Young Life members prepare to carve pumpkins at a recent get-together called the Pumpkin Palooza. Regular meetings begin Sunday, November 3. 
 wphoto provided
Young Life members prepare to carve pumpkins at a recent get-together called the Pumpkin Palooza. Regular meetings begin Sunday, November 3. wphoto provided
Young Life, a non-denominational organization for youth, returned to Sisters last fall under the direction of Shannon and Doug Miller with the help of many volunteers. A year in, Shannon Miller says the group has gained name recognition and support, high school kids are coming to the weekly meetings and a number have been to Young Life camps.

On its website, Young Life, which was founded in the 1940s and has grown into an international organization, states its mission as being to “introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ” which Miller explains is much different than a traditional church youth group.

“Everyone’s welcome no matter where they are at in life. Our goal is creating a space that’s fun, that kids can be real and for us to share where our hope comes from,” she said.

The Millers came to Sisters about a year and a half ago after a stint of working at the Washington Family Ranch, a Young Life camp, near Antelope. Their initial push was to find dedicated adult volunteers in the community in order to build a proper foundation for Sisters Young Life to function properly. Sunday night meetings began over the past few months with 5 to 10 teens involved, but a larger “kick-off” for this school year is happening Sunday, November 3.

A typical meeting includes some food, a game or skit, and a brief story or teaching from one of the adult leaders, but especially giving the kids time to talk.

“It’s most important for us to create a safe environment that allows the youth a chance to talk and to ask questions,” she said. ”Of course, we always try to have a little fun along the way.”

Among the volunteers are key players Kent Boles, Brooke and Damon Frutos, Val Allen, and Julie Swisher.

Young Life volunteers also finds other ways to support students. Shannon organized a group of girls who went to homecoming together, helping them plan and get ready. Small groups gather at times other than Sunday nights as well.

An example of the fun factor came October 27 with an event called Pumpkin Palooza, which was the first real event of the year for Young Life. The group visited a pumpkin patch, shared a meal, and launched pumpkins in the dark using a catapult.

The first meeting of the year is set for this Sunday evening, November 3, at the Miller’s home located at 533 N. Freemont St. in Sisters. Meetings start at 7:27 p.m.

Advertising thus far has been relatively low-key according to Miller.

“It’s mostly been word-of-mouth — students telling other students — so it’s growing organically and sort of slowly, which is perfectly fine. We want the kids to own it,” she said. “We’ve had parents come along at times to check it out and that’s fine, too.”

Future meetings may take place at other locations. Miller suggests that people check the Sisters Young Life Instagram page for updates.

As an organization, Young Life also has a middle school program called Wyldlife, but for now some of the volunteers for Young Life are helping with the youth group called “Collide” held on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Sisters Westside Church campus in collaboration with Vast and Westside Church.

“Even though we don’t have an official group for middle-school-aged youth, we are still promoting kids going to our camps and doing what we can to help support Collide so this age group also had opportunities to get together,” she said.

Reflecting over the year, Miller feels deep appreciation for the way the Sisters community has “supported and embraced” Young Life.

“It’s been a joy getting to know people,” she said. “I have loved getting to know the kids in Sisters.”

Miller has four children of her own, including a high school sophomore, so she can appreciate more than ever how much teens benefit from a group like Young Life. She said, “Young Life brings a message of hope to teenagers. We find adults who genuinely care about kids and put them in a place where they can help them navigate the difficult waters of adolescence.”