Young Life

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Young Life
Young Life Logo.jpg
Abbreviation YL
Motto "You were made for this."
"Life the way it was meant to be."
Formation October 16, 1941; 75 years ago (1941-10-16)
Founder Jim Rayburn
Headquarters Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Worldwide
Newton "Newt" Crenshaw

Young Life is a Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ministry was started in Dallas, Texas in 1941 by Presbyterian minister Jim Rayburn. Young Life operates globally as several different organizations with different focuses.


In 1939, Presbyterian minister Jim Rayburn started the Gainesville, Texas chapter of the Miracle Book Club for high school students. The book club became Young Life on October 16, 1941. The headquarters moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1946.[1][citation needed] Young Life volunteer leadership began in the 1940s at Wheaton College, Illinois. At the beginning of Young Life's ministry its focus was directed almost completely to suburban high school students. By the early 1950s, it had begun ministries in approximately 25 urban areas. Young Life now has over 700 ministries located in 324 cities, reporting about 18,000 members.[2]


Young Life has several branches which focus on different demographics.

Young Life Ministry Branches
Ministry Focus
Young Life College College students.
Small Town Young Life/Rural Initiative Students in small towns.
Urban and Multicultural Young Life Students in impoverished high schools and inner-city neighborhoods.
Young Life Capernaum Mentally and physically handicapped youths.
Young Lives Middle and high school girls that are pregnant or raising children on their own.
Young Life Military - Club Beyond Collaboration with Youth for Christ to ministry to children of active military personnel.
Wyldlife Middle school students.

Camps and clubs[edit]

Swimming campers at Young Life's Washington Family Ranch.

Young Life maintains summer camps in 17 American states[3] as well as camps in British Columbia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, The United Kingdom, Armenia, and France.[4][better source needed] These camps incorporate Christian messages presented in a camp setting along with typical camp activities.[5]

The largest of Young Life's camps is the Washington Family Ranch (and accompanying Big Muddy Ranch Airport) in Antelope, Oregon. The ranch was formerly the site of the Rajneeshpuram, an intentional living community centered on the Rajneesh movement.[6]

Young Life also runs local Young Life clubs for high school students, held weekly and typically in homes, which include singing, skits, and where the Christian gospel is explained in short talks. There are around 700 Young Life Club chapters worldwide, and usually one Club is associated with one high school. Each club is composed of volunteers who contribute their time to mentor and assist high school students based on Christian values and principles.[citation needed]

Young Life Camp Properties[7]
Camp Location Notes
Beyond Malibu Egmont, British Columbia, Canada Wilderness adventure program
Breakaway Lodge Gearhart, Oregon
Buttercreek Lodge Centralia, Washington
Camp Buckner Burnet, Texas Seasonally leased
Carolina Point Brevard, North Carolina
Castaway Club Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Clearwater Cove Lampe, Missouri
Creekside Antelope, Oregon
Crooked Creek Ranch Fraser, Colorado
Frontier Ranch Buena Vista, Colorado
Lake Champion Glen Spey, New York
Lost Canyon Williams, Arizona
Malibu Club Egmont, British Columbia, Canada
Michindoh Hillsdale, Michigan Seasonally leased
NorthBay North East Maryland Seasonally leased
Oakbridge Ramona, California
Pico Escondido Dominican Republic
Quaker Ridge Camp Woodland Park, Colorado Seasonally leased
RMR Backcountry Colorado Springs, Colorado Wilderness adventure program
Rockbridge Goshen, Virginia
Rock Ridge Canyon Princeton, British Columbia, Canada
Saranac Village Saranac Lake, New York
SharpTop Cove Jasper, Georgia
Southwind Ocklawaha, Florida
Timber Wolf Lake Lake City, Michigan
Trail West Lodge Buena Vista, Colorado Family camp/staff retreat
Washington Family Ranch Antelope, Oregon
Wilderness Ranch Creede, Colorado Wilderness adventure program
Windy Gap Weaverville, North Carolina
Woodleaf Challenge, California
Wild Ridge Mount Nebo, West Virginia future camp site

International programs[edit]

International Young Life[edit]

Young Life began an international program in the 1940s focusing on teens living on military bases. Shortly after that, Young Life expanded from military bases to ministry with local adolescent kids. Young Life International reports divisions in more than 100 countries.[8]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

In November 2007, Jeff McSwain, the Area Director of Durham and Chapel Hill, along with others, was fired after taking issue with the organization's "sin talks." McSwain's theology emphasizes that "God has a covenant, marriage-like relationship with the world he has created, not a contract relationship that demands obedience prior to acceptance [as in that of Young Life]."[9] Tony Jones describes Young Life’s Statement of "non-negotiables" as telling staffers that "they must not introduce the concept of Jesus and his grace until the students have been sufficiently convinced of their own depravity and been allowed to stew in that depravity".[10] Eight members of Young Life's teaching staff based in Durham, North Carolina resigned their positions after these "non-negotiables" were announced.[11]


  1. ^ "Young Life History". Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Young Life History". Retrieved 22 February 2016. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Find Young Life". Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Preusch, Matthew (2 December 2008). "Christian youth camp at ex-Rajneeshee commune gets $30 million gift". The Oregonian. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "Contact a Camp". Young Life. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Young Life International". Retrieved 2016-11-02.  External link in |website= (help)
  9. ^ "Gospel Talk". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  10. ^ "Something is Wrong at Young Life". Patheos. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  11. ^ Lawrence, Rick (17 December 2007). "Heartbreak and Controversy at Young Life". Simply Youth Ministry. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cailliet, Emile; Young Life (1963)
  • Meridith, Char; It's a Sin to Bore a Kid: The Story of Young Life (1977) ISBN 0-8499-0043-3
  • Miller, John; Back to the Basics about the early years of Young Life including a lot of Rayburn's life.
  • Rayburn, Jim III; From Bondage To Liberty – Dance, Children, Dance a biography by his son (2000) ISBN 0-9673897-4-7
  • Rayburn, Jim: The Diaries of Jim Rayburn (2008, Morningstar Press and Whitecaps Media) Rayburn's personal journals, edited and annotated by Kit Sublett ISBN 978-0-9758577-7-9

External links[edit]