Youth Ministries Increase Steadily In Numbers and Campus Influence
Within the last 40 years, a new type of Christian evangelical group, lacking churches, ordained ministers, and other traditional trappings of the major Protestant denominations, has emerged as an influence on college- and high-school-age young people.
These organizations call themselves nondenominational, or "para-church," organizations. Their main base of operations is usually the school or college campus, and their followers are primarily students. Some are multi-million-dollar organizations that operate through a network of thousands of paid and volunteer employees, called youth ministers, in colleges and secondary schools in the 50 states.
Almost all the groups are fundamentalist Christian in their theology, and their main purpose on campus is, in the words of one group, "to introduce adolescents to the person of Jesus Christ and His relevance to life today." They claim that they do not compete with local churches and say they urge students to join local congregations.
The financial support for their school-based and other programs comes mainly from private contributors, according to the groups. Most say they do not ask students to pay regular membership dues, (although they do charge for special conferences and trips). Young Life, for example, reports that it has a $15-million annual budget, of which 63 percent comes from private contributors, who include some well-known citizens, such as Senator Mark Hatfield, Republican of Oregon. Members of the Young Life national board include the chairmen of Borg-Warner Corporation and Republic Airlines.
Matthew Stark, a lawyer for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union who recently lobbied for a ban on youth ministers' access to schools in the Minneapolis area, calls the youth ministries "a movement that's exploded in the past three or four years."
Following is a list of the largest national groups, starting with the oldest. Information, supplied by the organizations, covers programs and staff at the secondary-school level only.
Young Life Founded: 1941.
Headquarters: Colorado Springs.
Name of secondary-school program: Young Life.
Number of school programs: 1,014.
Number of paid youth ministers: 423.
Philosophy:"To introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and His relevance to life today."
Youth for Christ/USA Founded: 1944.
Headquarters: Wheaton, Ill.
Name of secondary-school program: Campus Life.
Number of programs in school districts: 1,000
Number of paid youth ministers: 800.
Other programs: A 100-page monthly magazine, Campus Life.
Philosophy: "All of yfc's work with young people is based on Scripture as the only reliable guide to life."
Campus Crusade for ChristInternational Founded: 1952.
Headquarters: San Diego, Calif.
Name of secondary-school program: Student Venture. (Formally called Student Life.)
Number of secondary-school-level programs: about 100.
Number of paid youth workers: 120.
Philosophy: "We're leading young people to a knowledge of their Creator."
The Fellowshipof Christian Athletes Founded: 1954.
Headquarters: Kansas City, Mo.
Name of secondary-school program: High School Huddle, Junior High Huddle.
Number of school programs: 3,000.
Number of Huddle leaders and coaches: about 3,200 (only 168 paid staff members).
Philosophy: "Utilize the hero worship of the athlete to spotlight the greatest product of all--Christianity."--ha