As Veterans Day quickly approaches, Americans often do not realize the impact that being in the military has not just on the person in service, but on their family as well. The lives of members of the military and their families are extraordinarily difficult. Military families move every two to three years on average, and military children change schools an average of six to nine times from the start of kindergarten to their high school graduation.
For Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net), a fixture in the youth ministry community in America for the past 78 years, these statistics emphasize the importance of the YFC Military outreach. Designed to be a place for young people connected to the military to feel like they belong, YFC Military is uncovering God’s story of hope in the next generation of military-connected young people. YFC Military is currently on 10 installations across the U.S. and also has a presence in Europe.
The Rhythm Of Change
Maddie Spencer, YFC Military’s Ministry Director, stated, “In this ministry, I have had to learn the normal rhythms of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season. We would make our best efforts to say goodbye to students, but often it was easier for them to leave quietly. It was a great joy when we were able to connect students to YFC Campus Life at their new base, knowing that there would be a welcoming and familiar ministry to make their transition easier. However, often, they are left with no foothold in their new community. Unfortunately, many don’t feel understood or welcomed by civilian youth groups. After a few weeks, they stop going and lose connection to a faith strengthening group.
“For military families across the world, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and Europe is more than the news — it can jumpstart the waiting game of being called to serve. For military-connected youth, conflict not only means the departure of a parent, but the postponement of life plans. When conflicts arise, military families proudly serve despite missed graduations, extended deployments, and delayed moves that might involve transitioning partway through the school year.”
Resilience Is What Drives
Beth Landrum, YFC Military’s Ministry Site Director, added “For military students, they know at a fundamental level that nothing is permanent. Most military connected youth will attend several different schools throughout their life. Offering young people the opportunity connect to God’s story is something that is guaranteed to be permanent. It gives them the ability to prioritize their faith. I see God working in amazing ways, coming in and filling in some of the holes that the other students might not have if their life wasn’t defined by living in places all over the United States.”
Amidst some of the struggles military-connected youth face, YFC staff have also seen their resilience and positivity. In a recent survey YFC Military conducted of military-connected youth, 78% described themselves as adaptable, 56% described themselves as able to empathize with others, over half described themselves as strong and 75% said they were “willing to sacrifice for others.”
Several YFC Military staff members, volunteers, and youth commented on the outreach, with one stating, “YFC was a safe place for all of us to be open and honest and share what we were going through.”
Missional Youth Outreach
Another commented, ‘“Come as you are and we will show you the love of Jesus…’ It’s a value I learned through YFC.”
One staff member said, “I love being able to serve kids wherever God, via the military, takes me!”
Youth For Christ has been a leader in missional youth outreach for more than seven decades and is dedicated to uncovering God’s story of hope in the next generation that desperately needs it. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement.