KLIFE is a parachurch ministry within the Kanakuk empire that seeks to disciple high school students year-round through “klubs.” It was Founded in 1979 by Joe White and a former Kanakuk Kamps director, Richard Beach, and incorporated as a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1991. Many former Kanakuk campers, counselors and Kanakuk Institute graduates are hired to start, lead and fundraise for local chapters across the U.S.
KLIFE operates through a hub and spoke model: KLIFE HQ is housed alongside Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, MO, with 25 chapter cities in eight different states. Chapter organizations previously filed as independent 501(c)3 organizations, but IRS records currently show that most KLIFE chapters are no longer independently run and rather operate within a KLIFE HQ structure. Over 2,500 students are involved weekly, with more than 12,000 students each year.
KLIFE operates with a segregated model that parallels Kanakuk Kamps’ model of racial and socioeconomic segregation. Chapters that target high school students in affluent areas are called “KLIFE” and chapters that target inner-city high school students are called “Urban KLIFE”. Urban KLIFE uses a different logo than KLIFE and encourages its “klub” members to attend Kids Across America Kamps (Kanakuk’s neighboring set of segregated summer camps for “urban youth”). Urban KLIFE programming includes etiquette classes and a focus on one-on-one mentoring relationships between Urban KLIFE leaders and its young members.
Although Kanakuk Ministries claims that KLIFE is an independent organization, it is far from independent (in more ways than being founded by Joe White and an affinity for the letter “K”):
- Kanakuk Ministries and KLIFE share staff members:
- The KLIFE Regional Director for Texas also served as the Director of K-Kauai Family Kamp in 2020.
- Don Ford is listed as K-2 Co-Director and KLIFE President.
- KLIFE’s board of directors has had significant overlap with Kanakuk Ministries’ board of directors and executive team, including Doug Goodwin (current President/COO of Kanakuk Kamps) and Kris Cooper (former Executive Director of Kanakuk Kamps)
- Keith Chancey and other Kanakuk directors fundraise for local KLIFE chapters, such as this Fall 2021 Men’s Breakfast for HP KLIFE in Dallas.
- KLIFE self-describes its relationship with Kanakuk Kamps, Kids Across America and Kanakuk Institute as being “sister ministries.”
KLIFE’s impact on children expands beyond the Kanakuk Kamps audience. KLIFE representatives visit high schools throughout the school year to interact with and recruit children who are not enrolled in Kanakuk Kamps or KLIFE programming. In order to protect students, at least one school district banned KLIFE representatives from visiting high schools to interact with students at cafeteria lunch tables in 2015. Some KLIFE chapters have created affiliated 501(c)3 organizations, such as KidsLife, a spinoff of KLIFE in Sheridan, WY, which diversifies the means by which Kanakuk/KLIFE can reach children.