Young Life’s Newest Arm of Ministry

Rachel Karman October 28, 2020

“If there was one area within Young Life you would say was lacking, what would it be?”

It was a fairly innocent question, asked by a Regional Director I knew from years prior.

“Oh that’s easy,” I replied, “The way that Young Life is set-up traditionally makes it virtually impossible to reach kids who are transient. There is no real roadmap in how to minister to kids being impacted by homelessness. If we are truly trying to reach ‘every kid’ as we say we are, something would need to be done differently.”

A week later I was offered a job. “Come start Young Life for homeless teenagers in San Diego,” 

“No way. I don’t want to,” was my response. “I live in LA, I work with homeless adults, I don’t want to work with teenagers.”

But God is wild and a month later I moved to begin a Young Life Club for kids experiencing homelessness. 

As is normal when starting anything new, especially a ministry, things were wonky in the beginning. The first couple of years felt like a never-ending experiment—coming up with ideas, trying them out to see if they’d work. Some did, many didn’t. It was exhausting.

A couple of years in, however, I began hearing of other areas doing ministry with kids impacted by “the system.” I spoke with leaders doing ministry for students in similar situations. With each conversation, I started to feel less alone. We began sharing ideas and tools we’d picked up along the way with one another and it felt like a little more hope for what this could turn into began filtering in.

And then something crazy happened. Through a generous group of women, we were granted the finances needed to turn these one-off rogue ministries into something bigger.

And that’s how YOUNG LIFE ONE was born.

YL ONE is Young Life’s newest arm of ministry. As a mission we say we want to love every kid, and YL ONE aims to honor that goal by reaching out to kids who have been impacted by our social systems.

There are currently 4 different demographics we aim to reach out to:

  • Teenagers impacted by homelessness
  • Teenagers impacted by trafficking
  • Teenagers impacted by incarceration
  • Teenagers impacted by the foster care system

Our goal is to train leaders and staff in how to care for kids in these social systems in an effort to offer a support system that tells each kid, “we love you, we believe in you, and we don’t want to just see you survive, but thrive now and into adulthood.” We want these teenagers who are so often overlooked or misunderstood to know that the God we know and serve loves them beyond comprehension.

Right now, we are in the beginning stages:

  • gathering data
  • meeting ministry partners already doing this work within Young Life
  • learning from those doing this work outside of Young Life
  • talking with areas who want to develop a Young Life ONE ministry of their own.

It’s exciting, wild, and a little scary… and it’s my tendency to believe that most good things are all three. It is our desire and prayer that with time ALL regions across the country will stack hands in this effort to care for these often hidden groups of teenagers in their communities.

So Jesus told them this story: If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.

Luke 15:3-5 NLT

This is our hope, this is our mission, this is the goal of YL ONE.

Think you might be interested in bringing YL ONE to your area or region?

Here’s how you can…

Step 1: Watch this video/call. I know, I know, the only thing worse than another Zoom call right now is watching one that already took place—but I promise it will be worth it as it will offer more information and hopefully answer any questions you might have.

Step 2: If you’re a volunteer leader, talk to your local staff person about what YL ONE could look like in your area. Pray, dream, brainstorm. Maybe even watch the video (linked in Step 1) together.

Step 3: Have your staff person email me at and we’ll talk next steps!

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