Young Life is an evangelical Christian organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado which focuses on young people in middle school, high school, and college.

Young Life
FormationOctober 16, 1941; 82 years ago (1941-10-16)
FounderJim Rayburn
TypeChristian Fellowship
Social Club
University Student Society
HeadquartersColorado Springs, Colorado, United States
  • Worldwide
Newt Crenshaw
AffiliationsChicago Agreement: Unity in Mission
Revenue (2019[2])
US$403 million[1][2]
Volunteers (2021-2022)

Week-long Summer camps are a major focus, and these have a definite evangelizing aspect.[3] For example, there are large-group “Bible talks” once or twice daily often followed by small-group “cabin time” discussions.

Young Life estimates, “33% of all summer campers meet Jesus for the first time. (This is based on our own camp director reports as to how many Bibles we gave out, how many kids went on new believer walk, and those who stood at ‘Say-So.’)”[4]

The organization was started in Gainesville, Texas in 1941 by Presbyterian minister Jim Rayburn and is currently led by president and CEO Newt Crenshaw.[5] Young Life operates globally using several different organizations with different focuses.[6]

As of 2021, Young Life was under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly failing to protect its employees against sexual misconduct and racial discrimination.[7][2][8] One alleged victim of sexual abuse reported that she informed more than a dozen people about the harassment she faced, being told at one point that it was "God's plan" for her.[9] Her case was dismissed after she received a settlement from Young Life.[9]



In 1941, Presbyterian seminary student Jim Rayburn started Young Life. He had been challenged to come up with ways to connect with and reach high school students who showed no interest in Christianity. He began hosting a weekly club which featured one or two skits, as well as a simple message about Jesus.[citation needed]

The Young Life website credits the beginning to Clara Frasher, an elderly woman who around 1933 recruited friends to help her pray for teenagers attending Gainesville High School. In 1939, Jim Rayburn who was a young seminarian started a chapter of the Miracle Book Club. He also worked with local pastor Clyde Kennedy. The Young Life approach is to go where teenagers are and make friends with them, thereby earning “the right to be heard.” In the late 1940s at Wheaton College in Illinois, the organization developed its combination of using both paid staff and volunteers.

Also per Young Life's website, they have had partnerships with Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as other seminaries.





Young Life operates using the "5 C's" of contact work, club, campaigners, camp, and committee. In the 2021-2022 year, an average of 294,761 teens attended weekly club and an average of 127,709 attended weekly campaigners, and was led by 46,340 volunteer leaders.[11]

  • Contact work: meeting and befriending teens where they are
  • Club: weekly large-group meetings
  • Campaigners: weekly small group "bible studies" for teens wanting to grow in their faith
  • Camp: overnight weeklong (or weekend) camps at one of Young Life's 26 camps
  • Committee: parents and community members who oversee and guide Young Life in local areas

Ministry Areas


Young Life operates several different ministries with specific focuses:[12]

  • Young Life: a ministry for high school-aged students
  • Wyldlife: a ministry for middle school-aged students
  • Young Life College: a ministry for college-aged students
  • YoungLives: a ministry for pregnant and parenting teenagers
  • Young Life Multiethnic: a ministry with a special focus on serving teens of color in under-resourced communities
  • Young Life Military (Club Beyond): a ministry for teens with parents in the armed services
  • Young Life Small Towns/Rural: a ministry focusing teens in rural areas
  • Capernaum: a ministry for teens with disabilities
  • Young Life One: a ministry for teens affected by homelessness, incarceration, human trafficking, or within the foster-care system
  • Around the World: Young Life's international ministry
  • Catholic Relations: a ministry for developing staff and volunteers to minister to Catholic teens, equipping practicing Catholics to serve, and working alongside Catholic parishes, schools, and universities.



Numbers and locations

Swimming campers at Young Life's Washington Family Ranch.

Young Life maintains summer camps in 18 American states as well as camps in British Columbia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Scotland, Armenia, and France. Overall, there are 26 camps, with 6 located outside the United States.

