This Year… Don’t Ever Say This Phrase in YL or Anywhere… Please


Over the summer I normally try to post a couple things that I learned over the previous school year. If you want see the series as it has developed over lots of years then click here. If you have anything you learned from last year that you would like to tell me about, send it my way smcgever (at) pv dot younglife dot org

I’ve been wanting to say this for a while, not just ‘this year…’ but I’ve been noticing it in my YL travels recently and if anyone happens to read this I hope it resonates with you too.

Please, don’t ever say this phrase, “Young Life changed my life”. Please, please, don’t ever say this. Put simply, please give Jesus the credit for anything that He deserves credit for in your life. Now, the last thing we need is a semantics police going around shaking our head in judgment at YL events as this phrase will inevitably be said in your presence in the near future. The reason I’m bringing it up is not to judge anyone who says it. The reason I’m bringing it up is two-fold…

Most importantly, Young Life idolatry is an extremely easy and entirely unsatisfying sin to fall into. Young Life idolatry is rampant. When I say idolatry, I’m primarily thinking of the Ten Commandments type of idolatry (#1 and #2 mostly) you can find in Exodus 20 and Deut. 5. Now it is not wrong to like something a lot, to be very thankful for something, to have a deep sense of loyalty and appreciation, but often the lines get blurred by those who have been impacted deeply by anything, including Young Life. So most importantly, identifying Young Life as the thing that changed your life… this is a sin, additionally it simply is not true. Or, if it is true, then you are in big trouble and should probably call an experienced YL leader or pastor and they can help you understand why this is a dangerous place to be.

Second, I’m bringing it up because we need to train people new to our ministry better. I’m giving a pass, or a mulligan, to any student by the way (this phrase comes up in almost every Work Crew testimony)… I’m not expecting them to have any terminology down. I’m also giving a pass to any new leader in their first year, please just do contact work and love some kids, we can coach you on the verbiage as you go. But, for anyone who has been in leadership for even a little bit, please realize the pervasive misleading power of our words when we say that “Young Life changed my life”. This attitude at its worst will create disciples of Young Life (which there are many), rather than of Jesus.

I should point out that this is not only a Young Life issue. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I am on pretty much ever ministry mailing list in the world. Just yesterday I received a brochure from a very well known youth ministry conference (they call it the “2015 Teen Evangelism Training Conference”). The brochure was very well done, it highlighted all of the speakers and bands and had a really cool look to it. In a big bold font it had a quote from a past attendee in all caps, “THIS CONFERENCE HAS LITERALLY CHANGED MY LIFE. – Bethany, Student”

If I wrote this properly then I hope what I communicated is that Jesus is the source of any good and perfect thing that we find in the wonderful ministry of Young Life, and I think we should give Him the credit He deserves when we talk. If I wrote this poorly then it probably sounded like some grumpy old person typing away on their Windows 95 computer with a dial up modem who has to ask teenagers how to work their cell phone and likes to just complain about everything. My aim was the first description, not the second.

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PS… If you are looking for summer camp follow-up resources see this post and maybe this too.

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