Lucas Westblade and Young Life Big Sky kids are all smiles at a gathering. Lucas, Shannon and two-year-old Gideon Westblade prepare to leave Big Sky to run their family business on Mackinac Island. Lucas Westblade, Ethan Parker, Pierce King, Sam Alvin, Kole Maus enjoy are recent Young Life meeting, eating pizza at Blue Moon and playing BANG! “It’s like old western Mafia, if you’ve ever played Mafia before,” Westblade explained.

A life of faith and friendship

Young Life director prepares to leave Big Sky

Lucas and Shannon Westblade moved to Big Sky in 2013 so Lucas could work with Young Life, an international Christian youth ministry in over 100 countries and in all 50 states. His position began as part-time and has grown to fulltime as the area director of Big Sky Young Life/Wyldlife. Uncommonly, Westblade is the third generation from his family to participate in Young Life. 

Prior to the move to Big Sky the couple spent six months exploring the nation, trying to find the place they were called to help. “After a lot of soul searching, we decided this was the best place for us,” Westblade said. 

Anne Childs brought Young Life to Big Sky with the new high school. With the influx of new families, she and other community members wanted a positive outlet for middle school and high school students, Westblade explained. 

Wyldlife, the middle school group, goes from sixth to eighth grades. Young Life is for high schoolers and beyond. The middle school group meets weekly on Sunday nights and the high school group meets once a month and also has several weekly bible studies. 

“He gives a lot to the community,” Young Life member Sam Alvin said while eating pizza at Blue Moon Bakery and playing a game with Westblade and three of his friends. 

“We look forward to this every week,” Ethan Parker said as the group erupted in laughter and shenanigans. 

Young Life member Kole Maus said Westblade is great at what he does. 

But by May, the Westblades will be back in their home state, Michigan, working at the family business on Mackinac Island – Haan’s 1830 Inn. 

A local committee is currently working with the Young Life area director in Bozeman to figure out what will happen when the family moves. 

“It’s helpful to have someone who is going to guide people after I am gone. Folks are trying to figure out if it’s going to go back to a volunteer position, part time or maintain fulltime,” Westblade said. “Young Life in Big Sky is locally funded. Young Life will be in Big Sky as long as Big Sky wants Young Life.” 

He continued, “I think the next generation is a really important one and they need people to invest in them,” noting that relationships outside of family or school are important for growth. “Really the crux of what Young Life does is it is about relationships. It’s not about events, it’s about the relationships that develops through those events – friendship and growth that can happen,” said Westblade. “We are even officiating Tate Tatom and Tehya Braun’s wedding June 1. They graduated four years ago.”  

Shannon is a regular volunteer, although she has slowed down on volunteering since their son was born. Westblade said Young Life currently has about eight volunteers in Big Sky, counting the high schoolers who volunteer with middle schoolers. 

“We give the older kids an opportunity to give back to kids younger than them,” he said.  

All Young Life volunteers are properly vetted with a background check and even further requirements of faith: be a part of a local faith community; believe in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior; and not do anything illegal, Westblade explained. 

Young Life leaders will meet and hang out with kids where they are – on their own turf. Those relationships can include skiing, going for hikes, eating a meal together, heading to basketball games. 

“It’s just really important for kids in Big Sky to have a safe, healthy place to explore their faith. I think Young Life is a good way of doing that in a non-judgmental place. We’ve had kids who are Jewish, Muslim and other faiths come to camp with us and ask us questions,” he said, also noting that some kids go to camp who don’t go to club meetings or kids who go to club meetings who never go to camp or to bible study. 

Westblade reiterated the organization’s positive, healthy, safe and accepting place in kids’ lives.  

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