Different Styles Reach Different Kids: An empirical enquiry into Young Life Camping Outreach Programs in the USA and Europe
Journal of Youth and Theology
As part of a larger study on 'spiritual fruit formation' in adolescents, teenaged participants in Young Life outreach "camping" programs completed surveys immediately before and immediately after the camping experience. Participants were American teens attending standard Young Life camps in the United States (Lake Champion, New York and Sharp Top Cove, Georgia) in summer 2007 and teens from international schools from six European nations (primarily American and British by birth) attending a
... th) attending a service-oriented Young Life camp in Kovachevzi, Bulgaria, spring 2007. The outreach components of both types of camps (including talks, small group discussions, special music, games and skits) were similar as they were conducted by American Young Life program staff. Nevertheless, personality inventories revealed that a different profile of teen was more likely to 'make a commitment to God' during the Young Life service trip as compared with the standard Young Life camp. 'Making a decision' at standard Young Life camps was predicted by high extroversion and high emotional instability; whereas those teens that made a decision during the service trip were high on introversion and intellectual curiosity. Results suggest that different types of outreach camping experiences may be better at preparing different types of kids to respond positively to the Gospel message. pp 10-27 J o u r n a l o f Y o u t h a n d T h e o l o g y ( 2 0 0 9 ) v o l . 8 n o . 1 -11 Young Life has been doing Christian evangelistic outreach camping with teens for decades. Their oldest camping property in continuous operation, Frontier Ranch in Buena Vista, Colorado, was established during World War II. Young Life conducts hundreds of outreach camps-at their own properties and elsewhere-around the world every year, but the vast majority of these camps are unified by a characteristic programmatic structure. In an attempt to standardize 'best practices' Young Life camp programs tend to include a certain number of characteristic features at the core being the Young Life 'club' and talk progression. This 'Standard Model' of Young Life camping has been a key tool for Young Life to effectively reach 'every kid, everywhere, for eternity'--a recent mission motto. Whether the Standard Model does reach every kid, everywhere with equal effectiveness may be decomposed into several empirical questions. Does the Standard Model equally impact kids of different socioeconomic groups? Different ethnicities, nationalities, or language groups? Different ages, from pre-teens to late adolescents? Males and females? The present study takes up the question of whether the Standard Model is equally effective with teens with different personality types. Our null hypothesis is that regardless of teens' personalities at the beginning of Young Life camp (as measured by a "big five" personality inventory), teens will be equally likely to respond to the Standard Model camping program with a commitment to Christ. That is, whether or not a teen is extroverted, intellectually open, emotionally unstable, highly conscientious, or highly agreeable should have no relationship with whether the teen made a commitment to God at the end of the camp week. In support of this hypothesis, the correlations between personality traits and various indicators of religiousness in most prior research tend to be modest. 1&2 Based on these findings, we would predict little effect for personality. Alternatively, it could be that the Standard Model is more effective with kids of different personality types. Agreeableness and conscientiousness are two of the Big 5 factors that have been shown to be positively related to religious involvement 1 . In addition, extraversion is positively, albeit weakly, associated with the more social aspects of religion (e.g. church attendance, sense of connectedness) 2 . Given the strong interpersonal component inherent in the Young Life model, extraverts and highly agreeable individuals may be more likely to respond positively by making a commitment to Christ.