By Karen McBride
North Tampa Young Life is an outreach program connecting mentors with youth in middle school through college. They reach students in a variety of ways including going to schools, participating in athletic programs, or volunteering in the cafeteria. Their goal is to build friendships. From these friendships, they hope to spread God’s word. Many of these young people have never set foot in a church, so this is a way to teach them about the love of Jesus.
Young Life has been in existence across the country (and internationally) for 78 years. It all began when Clara Frasher and a group of her friends began praying for the teenagers at Gainesville High School in Texas. Six years later, Jim Rayburn started the Miracle book club in the same town and worked with Clyde Kennedy, a local pastor. They wanted to spread God’s word to the young people who did not attend church. The early group meetings were held at one of the kid’s homes and continued to grow from there. The key, they found, was spending time with the youth, “on their own turf.” Developing a friendship first opened the doors to teaching them God’s word.
Josh Hankins, Area Director, for North Tampa Young Life, has been involved with the organization for 20 years, since he was 13.
“I came to my faith through Young Life,” said Josh.
His life was so completely changed by the close relationships built there that he began to volunteer when he was in college and, six years ago, became a full-time staff member. He even met his wife at a Young Life camp where she was volunteering as well.
Volunteers are background checked and trained by Josh through Young Life. Adult mentors require further training through a faith-based partnership with Hillsborough County. Volunteers are a key essential to the success of the organization. If you are interested in volunteering, go to https://northtampa.younglife.org or call 941-779-5389.
The relationships between the mentors and youth does not happen overnight. It grows with trust and consistency. Mentors will continue to be involved in the youth’s life, whether it is attending sports practices and games or are just there to talk and listen to the kids. This helps the youth to trust them and know that their leader believes in them, and, in turn, that they can believe in themselves.
This is the first step of a lifelong journey. The choices they make today, based upon God’s love for them, will impact future decisions…careers chosen, marriages formed, and families raised.
Weekly meetings are held where students and mentors have time to connect. Week-long camps are held at different properties owned by Young Life. The activities include high-energy programs with music, horseback riding, Nascar, and small group bible studies. The youth get the opportunity to hear guest speakers along with the staff’s testimony to hear how God has changed their lives. The youth are encouraged to volunteer, along with the staff, at Metropolitan Ministries, soup kitchens, and other local organizations.
“We invite teenagers to experience faith and not just hear about it,” said Josh.
There are no dues or membership required. The organization is completely funded by donations. The next fundraising event will be held on April 16, 2020 at Top Golf. Be sure to check the website for more information about the event.