First a little background information. I am not in any way opposed to groups whose intent is to inform and teach. The following is simply an isolated observation and should not be taken as an opinion of any situation aside from the one being described. This is nothing more than a cautionary tale.

I am rather familiar with the Young Life concept and its manifestations. I grew up in the southeastern United States and therefore have been exposed to several strong religious traditions. I agree with Mer. Young Life is in no way a cult. In fact, now that I am in college, I have come in contact with an actual cult and have a better understanding of cults than I ever had in high school. The concept behind Young Life is very appealing to me. Any group who can successfully bring together high school age kids and teach them something is aces in my book. However, I would like to offer this observation as a warning to all those teenagers out there that are thinking of joining something of this nature.

The Young Life program at my high school was fairly large and consisted of most of the "Popular" kids. It seemed like a lot of fun and being one of the more "Popular" kids myself I thought I would give it a try. One of the first things that I mentioned to the sponsors of the club was that I was not a person with very strong religious conviction. They assured me that it wasn't a problem and that Young Life wasn't about specific religions it was about learning and community. Feeling reassured, I signed up.

The first couple of meetings I went to were nothing extraordinary. We sat around and discussed topics in the Bible the best that any teenager can. This was all led by some adults and college students who used to go to this same high school. Everything seemed fine. Soon I found out the true nature of the Young Life at my high school. It seems that the meetings were more or less a facade. The purpose of the meetings was to convince the school that Young Life was a good program so that they could receive money from the administration. This money was in turn used for the "retreats". My initial reaction was excitement. Retreats are always fun!

It seems these retreats were a little different from the kind of retreats I had been on. Don't get me wrong, I realize that teenagers are naturally mischevious and are bound to get into trouble here and there. However, these retreats were used as an excuse for these so called popular kids to go out to the woods, get drunk and stoned and basically have sex with anything that moved. I realize that doesn't sound so bad to most of us. This might even be the description of your last weekend. My problem lies in the fact that these kids were getting funding for this when at the same time our library was sparse and our art and music programs were on the verge of being cancelled.

As I said before, I like the idea of Young Life. But students should pay close attention to what the groups at their schools engage in and for God's sake, speak up if you feel the school is spending your parent's money wrong.