A Review of the Original Young Life Leader Training Manual Part 2

IMG_7786 This is the second post in a series that is a review of the Original Young Life Leader Training Manual from 1942.

If you are interested, here is the link to the copy I made of the manual with a letter from Jim Rayburn.

1. The Introduction

The introduction begins by asking a great question, “Why Young Life Campaign?” Basically why do we need something like Young Life today? It also asks, “What need is there for another organization?” The same questions are asked today. Sometimes this is asked by teenagers, “What is Young Life?” Sometimes this is asked by parents. Sometimes the question is asked by opponents in and out of the church, “Is there a need for another organization?”

The Leader Manual gives three answers. First, it recalls the large percentage of high school students who do not attend church. In all honesty, it is unclear from this paragraph in the manual if they meant to say 25% or 75% do not go to church. Either way, it states that in 1942, 20 million high school students do not go to church. The manual quotes Rom 10:14, “how shall they believe in him of whom they have never heard?” The first reason why Young Life exists is that there is work to be done that isn’t being done by anyone else. This is still true nearly 70 years later.

Second, the manual shows that there are new methods that are available. It is interesting that it mentions methods including radio, newspapers, and mass meetings. I’m not sure if Young Life ever spent much effort on a radio ministry to teenagers. Who knows, maybe today that would take the form of a social media ministry?

This raises a great question that many people I know kick around from time to time. Are the methods Young Life continues to use the best ones for today? I’m not bringing up the scriptural principles, those are timeless. I’m also not bringing up the theology, that is a separate topic. I’m talking about the methods. The time, location and style of club was a ground breaking method. Are there superior methods that we are just waiting to discover or tweak for greater impact? Rayburn and his associates were asking this question in the 1940’s, we would be wise to ask it today. As several prominent Young Life staff have told me, “the best Young Life is yet to be done”. The manual goes on to say, “These methods have proven effective. But when they no longer continue to do so, we shall leave them and try new ones.”

The Young Life Leaders Manual wraps up its introduction by stating the two purposes of Young Life. First, Young Life exists to reach the unsaved with the gospel. Second, Young Life exists to teach Christians to grow in their faith. Simply put, “Reach and Teach”.

One theme that stands out in this first section of the leaders manual is that Young Life had stumbled on new methods with a simple and clear goal of reaching the unchurched. The last statement of this section says, “Use these suggestions all you want; if they are ineffective search for better ones under God’s direction.” Given all the success of the first year and a half of Young Life (i.e. 40 clubs), the manual seems to have a sense of humility in their methods. They are not claiming to have found the new unique patented method for reaching teenagers. On the other hand it seems that their strength is being Spirit-led and open minded about different approaches.

Questions for discussion:

1) The first reason the manual gives that Young Life is needed is the sheer number of kids who do not know Jesus. How is it easy to lose focus of this in the weekly grind of doing club?

2) How is club working as a method for getting the gospel out to teenagers? What are the strengths and weaknesses of club?

3) With the founder’s emphasis on being open-minded about new methods, what are new methods that you know have been tried? Brainstorm some new methods.

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