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Shaping young lives

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Young Life Club members have a blast in their plastic party dome at a "Clubble."
Young Life Club members have a blast in their plastic party dome at a “Clubble.”

Robby Mitchell has to take a moment when asked about the personal rewards of his work with the Christian youth ministry Young Life.

“There’s really nothing else I’d rather do. The easiest way to say it is that I’m operating in my sweet spot,” Mitchell said. “It’s a very fulfilling life.”

Mitchell has been the Young Life area director for Lewisville and Flower Mound since June, coordinating teams of staff and volunteers as they try to make a positive difference in young people’s lives through their Christian faith.

The organization is active at Flower Mound, Marcus, Lewisville and Killough high schools.

The ministry, which has operated in the area for more than three decades, organizes itself along what it calls the five C’s — Christ, Contact work (getting involved in kids’ lives), Club (a weekly gathering), Campaigners (smaller groups that engage in Bible study and help build deeper relationships) and Committee, the adults who take care of Young Life’s operational needs and promote the ministry. Mitchell adds that the unofficial “sixth C” is Camp, the summer camps hosted each year.

Most kids in the program find out about it through word-of-mouth, Mitchell said. “Everything we do is about building relationships. As Young Life leaders we love to show up to what matters to kids, so we’re going to go up in the stands and watch the kids play sports. We’re going to hang out with them outside the Young Life setting.”

That means Young Life leaders develop more natural relationships with their kids.

“‘Organic’ would be a very accurate description of the ministry and how we operate,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said there are no requirements to meet for kids to join the program. “We’re open to everybody; we don’t say that you have to believe a certain thing, because we believe that every one of them is deserving of friendship with an adult who cares, and it’s all about introducing adolescents to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith.”

The ministry emphasizes fun, Mitchell said.

“One of our core values is humor, because we believe that breaks down walls. We have a weekly event called Club every Monday night,” he said. “The point is to take that kid who might be standing on the back wall with his arms crossed, and through humor and fun and a light atmosphere, maybe by the end of the night he’s leaning in, he’s interested– not just in hearing the message, but interested in building a relationship with our leaders, because he knows this is a place where he’s welcome.”

Mitchell said he’s seen many kids in the program turn their lives around.

“There’s one guy at a school in our area who has had a hard life in many different aspects, with things going on at home and family, financial issues, getting in trouble, and Young Life is a place for him where he knows he’s cared for and loved, and not only that, that there are leaders in this community who want to help him,” Mitchell said. “We host camps every summer, and he wasn’t going to be able to afford to go, but our leaders stepped up and have pretty much covered the full cost.

“Both his parents have come to us practically in tears, thanking everyone who has been involved in this kid’s life,” he said.

“We’ve had coaches tell us they don’t know what happened, but their player seems to know that he doesn’t have to act out,” Mitchell said. “You can see the change in his life just in the way he smiles and is so grateful for life now. There are teen moms who have diapers, who have older women in their lives who are helping them learn how to be a mother. I could go on and on.”

Though it’s a worldwide organization, each local chapter operates autonomously, funded entirety through charitable donations. It includes Young Life for high school kids, Wyld Life for middle schoolers, Young Lives for teen mothers, and the recently launched Capernaum, for special-needs youths.

The ministry’s annual funding banquet will be 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 29 at First Baptist Church in Lewisville. There is no cost to attend, and it will be catered by Hard Eight BBQ with Young Life kids volunteering, Mitchell said.

“It’ll be a night of hearing what the ministry’s about, live music, catered food … it will be a great way for anyone who’s interested in getting a glimpse of what we do.”

Young Life meets at Christ Presbyterian Church in Flower Mound on Peters Colony Road across from Flower Mound High School. Call Mitchell at 713-504-4481 for more information.

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