YoungLife is an outreach ministry focusing on adults building authentic friendships with kids. It is about understanding how kids in today’s society think and deal with issues. It is about being a sounding board to listen to their struggles and accomplishments while building a trusting bond and being a presence in their life when they need it the most.

Joey Beane started the YoungLife ministry in Jackson County around two years ago. He says the YoungLife mission of Jackson County currently focuses on high school students, telling them about Jesus Christ, and helping them grow in their faith.

“Our goal is to shoot for the kids that may not feel good enough or that feel they are not wanted in the church,” Beane said. “We feel if we make that our goal, we will be able to catch others along the way.”

Beane became involved in YoungLife while a sophomore at Sissonville High School. He attended his first camp at that time. Having a mother from Jackson County, he decided to bring the ministry to this area.

Jackson County YoungLife hosts groups in both Ripley and Ravenswood. They meet once a week for Bible study, fun, and fellowship. Around 50-60 kids participate each week.

YoungLife alternates weekly between Club and Campaigners.

The group starts off in Club, where music is played to kick things off. After music is crazy games with the occasional skit, then at the end of Club there is a “text bomb,” phones are put away and participants share in a 10-15 minute talk about the gospel and how to apply it to their lives.

“Club is about 75 percent controlled chaos,” Beane said. “It’s more of a comfortable atmosphere for inviting that far off kid, the one least likely to come to church. Our hope is that in the few minutes at the end when they hear about Jesus, they will be interested enough to come when they are invited to attend Campaigners the following week.”

Campaigners is the more in-depth Bible study. Beane said it tends to be the smaller group; however, in Jackson County, it remains pretty consistent in the amount of kids that go to both groups.

During the summer, there is no club, but Campaigners continues.

Crystal Freeman is the ladies YoungLife leader for the Ravenswood group which meets at her home.

“YoungLife is the blessing I didn’t know my heart needed,” Freeman said. “I thought I would be pouring into these young ladies lives, but actually it’s a program where we can gather around the table and pour into each other. Without judgement, we meet them where they are. We have real conversations, we play games, we laugh, we learn that we all have troubles, and the value in hearing someone say, ‘Oh you struggle with that? Me too!’ is powerful.”

Freeman emphasizes that YoungLife is not an exclusive club based on popularity, GPA, or talent. Anyone in high school is able to attend.

“YoungLife allows kids to learn that regardless of how big or small their circle is, if it’s not rooted in the commandment to love Christ and love one another, it’s not worth it,” Freeman said. “It allows kids to learn about the love that Jesus has for them and gives them a free space to allow growth and opportunity to seek out the One who seeks them. I am privileged to be the leader for Ravenswood girl’s YoungLife.”

“‘1 Thessalonians 2:8 we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well,’ this verse really captures the heart of a YoungLife leader,” Beane said.

Camp is an experience that both kids and leaders look forward to all year.

Rockbridge YoungLife Camp is located about 15 miles west of Lexington, Virginia. It is a week long adventure for everyone who attends.

“We like to say it will be ‘the best week of your life,’” Beane said.

Following camp, the Jackson County YoungLife will be hosting a pig roast on the courthouse lawn in Ripley from 6-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. This is a free event for the community with free food, fun, and learning about being a part of YoungLife.

Beane said Jackson County YoungLife is hoping to expand to middle school and college age students in the future.

For more information on Jackson County YoungLife visit their Facebook page under Jackson County YoungLife @JacksonCountyYL.