Steve Christian says he was not popular when he was a teen.
“I was always the other brother of the brother who got picked first for the dodge ball team,” said the the new director of Wyld Life as he relates to a group of nearly 50 middle school students from Miles River Middle School and neighboring towns.
Christian admitted to the group that sometimes he didn’t feel like he fit in but he always knew God cared about him.
“This is a safe place where you can come on a Friday night and feel accepted and loved,” he said.
His message did not fall on deaf ears as teens leaned forward to hear more. For some, it seemed they could identify with his journey trying to find his place in the turbulent world of adolescence.
Christian’s story was just part of an evening of fun, games, skits, songs and discussion all aimed at connecting with teenagers. The event was held at the Hamilton-Wenham Parks and Recreation Gym located behind the .
The Wyld Life program is part of the Young Life Boston North Shore organization’s ecumenical mission to help teenagers navigate the uncertain waters of adolescence. Kids from all walks of faith are welcome to share in the pursuit of friendship, honor and respect.
The goal of the program is to provide a safe and fun environment for middle school students while helping to shape values. This, according to Christian, is critical to an adolescent’s development of empathy in an environment where bullying can do irreparable harm.
“I want to see that culture changed by teaching there are codes of conduct and common moral values,” said Christian.
Longtime advocate, Ron Huth, says it is pretty neat to see the tri-level of college student volunteers from , students and the middle school studnets sharing a vision of caring and lending support to each other in a non-judgmental environment.
“This is really neutral ground where the goal is to see kids share mutual respect for each other,” said Huth.
Huth was former area director for the high school program Younglife from 1977-1990. He said the mission of Young Life’s organization is to disciple to students while helping them to work through adolescent issues.
Although the group intended to hold its popular “Man Hunt” event outdoors, concerned parents and organizers worried about the West Nile virus and ultimately decided to hold the event inside.
“Usually Wyld Life meets 1-2 times a month, at the Bennett Center at Gordon College. Cost is $10, pizza is included, and all kids are welcome,” said Huth.
The high school Young Life groups meet once a week before school for breakfast, and on Thursday evenings.
HW Senior Bailey Grinnell has been involved in Wyld Life first as a participant and as a volunteer for the past three years.
“It’s a place where MS kids get a chance to goof off and be themselves,” said Grinnell.
As part of the Younglife group, Grinnell meets once a week for breakfast at the Depot Diner with Gordon College leaders. On Thursday nights at Conrad Hall on Gordon’s campus she is involved with the “DGroup” which connects her in Bible study with fellow members.
“After the group has club time, we get together to play silly games,” says Grinnell as she smiles.