Is Young Life a Cult?

Is Young Life a Cult?

Young Life is definitely NOT a cult.

I was involved with a group called Young Life in high school. It is essentially a worldwide Christian outreach group based through high schools. The goal of Young Life is to reach the unreached teenagers or those who would never step foot in a church. So, it was different than most church functions. We met at people’s houses, had skits, sang pop music, danced, ate, did crazy games, and at the end, we had a bible message or testimony, this night was called Club. We also had another night we met where it was more of a bible study, where we could ask questions about and discuss life and God. I met some of closest friends through it and being in Young Life was some of my favorite high school memories.

Loving the group so much, I frequently asked my friends to come to Young Life with me. However, many often replied, “I heard Young Life is a cult and cults are bad, so no I won’t join you.”

The majority of the time when I asked them to explain to me what a cult was, and why it applied to Young Life, they would have no answer besides, “That’s just what I’ve heard.”

So to clear up any confusion I compiled a list of twenty characteristics of a cult and whether or not I thought it applied to Young Life. I tried to be as honest and unbiased as possible to give you a clear picture.

A Cult is a group that promotes false Christianity and is usually manipulative, demanding total commitment and loyalty from its followers. Converts are usually cut off from all former associations, including their own families.

  1. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. Yes, Young Life is focused on consistently and constantly bringing in new members.
  2. The group is preoccupied with making money. No, never once was I asked for money to support the group. The only time money was brought up was for special events, such as going to camp or retreats. None of the staff kept any money as 90% of them were volunteers
  3. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. No, questioning, doubt, and dissent were encouraged. The leaders encouraged us to challenge our beliefs and learn the truth. We were allowed and encouraged to challenge our leaders and debate with them on topics we disagreed about.
  4. Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). No, none of this was ever used.
  5. The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel. No, the leaders may encourage us to make certain decisions, but they are never forceful or expect us to follow their suggestions
  6. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members. No, we claimed to be just as average as everybody else. We only claimed to have a passion for showing love to those around us.
  7. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society. No. We sought to bring community into our schools and communities, not division.
  8. The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations). No, there is a board of directors for each county of Young Life and a national board that the Young Life leaders are responsible to.
  9. The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them. No, never once has a group leader made me feel guilty.
  10. Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group. No, Young Life encourages family and friends to get involved with the group. Young Life hopes to bring the family closer to each other by its programs. Members are encouraged to stay with their family, friends, personal goals and interests.
  11. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group. Sometimes, if you are a volunteer leader or student leader, you are expected to attend the two meetings a week, go to camp for a week in the summer, help with fundraising, meet with students individually to mentor them (if they want), and attend separate leadership meetings. That may sound like a lot to some people, others not a lot. However, if you just want to be a member of Young Life, you are able to devote as much or as little time as you want to.
  12. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. No, while we were encouraged to befriend those in the group, we were also encouraged to be friends with those outside the group
  13. Confession Sessions are used to build relationships. Full disclosure of all secret sins, thoughts, temptations, desires are expressed with those you know. These can become powerful tools to emotionally bond you to the leader or group. Yes, but only at camp and if someone chooses to. There is time at the Summer Camp if anyone wants to open up and share their story with their cabin mates.
  14. There is one standard for the followers and another for the leaders can do almost anything wrong while others will be rebuked and made examples of if they do the same things. No, the leadership team follows the same standards the members do, with the standards being the Bible and living a godly life.
  15. The Scripture is not rightly divided. Private revelations and interpretations are added to the Word and sometimes substitute it. Passages contradictory to the orthodox beliefs are being twisted and taken out of their context. Strong emphasis is placed upon certain passages making them their theme in ministry, while other pertinent scriptures on essentials and practice are completely ignored. Bible scholars who give a different interpretation from the cultists' are ignored or ridiculed. No, no part of the Bible is intentionally left out of discussions and nothing is added to the word of God. Looking back, most of the times we did only study the New Testament, but that was because it was relevant to high schoolers.
  16. Information control is practiced where members of the group are not allowed or discouraged to have contact with outside family members, other ministries or Christians that could influence them. This is done to prevent information that may expose what is going on internally. No, members are encouraged to continue contact and interaction with friends and family.
  17. Conversion into a cult is done by dynamic interactions. They look for those who are new to the town or school. The easiest way to involve someone is when they are weak and vulnerable they instantly become a potential recruit. This vulnerability can be enhanced by transitional situations in life or those who have had numerous bad experiences with love in their lives, feel rejected by people and insecure are attracted to cults. These groups make them instantly feel accepted and gives them assurance, confidence by friendship and acceptance. Many people who become discontent and disappointed in their prior church experiences are open to something new, even something. Sometimes. When looking for new people to bring to Young Life, we often look for the “farthest out kid,” which is someone who would have no intention of going to church or learning about anything church related. This is because we want to reach the lost for Christ.
  18. New inductees are brainwashed increment by increment until the convert identifies with the Church and its leaders and ties with family society are broken. Many claim no one can be brainwashed if they don’t want to be, but that is false. A lie is told over and over until it is accepted and believed. No, they are free to believe what they want to believe.
  19. Individuality is sacrificed for the group. The group's concerns supersede an individual's goals, needs, aspirations, Conformity is the key. No, members are free to have whatever goals, needs, and aspirations they want, even if they are unbiblical and are not what the leaders believe.
  20. CURSES and THREATS: Are put on those who leave the group or oppose them afterward. They are told there is nowhere else to go. Threats are made subtly or to their face. Once one is in there is no easy way out. No, anyone could easily leave the group for whatever reason. A leader may call to see why you have not been coming, but there is no punishment or threats to leaving the group.

