In the Western Great Lakes Region, one of our core values is to work responsibly in relationship with the larger church of Jesus Christ and pursue partnerships with churches and other like-minded organizations.
One of the ways we do that is through our Regional Church Partnership Program, a unique model of youth ministry that connects Young Life with a local congregation. Nowhere else in the country is there such a critical mass of church partners as we have here in the Western Great Lakes.
Currently, there are 12 individuals who, along with their churches, have entered into this partnership with Young Life to reach beyond the walls of the congregation in order to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith. Young Life Church Partners are full-time employees at their church, working primarily with the youth of the congregation and spending 30% of their time working with Young Life as an outreach of the church.
Take a moment to get to know our twelve Young Life Church Partners:
Meet Gina Abbas, Eastern Ottawa YL Church Partner since 2018
Church: Student Ministries Director at Jamestown Harbor Church, an RCA church in Hudsonville partnering with YL since 2018; Pastor Scott Pontier (a former church partner)
About Gina: Gina is a Southern California girl from San Diego. She earned her undergrad from San Diego Christian College and a Master’s at Azusa Pacific University. She is married to Tim a Social Studies teacher and they have 3 kids ages 7, 13, and 16.
Her YL Story: Gina did a work crew weekend at a Young Life camp in California long ago. When she first moved to Michigan she began volunteering with WyldLife. As a teenager, her first introduction to campus-based parachurch ministry was through Campus Life (YFC) and that is when she first fell in love with parachurch ministry.
Favorite Part of Job: “Being the chief creative officer of fun and dispenser of candy. Seriously. It’s the laughter and food that God often uses to open hearts and break down walls. I love being a part of it.”
Fun Fact: Before moving to MI, her only experience with fireflies were the fake ones at Disneyland.
What’s She Reading? An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Meet Chris Curia, Eastern Ottawa YL Church Partner since 2017
Church: Director of Youth Ministries at Fairway CRC in Jenison, partnering with YL since 2017
About Chris: Chris is from a suburb of Chicago. He moved to Grand Rapids in 2013 to attend Calvin College and graduated with a degree in Film and minors in Ministry Leadership and Spanish.
His YL Story: Chris has been involved with Young Life since 2010 when his older brother dragged him to club. Chris went to Young Life camp first as a camper, then as work crew, and lastly as a student leader. Chris has been a leader in Northeast Grand Rapids, did a stint on Student Staff, and now as a Church Partner. “It seemed that no matter how many times I tried to be done with Young Life, the ministry pulled me in.”
Favorite Part of Job: “I cherish the relationships I have with students, leaders, parents, and fellow staff, all of whom have been incredibly supportive of my work and personal wellness.”
Fun Fact: Chris has a twin brother Eric, who’s “older” and stationed at an Air Force base in Del Rio, Texas.
What’s He Listening To? The Liturgists Podcast by Michael Gungor, William Matthews, Hillary McBride, Mike McHargue
Meet Christy DePree, Greater Holland YL Church Partner since 2015
Church: Director of Middle School Ministries at First Reformed in Zeeland, partnering with YL since 2015
About Christy: Christy grew up in Mason, MI. She attended Hope College for two years and then MSU for two years where she graduated with a degree in Psychology. She and her husband Kevin have been married for 1½ years and live in Holland.
Her YL Story: Young Life has always been a part of Christy’s life. She began a relationship with Jesus through WyldLife. In high school she attended Young Life, went to camp, did work crew in Colorado for a month, and went on Wilderness. She led during her time at Hope and MSU. At that time she began considering YL Staff and learned about the Church Partner position in Zeeland. “It was so amazing to see how God worked through a relationship I had built while attending Hope to bring me back to West Michigan for this calling.”
Favorite Part of Job: “Getting to know and walk alongside students. It is such an honor to know kids on a deep level.”
Fun Fact: In her free time she loves making pottery.
What’s She Listening To? The Going Scared Podcast — “It is encouraging and motivating.”
