Have you ever been in the students’ section of a Helias sports event and had a strange yet friendly college kid come and introduce him/herself to you? Odds are you encountered a Young Life leader. Your friends may have warned you about them: “Don’t talk to him, he just wants you to come join their cult,” or something along those lines. From that, you either heeded your friend’s advice and blew off this kind person, or you felt obligated to respond and talk to them. I hope the latter.
It seems like here at Helias, though I know it is a common problem everywhere, we get too wrapped up in our judgments about Young Life either from what our friends, parents, or teachers have told us. Others have instilled a fear in us of what Young Life is or might be that causes some to completely turn themselves off to the idea of it. I’m here to tell you that these fears are irrational and a result of our own prejudgments, misconceptions, and misinformation provided from others.
I have heard Young Life (from now on referred to as “YL”) described as a separate church, designed to pull us out of the Catholic Church and into the Church of YL. When I hear this, I am simply confused. YL is not at all a church. If anything, you could describe it as a youth group, but I don’t feel like that does it enough justice. YL depends more on your own personal experience of it to decide what it is to you. For some at Helias, it could be going to the YMCA on a Wednesday night and playing a few outrageous games and singing songs. For others, it is discussing the Bible and life in group discussions called Campaigners. And still for others, it could be a simple friendship between a leader and a student, where the leader will talk to you about whatever you need talking about, whether it be a hard time in your life (i.e. your parents’ divorce or your overbearing homework load), or the simple things you enjoy, like playing the guitar or video games. In any case, the leaders are simply there to be your friend.
While it is true that YL is not specifically Catholic, that does not mean that it is against Catholicism. YL is a non-denominational Christian organization, meaning it identifies with no church in particular. While this is true for the organization of YL, the leaders’ religions may vary. But, it is true also that, on the Helias Leader’s team, we have some Catholic leaders, even including some Helias alumni.
However, none of this even matters because YL is not about religious warfare; it is about your own personal relationship with God. I for one have benefited tremendously in my Catholic faith through the experiences and friends I have made through YL, and have never been more interested and excited to grow and learn more about my faith. It makes me sad to think that some people will not come because it is not specifically Catholic. The recent movie “God’s Not Dead” and the book made into a movie “Heaven is for Real” are also not specifically Catholic, yet many of us Catholics thoroughly enjoyed both. It is time for us as Catholics to learn that we are not the only ones that love God. Other Christians are our neighbors too, and there is something we can learn from everyone.
I don’t understand why some people refuse to give YL a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep coming back. Personally, I have grown a lot from it, so I feel the need to give back and try to help others who may need a similar experience to mine. I realize that much of my argument may not apply to many people. Some Helias students are not worried about their Catholic faith being shaken. Some just think it is weird or unpopular. That may be the opinion of the person, but don’t let their opinions steer you away. Don’t knock it till you try it.
Just two years ago, the leaders could be seen in the Helias Commons during lunch, talking to students and telling people that there is YL that night. Before that, the administration would even announce YL in the announcements every Wednesday, just as if it were a meeting for Journalism Club or a sports event happening that night. There used to be 100+ students in attendance during those times. I wish that were still the case.
Some of you reading this may have never even heard of YL. If that is the case, don’t let all these arguments scare you. Ask a friend if they have ever heard of it, and just come see for yourself and make your own judgments. The only problem is, you’ll have to wait till next school year, as the spring semester of YL just wrapped up recently. However, if you ask around next year about it, I am sure you will be able to find out when it is. It is my dream that Helias can reach the point of announcing YL one day, just as it did in the past, especially after assisting in improving the faith life of so many students.
The Crusader Raid, Vol. 6, Num. 4.
The Spring/Summer Issue
Written by Steven Ball