WyldLife is Young Life for middle school students.

And what is Young Life?

Well, Halifax County area director Matthew Rich can tell all about it, but he said it’s something to be experienced to get the full understanding.

“You have to come and see and experience it to really know what it’s all about,” said Rich of the ministry outreach dedicated to building teams of caring adults who form relationships with children to help bring them closer to Christ.

All sixth, seventh and eighth graders will have that chance to experience WyldLife at their next meeting on Thursday.

Young Life started in Halifax County 10 years ago thanks to the late Dave Synder who recognized the need, and former high school teacher Sarah Reaves volunteered as the area director.

“One of the things we focus on most is what we call contact work where the adults go to the schools, football games, practices and even just to where kids hang out and get coffee, and then once they build those relationships, that’s when they bring them to club and campaigners,” said Rich.

Club is what they call “controlled chaos” or a “party with a purpose” where children get to have a ton of fun and learn they can interact with people who are different from them.

“We play games and have skits. There’s lots of humor, and we sing songs. Then at the end of club, we have club talk where they hear a message about Jesus,” said Rich. “Our hope is for them to hear and experience Jesus in everything we do. Some of them might have maybe gone to church and heard about Jesus but might not have really experienced him.”

After successfully working to bring light and positivity into the high school by forming connections with over 150 students and averaging about 35 students at each club, they decided to give it a try at the middle school with WyldLife.

So far, the response has been just as good, if not better.

They started having interest meetings in the spring and held their first club this fall with three leaders and eight students.

Now attendance has jumped to an average of 40 students with their largest attendance thus far being 48 students.

Rich said they have formed connections with near 200 children already.

In addition to meeting for club, they also visit Young Life camps twice a year in the spring and summer, go on mission trips, have other outings and raise funds.

Recently, WyldLife took a trip of five leaders ranging from 18 to 55 and 15 middle school students to the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg.

And while they had club full of music, skits, game and fun as well as time at the water park, they also presented the Gospel.

Rich said they strive to introduce students to Jesus, creation and go through the person of Christ as well as talk about need, sin, the cross, the resurrection and life with Christ.

“We want to teach them that living with Him is not boring, and I hope if they have a mixed perception or view of who He is and it’s not positive, I hope that our first introduction is correct and true to who He is. In the end before they graduate, we hope to get them plugged into a church,” said Rich.

He also said having the ministry at both secondary schools offers a chance for high school students to disciple to their peers.

“Middle schoolers can see high schoolers loving on them and hopefully change their perspective maybe if they see that it’s important to them,” said Rich.

Young Life also is entirely funded by the community and recently held their main fundraiser of the year, their annual Young Life Banquet at the middle school on Nov. 16.

Rich said there were 161 in attendance, and they were able to share what the Lord is doing through Young Life in the county.

“We can’t be here unless the community financially wants us here. Thankfully every year we’ve been able to make it happen. Since we’re growing and expanding, more money is needed,” said Rich.

He also said they’re partnering with Halifax Christian School who has been allowing them to use their buses to transport students.

For more information about Young Life or WyldLife, contact Rich at halifaxyounglife@gmail.com or call 540-416-6916.

Halifax Young Life and Halifax WyldLife also can be found on Facebook for updates.

Get updates on the RemindMe app by sending 81010 @wyldlife19 or @hailfaxyl.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com