By Taliyah Chalmers
The new Shelby-Tipton Area Young Life director is scheduled to share vows Nov. 23 with fiancé Mel. He is also currently setting up residence in Shelby County, making the transition from his hometown of Jackson.
Spurgeon is even in the market of finding a new church home. He began to find the Lord through Young Life while in high school. Now he wants to do the same for students of Tipton-Rosemark Academy and Millington Central and Arlington high schools.
Young Life is a non-denominational Christian outreach group for youths.
“I started this job July 1 of this year, so for three and a half months,” he said. “When I was in high school, I went to Young Life and I had a ton of fun. I loved going and it was a good thing for me.
“I went to college and I actually started following Jesus, and when I volunteered to work at a young life camp that’s when I was in college,” Spurgeon continued. “And that experience changed my life working at that camp for a month. It was a camp called Windy Gap in North Carolina.”
That time in the Tar Heel State shaped and motivated Spurgeon to reach the position he holds today with Shelby-Tipton Area Young Life.
“So, after that experience of a man’s life I wanted to go be a Young Life leader. I want to tell kids the truth about who Jesus is and I want to make sense to them,” he said. “So, when I was in college in Knoxville I was a volunteer Young Life leader for three years at a high school called William Blount High School in Maryville, Tennessee.”
Spurgeon graduated from Trinity Christian Academy in Jackson and The University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But his earlier work in Young Life pointed him in the direction of a calling.
“I loved it so much I decided I wanted to do this for my full-time job. I applied, and I got the job,” he recalled. “So, this is the start of my fifth year working for Young Life full time.”
One of Spurgeon’s goals is to get more kids into Young Life, and he is dedicated in doing so.
“I would say it’s showing up where kids are and training with Young Life leaders to show up where kids are and let them know how much they’re loved and cared about,” Spurgeon stated. “It’s showing up to their football games, it’s showing up to lunchrooms or to practice or being friends with kids is the best way for us to effectively communicate how much kids are loved by us but more so by Jesus.”
Once being a teen, Spurgeon understands the struggles teenagers go through and why it’s important for them to have a good relationship with Jesus.
“I say it’s really hard to be a kid, especially being in high school and there’s all kind of stuff telling you who you should be, how you should be, and what you should do,” Spurgeon noted. “And we have social media and kids look at that and it’s like I should be like that person, this person when the truth is the reality is that in each of us we’re created to be in a relationship with Jesus.
“And our identity and who we really are can be found through Jesus,” he continued. “So that’s my hope that kids would know that Jesus loves them the exact way as they are and not as they should be so that’s why I feel it’s important. I thinks it’s important for everybody, especially high school kids. There’s so many voices telling them all kinds of different things. But the voice they should listen to and the clearest voice is Jesus.”
Spurgeon works hard to keep the children active and make activities enjoyable for them.
“We have Young Life club every week in Millington at the Green Top Commodore Villages Apartment Complex. We have that every Monday,” Spurgeon said. “TRA has club every other week at Chad and Mindy Parkinson’s house for kids who go to TRA. Arlington has (its) own club every Tuesday where they meet from places around Arlington. As far as Millington goes, we had an event called the Ice Cream Olympics where we played a bunch of games that involved ice cream and had a big ice cream food fight at the end. They just threw ice cream at each other and had fun, have a blast.”
Young Life participants even have chances to travel outside of the state.
“We just got back from our weekend camp trip to Clearwater Cove in Branson, Mo., where we took a bunch of kids from Millington to camp, where we went tubing,” Spurgeon said. “There’s a ropes course. There’s arrow tag and every night the speaker shares the truth about Jesus and how kids can relate to him.”
Spurgeon has many responsibilities but doesn’t do it alone. He has a staff to help him out.
“Right now, there’s three of us that work for Young Life in this area,” he noted. “There’s me, Wes Wagner, who is a staff associate, and Wes is in charge of Arlington stuff. And Chance Taylor, who graduated from Millington a few years ago, he runs Millington Central High School Club. He’s on student staff, so he’s a student of The University of Memphis but works part time for Young Life as well, so that’s our staff.”
Then there is a team of volunteers helping the organization have better outreach.
“We have volunteer leaders at Tipton-Rosemark Academy,” Spurgeon noted. “Chad and Mindy, a couple, volunteer in Arlington. Then once Mel and I get married Nov. 23, so coming up right around the corner she’ll hop on the Millington team with us as a volunteer leader.”
As the director of Young Life, he knows that keeping his faith is important. That’s why Spurgeon is on the hunt for a new church home.
“I’m still visiting right now. I’ve been to a few churches in the area. I’m trying to make sure I go where God is calling Mel and I to go,” he said. “So I haven’t found a place yet but I’m actively looking and I’ve felt really welcomed and wanted by a few other places but I haven’t found one that I settled on yet.”
While Spurgeon’s personal life gets settled in his new home, he also has some new plans for Young Life in Shelby-Tipton.
“My hope is that is a few things that we would be able to take Young Life to places Young Life has never been,” he acknowledged. “So I hope in the future that we can have Young Life club at Munford, Bolton, Brighton, Bartlett and different schools around the area.
“My hope is that we can grow and expand keep getting kids in front of Jesus — let them know how much they’re loved,” Spurgeon added. “I hope we can grow wider but also hope we can grow deeper that the kids that we already have that we can walk with them in a much deeper way then we currently do. That we would have multiple camp trips in the summer where kids get to experience and be introduced to Jesus. Once they meet Jesus they would continue to walk in their faith and grow deeper.”
Another important part of Spurgeon’s job is making sure the funds are there to perform spiritual tasks.
“And I want them to walk with him in that way, so growing wider, growing more but also deeper and that means we got to have more volunteer leaders,” Spurgeon concluded. “We got to have more staff, got to raise more funds, but I want to dream really big and dream the biggest dreams that we can and hope that as many kids as possible hear about who Jesus is.”
Spurgeon will get a chance to introduce himself to many in the area Oct. 22 at the annual Young Life Banquet Oct. 22. It’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Crosspointe Baptist in Millington. To RSVP, visit STCYL.com/RSVP.