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Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 Project #2 Literacy Ethnography: Young Life The purpose of this essay is to examine how the leaders of Young Life at UNC Charlotte and the Cabarrus County high schools engage with literacy in order to teach the word of God to young adults and teenagers. In order to achieve this I will be observing the Young Life campaign group at UNC Charlotte; as well as traveling to different. By the end of my ethnography research I not only plan to learn how literacy influences Young Life leaders, but I also hope to learn for myself what it will take to one day become a Young Life leader in my community. Young Life is a Christian non-denominational Youth ministry that “Believes in the power of presence, and that kids' lives are dramatically impacted when caring adults come alongside them, sharing God's love with them. Because their Young Life leader believes in them, they begin to see that their lives have great worth, meaning and purpose,” (Young Life). Another thing that Young Life makes a big point of doing is going to the kids instead of them having to come to a church. They want kids to feel comfortable and to be in their own atmosphere. They also want kids to be able to not be ashamed of who they are and know that they are accepted no matter who they are as stated clearly on their website- “Young Life brings the good news of Jesus Christ into the lives of adolescents with an approach that is respectful of who kids are and hopeful about who they can be,” (Young Life). “Young Life was started in 1938 when a young Presbyterian youth leader in Gainesville, Texas, named Jim Rayburn was given a challenge. A local minister invited him to consider the neighborhood high school as his parish and develop ways of connecting with kids who had no
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 interest in church,” (Ministry Watch) “Rayburn graduated from seminary in 1941, he collaborated with four other seminarians, and by Oct. 6, 1941 Young Life was incorporated. By 1946, Young Life moved to a new headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. and the staff grew to 20 men and women across several states. Volunteer leadership then began at Wheaton College, Illinois, in the late 1940s,” (Ministry Watch). “Prior to the 1960s, Young Life directed its ministry almost completely to suburban high school students, but by 1972 it started ministries in approximately 25 multi-ethnic and urban areas. Today, Young Life is in more than 700 urban communities meeting the unique needs of inner-city young people,” (Ministry Watch). Also today in Young Life the focus is not only on High Schools. Young Life has spread to Middle School, where the roots are first established, and in College, where people who have a strong foundation in Christ are encouraged to become Young Life Leaders. Each week on average in the United States alone Young Life currently reaches 124,679 kids (Young Life). While over the years Young Life has spread nationwide and worldwide and has become one of the largest youth ministries in the United States reaching kids from ages 12-23 its’ mission has remained the same- “to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in their faith,” (Young Life) In order to do this the kids in Young Life are reached by leaders in a certain order of steps called the “Five C’s”, Contact Work, Club, Camp, Campaigners and Committee. (Young Life) Each of these steps or approaches is in a specific order that Young Life has tested and found most efficient. Contact Work is where it all begins. This is where the Young Life leaders cross onto the kids’ turf in order to create a relationship. It might mean the leaders attend basketball games, school plays, football games, or any other school event. It is important for Contact Work to
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 happen first because “kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and by going to school events where the students are shows them that you care about who they are as well as who they can be, (Young Life). Next comes Club or as they say “the party with a purpose” this is where the kids meet once a week to have a good time (Young Life). The night starts with music and a dance party followed by a game that gets everybody to work together and learn about each other and before the end of the night a message is shared about God’s love for them, (Young Life). Club is the start to enriching kids’ lives with the power of God while Camp is the time when kids’ lives are completely changed. Many kids’ describe it as “the best week of their lives, for the main reason that they are having so much fun while constantly growing deeper in their faith and experiencing the greatest love story ever told,” (Young Life) Once kids start that deeper relationship that is formed during Camp week they crave more than the short message that is given in Club which is why Campaigners was started. Campaigners meets weekly just like Club except it is for the kids that wish to grow deeper in their faith through study and prayer with Young Life Leaders. The final step to reaching hundreds of thousands of kids each week doesn’t necessarily come after Campaigners because it is Committee. Committee is the backbone of the whole Young Life operation and is the reason it all happens. Since Young Life is a non-profit organization each plant is supported by a local committee consisting of “local parents, Young Life alumni and civic leaders who provide a foundation of financial, administrative and moral support for the local Young Life team,” (Young Life) Along with the “Five C’s” Young Life also reaches their mission through nurturing kids so they might grow in their love for Christ and the knowledge of God's Word and become people who can share their faith with others.
