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Young Life wants presence in Cottage Grove

The director of a non-denominational Christian youth ministry in Hastings hopes to establish a similar group in Cottage Grove.

Tim Stanley is the area director of Young Life, a global organization that evangelizes to adolescents who have little or no interest in organized religion.

While homilies and bible study are part of their program, Young Life relies primarily on informal social activities such as weekly clubs where kids play games, sing songs and perform skits. Kids also can spend a week at one of several camps owned by Young Life.

The purpose is not so much to convert kids but to show them that people care about them, Stanley said.

“We hope to more or less be a functioning area by summer,” Stanley said. “When Young Life starts in a new community, the emphasis is on developing a core group of adults. For Hastings, there were six couples who began meeting and talking.”

While at least five individuals have committed to the new chapter, Stanley said they need at least 14 volunteers. These “leaders” serve as chaperones and may host clubs at their homes. 

On average, a leader volunteers approximately two to 10 hours a week.

While the group is affiliated with the national headquarters in Colorado Springs, Stanley said each new Young Life “area” depends on grassroots support. Each Young Life group functions as a sort of bible booster club, staffed by adult volunteers and funded by donations from individuals, churches and businesses. 

He estimates the startup costs to be between $15,000 to $20,000.

Most activities are free to kids, although there is a charge for a week’s stay at Castaway Club, a Young Life-owned camp in Detroit Lakes. A trip is scheduled for June 29-July 5. Stanley said he hopes to sign up Cottage Grove high schoolers for the trip.

Young Life is not intended to compete with local churches, Stanley said.

“My hope is churches would see Young Life as an extension of their outreach in a community and not as a replacement for their youth ministries.”

Stanley said they hope to forge a working relationship with public schools in Cottage Grove. A letter of recommendation from Michael Johnson, principal of Hastings High School, has helped open some doors.

Kris Moe, a counselor at Park High School, who has met with Stanley, said it certainly can’t hurt to have more adults looking out for the welfare of kids. His impression is that the message of Jesus is low-key rather than in-your-face.

“The initial focus when they come into schools isn’t about religion. It isn’t about faith. It’s about another positive person caring about these kids.”“It’s bringing more positive adults into kids’ lives.”

While their initial focus is on high school students, they also may expand their mission to middle school as does their Hastings chapter.

Jim Anderson, pastor at the Harbor Church in Hastings, said they provide a monthly donation to Young Life Hastings through their Missions Fund. He said they have committed to support the Cottage Grove Young Life. Several members of their church volunteer at Young Life Hastings, he said.

“They share God’s love and try to encourage young people and share the gospel,” Anderson said. “They have the ability through their clubs to involve a lot of kids whose families may not have a church affiliation. They’re serving and including young people who choose to be involved in their clubs.”

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William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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