When Katie Peterson began volunteering with Young Life years ago, she knew the faith-based program had the ability to change lives.
That’s why she and her husband, Daniel, have devoted their careers – and their lives – to Young Life, helping students across the area grow in their beliefs and strengthen relationships with one another, as well as with adult faith leaders.
Young Life is a nationwide outreach program for high school students that offers weekly meetings – called “Club” – where students participate in games, worship and receive a Bible study message.
“We do things – fun things – with the kids and get to know them, walk alongside them and help teach about the gospel and Jesus Christ,” Katie Peterson said, adding adults and college students volunteer as leaders with the program. “We enter into kids’ worlds to walk alongside them and be friends with them and help them learn and grow in their faith.”
The Petersons recently relocated to Union County from Aiken, S.C., to take over the county’s Young Life chapter. Daniel currently serves as the chapter’s area director, while Katie provides administrative support. A third staff member, Jonathan Williams, also helps with the outreach program. Four high schools in Union County – Cuthbertson, Weddington, Marvin Ridge and Union Academy – currently host weekly Club events for Young Life, although the program is not directly linked to any one school and students from other Union County schools are welcome to attend meetings.
Young Life also offers two camps per year – a weeklong summer camp and a weekend fall retreat. The Petersons took about 270 students to Young Life’s Carolina Point camp, near Brevard, last weekend. Students participated in a variety of different activities and attended several Club meetings from Dec. 6 to 8. Following the retreat, on Monday, Dec. 9, Young Life groups from all four Union County schools met at the Chick-fil-A in Wesley Chapel for “Clubble” – a joint Club session held in a large plastic bubble decorated with Christmas lights.
“It’s a fun atmosphere for everyone to come and have a good time,” Peterson said.
Summer camps are held at various locations across the U.S. and offer different activities for students, such as horseback riding, go-carts, rodeo activities and more, depending on the camp location. Students also have the opportunity to participate in multiple Club sessions throughout the week, and volunteer counselors provide spiritual support and guidance.
“(Students are) hearing about who God is and learning about what it means to have a personal relationship with him,” Peterson said. “As they learn more and more of the story of the gospel, they can walk through that with someone that’s older than them and will care about them and love them in it all.”
Peterson said Cuthbertson, Marvin Ridge and Weddington have anywhere from 50 to 100 students attend each Club session, and Union Academy, a smaller charter school, is beginning to grow its Young Life sub-chapter, as well. She said her and Daniel’s goal is to eventually have a Young Life group hosted at every high school in Union County, though that will require a number of volunteers throughout the county who have a willingness to take charge and reach out to the students.
“Our hope is to eventually be in all schools in Union County. But we have to start somewhere, and we need volunteer leaders to go into other schools and (host) Club,” she said.
Find more information on Young Life in Union County, including how to volunteer, at www.unioncounty.younglife.org, or call 704-847-0082.