Young Life seeks to serve high schoolers

Emma Peel, Staff Writer

Imagine yourself trying to break through to a 16-year-old high school student on an emotional and spiritual level. A kid who has turned to partying, drinking and other destructive habits to handle the daily trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Mercer’s Young Life organization goes to schools in Bibb County to be Christian mentors for the students of Macon.
Photo provided by Alex Alvarez
Mercer’s Young Life organization goes to schools in Bibb County to be Christian mentors for the students of Macon.

What would you say?

This is a challenge that Mercer University’s Young Life leaders face on a weekly basis.

When one thinks “service,” the Young Life organization most likely does not come to mind. Volunteering doesn’t involve picking up trash along the side of a highway, visiting at a senior living home, or passing out meals at a soup kitchen. Rather, the service that Young Life performs is quieter, subtler.

Young Life is an international ministry directed towards high school students, and it has a strong presence at Mercer, with approximately 30 students on the Macon campus currently acting as Young Life leaders in the program.

“The main reason I do it is because I had a young life leader in high school who was a great Christian and had a really good influence on me,” said Daniel Muldrew, a sophomore at Mercer who volunteers with the program. “I try to do the same thing for other high school students.”

Young Life’s central mission is to reach the most “out there” kids — the ones who are partying on the weekends and have turned their backs on the church for whatever reason.  

Robert Brown, a junior at Mercer, is the student staff leader for the program. He devotes 15 hours to the program every week, and most of that time is simply spent hanging out with kids from nearby high schools. Each Young Life leader is assigned to a high school in the Macon area, and their task is to connect with the high school students on a personal level and bring them the gospel if they seem interested in listening. This, however, is not always easy.

“It can be really intimidating and really awkward,” Brown said. “I’m 21 years old, and I’m walking into a high school cafeteria and just sitting down. But you do build relationships with these guys. Initially it’s weird and awkward, but the more intentional you are with it, the more naturally it comes.”

Occasionally, the Young Life leaders truly break through to a high school student. Brown said he remembered an instance in which he had one of those rare encounters with a student at the First Presbyterian Day School shortly after returning from Christmas break.

“He hit rock bottom on New Years, and different mistakes that he made put him in a pretty dangerous situation,” Brown said. “He met with a pastor at his church and told me ‘I don’t want to do this anymore; I don’t want to live this party life.’”

After that conversation, it was Brown’s job to guide the young man through the next stage of his life.

“Once a kid says that they want to commit their life to Christ, the Young Life leaders walk with them through that, disciple them, connect them with a church, and get them involved with a youth group,” Brown said.

As for the young man that Brown was able to break through to, “He has grown in leaps and bounds, and his relationship with the Lord is beautiful to see.”

As a Young Life leader, your role then becomes to walk with that kid, pour into him and continue to love him.”

— Robert Brown

Brown said that reaching this point with the high schoolers is anything but easy, and sometimes it never even happens.

“High schoolers can be some of the most openly judgmental people on the planet,” Brown said.

In addition to working with high school students during the school year, Young Life leaders can volunteer at summer camps throughout the country. Last summer, Brown helped run Young Life’s summer camp in Colorado.

“The spiritual teaching is very deep and very intentional, and a lot of kids at camp say that they want to change and have Christianity be a part of their life,” Brown said. “As a Young Life leader, your role then becomes to walk with that kid, pour into him and continue to love him. Show him what your personal relationship with the Lord looks like and show him how that manifests itself on a daily basis.”

Brown said that over the past year or so, he has had the privilege of seeing seven or eight high school students choose to commit themselves to the church. However, he has to constantly remind himself that his success can’t be defined in numbers.

“My biggest struggle as a Young Life leader is understanding my success or validation doesn’t come from how many kids give their life to Christ under my watch,” Brown said. “If not a single kid says that they want to be a part of this, I can’t control that. The only person who can change someone’s heart is the Lord. The only thing I can do is present the love and the Gospel.”