Giving young people everywhere the opportunity to be followers of Jesus Christ, Youth For Christ (YFC) is not only helping to change an entire generation—from kids living in dysfunctional families to juvenile offenders—it’s doing so in local areas across our land more effectively than ever before. And it’s continuing its work through COVID-19, using creative methods such as outdoor get-togethers, virtual gatherings, and much more.
“On what we call Macaroni Mondays, we make big old crockpots of macaroni and cheese and open all the doors to our building after school,” she says. “It seems like such an insignificant, funny thing, but for some kids, other than eating lunch at school, this is the only sure place for them to have a warm meal in a warm building.” - Kayla Thompson, director of YFC Northern Maine
Youth For Christ—through ministry arms such as Campus Life, Deaf Teen Quest, Campus Life Military, City Life, Parent Life, and Juvenile Justice Ministry—extends the unconditional love of God and caring support to teens whose choices and circumstances might lead them down into a negative spiral. YFC helps teens overcome the dark temptations by sharing the light and hope of Jesus Christ—one person at a time.
In the 1940s, Billy Graham became YFC's first full-time staff member.
Kayla Thompson, director of YFC Northern Maine, shares, “The poverty level in our rural area is very high. Most of our kids do not come from a two-parent household, and the drug pandemic is huge. Most of our kids are from families that are fighting that fight, and they’re just immersed in it. So that’s the everyday battle our kids face.” Given the additional challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, “the kids are just ecstatic to get together outdoors this fall in our ‘new normal,’” she says.
Thompson sees both great need and great potential in Howland, Maine, where her after-school campus ministry is based. “When we first began our ministry in 2017, we didn’t know where it was going to take us,” she says. She and her husband originally worked through a few churches and schools in town. “Then a property came up for sale, and we prayed about it. It was in the heart of town and within walking distance of the schools. We thought, ‘It would be so cool to have a spot where the kids could go.’ We prayed through all of this, and the whole community came around. They helped us with the building.” Thompson adds of YFC Northern Maine, “We are so fortunate to have both community support and school support.”
Helping teens find Christ-centered role models around them and a new peace in Christ, no matter what issues they’re dealing with, is the goal of all of YFC’s ministries, wherever they’re located.
Thompson stresses down-to-earth consistency and connection with the middle schoolers in her area. “On what we call Macaroni Mondays, we make big old crockpots of macaroni and cheese and open all the doors to our building after school,” she says. “It seems like such an insignificant, funny thing, but for some kids, other than eating lunch at school, this is the only sure place for them to have a warm meal in a warm building. They have consistency here, where there is no consistency in other areas of their lives. That’s been one of our biggest ministry models. We’ve been able to connect with the kids this way and it’s been really good.”
Over 160 YFC chapters across the nation seek out and serve youth from all walks of life. Many teens are silently struggling through a variety of challenging issues—and now they see the living power of a loving God.
Kayla Thompson believes that support and structure help young people see their way to God. “It is amazing what a bowl of macaroni can do because that’s when we’ve had the ‘realest’ conversations with the kids,” she says. “That’s when they share what’s going on at home—and the conversations open up from there.”
Youth For Christ staff and volunteers are encouraged by the YFC3Story concept, which is based on the belief that kids will be reached for Christ when they are met at their point of need—and as workers connect their stories with Jesus’s story. The ministry efforts of Youth For Christ are changing lives, one at a time.
Youth For Christ’s 3Story encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life in order to lead people to Christ. For more information, visit 3Story.org.
Nationally, Youth For Christ is telling inspiring stories like these through #YFCBeTheStory, an initiative to help spread the word across the nation about how YFC chapters are making a difference in their communities.
Youth For Christ has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when the Rev. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. 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. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has more than 160 chapters that impact communities across America.