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Young Life leaders spent time with middle and high school stu­dents at Camp Timber Wolf Lake in Lake City, MI. Savannah Rothaas | Courtesy

In order to spread the gospel through inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships founded on trust, the Young Life GOAL program began their leader training program for new leaders on Feb. 22.

“We are looking for people who have a deep love for God and a desire to make his name known, espe­cially to kids locally who come from broken fam­ilies and broken homes and des­per­ately need to be shown his love,” said freshman Shelby Dorman, Young Life leader. “Very few people would dis­count the fact that they need to be shown that love, but people who would seri­ously enjoy doing that.”

Each week will emphasize a dif­ferent aspect of Young Life min­istry. From learning the mission and history of Young Life to learning various rela­tional strategies to effec­tively share the gospel, Savannah Rothhaas, junior and Young Life Goal Program leader, said the non­com­mittal training is an “invaluable expe­rience.”

“Training con­tributes to your per­sonal devel­opment as a Christian and intro­spection,” Rothhaas said. “I ask the question, ‘Where am I with my faith right now?’ and then seeing how I can share this with others.”

Young Life seeks to share Christ with middle and high school stu­dents in the Jonesville and Hillsdale area. From cheering on middle schoolers at their bas­ketball games to crashing their daily lunches, Young Life leaders foster inten­tional friend­ships with the kids in order to build trust. Stephen Whitney, freshman and new Young Life leader, said the gospel is meant to be shared in rela­tionship.

“I’ll go up to a table and say, ‘Hey I’m Stephen can I sit with you guys?’ I ask them about their favorite movie, or game. That’s where it all starts,” Whitney said. “If we just went into the school and tried to share the gospel, people really wouldn’t listen to us. By sharing a rela­tionship, you draw close to them. Then they want to trust you.”

Apart from building rela­tion­ships with the kids, Whitney added that the contact work has “broadened his horizons.”

“Young Life gives you an exposure to the com­munity,” Whitney said. “Going to school at Hillsdale, it’s a closed com­munity and there’s not a lot of vis­i­bility for the outside. It helps me see that Hillsdale is not just a college, but it’s a com­munity.”

Rothhaas said Young Life contact work has extended beyond the noon lunches at Davis Middle School. Growing alongside Tiffany since her seventh grade year, Rot­thaas brings the now freshman to church.

“I bring her to College Baptist, she ini­tiates it. She wants to go to church with me, and she asks me, ‘Are you going to be there? Can we go to church?’” Rothhaas said.

But Rothhaas said she’s humbled by the friendship.

“She told me that me and her sister and her mother are the only people that she talks to about per­sonal things,” Rothhaas said. “It humbles me, because learning about these kids’ lives is never any­thing that I’ve expe­ri­enced. These broken homes are com­pletely out of my realm of knowledge. It’s hum­bling, and it’s really joyful, and they bring so much energy.”

For Dorman, Young Life has trans­formed her con­ception of the gospel. In a place like Hillsdale, where stu­dents fre­quently are “caught up in the com­plex­ities of the­ology,” Dorman said she has found new per­spective of the good news.

I think there’s a very childlike love for Jesus that I see in all of the leaders,” Dorman said. “Being a part of Young Life has pressed the weight­iness of the gospel and how the simple truths of it ought to sustain me through all of those hard­ships. I now focus my mind on the pure sim­plicity of Jesus and his love for me.”

Though Young Life may come across as intim­i­dating to many, Dorman encourages anyone to drop in for a session.

“I’m still intim­i­dated by it, because it’s a very daunting thing to be respon­sible for sharing the most important truth to people who would oth­erwise have a lot of mis­con­cep­tions about it,” Dorman said. “But I think that if you talk to anybody who’s been a part of it, it’s one most joyful expe­ri­ences.”

Training will be hosted in the Library Fishbowl from 5:45 to 8:00 p.m. beginning Friday.