Young Life


Hi All -

Anyone have any experience with Young Life?

Is it an innocuous, Billy Graham-like, subtle Christian org, or is it a dangerous, fundamentalist cult? Or something in between?

Any personal experiences would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance


Hmm. Not sure. I would guess “something in between?” I believe it would be considered a “Parachurch Organization” (like Campus Crusade for Christ). I know that Scott and Kimberely Hahn (and Kimberly’s Dad, I believe) were part of it when they were young (I think that’s how Scott and Kimberly met, if I remember “Rome Sweet Home” correctly). Scott was pretty anti-Catholic, but Kimberly wasn’t, and I don’t remember the book mentioning anything about Young Life teaching anything about Catholicism, specifically. Scott and Kimberly were Presbyterians, which I don’t think qualifies as “Fundamentalist” (the Hahn’s believed in infant baptism, for example).

In Christ,



It's been many a year since I participated in Young Life, but it was fun and wholesome.

We usually met in someone's home (usually a NICE big home!) and played group games down in their basement family room. E.g., we would have marshmallow races, where we put a spoon in our mouth, a marshmallow on the spoon, and then we would try to get to the finish line first. Or we would play Pass the Can (lots of fun) or other hand motion-type games. Kids still like these games, BTW.

Then a leader would initiate a discussion with a question like, "What would you like to accomplish before you die?" or "Why do you suppose vampires are so popular?" (Back then, the popular vampire was Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows.)

We would talk about the topic, and the leader would end the discussion by giving his or her personal testimony--VERY low-key--about how Jesus Christ gives purpose and meaning in this life. The leader would invite people who wanted to know more about Jesus to see him or her after the meeting, or call him or her at home.

And then we had refreshments and more talking and goofing around. The really good homes had foosball and pool tables or other board games, and we would hang out until our parents came to pick us up.

And that's it.

I would imagine that Young Life is still very much like this.

It was EXTREMELY low-key when it came to religion. In fact, many people in our evangelical Protestant church found it too low-key--not enough talk of Jesus.

I personally don't see why a Catholic would be threatened by Young Life (unless it's changed over the years). There is not attempt to get anyone into any particular church, and the Christian message presented is simply "Have a relationship with Jesus," which is totally consistent with Catholic theology.

It's basically a safe way/place for teens to hang out safely, with good supervision (usually parents are around upstairs or in the kitchen), do wholesome activities and games, have a discussion about a topic of interest, and hear the Name of Jesus proclaimed as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Teenagers really like this kind of thing. A lot of parents get fussed out over the fact that their teenager isn't content to just stay home and be part of the family anymore, or just go to Church. Catholics especially seem to think that teenagers should be perfectly content with the Mass.

Well, they aren't. Teens love to go places where their parents aren't so that they can practice being grown-up and independent and on their own. You were like that, too, right? I know I was! I loved being left home alone and pretending that I was a grown-up and "in charge." I loved being dropped off downtown and given a little money for lunch. I loved walking to and from high school by myself--it was just nice to feel "on my own." That's normal teenaged attitude and behavior.

It's wonderful when those places are "safe"--run by Christians who don't allow bullies to take over, or violence, or drinking/smoking/drugs, or sexy flirtations, or peer pressure to do something wrong. Young Life provides this for teenagers.

I remember very distinctly that Catholic kids came to the meetings back then, and did not convert to Protestantism. It was always fun to have them come!

I would check it out--as I said, it may have changed over the years and maybe it's not so Catholic-friendly anymore.


Young Life, in itself, is overall good. My only concern would be that it does not teach Catholic values and tradition.

As for a specific Young Life group, I can’t say. I could see it as dangerous if the people running it, or even the kids involve, try and “convert” your kids. Their is definitely the danger that the sheer repetition of the belief that “man is justified by faith alone” could influence your kids.

Just my thoughts.


It is great - for Protestant kids.

Catholics have no business there.


[quote="kage_ar, post:5, topic:179971"]
It is great - for Protestant kids.

Catholics have no business there.


I completely disagree with this statement.


[quote="Romans15_5_7, post:6, topic:179971"]
I completely disagree with this statement.


Well, if you did, you'd be Catholic :D


I grew up in those circles and I would have to agree. The gospel taught in these groups is not the complete Gospel–rather, it’s Bible alone, faith alone, once saved-always saved, no sacraments wanted or needed, no visible Church, etc. And very few of these groups will leave a Catholic for long without suggesting that he looks into how “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines allegedly are. It never stays generic, it pretty much always moves toward how to get the Catholic out of the Catholic Church.

