For 80 years, Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net) has been ministering to young people with the life-changing hope and healing found in the Gospel. The organization pursues children, ages 11 to 19, who are walking through pivotal, story-shaping moments, including juvenile incarceration.
YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM) is passionate about reaching these young people who often feel overlooked and undervalued by society. According to Ken Sylvia, Executive Director of Youth for Christ Central Valley in Modesto, CA, reaching these young people requires an approach that considers all aspects of their life.
Sylvia said, “One of the things we focus on at our chapter is holistic care. We want to help you thrive relationally: with your family, your parents, your teachers.”
Core to this holistic strategy is 3Story, an approach to ministry that incorporates three key narratives.
Sylvia noted, “Our work exists in the overlap of God’s story, our story and the story of a young person. At the core of all our ministries and chapters, we meet kids at pivotal moments in which God can work.”
YFC Central Valley strives to cultivate authentic relationships with at-risk youth, many of whom are incarcerated.
Sylvia remarked, “We build relationships that are sustained through ongoing involvement as young people navigate the different pillars encompassing the juvenile justice system: Community, Courts, and Corrections.”
YFC Central Valley is making a powerful inroads in this area. In 2017 Modesto’s Stanislaus County Probation reported 707 youths between the ages of 10 to 17 booked in juvenile hall. During that same year, YFC witnessed 158 of them accept Christ into their lives, a powerful testament to the ministry’s approach to evangelism.
Transitioning Into New Seasons
YFC Central Valley also provides a safe place for teens to learn life skills, which can ultimately help young people transition into vocational roles. After serving in a juvenile institution, one 21-year-old became a helper at a YFC summer camp. Soon after, YFC helped him secure a job.
“And that’s a beautiful picture,” Sylvia said. “This young man is better off, not because of what he got from us, but because he now knows what it means to be a future dad, a future husband, and a good employee; to show up, work hard and be respectful of his boss. That holistic picture is really a driver for us.”
Central Valley’s success highlights how YFC continues to meet a critical need with at-risk youth in communities across the country.
Sylvia emphasized, “Young people are hungry for something bigger than themselves; hungry for purpose, for love, for forgiveness, for healing. And we’re here to say, God loves and accepts you right where you’re at. We love you and accept you right where you’re at. Everyone is welcome.”