I am in a Christian organization called YoungLife here in Austin, and yesterday I spent nearly twelve hours doing strictly YL activities. Younglife aims to spread the Word of God by training and sending leaders (me and nearly 100 others I think) to different high schools across the Austin area. The point, as one of the main organizers of the group will say, is not to replace churches or condemn them; in fact, the point is to get kids who do not have a strong faith to increase it, or to tell kids about God and His message if they have not heard it. We do not replace churches, Brett would say, we just do things that they often do not have the focus or time to do. Most notably, we evangelize at high schools in the hope that we can tell kids just a little about God in hopes that they can pick up that relationship and grow it themselves.
Our ministry at the high schools is, on the surface, very secular. A lot of what we do involves introducing ourselves to random kids in the halls and talking to them. We strive to be constants in the kids’ lives, so we try to go to the schools as much as possible. Once we have talked to the kids about school, sports, or whatever we can use to make a connection, we invite them to Club. Club is a Monday night event where all the YoungLife highschoolers meet in a cafeteria or gym and enjoy a program that YL leaders have created. We will start with games and ice-breakers, sing and play music, then listen to a talk centered off a message from the Bible. It is mildyChristian at best, but it too is just another baby-step for these kids who had taken no steps towards Christ. We just want to get our foot in the door that is their baby-faith, and so while Club isn’t super-religious, them coming and having fun and getting a meal and knowing that the organization providing all these things for them is Christian, that knowledge alone is beneficial. That knowledge alone can get them to come again next week, and that is what we want for them.
The next thing we would like to do with the kids, in order to get them to really investigate the Word themselves, is invite them to join something called Campaigners. Campaigners is a small Bible Study that a leader will run for a group of kids in the same grade, anywhere from three kids to twenty kids. It is Bible-based and we welcome anyone. Less people attend Campaigners because it is more Christian than Club, but we are happy getting students to come to either. As the kids get older, they stay with the same leader in their Campaigners group, and more kids join. By the time they are seniors in high school, we hope to have helped the kids establish a solid personal relationship with Christ, and we as leaders hope to establish a personal relationship with the kids so that they can talk to us about hard things or ask us for help if we can help.
Leaders have a particular high school to which they are assigned, and my high school is Travis High, an urban high school. The area is largely impoverished and there are problems with attendance, pregnancy, and academics, but the kids are brilliant. They deal with more than I ever have and school for them is not mandatory in the same sense it was for me; every day they make the decision to come to school because they want better for themselves, and that’s more than I could say for myself if I had that option as a high-schooler. I never believed the cliche that “some people just want somebody to listen to them,” but I’ve found that cliche to be more than true, and also not cliche. When there is no mom or dad to ask how your day was, even if it used to annoy me, they asked because they cared. For these kids, no one cares. The teachers at Travis are miracle workers who put in extra hours every day and take kids under their wing to make sure they pass and get a shot at college.
God blessed me by putting me at Travis. I was going to blog about all the stuff that I did at Travis yesterday, or all the kids I made smile, but it’s almost pointless. I will never be able to do enough to help everyone who needs it. Still, that stupid story about the kid that throws starfish into the ocean applies here because, as he says, “it matters to this one,” as he throws one starfish back into the sea. I feel like that, although I’m not saving anyone, I’m just telling them about the man who can save them.