The Catholic Relations office receives lots of excellent questions! Some are from Protestant Young Life leaders who want to reach out to their local Catholic parishes, and some questions come from Catholic youth workers or Catholic parents who want to learn more about Young Life. Here are the most frequently asked questions:

Is Young Life a Protestant organization?

Young Life is an “ecumenical” organization. It is neither Protestant nor Catholic. Ecumenical means Young Life welcomes all Christian denominations. People from a variety of Christian traditions can retain their unique devotions while they are unified in proclaiming the Gospel to teenagers. The majority of Young Life leaders identify as Protestant, but there are a growing number of Catholics who volunteer or work for Young Life.

What is the focus of Young Life, and what does that mean for church kids?

Young Life is focused on building relationships with adolescents for the purpose of introducing (and re-introducing) them to the person of Jesus Christ and helping them mature in their faith. Given this focus, there is room to serve every kid at Young Life. Yes, Young Life reaches out to unchurched students. But many young people within our churches have a desperate need to be evangelized—they may have the head knowledge of Christ, but they have yet to make their faith their own. Other “church” kids who are maturing in their faith can benefit from being trained and nurtured in the principles of outreach that Young Life teaches.  

Why is Young Life reaching out to Catholics? 

The Catholic Church, which represents the largest body of Christians, has never been more open to working with Young Life. This is due, in part, to the Catholic emphasis on evangelization as the top priority of the church. Young Life is eager to work with Catholics because Catholic kids are showing up at Young Life club gatherings, at small-group Campaigner meetings, and at Young Life camps. Young Life leaders want to know how to best serve the Catholic kids. And because Young Life wants its leadership teams to reflect the communities it serves, the organization is actively seeking Catholic volunteers and staff.

Do Young Life leaders encourage students to go to church? Do they take students to Protestant churches?

Young Life is effective in proclaiming the Gospel, but it is not a church. Once kids have encountered Christ through Young Life and have made a decision to commit or re-commit their lives to Him, Young Life’s goal is to get them connected to a local church so they can continue their lifelong journey of faith. Because of students’ relationships with their leaders, they often want to attend the churches that their leaders attend. This is fine if the students are unchurched. But if students have been raised in a certain faith tradition, Young Life leaders work to re-connect these students with this tradition. In other words, Young Life’s policy is to “grow them where they have been planted.”

How would a Protestant Young Life leader guide a disconnected Catholic student to a Catholic parish?

If a Protestant Young Life leader is mentoring a Catholic student and wants to meet the student at church, the leader should attend Mass with the student at the student’s Catholic parish instead of encouraging the student to visit the leader’s Protestant church. Because Young Life leaders encourage students to attend church, leaders should be on a first-name basis with the youth directors at all the local Christian churches—the Presbyterian church youth pastor as well as the Catholic youth minister. If a disconnected Catholic student has no home parish and needs to find a church, Young Life leaders should be able to make an introduction given their Catholic church contacts in the community. 

What is the best way for Young Life staff to connect with a local Catholic parish?

If you are a Young Life staff member who knows a Catholic family at a local parish, ask for an introduction to the parish priest, youth minister, or director of religious education. When a personal introduction can’t be made, search the parish website for a contact and reach out via email. Mention that Young Life is an ecumenical ministry that mentors kids and introduces (and re-introduces) students to the Gospel. If Catholic kids are attending your Young Life club, say so and express your commitment to honor the faith tradition of these Catholic students. Offer to meet for coffee. Learn what the youth ministry looks like at this parish and appreciate all that the parish is already doing for young people. Invite this contact to come and see what a Young Life club looks like. Contact​ the Catholic Relations office or check the Resources section of this site for brochures, articles, and other materials on ministering to and with Catholics.

What do Catholic bishops think of Young Life?

There are some Catholic bishops in North America and abroad who have endorsed and support Young Life. Across the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, there is great respect for Young Life, but each bishop sets his own focus and directive within his particular diocese or territory. Young Life seeks to work with a collaborative spirit at all levels of the Catholic Church. In some instances, formal memorandums of understanding have been signed between Young Life and a bishop (see Diocesan Agreements​). In other regions, Young Life’s relationship to a Catholic diocese is less formal. And in some places, a Young Life area works closely with a particular Catholic parish without direction from a diocese.  

What is Young Life’s policy on Safe Environment?

Young Life is committed first and foremost to the safety of every kid. Its policies and procedures have created a safe environment for kids to flourish throughout the ministry’s history of nearly 80 years. While no formal connection exists between Young Life’s policies to ensure safety and the Catholic Safe Environment policies, every local Young Life area that is collaborating with the Catholic Church is committed to train and vet Young Life volunteers through a program that matches or exceeds what the local diocese requires of its volunteers who work with youth. 

Does Young Life provide Mass for Catholic kids at camp?

When Young Life is aware of a Catholic camper or volunteer who wants to attend Mass on Sunday, the camp will make every effort to assist in this. Sometimes, a Catholic priest will come to a Young Life camp and celebrate Mass for the Catholics. If a Catholic parish is nearby and arrangements are made in advance, Catholic kids and leaders can leave camp together to attend Mass. There are instances, however, when a Young Life camp is so remote that it’s unlikely a priest will visit and unlikely campers can find a parish nearby.

Will Young Life teach my Catholic kids about Mary, the pope, and the sacraments?

Young Life honors the role each church plays in the comprehensive faith formation of its parishioners. Formal teaching about Catholic doctrines is not presented at Young Life. However, Young Life encourages conversations about the Catholic faith between Catholic Young Life leaders and Catholic students. As an ecumenical organization, Young Life is focused on the kerygma, the initial proclamation of the Gospel, on which all Christian denominations agree. ​


Young Life Catholic Relations | 2427 Arbor Dr Davenport, IA 52803-2158

Phone: 563-549-0556

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