In addition to regular summer camps, Young Life operates 6 "adventure" camps which offer campers and their leaders unique outdoor-based experiences. In "Base Camp Adventures", campers stay in yurts or cabins while participating in daily activities whereas "Trail Adventures" allows for campers to participate in backpacking-based camping.[13] Young Life also operates two "discipleship focus" camps, a ten week long work/study program for college students.[14]

The largest of Young Life camp is the Washington Family Ranch (and accompanying Big Muddy Ranch Airport) in Antelope, Oregon. The ranch was formerly the site of an commune in the Rajneesh movement.[15][16]

Young Life hosted 215,202 campers in the 2021-2022 camping season.[11]

Camps Owned by Young Life[17]
Name Location Type
Adventures Baja Baja, Mexico Base Camp Adventure
Adventures Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA Base Camp Adventure
Adventures Wild Ridge Mt Nebo, WV Base Camp Adventure
Beyond Malibu British Columbia, Canada Trail Adventures
Cairn Brae Creiff, Perthshire, Scotland Camp
Carolina Point Brevard, NC Camp
Castaway Club Detroit Lakes, MN Camp
Clearwater Cove Lampe, MO Camp
Crooked Creek Ranch Fraser, CO Camp
Eagles Call Pigeon Forge, TN Discipleship Focus
Frontier Ranch Buena Vista, CO Camp
La Finca Matagalpa, Nicaragua Camp
Lake Champion Glen Spey, NY Camp
LoneHollow Ranch Vanderpool, TX Camp
Lost Canyon Williams, AZ Camp
Malibu Club British Columbia, Canada Camp
Notch Pines Branson, MO Discipleship Focus
Pico Escondido Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic Camp
Pioneer Plunge Weaverville, NC Base Camp Adventure
Pioneer Hankavan, Armenia Camp
Rockbridge Goshen, VA Camp
Saranac Village Saranac Lake, NY Camp
Sharptop Cove Jasper, GA Camp
Southwind Ocklawaha, FL Camp
Timber Wolf Lake Lake City, MI Camp
Trail West Lodge Creede, CO Camp
Washington Family Ranch Antelope, OR Camp
Wild Ridge Mt Nebo, WV Camp
Wilderness Ranch Creede, CO Trail Adventures
Windy Gap Weaverville, NC Camp
Woodleaf Challenge, CA Camp

Evangelizing aspects


The Summer camps have a definite evangelizing or witnessing emphasis with large-group “Bible talk” once or twice daily often followed by small-group “cabin time” discussions. For example, large group might involve 500 teenagers and small group might be 12 teenagers.[18]

Young Life itself estimates, “33% of all summer campers meet Jesus for the first time. (This is based on our own camp director reports as to how many Bibles we gave out, how many kids went on new believer walk, and those who stood at ‘Say-So.’)”[4]

According to a 1994 Vancouver Sun newspaper article, out of 350 students attending one particular week-long session at the Malibu Camp in British Columbia, Canada, more than 100 publicly testified during the informal ceremony of “Commitment Night” on the final night saying they had committed their lives to Jesus.[19]

One camper said, “You’re treated like an adult. There’s a lot more freedom here than other Christian camps.”[19]

However, another camper said, “But I’m starting to feel a lot of pressure to become a Christian. I used to just sit there and agree with them, just to get them off my back. But now I’m ticked.”[19]



Statement of Non-negotiables


In November 2007, Jeff McSwain, the Area Director of Durham and Chapel Hill, along with others, publicly took issue with the organization's presentation of the concept of sin. 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.” McSwain also said that he felt Young Life's 2007 “statement of non-negotiables” often ended up sounding “more Unitarian than Trinitarian by drawing a sharp contrast between the holy God and incarnated Son who ‘actually became sin.’” [20]

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 (preferably overnight).”[21] Eight members of Young Life's teaching staff based in Durham, North Carolina resigned their positions after these “non-negotiables” were announced.[22]

LGBTQ+ policy


Young Life (USA and Canada) allows LGBTQ students to participate in Young Life activities, but does not allow them to volunteer or take leadership roles. In the organization's forms homosexuality is described as a “lifestyle” which is “clearly not in accord with God's creation purposes.” Conner Mertens, the first active college football player to come out as LGBTQ, was active in the group as a teenager, and planned to work with the group in college, but was not allowed due to his sexuality.[23][24]

