Young Life has been impacting Black Hills communities for over 15 years with the goal to give kids the tools and information they need to make good choices about peer pressure, friendship, education, faith, family and the future.
When Chris Parrish was a freshman in college, Corey Harouff, the Young Life Area Director and his former Youth Pastor, gave him the opportunity to work part-time as a Student Staff. He continued to work part-time all through college and, after graduating, decided to follow the calling into full-time ministry. That was almost 14 years ago.
As the Associate Area Director, Chris Parrish oversees the direct ministry with high school students. This includes planning, organizing, and implementing the weekly Clubs, Bible studies, summer camps, special events, and Contact Work (Young Life’s lingo for hanging out with kids). Another large part of his job includes building volunteer leadership and support teams and training them to do ministry with kids.
Tell us about your family
Just over eight years ago I met my wife Sharon when we were repositioned to walk down the aisle together in a friend’s wedding. Three years later, we did it again as bride and groom. We now have two amazing kids, Emory (4) and Copeland (1). Emory is always the life of the party and steals the show if there is a show to steal. Copeland is all boy and is definitely a risk taker; always trying to climb the highest object he can find. We love our kids so much and are excited to do life and ministry together.
Tell us about Young Life
Our high school ministry is called Young Life, while our ministry to middle school students is called WyldLife, and our post-high school ministry is referred to as Young Life College. The local ministry is fueled by over 40 volunteer leaders working directly with kids, dozens of volunteers who support behind the scenes and hundreds of individuals and businesses who support us financially.
What makes you so passionate about what you do?
When I look at the kids I work with in Young Life, I see myself in high school. I was so lost and confused. I am passionate about what I do because of the personal impact it had on me. I know it sounds cliché, but I just want to do the same for other kids out there. I want to show up in their lives and not give up on them when everyone else has. I want to show them that they are significant and that they matter. I want to speak truth into them and tell them of a God who is crazy about them and loves them more than they can even imagine. Young Life is the best way that I’ve found to do that.
How does Young Life Impact families in the Black Hills?
It’s amazing to see the difference we are making in the lives of kids, not only on a Spiritual level, but on a practical level, too. We build a trusting friendship with kids so that we can speak truth into their lives. If I had to sum up the “how we impact families” with one word, it would be hope.
When you work in a ministry that involves deep relationships and changed lives, memories are usually pretty significant and pretty easy to come by. I suppose the best memory would be compiled of the faces of kids who have sat across from me with a new sense of hope in their eyes, a hope that only comes from God, as they’ve received Christ into their life. Those are the memories I keep close and often times keep me going.
What message do you need people to know about the organization?
There are thousands of kids in the Black Hills area who are wanting a genuine relationship with someone who would accept them for who they are, tell them they matter, and show them they are loved. You can be that person. You can make a difference. If you are looking for a way to make an impact in this community, I encourage you to contact us.