Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net) has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944. And while the times have changed, the approach remains the same, with YFC building Christ-centered communities across the country by bringing adult mentors alongside young people during pivotal moments in their lives.
One organizational distinctive is YFC’s commitment to serving those in underserved, under-resourced communities. One such community is found in central Michigan, a decidedly rural environment where isolation is common.
Fear Of Isolation
According to Tim Grant, Executive Director of Montcalm Mecosta Counties YFC, “There is a huge gap between rural here and rural everywhere else. Many of these kids live in trailers or homes where the next house is over a mile away, so they don’t have neighbors nearby who can easily check on them.”
Many students face even further isolation due to their parents’ demanding work schedule.
Grant shared, “Many kids have parents who work a third-shift overnight, which means these young people rarely see their parents during the week. They are essentially raising themselves, spending much of their time alone in their trailers.”
Schools Are A Saving Grace
Because students are spread out over a large area, schools are one of the few communal spaces available to them.
Grant noted, “Kids are bussed from the country to schools in towns, so these campuses provide a critical central space for ministry.”
This dynamic created an opportunity for YFC’s Campus Life, where mentors in schools build relationships with young people. Leaders help youth develop a Christ-centered life that provides balance mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. Critically, YFC leverages these schools to foster genuine community and connection.
The True Reality
Grant observed, “The common assumption is that today’s kids are the most connected generation in history, since everyone has a device that lets them communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world. Yet the reality is that, in the real world, many of these kids are incredibly lonely and isolated.
“So, we meet these kids where they are and try to engage in their lives. We offer a relationship based on Christ’s love for them. It’s really neat to see the eyes open up and realize that somebody loves them, no matter what.”
Grant says that schools have not only permitted YFC on site, many campuses, and administrators have enthusiastically welcomed the ministry.
“The superintendent and several principals want to help YFC Campus Life ministry keep growing,” Grant said. “They love that our leaders and volunteers provide mentoring for kids who are struggling with loneliness.”
Sharing Hope To The Hopeless
Ultimately, no matter the community context, Grant’s team is committed to sharing hope with those who often feel hopeless.
Grant said, “We are committed to coming alongside young people and meeting them where they are. We provide a place where they can let their guard down, have fun and find someone who will listen to them. We seek to help young people navigate the pivotal years of middle and high school, uncovering God’s story of hope in their lives.”