Teen suicide, juvenile crime, bullying, underage drinking and drug use all have occurred in Sealy – and there’s a few people who think that showing love to kids who are hurting might just bring change and keep some of those youth from going astray.
About 30 people showed up to an informational meeting at the Hill Community Center on Sunday to discuss the possibility of revitalizing Young Life in Sealy.
The Christian youth program is active in Katy and Bellville and does not compete with church youth group activities; in fact it works hand-in-hand with them. It focuses on outreach to high school students and relies heavily on adult volunteers and committee members willing to spend time with young people in a mentoring capacity, even if it’s just attending their football games or going to the school to eat lunch with them. The program previously existed in Sealy from roughly 1997 to 2003 but fizzled out due to a lack of participation.
Now Sealy residents Ryan Pacher and Collin Dwigans - both just 26 years old – say they’ve prayed about the matter extensively and feel called to bring it back. Sunday’s meeting was an effort to gauge local interest and recruit volunteers.
“Things are different now,” said Pacher, who graduated from Sealy High School in 2010. “Something has to change. I think the youth groups in this community are awesome. We just want to come alongside them and have another night of the week for high school students to be presented with the gospel and be around adults who love them and want to be part of their lives. We want to reach those kids who maybe don’t want to be part of the church right now.”
Dwigans participated in Young Life while he was in high school in LaGrange and met Pacher at LifeBridge Community Church.
“God and church was never important to me; it took a Young Life leader to reach out to me and say, ‘You look like you’re hurting and I want to help you,’” Dwigans said. “That changed my life, and I’m still friends with those leaders today. That was 12 years ago. It’s cool to see people who care.”
Rick Lowe, associate regional director for Young Life Greater Houston Region, said background checks and training are required of the youth leaders.
The meeting facilitators showed a video in which leaders from across the country spoke to why the program is important.
“You are worth it,” said one leader of his relationship with the students in his program. “I’m going to chase after you. My hope is that one day I’ll get to tell you that the God of the universe loves you like crazy.”
The committee and community support are essential, Lowe said.
“Everything we do starts with our relationship with Christ,” he said. “Our leaders are members of churches; they’re not just people who show up and want to hang out. Our goal is outreach. Our volunteer leaders are going to go hang out with kids. We’re not going to talk about Jesus in high schools. We’re just going to go be their friends. It’s about earning the right to be heard.”
Young Life “club” meetings are held weekly and typically involve a time of singing, playing games and a brief message from one of the leaders.
“We’re going to talk about life; we’re going to talk about sin; we’re going to talk about Jesus Christ,” Lowe said.
There are other opportunities for kids to get involved in small group Bible studies and attend camp in Colorado.
“If you do something well, a lot of kids are going to show up,” Lowe said. “They’re looking for something to do. I think what makes it work is that people love them.”
Carol Rosales, a senior at Bellville High School, said she’s been involved in Young Life since her freshman year.
“Young Life did have an impact on my life,” Rosales said. “It showed me how God loves us so much. Our club is every Monday, and our club is amazing. We have so much fun. It makes your week so much better.”
There’s not a timeline on when the program will start up – it could be a matter of months or years – and there are different options such as whether Sealy’s program would have a full-time paid staff or be volunteer-based. It depends on the interest level, how much money is raised and what the community wants, Lowe said.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Ryan Pacher at 979-877-5570 or Collin Dwigans at 979-250-1004, or visit younglife.org.