That being said, generally speaking the evangelicals do a much better job providing this sort of input to their kids than do Catholics. It’s an area where we can definitely do a better job.


Young Life is a great starting point for those young in their faith. Like another poster said, it is much more subtle than even a youth group. Young Life advertises that it is specifically designed for non-believers and questioning students, and is a fantastic place to begin investigating questions of Jesus and Christian life. I went to Young Life in high school as an example to others and invited my friends, too. It was a lot of fun and I saw many people's lives change forever because of it. However, the YL leaders made sure that those with a more mature faith were plugged into a church and had a spiritual adviser (whether that was Catholic or Protestant wasn't an issue- I knew several Catholics in attendance). The YL leaders did not try or intend to fulfill that role. I would never discourage any student from attending Young Life, but it isn't enough for someone already firm in their beliefs. Young Life is literally an introduction to bible stories... it doesn't even begin to touch theological differences in our faiths!


I haven’t posted much to these forums, but I am very familiar with both Young Life and the Catholic Church. I just wanted to point out quickly my disagreement with these statements.

It is great - for Protestant kids.

Catholics have no business there.

The gospel taught in these groups is not the complete Gospel–rather, it’s Bible alone, faith alone, once saved-always saved, no sacraments wanted or needed, no visible Church, etc. And very few of these groups will leave a Catholic for long without suggesting that he looks into how “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines allegedly are. It never stays generic, it pretty much always moves toward how to get the Catholic out of the Catholic Church.

Young Life’s proclamation of the Gospel is consistent with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. While obviously not in complete agreement, Young Life’s basic “outreach talks” do not contradict any Catholic doctrine that I know of. Young Life is more than just these talks though as some kids come to weekly meetings that delve more deeply into the Bible. On controversial topics, multiple sound viewpoints are taught at these meetings, and if a topic is particularly challenging to a certain denomination, the Young Life leader will typically refer to the denominational leaders in resolving the issue. As far as kids being involved in the visible Church, Young Life encourages kids to attend the church that their parents go to. If their parents don’t go to church Young Life leaders try to figure out a way to get the kids involved in a local church congregation.

Young Life is run by many different people though. I have heard sometimes of the “moves toward how to get the Catholic out of the Catholic Church,” but this is not a reason to disregard the entire organization. There are plenty of Catholics involved in the mission, and it would be unfair to judge the entire organization based off a few examples.

I would suggest that if it seems the local area Young Life seems to espouse doctrine that is apart from Catholic doctrine and that makes you uncomfortable, then keep your kids away, and try to contact the Young Life leadership to voice your complaint.


I went to young life a couple times as a teenager. All it was, was a meeting place for teens. We played games, and were taught wholesome lessons about not drinking, smoking, having sex, and staying away from drugs and doing well in school. There were slight religious undertones, but a LOT of catholics went to this organization and they loved it.


quote="Cat, post:3, topic:179971"


Bet you were watching that in black and white. :D


Growing up Baptist then becoming Presbyterian in High School, we had Youth group and I never heard of Young Life until College.

From my personal experience with it were negative in the everyone I knew who was or had been in it were Fundamentalist and the atmosphere was definitely anti-Catholic and very narrow minded. It didn't matter what Church you went to as long as you were pretty much and Evangelical Protestant.

In Biological Evolution they were the one's the teacher made cry (Sr. Level Biology Class) because they couldn't comprehend anything outside of the fundamentalist teachings even though most were intelligent and heading to Medical School.

I can't recommend from my experience, I would not encourage my son's to attend and would be very concerned about the going at all... and I plan to make sure they can defend the Faith well once they are that age.



The Bishop of Colorado has approved of the ministry of Young Life and actually drafted a letter to Young Life.


I joined a Young Life group in high school and loved it. I was in a new (foreign) city and they were very welcoming of me. They were hosting a mission trip to Romania and I wanted to go. My parents were hesitant at first, since they worried it might be a cult, but after going to the planning meetings and meeting the YL leaders they felt comfortable enough to allow me to attend. The mission trip itself was of the habitat for humanity variety, and a night I remember we had these great sing-a-longs and played games. I don't ever remember being preached to. It was mostly just wholesome, clean fun with nice people. The only anti-Catholic sentiment I ever remember hearing was an offhanded comment made by one of the leaders when I expressed interest in getting back from the mission trip early so I could make Mass. She said, "You don't need to go to a church to worship God." I said, "I'd like to receive the Eucharist." And that was that. No more comments, no preaching or evangelization.