So two yes’s and two sometimes. Looking at the characteristics of a cult, I would say Young Life is not a cult.

Cover Image Credit: Jessica Linville
Cover Image Credit: Kylie Sullivan

Popular Right Now

To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved

To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Everything You Need To Know About The New Abortion Ban In Several States

DISCLAIMER: the following does not include any of my personal beliefs/opinions.


Abortion has and will always be a controversial and very sensitive topic for all genders. The following article delves into the details about the Alabama abortion ban that was signed to be a law which, if it passes, will be in effect January 2020 and briefly touches on the Georgia Heartbeat Bill.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

In 1973, Roe v. Wade 410 was passed in the U.S. by the Supreme Court. In short, this ruled that the Due Process Clause along with the 14th Amendment in the Constitution would work to give pregnant women the choice to choose whether or not they wanted an abortion AND should coincide with the government's personal agenda to protect the health of all who is involved. What I mean by this is that the Supreme Court decided during the second trimester of a pregnancy, abortions would be allowed. But, if it is the third trimester, abortion is to be prohibited unless the health of the mother is in danger. This law catapulted the abortion debate which is still going on today.

Abortion vs. Alabama

Alabama's governor, Kay Ivey, signed off on a bill that will basically ban all abortions, including rape, incest, any abnormality, and if the mother's life is in danger on May 14, 2019 after acquiring approval from 25 Senators . This could be a problem considering that it very much contradicts Roe v. Wade (1973). To Ivey, the bill is a reflection of the values in which the citizens of Alabama believe: all life is precious and a gift from God.

Governor of the State of Alabama, Kay Ivey (pictured above).

The governor of Georgia also signed a bill to ban abortion after detecting the slightest heartbeat which is approximately around the six-week pregnancy period (around the time most women discover that they are pregnant). Another important take on this is that despite the rift and debate that is going on between Democrats and Republicans, most Republicans believe that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. This is looking more like a possibility considering most of the Supreme Court consists of people who support the Republican party. In short, the main idea is to ban abortion in all of the United States, not just in some states like it is currently. In regards to Alabama, the bill still has not been enacted into a law and could possibly encounter delay in the Supreme Court because, after all, this is a very debated topic. For now, abortion is still legal until January 2020 or when it becomes a law.

Conditions of the Abortion Law

The conditions of the abortion law explicitly states that abortion during any stage of a pregnancy is prohibited and if any medical professional aids in the practice/procedure of an abortion, they will face up to 99 years in prison. If an attempt is made to perform an abortion procedure, an individual can be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Women who successfully get an abortion or attempt to will be prosecuted as well. However, only those who provide another with an abortion will be punished in Alabama, not the one receiving the service.

No form of abortion is allowed including: rape, incest, life-threatening abnormality, or putting the life of the mother in danger.

Alabama expected to approve controversial abortion bill

Two Sides to the Debate

Although most Republicans support the law, the Democratic party has combatted the notion of it. Many opponents of the ban state that the restriction can put the lives of many in danger and affects women of color and those who are living in poverty heavily. ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have also declared that they will sue. Many young people have also reached out to social media websites such as Twitter and Instagram to voice their opinions:

Tweets from individuals who are anti-abortion ban

Many celebrities have also stated their opinions on the matter. Rihanna stated in one of her Instagram posts, "Take a look," referring to a picture of 25 Senators in Alabama who approved the abortion bill, "These are the idiots making decisions for WOMEN in America. Governor Kay Ivey...SHAME ON YOU!!!"

Although both sides clearly have their opinions on the debate of pro-life/pro-choice, one thing we all can agree on is that this will be a long process that can make or break the lives of a lot of people in our nation.

Until next time,


Related Content

Facebook Comments