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Monday, March 4, 2024

Tyson was in trouble.

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As a charismatic, star high school athlete, it was easy to assume that Tyson had few worries. He had passing grades and was a standout on the basketball court, even earning a college scholarship to play. Things appeared to be going well, but when the police showed up to Tyson’s practice and escorted him to the police station, he could no longer hide his reality. He was in trouble and needed someone in his corner. Luckily, he had Matt.
In early 2020, Tyson (a sophomore) and Matt (a Young Life leader) met through Young Life at Tyson’s high school in Indianapolis and connected quickly over their mutual love of sports. They grew close, often talking about Tyson’s future and how his faith would help guide him. Matt even got to know Tyson’s mom, and she became active in the local Young Life Committee. So when Tyson found himself in the back of a police car, he knew he could call Matt and that he would be there for him, because he was his Young Life leader, and that’s what Young Life leaders do, they show up.
For over 60 years in the Indianapolis metro area, Young Life leaders have been going to students, building relationships with them, sharing about the love and grace of Jesus, and helping students grow in their faith.
In layman’s terms, the message of Young Life is “Jesus”, the method is “relationships”, and its foundation is the local Committee. The Committee cares for Young Life staff and volunteer leaders, helps partner with local churches and other organizations that provide support for students, and helps raise the funding needed to ensure that ministry continues.
But what about communities that have willing community members but are less financially resourced? Is Young Life sustainable in less financially resourced areas of the city? How can Young Life join in the love, care and support of students in those communities and those schools if it is dependent on local funding? There are a handful of people working to figure that out, and I am honored to be one of them.
My name is Jonathon Gorny and I serve as the Regional Director of the Raceway Region, overseeing Young Life in Indiana and Kentucky. 16 months ago my family and I moved to the Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood from Chicago where I served for 14 years in the culturally rich and racially diverse Near West Side of Chicago. While there, I realized that the overall structure of Young Life was earnest but needed improvement to be sustainable in communities with fewer financial resources. In transitioning to Indianapolis, a primary focus of mine has been to create a sustainable funding model for ministry in any community, regardless of funding ability.
Luckily, I am not alone in my efforts. There are two groups that are actively working with me and have in many ways paved the way for this shift to happen.
First is the current group of Young Life staff working in Indianapolis. Though limited by our funding model, they are actively engaged with students at Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, Herron, Lawrence Central, North Central, Perry Meridian, Pike Twp., Purdue Polytechnic, and Southport high schools and are working tirelessly to ensure that funding and ministry continues in their communities. Without their heroic efforts, Young Life would not exist in these schools.
The second is a group of community members from across Indianpolis that gathered in early November to strategize an alternative funding structure for the Raceway Region. They have a deep desire to see the love of Jesus transform students and communities, and are aware of Young Life’s need to adjust its funding structure. With their help, they have devised an alternative funding structure that will be in place within the next 12 to 18 months. This new model will act similarly to a short term endowment or venture capital account for ministry and will make it possible for any community in Marion County to have Young Life regardless of access to funding. Some of these men and women also serve on the Regional Board of Directors and will help oversee the development and distribution of funds to ensure equitability across the region.
By having local staff able to focus more on their work with kids, area Committees focused on caring for their staff and volunteers, and the region working to ensure finances do not prohibit any community from having Young Life, we will be able to grow in our participation in the reconciliation of more communities across in Marion County and are honored to partner with the many organizations doing similar work.

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