Young Life History

It all started in 1938, when a young Jim Rayburn, a Presbyterian leader and seminary student in Gainesville, Texas, was given a challenge to treat the neighborhood school as his parish. The challenge was to connect with youngsters who had no interest in church. Rayburn accepted the challenge and did what he thought was Jesus Christ's way. Instead of asking the students to come to him, he reached out and spent time with them at juvenile hangouts. Rayburn called it contact work.

The foundation of Young Life was unofficially laid when Rayburn started a weekly club where a simple message about Jesus Christ was pushed in between singing and other fun activities. There was dramatic increase in attendance once the meetings started taking place in the residences of the students.

Young Life officially came into existence on October 16, 1941, when Rayburn and four other seminarians joined hands to spread the club idea throughout Texas. Their one-point agenda was to show kids that faith in God was fun, exhilarating and life changing, all at the same time.

Within a matter of five years, the staff grew to 20 men and women across several states and Young Life shifted its headquarters to Colorado Springs, Colo. Young Life's contact work went beyond the shores of USA to France in 1953; the ministry set up there continues to this day. By 1963, Young Life had reached out to British Columbia, to Germany and Brazil.

It was only in the early 1970s that Young Life began ministries in multi-ethnic and urban areas, after focusing completely on only suburban high school students for more than three decades.

In 1980s, Young Life introduced two new ministries; WyldLife for middle school students and Capernaum, for disabled children. From one club in Texas, today Young Life has 700 ministries across the globe.


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