by Scott Berg, US Field Director Of Small Towns for Young Life
I met Scott in 2017 at a Small Town Jesus conference in West Virginia. He’s a man who deeply loves the gospel, the local church, small towns and lost kids.
Since then, I’ve had the chance to hear more from him and many on his team about how Young Life is loving and serving small towns and rural areas and working to introduce kids to Jesus and the local church. Many churches in small towns or rural areas struggle with how to impact schools or students. Youth group can be hard to navigate with staffing challenges, small budgets, and limited facilities and volunteers. Additionally, oftentimes local churches feel insecurity when para-church ministries like Young Life come to town, and vice versa.
For these reasons, I asked Scott to tell us what they are doing, what they have learned and how they want to help local churches in small towns.
God seems to have a nose for those furthest out. He pursues lost sheep, lost coins, lost people. Whether they were up a nearby tree, in a boat, along the sea, along the road, in the home of a notorious sinner, or in the temple. Jesus went to outcasts. Why?
Jesus modeled going after outcasts, made it clear that pursuing lost and desolate people was his purpose and then invited his followers to join him in this.
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” – John 9:35
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Mark 10:45
Jesus went to small towns. And He said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.”- Mark 1:38
Young Life’s mission statement is “Introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith.” Young Life actually has a special task force for small towns; those towns under 25,000 people that are not a suburb. Our heart is to start and sustain ministries by offering Young Life to the local body of Christ.
What Have We Learned By Focusing On Small Towns?
In the Small Town laboratory, we have learned three essentials must be in place to start and sustain Young Life.
- Local Ownership— God’s people in any given community must recognize a need, want Young Life and form a committee of backers.
- Incarnational Leadership—Leaders are going where kids are, building relationships and sharing the gospel. (This may occur in a variety of activities like club, campaigners or camps.)
- Professional Supervision—Young Life staff ensure the excellence and longevity of the mission by serving leaders and committee people.
Collaboration with local churches is a fundamental piece of starting Young Life in small towns. It’s also essential to fulfilling the back half of our mission statement, “helping them grow in their faith.”
Simply, we love being the doormat on which kids find Jesus, wipe the dirt off their feet, and step into the local church!