Mikaela Wegner- Staff Writer
It is a Monday night, and a family living room is filled with about 15 university students. They are having a weekly meeting for the leaders of Young Life, a non-profit, parachurch ministry organization based in Sioux County. As a ministry meant to introduce high school students to Christianity, Young Life’s administration is intentional not only about building relationships with high school students but creating a unique dynamic between its leaders as well.
Alex Vasquez, a director of Young Life in Sioux County, says the primary focus of Young Life is on relationships—specifically between leaders, high school students, and God.
“Doing this on your own is really hard,” said Vasquez. “Sometimes you get hard questions, sometimes you get put in a situation that you don’t know what to do.”
To counter this, Vasquez values the intentional relationships build between leaders.
“Jesus never commanded a disciple to go by himself, he always sent out two,”
Vasquez said. When training students, Vasquez said his leaders are allowed to struggle, they’re just not allowed to struggle alone.
“We tend to think that because we are in leadership we’re not allowed to struggle,” Vasquez said, “so we don’t open up and we kind of just stay to ourselves.”
Vasquez started Young Life in Sioux County while he was a student at Dordt. He felt a need for Christian outreach to youth in the community.
“Although at that time I would consider myself a Christian, I felt like I didn’t have someone to go to, I didn’t have a mentor.” Vasquez attended Young Life back at home, and remembers his leader having no agenda but to show genuine care for students without judgement.
Although the training model for new leaders has not changed since Young Life started in Sioux County, Vasquez says the attention put into training has changed. For example, training is now more difficult in order to rule out leaders not fit for this particular ministry. At the same time, Vasquez values something he calls the “family dynamic.”
“It can become very business-like when it’s just training by itself,” Vasquez said. When Young Life first started, new leaders went through training as a list of checkboxes to complete. Now, there is no longer pressure to “hurry up and become a leader.” “We’re not rushing it, you have time to discuss; people in the leadership room are getting to know each other very well.”
Alexis Cano joined Young Life as a leader almost a year ago. Cano says she was hesitant to attend at first, but found the leaders have been welcoming since the beginning.
“I think when you do ministry with one another it’s really easy to become close,” Cano said, “you all have that one thing in common that you love God and that you’re trying to reach out to other people.”
While the leaders are all very different people, Cano said through their common dedication to Young Life and Christianity they make strong connections with one another.
From club, to campaigners, to contact work, leaders are very hands-on when it comes to Young Life activities. Cano believes this involvement makes it easy for leaders to bond with each other, as well as leaders with high school students. “I don’t know if it would be fun if we didn’t participate,” Cano said.
Anisa Quintanilla is a freshman at Dordt and has been a leader with Young Life for just under a month. She said the leaders care for each other and are very close.
“They’re all there for the same reason, which is putting God in the center of everything,” she said, which to her means meeting people where they are in their relationship with God.
“Being part of Young Life is the best thing there could be, especially being in college away from my family, they’re my family away from home,” Quintanilla said.