Young Life's policy also extends to LGBTQ allies. Local leader Pam Elliott stepped down after being asked to remove a photo from her Facebook page showing her support for the LGBTQ community.[25][26]

Notable people



  1. ^ "Financial Info". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Zubeck, Pam (17 November 2021). "Young Life under investigation". Colorado Springs Indy.
  3. ^ When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America, Mark Senter, Baker Publishing Group, 2010, page 220: “ . . but with the purchase of resort camps starting in 1945, a second more effective delivery system was discovered. Clubs became the vehicle . . ”
  4. ^ a b Young Life Access, “Young Life's Impact Over 8 Decades”, May 16, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Young Life Leadership -". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  6. ^ "Facts at Your Fingertips".
  7. ^ Carrell, Severin (14 February 2024). "Humza Yousaf 'naive' about links to evangelical Christian donor, say rights groups". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  8. ^ Debbie, Kelley (10 November 2021). "More Young Life victims allege sexual misconduct involving Colorado Springs-based Christian ministry". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  9. ^ a b "Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit Filed Against Colorado Christian Group - CBS Colorado". 29 June 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  10. ^ "Philosophies and methods -". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  11. ^ a b "2022 Young Life Annual Report" (PDF).
  12. ^ "For Every Kid -". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  13. ^ "Home - Adventure Camps". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  14. ^ "About Us - Young Life Summer Work Experience". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  15. ^ Preusch, Matthew (2 December 2008). "Christian youth camp at ex-Rajneeshee commune gets $30 million gift". The Oregonian. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  16. ^ "Oasis in the high desert". East Oregonian. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2022. Young Life camp was once a huge sheep ranch and later a spiritual retreat for followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
  17. ^ "Camp Locations -". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  18. ^ Solstice: The Summer Camp Experience, “New Life at Young Life,” Joey Schwartz, Winter 2016, pages 36-39 in PDF file. As a teenager, the author of this article re-committed his life to Jesus and the Christian faith at a week-long Young Life summer camp.
  19. ^ a b c Vancouver Sun, “Club Malibu: Young Life's luxurious Christian camp”, Douglas Todd, Sept. 15, 1994 (reprinted in 2016).
  20. ^ Christianity Today, “Gospel Talk: Entire area Young Life staff out after evangelism mandate”, Collin Hansen, Jan. 7, 2008.
  21. ^ "Something is Wrong at Young Life". Patheos. 8 January 2008. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  22. ^ Lawrence, Rick (17 December 2007). "Heartbreak and Controversy at Young Life". Simply Youth Ministry. Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  23. ^ a b Zeigler, Cyd (1 February 2014). "Football player's coming-out story disproves every dumb theory about gay athletes". Salon. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  24. ^ Volunteer Leader Packet. Young Life, 2006.
  25. ^ Large, Jerry. “Snohomish Woman's Heartfelt Decision about Young Life.” The Seattle Times, 4 June 2015.
  26. ^ Nile, Amy. “Volunteer Quits Young Life over Ban on Gay Leaders.”, 11 June 2015.
  27. ^ "J.D. Gibbs, a Young Life story". Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  28. ^ "Seahawk Clint Gresham, 'I play football to glorify Jesus Christ'". October 15, 2013.
  29. ^ "New Artist, Brandon Heath". Hope Today Magazine. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  30. ^ "We Were Made For This". Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  31. ^ "More than 60 Colts players to participate in 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign". December 3, 2019.
  32. ^ "Jordy Nelson and Young Life". Retrieved 2019-02-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ "Stevie Nicks on Lindsey Buckingham 1".
  34. ^ "Country hit-maker Chase Rice plays at Keith-Albee on Sunday". AP NEWS. April 13, 2019.
  35. ^ "Cheering on Aaron". Archived from the original on 2014-09-12. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  36. ^ "Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac Airport was quiet, well liked, says former co-worker". The Seattle Times. August 11, 2018.
  37. ^ Hare, Kristen. "Volunteer devoted his life to faith and community". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2022-12-02.