On Sept. 19, Young Life had its first event for college students in Jackson, drawing about 40 college students from the Jackson area to the Young Life House at 719 N. Highland Ave.
Students enjoyed a cookout, played corn hole, spent time together and heard a gospel message, said Leah Claire Hall, senior elementary education major, and Young Life student leader.
Young Life works mainly with high school students, and many college students from Union are involved with Young Life at local Jackson high schools.
Now, Young Life is ministering directly to college students, targeting those ages 18 to 25 with its new program, Young Life College.
Hall said the program is new to the Jackson area.
She said that the main purpose of Young Life for college is to minister to college students at schools in the region, including Union, University of Memphis at Lambuth, Jackson State Community College, Lane College and, eventually, Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson.
“We just want kids to have a place to come hang out,” Hall said.
Hall said that there is no lack of college-aged students in Jackson.
“There are 11,000 plus college students and 18 to 24 year olds in Jackson,” she said.
Ross Barnes is an adult member of the Young Life staff in Jackson.
He and his wife Lydia, along with Luke and April Pruett, Jeff McCormick, and Kristen Ferrell, are the adult staff members who lead Young Life College.
Barnes is in charge of Young Life College, as well as the outreach ministry to private high schools, and the leadership training and development of Young Life’s college-aged Young Life leaders.
“The Young Life College team consists of college students who want to help provide a place of community and belonging for college folks in our town, regardless of where they are in their faith journey,” Barnes said.
Barnes added that the Union students involved on this team are Bryan Meeker, Josh Shelley, Joey Davis, Anna Coley, and Leah Claire Hall.
Hall said that as student leaders, they are responsible for raising awareness for Young Life as well as assisting in leading the Thursday night gatherings, called Young Life Club.
Young Life Club meets Thursday evenings, and from there, students are connected to small group Bible studies.
At each club meeting, Hall said, older adult leaders and couples give a message that shares the gospel with the students.
The messages go deeper than messages shared at high school Young Life meetings, Hall said.
Hall added that the difference between high school and college is that “high school messages will be a lot more dumbed down … the basics of the Gospel, because a lot of us already know the basics and we’ve been hearing it for years; it is much deeper.”
Barnes also said that Young Life College is a little different than traditional Young Life.
“Young Life College has some elements similar to the traditional Young Life, but it is tailored for college students,” Barnes said. “There are opportunities to be with friends and learn about God, be involved in small groups, and to simply hang out together,” Barnes said.
Hall said the leaders’ goal is to “build relationships with the students in order to pursue sharing the gospel with them.”
“Young Life, in general, is all about building relationships with students, especially those that might not necessarily be in church, in order to eventually get them in a church,” Hall added.
“The word is getting out, so we are expecting more people in the next few weeks,” Hall said.
Becca Orosz, junior social work major, is involved in Young Life’s new college program.
Orosz became involved in Young Life at Union and is a leader at Liberty Technology Magnet High School in Jackson.
“I really love doing Young Life with high schoolers, so I was really excited when I heard that college Young Life would be starting,” Orosz said.
Orosz also mentioned that most of the students at the initial meeting were Union students, but she is excited for Young Life to spread to nearby colleges.
“College Young Life is an opportunity for college kids to come together,” Orosz said.
Hall stressed that students do not have to be in college to be a part of Young Life for College.
“Everyone that is college-aged is invited,” she said. “You don’t have to be in college; anyone aged 18 to 25 is invited. We even have some students working on their master’s.”
Hall said once students get connected, they will have opportunities to participate in events that take place at other times during the week and on weekends.
“Young Life College gatherings look different every time, so come and see; it will be a party,” Barnes said. “You just might laugh more than you’ve laughed in a long time.”
IF YOU GO
Young Life for College meets at 9 p.m. Thursdays at the Young Life House at 719 N. Highland Ave. in Jackson.