I don't actually remember too many conversations about religion at all. I think they probably tended towards the preaching with action, by being very kind and loving to the teens in their care. We played capture the flag and went out to teaand played games in people's basements. YL was a great source of friendship, and while I would have preferred that the new friends I was making were Catholic, I am grateful that YL was there when I needed it.


It must be dependent on where you live because those I knew who were in it were heavily fundamentalist anti-everything protestants.

I was considering becoming a Protestant minister at the time, Presbyterian, and these were the people that were "out there." In my college Evolution class, I went to a small college, there were numerous times when some of the YL crowd would cry, attempt inane illogical arguments and one girl actually ran out of class in tears.

The teacher was not mean, he did not attack Christianity and he was not an atheist or anything, he just wanted people to be able to back up their beliefs with the idea that they had at least somewhat thought through them. He and I had numerous wonderful debates.

I seem to remember some of the same people not doing so well in some of our religion classes as well.

Just my personal opinion, as a convert, I wouldn't let my sons participate unless I knew some of the other parents from Scouts, Sports, Work etc... and knew they weren't going to mislead, probably not intentionally, them about their faith at a crucial time in their lives.



[quote="mscine, post:14, topic:179971"]
The Bishop of Colorado has approved of the ministry of Young Life and actually drafted a letter to Young Life.


I'm not sure how His Excellency could sign their Statement of Faith, which says in part:

"The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the final and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct."

That is not a Catholic doctrinal formulation, that's for sure. It was written by Protestants for Protestants.

Several posters here say they have had good experiences in Young Life and that they have remained Catholics and I'm glad they didn't leave. On the other hand, I personally know any number of individuals who abandoned their Catholic faith at least in part due to the formation they received while being involved in Young Life as high school students. Bottom line is that if it were my kids, I wouldn't take the risk.


This was my experience as well. My mother had heard good things about the program and we all thought/think highly of Billy Graham, so I thought it would be a good thing for me to be involved in since I went to a very pro-partying college. They didn’t do much the first couple of meetings other than sing some praise and worship music and read the Bible, but after about a month of weekly meetings things started to change. In addition to the weekly group meetings, there were also Bible studies; I thought this would be good too, but we were to tell every personal detail about our lives. All past sins, which really didn’t have anything to do with the Bible study at all, in fact we really didn’t study the Bible at these meetings. The main group then began to stress everyone being able to speak in tongues and becoming “filled” with the Holy Spirit, to the point of “fainting” and flopping around on the floor! I became very uncomfortable and stopped going, but the leaders of the group were always trying to get me to come back. It got to the point that I became afraid of them! They were stopping by my dorm every day, calling, showing up after class to check to see how I was doing. Then when they realized I wasn’t planning on coming back, they all stopped talking to me, everyone that I met at the group, people that I had been friends with before starting, who also were going to YL, they all stopped talking to me! It was all so very strange.

I’m hoping that what I went through isn’t the case everywhere, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone!


You know, I've been actively participating in younglife for almost a year. And I am Catholic. My mother thinks we are a cult. But look at it this way... we are ALL christians when it comes down to everything. I mean look.. My leader was raised Catholic. I love being Catholic and I still have all the same beliefs, but my mother has been really getting on my nerves questioning Younglife. My group is a very very very good group. I live in a small town. Good kids show up. BRAINWASHING? You've got to be kidding. I've really given God my all thanks to younglife. My leaders help me through everything.. Isn't that how it is supposed to be? All I'm saying is if you don't want your kids participating in GOD AND SOMETHING THEY LOVE, take it away and stop complaining. They will really dislike you for a long time. All we do is play a game, win prizes, sing songs, and talk about God and how he can do AMAZING things in your life. I feel like if you don't want your kids to go to Younglife you really need to sit down and speak to them, and make them talk. I guarantee the leaders will let you come and sit in on the club meeting. If not, there's something wrong. Just think before you act, and TALK to your kids. Communication is KEY.


This is false. I am a Life Teen Core Member in our large Catholic church, cafeteria supervisor in our Catholic middle school, retreat leader, and am also building up our local YoungLife middle school program (WyldLife) and participated in YoungLife during High School. They have Club as explained, Campaigners if one is interested (weekly meetings) and some FANTASTIC camp opportunities. Today I spoke with a Roman Catholic YoungLife 15 year employee who is the laison to the Catholic Church. See below sites for his writings. The comment above has no merit and can be ignored. YoungLifers many times are looking for a church and a confident practicing Catholic can invite them to his or her Mass and youth group just like any other church going Protestant can. Get real! Google: Havercamp - Partnering with Catholics and Beating with One Heart. Great reads!

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