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 So now that understand what Young Life is it’s time I tell you how it’s related to literacy. At first I wasn’t quite sure how a youth ministry like Young Life could actually be directly related to literacy. It seems like all of it is so fun so how can a boring thing like literacy be involved, but after conducting two short interviews with Brent and Julia, the leaders of Young Life here at UNC Charlotte, and observing the club it became very clear. In order for Young Life leaders to do their job, which is to “introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith,” they must work hard and engage with literacy every day (Young Life). When I asked Julia Wiseman, a Young Life Leader at UNC Charlotte, “How do you prepare for Club or Campaigners each week?” she said. “I spend one hour reading the scripture I plan to share that week, then I spend another hour or so looking up commentaries online that help me understand the scripture from different points of view, and last I produce points from both places that I believe will help the kids understand the message behind the scripture,”(Wiseman). By this answer I drew that it is safe to say that reading plays a large role in the message each week, but reading for the message is not the only time these leaders engage with literacy. After asking them how each of them prepare each week I then asked, “How do you interact with literacy to do your job?” Brent said, “I do read my bible every day for about an hour, but just reading the bible isn’t enough. In order to learn about the generation of students I’m having contact with I have to read about the Youth Culture in books, magazines, and online. I wasn’t born even close to the same year as you and most the kids I’m always around so I actually have to study and read to know how to connect with your generation,” (Wiseman). After this I asked them both “How does literacy impact your work?” where they both agreed “it is a must have, in order to stay connected they have to read” (Wiseman). These interview questions
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 showed me exactly how Young Life engages with literacy while also showing me that just reading the bible isn’t the only source of engagement with literacy The communication process of Young Life is different than most other youth ministries because it goes to where the kids are, whether that’s in their school auditorium or a student’s home. This makes for a more laid back approach which in turn keeps kids coming. The idea that each leader has behind delivering the message is to make it as direct as possible so that the message can be easily understood because the idea of Young Life is to make kids interested in God without completely overwhelming them with the Word of God. From going to their club meetings on campus at UNCC I can agree that they really do teach you about God in a way that is easy to understand. Like Julia and Brent said above in order to do this they must engage with other types of literacy to learn more about our generation and how we are most likely to respond to their teachings. While conducting the interview each of them said, “The biggest struggle is keeping this generation interested and creating that WOW moment each week,” so in order to keep us interested while also trying to wow us they take the straight forward approach (Wiseman). This doesn’t always create a “wow” moment but it is a process that ensures we understand the message. While the straight forward approach seems to be the most effective communication process in Young Life the leaders must also be able to relate the teachings to the kids’ lives. This is where Brent and Julia’s studying comes into effect. In order to relate the messages to the kids’ lives you have to know what they do, and what they like. We know that to do this Julia and Brent read a lot, but what about the leaders that are still in college? The college leaders have an easier time with this aspect of communicating, but they still have to do researching because the
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 generation is constantly changing. However, College leaders take a different approach then Julia and Brent who are in their mid-30’s take. College leaders go to sporting events, school events, and host group hangouts in order to learn about the current generation. This method of learning not only helps the leaders, but it also serves as a source of communicating with kids outside of Young Life events, and overall impact times for the leader on the kids who they currently lead and potentially could lead in the future. Impact is a deal maker/ breaker in Young Life. As I stated in an above paragraph Contact Work is the first step in the “Five C’s,” and it’s where the kids are first exposed to the leaders and people involved in Young Life. So in reality Contact Work is simply impact. I also stated above that in order for the kids to care what you have to say they first need to know how much you care (Young Life). It would be easy for a kid to come to one Young Life Club meeting and never come again if they didn’t make it such a big deal to have an impact on a kid’s life. They make each kid feel like they belong without even knowing anything about them because they accept each kid for who they are no matter what (Young Life). I can say all of this because I have experienced it firsthand. I started attending Young Life at UNCC before riding this paper. The first time I went I knew no one, but at the end Julia came up to me asked me my name and introduced me to all the regulars (people that go to UNCC who are leaders in nearby high schools or attend YL weekly). She also asked me where I was from and ended the conversation by asking me to come to every event Young Life was having that month. Julia made me feel a part of the club without knowing any important details about my life because those things didn’t matter to her. She just wanted me to feel welcome and I did. As weeks have progressed I continue to attend Young Life. Julia along with all the people I’ve met there are the reason I go
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 back each week. But also these people have had the largest positive impact on my college life so far. The purpose of this paper was to examine how the leaders of Young Life at UNC Charlotte and the Cabarrus County high schools engage with literacy in order to teach the Word of God kids and teenagers. Along with doing that I hope I gave you a good picture of what Young Life is as well as how the people involved communicate with and impact kids’ lives. In the future my hope is that this paper can help me if I plan to become a leader because it shows me the purpose behind what I would be doing, and this paper can also help other students become aware of what Young Life can do for them.
Meghan Young Mr. Borrero ENG 1101 11/25/12 Works Cited Covrig, Duane M. "Lessons In Leadership Development From the Master Student." Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 4.1 (2010): 13-17. EBSCOhost. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ce847a87-598f-493b-94345a9e87f8d19d%40sessionmgr15&vid=8&hid=26>. Morris, John D., Dr. "Can Christian High-School Students Survive Public School?" Can Christian High-School Students Survive Public School? Institute For Creation Research, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://www.icr.org/article/1131/>. Wiseman, Julia, and Brent Whitaker. "Young Life Leaders of UNCC." Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2012. "Young Life." Ministry Watch. Wall Watchers, 2000. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ministrywatch.com/profile/young-life.aspx>. Younglife. "What Is Young Life?" What Is Young Life? Young Life, 1995. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://www.younglife.org/AboutYoungLife/>.
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