WyldLife kids from Northeast Grand Rapids YL

In 2008, we had a dream. Led by our previous Regional Director, Jeff Munroe, we dreamed of expanding the reach of our ministry to adolescents.

We looked carefully at what it would mean to reach every kind of kid in the Western Great Lakes Region. At that time, we set this goal:

By the end of 2016 we would:

  • Increase from 80 to 120 excellent ministries 
  • Grow to 1,000 volunteer leaders

This strategic plan was something we could all get excited about because we had such an all-star team of volunteers who were equipped and supported by our paid staff. We felt confident about such a big goal because God is a big God who does amazing things and has proven Himself faithful time and time again. 

As  a region, we focused on four general goals, leading to actions steps, in order to accomplish the plan:

  • We will recruit, train, equip and sustain teams of volunteers.
  • We will focus on quality at every level of our ministry.
  • We will grow both deep and wide—deeper into the communities where we already operate and wider into new communities.
  • Every area will operate in financial health.

Greater Holland Young Life at their Fall Banquet

As we near the end of 2016, we now wrap up this 8-year strategic plan with much celebration!

  • We celebrate that we have grown from 80 ministries to 120 excellent ministries. That’s 50% growth!
  • We celebrate our 770 volunteer leaders (and 51 part-time and full-time staff). We started with 505 volunteer leaders in 2009. Our volunteer leaders grew in number by 53%! Young Life leaders go to amazing lengths to connect with kids and help them know how dearly loved they are. Young Life leaders run marathonsdress up as a Pokemon, and even arrange for a surprise visit from Lecrae.
  • We celebrate the 20,755 kids we know by name in the region.

Kenowa Hills Young Life at Fall Weekend

Here are a few other things we’re celebrating this year:

  • We celebrate sending more high schoolers and leaders than ever before to fall weekend camps—a total of 1,421. Back in 2009, we sent 665 to fall camp. That’s 114% growth!

    Grand Traverse Young Life

  • We celebrate that 14 new clubs which were simply dreams at the beginning of this year have started up or plan to start in the new year. One of these brand new clubs is at East Kentwood High School. EK is like no other school in the region; there are over 50 countries and 50 languages represented in the EK school community. God has truly gathered the nations together in that place.
  • We celebrate that since 2008, we have grown from having 13 Young Life areas to now having 30 in the region. Northwest Grand Rapids is one of our newest YL Areas.

Momentum builds as Young Life College launches in Grand Rapids.

It’s clear that we’ve grown in number over the past eight years. But how else are we growing? One way is that we’re on track with our Core Values:  

  • We strive to be “healthy people on healthy teams doing healthy ministry.”
  • We keep Jesus Christ central in our lives and message.
  • Our ministry method is incarnational.
  • All of our ministry is supported by prayer.
  • The role of paid staff is to recruit, train, equip, and sustain teams of volunteers to do ministry.
  • We look, think, and act multi-culturally.
  • We create an environment which encourages longevity for volunteers and paid staff.
  • We work responsibly in relationship with the larger church of Jesus Christ and pursue partnerships with churches and other like-minded organizations.
  • We train at every level of our ministry and encourage both theological depth and creativity.

Earlier this month, our regional Young Life staff gathered for a quarterly staff meeting. At this meeting, we celebrated all these things through times of worship, storytelling, affirming one another’s strengths, and encouraging each other in the unique ministry we are each called to. We also spent time sharing and giving thanks for how we have noticed God at work over the past eight years.


Photo booth fun at the Regional Staff Meeting

So here we are today, thankful for the past eight years and still dreaming and praying boldly for God to continue the good work He’s already started.

Our staff spent some time in reflection and prayer, considering how God might be leading them in their own YL area as they move forward into a new year and into a new season of ministry.

Below is a video sharing some of these hopes and dreams. We offer them up to the Lord as a prayer.

Chris Theule-VanDam
Regional Director