Meet Katie Flood, Little Traverse Bay YL Church Partner since 2015
Church: Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Harbor Springs, partnering with YL since 2012; Pastor Kip Murphy
About Katie: Katie grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and moved to Michigan when she came to Hope College.
Her YL Story: Katie did Young Life in high school, went on work crew and then became a YL leader in Holland during college.
Favorite Part of Job: “Leading early morning Campaigners!”
Fun Fact: She has a black belt in mixed martial arts.
What’s She Listening To: The Next Right Thing (a podcast by Emily P. Freeman)
Meet Alaina Hamlett, Eastern Ottawa YL Church Partner since 2017
Church: Youth Director at Hager Park Church, an RCA church in Jenison partnering with YL since 2017; Pastor Mark Kleinheksel
About Alaina: Alaina is from Dallas, Texas and graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX with a degree in Religion and Studio Art.
Her YL Story: Alaina was raised by a 1980’s YL leader mama, and knew about Young Life from a young age. In college she became a volunteer leader in Fort Worth, served two summers as a Guide at Wilderness Ranch, and now as a Church Partner.
Favorite Part of Job: “The people! I’ve made the best friends in the job.”
Fun Fact: In her free time she likes to draw and make pottery.
What’s She Reading: Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. “It is helping me to see the Bible and my upbringing in a Christian tradition in a whole new light.”
Meet Lucas Johnson, Greater Holland YL Church Partner
Church: Student Ministries Director at Pillar Church, a CRC/RCA church in Holland partnering with YL since 2018; Pastor John Brown
About Lucas: Lucas graduated from Hope College with a degree in Special Education and English. He is married to Erin and they have an 8-month-old son named Dominic.
His YL Story: Lucas is brand new to Young Life. He first heard about the ministry from friends who came to know Christ through Young Life. He now teams leads a Capernaum club.
Favorite Part of Job: “The kids and the people of Young Life.”
Fun Fact: He loves Taco Bell.
What’s He Reading: The Importance of Being Foolish by Brennan Manning
Meet Lauren Miller, Greater Holland YL Church Partner since 2018
Church: Middle School Director at Christ Memorial Church, an RCA church in Holland partnering with YL since 2018; Pastor Jay Lindell
About Lauren: Lauren grew up in the East Lansing area and graduated from Hope in 2013. She’s been working with kids in various capacities for the past 8 years but most recently completed a Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission in Kona, Hawaii and went to the Philippines for outreach.
Her YL Story: Lauren is new to Young Life. She learned about it from friends who are part of YL. She looked into the ministry after getting back from YWAM and decided to jump all in.
Favorite Part of Job: “So many things! Being able to pray for work! Taking leaders out to coffee and pouring into them and just being silly with the kids.”
Fun Fact: She once ate snake and snake egg while studying abroad in Cameroon.
What’s She Reading: Building a Discipling Culture by 3DM
Meet Kyle Mullin, Fremont YL Church Partner since August 2018
Church:Youth Director at First Fremont CRC, partnering with YL since 2018; Pastor Drew Sweetman
About Kyle: Kyle grew up in Lisle, IL, attended Hope College, and graduated with a major in Psychology and minor in Youth Ministry.
His YL Story: Kyle was introduced to Young Life as a freshman in high school. He became a volunteer leader in college, interned with Greater Holland YL for a year, and now serves as a Church Partner and WyldLife leader.
Favorite Part of Job: “I love being able to work in both the church and Young Life. I feel like I have the best of both worlds in many ways. It can be very demanding to work for two different ministries at the same time, but it helps that both have the end goal of helping others know and interact with God.”
Fun Fact: Kyle has a twin brother who is the exact opposite type of person.
