy explained. “But both meetings can be described as ‘organized chaos’ or ‘party with a purpose.’ The idea is to break down walls with kids who are disinterested in God or faith in Christ.”
At the meetings for high school students, the evening begins with loud music, moves toward humorous skits and games, and ends with a leader sharing the gospel. At a typical gathering of middle school students, the night holds large-group games, like dodgeball, and team competitions before the evening ends with a leader sharing a shorter version of the gospel. Still, the common theme for both Young Life and WyldLife meetings is that they provide a safe place to have fun while teaching teens about Christ.
“We get to know all kids and all kids are welcome at Young Life,” Dancy said. “We’re looking to reach kids who aren’t in church and don’t know Christ. We aren’t church. And we do things a little differently. But the idea is to have kids hear the gospel at Young Life and then plug them back into church.”
Young Life meets each Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Fellowship Church in Kingsport. WyldLife meets every other Saturday at 7 p.m. at Colonial Heights Baptist Church.
For more information about Young Life and WyldLife, to contribute financially, or to volunteer to serve on the local Young Life committee, contact Scottie Dancy at 423-246-2822 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.