Searcy High School students have come to recognize three new faces this past year. Young Life Searcy staff members can often be seen roaming the cafeteria for a few hours at a time introducing themselves to students and asking them how their day is going. For Harrison Carpenter, Shelby Beauchamp
and Lane Freeborn, this is all part of the job. Learning these teenagers’ names is only the beginning.
The Young Life website states that the purpose of this ministry is to introduce teenagers to Jesus and help their faith develop. With programs established in every state and multiple countries, Young Life Searcy is only one part of a much bigger picture. Having grown up in Searcy, Carpenter, the area director for Young Life Searcy, thought it was time someone brought the program here.
“I saw that there was a type of kid that was falling through the cracks in Searcy,” Carpenter said. “They end up into trouble and it’s because they never had anyone show up for them. They never had a good example. We want to give a lot of kids a chance.”
Young Life was created in 1941 to fulfill a need recognized by a man named Jay Rayburn. At a time before youth groups were common in churches, Rayburn also saw kids in his community falling through the cracks. Ministers needed to go to where those teenagers were, according to Freeborn.
“You’d be surprised how many kids go through a single day and nobody asks them, ‘How are you? How are you doing? What’s your name?’ or even calling them by their name,” Freeborn said.
In order to meet the teenagers where they are, Young Life emphasizes relationships. They spend time with the teens, implementing what they call the Five C’s: club, campaigners, contact work, camp and committee.
According to Carpenter, contact work refers to building relationships with the students; committee is a board of directors for Young Life; camp is a summer camp for the kids; campaigners is a small group setting designed to help bond leaders and kids; and club is a mixer-style get-together with music, games and a Gospel talk.
It is not only the staff that carry out these philosophies, but also volunteers who are college-aged and older.
Junior Sierra Heasley spends her free time volunteering as a college leader, applying these five C’s
and getting to know Searcy High School teens. She attends the weekly club night, campaigns by studying in small groups with the teenagers and does contact work by simply becoming their friend. Often this looks like going to their high school football games or taking them to Sonic after school, Heasley said.
“I like seeing the kids go from not knowing the Gospel, then they see it or they hear about it and they start to understand who Jesus is and why he came,” Heasley said. “When it clicks, it’s like a lightbulb going off and they really change as a person. That’s really cool to see.”
Building relationships can be done anywhere, but the recent purchase of a building for Young Life Searcy has created a designated space for ministry to take place.
“Kids painted some of these walls,” Carpenter said. “Seeing them kind of invest in this space was incredible.”
Along with this new development, Young Life Searcy is still pursuing other endeavors.
“Right now we have our high school ministry and we’ve just started our college ministry,” Freeborn said. “(But) we’d love to start a Wyld Life, which is our middle school ministry. We’d love to start Capernaum, which is out ministry for special needs, and we want to start our ministry Young Lives, which is a ministry that markets toward girls that are pregnant in high school.”
Carpenter, Beauchamp and Freeborn are at the front lines of this mission work, but Young Life is a program supported by the fundraising and volunteer work of people all over the world.
“I wish I could put a number on who all has touched our ministry by way of finance, prayer, legwork, or volunteering their time in just a year’s period. The number would probably be in the thousands,” Carpenter said. “It (takes)a community to believe in these kids that come from rough stuff.”
Harding students are encouraged to volunteer as college leaders with training programs starting over each semester. They are also invited to attend weekly college nights at the Young Life Searcy building this fall, although dates and times are not yet confirmed.
To stay informed, students can follow the Young Life Searcy page on Facebook or follow Searcy Young Life on Instagram @younglifesearcy.