With sleeping bags covering their bodies, the brave few who volunteered for the weekly Young Life game prepared themselves for the match. Even though they couldn’t see anything through the darkness, two kids started for each other and began wrestling. Hopping around, the wrestling match continued until the participants finally collapsed, more from laughter than pain.
Each Wednesday from 8-9 p.m., high school students meet at different volunteer’s homes for songs, skits, games and worship. The Young Life club locations change each week but are often at either junior John Schrock’s house or senior Grant Stauffer’s home.
Wendy Bell Franco and her husband David Franco lead the Young Life club at East. Wendy Franco went to club as a high school student and has been involved ever since. She is now the area director of Young Life for the Shawnee Mission School District and began leading East’s Young Life two years ago. At each meeting, youth gather in one room and begin the night by singing songs together.
“This is my favorite part because everyone sings,” freshman Caroline Creidenberg said. “We just sing fun, up to date songs that are on the radio.”
After singing, there is always a skit put on by the leaders and students, and then they play a game. Last week for the nightly game, two kids each put on sleeping bags and wrestled each other. Although the games have no connection to the theme of the worship and may sound a little out of the ordinary, they help every one get to know each other and make the night more fun.
Each week, Young Life club ends with about a 10-minute worship. They normally talk about a bible verse and everyone sits in one big group with one of the leaders in front talking.
“[The worship] is not too heavy,” freshman Chloe Stradinger said. “The whole point is to get people to come and have fun with a little bit of worship, not to overwhelm them.”
Young Life aims to get kids to have fun together in fellowship. It is not exclusive and everyone is encouraged to come and participate.
“Anybody who’s new that shows up feels comfortable, that’s the goal,” Stauffer said. “I love the outreach of community and how accepting everyone is.”
Along with the weekly club nights, Young Life plans many other events. Recently, all of the Shawnee Mission School’s Young Life clubs had the annual muck fest. The name truly sums up what happens on this night. Teens met at Shawnee Mission Park and engaged in an epic mud fight that also included foods such as flour and whipped cream.
“Basically anything to get you dirty was involved,” Stauffer said. “I remember some kids had squirt guns filled with sardine juice.”
On Thursday, Young Life hosted another annual event- Late Night. Students from all the Shawnee Mission schools went to two different haunted houses to start off the night. They then went to Skate World from there. To end the night there was an intense dance party until 2 a.m. Anyone and everyone was encouraged to participate in the Late Night, even for only part of the night.
Both the Young Life events and weekly club are aimed to bring kids together to worship Christ. Young Life began in 1938 by a young, Presbyterian youth leader named Jim Rayburn. He was asked by a local minister to try to reach out to kids who had no interest in church and get them involved. He decided to start a weekly club that involved singing, a skit and taught a simple message about Jesus Christ. By hosting the club at kids’ homes, he found that attendance increased drastically. The Young Life club at East still follows this same weekly routine and works towards Young Life’s ultimate goal– to introduce Jesus Christ into kid’s lives and help them grow in faith.
“At Young Life we talk about who Jesus is, why he existed, his mission, and how faith can apply to your life today,” Wendy said.
According to Stradinger, Young Life attracts a wide range of kids that mix well together. No matter where they may come from or what group they hang out with, at Young Life they all strive towards one common goal- to grow in faith and have a good time along the way.
“Young Life is a place for people to hear about Jesus without the pressure to believe it,” Wendy said. “As leaders, we love building relationships with students not based on whether or not they believe.”