What He’s Reading? The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller
Meet Abby Nowicki, Grand Traverse YL Church Partner since 2016
Church: Director of Student Ministries at Glen Lake Church, an RCA church partnering with YL since 2016; Pastor Dan DeVries
About Abby: Abby grew up in Hudsonville and graduated from GVSU. After college she met her husband, Ronnie, while serving as Work Crew Bosses at Castaway Club. They love exploring Northern Michigan, watching Friends, cooking, and doing ministry together.
Her YL Story: While at GVSU a friend invited Abby to Young Life. After attending club a few times, she went to new leader training. She’s led YL in Hudsonville, spent two summers serving at Castaway Club, and now as a Church Partner.
Favorite Part of Job: “Watching students respond to the gospel. From watching a high school girl lead worship with her arms raised and proclaiming Jesus’ name, to hearing a student say they are going to read the bible for the first time, or friends simply inviting friends. These moments are what bring me to tears and drive me to continue chasing after that next student because God is on the move.”
Fun Fact: She loves to bake, especially homemade cinnamon rolls.
What’s She Reading: Everybody, Always by Bob Goff
Meet Kyle Roskamp, Eastern Ottawa YL Church Partner since 2016
Church: Youth Director at Immanuel CRC in Hudsonville, partnering with YL since 2016
About Kyle: Kyle is from Grandville and graduated from GVSU with a Bachelors in History. He is getting married to Kristen in July 2019. He has a pet hedgehog named Brennan.
His YL Story: Kyle was asked to lead Young Life at Calvin Christian and right away loved the concept of being a caring adult to kids in the same way caring adults had stepped into his life at that ages. It wasn’t long before he felt that ministry as a career was the next logical step.
Favorite Part of Job: “Being able to have personal and significant relationships with high-school students in a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal. Creating a space and community that is nothing like they have ever experienced before.”
Fun Fact: He loves maps. He loves to just look at them. For hours.
What’s He Reading? “Chuck Klosterman is an important author to me. He thinks about the world from an angle I haven’t considered and finds hidden merits in the seemingly insignificant.”
Meet Zach Van Wyk, Fremont YL Church Partner since 2016
Church: Youth Director at Second CRC in Fremont, partnering with YL since 2009; Pastor Douglas MacLeod
About Zach: Zach grew up in Pella, IA and attended Calvin College to study History and Greek where he also met his wife. They’ve been married for 2½ years and live in Fremont where she is a preschool teacher and fellow Young Life leader. They love to play pick up volleyball, try new coffee shops, and enjoy summers on Fremont Lake.
His YL Story: Zach has always loved Youth Ministry and when looking for a church job, found Young Life. “I have appreciated that I get to dive into the middle of congregational and community-based Youth Ministry and live into that tension. I think that the church has taught me some things that make Fremont YL better and I think that YL has taught me some things that make our church better.”
Favorite Part of Job: “Each day my job can look different and there is space for me to spend time with students at sporting events, concerts, grabbing coffee or in a living room talking about who Jesus is and why He matters to them.”
Fun Fact: He loves snow and winter is his favorite season. According to Zach: “Only the best things happen when it is snowing outside.”
What’s He Reading? The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. “I have appreciated the way that this book has invited me to look at people’s stories through a lense that I might not automatically look through and expanded my own worldview.”
Meet Jeff Watson, Grand Rapids SouthWest YL Church Partner since 2014
Church: Director of Youth Ministry at First Church Grandville, an RCA church partnering with YL since 1991; Pastor Bud Pratt
About Jeff: Jeff is from Grandville and went to Arizona State for undergrad. He’s now pursuing a Masters of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary. Jeff is married to Jeanna who teaches at Jenison Jr. High.
His YL Story: Jeff was involved with Young Life in high school and accepted Jesus at Young Life camp (Windy Gap) in 2005.
Favorite Part of Job: “Having real, authentic and vulnerable conversations with young people.”
Fun Fact: Jeff and Jeanna were on the show, House Hunters.
What He’s Listening To: The Liturgists Podcast
If your congregation is interested in exploring a partnership with Young Life please contact us today.