YFC Awarded Grant to Serve Highest-Risk Youth

Stateline Youth for Christ is proud to announce it has received a $15,000 grant for Juvenile Justice Ministry Aftercare Services. The grant was awarded by the Dr. Louis & Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois’ Community Grants Program.

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Juvenile Justice Ministry Aftercare Services helps juvenile offenders develop a new way of living and bridges the gap between well-intended plans during lock-up and real life application. Through mentoring, educational success tracks, and life skills training, high-risk youth will re-engage with educational and career goals and become productive members of our community.

Haddon Anderson, Executive Director of Stateline Youth for Christ, said, “Reaching our highest-risk youth is a clear need in our community, and we believe it’s time to be proactive. This well-rounded program intentionally seeks to walk alongside youth upon reentry, combating against recidivism and empowering youth with hope and brighter futures.” 

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Stateline Youth for Christ seeks to empower disadvantaged teens spiritually, socially, and emotionally through creative programs and healthy relationships with adult mentors. Its outreach has recently grown to now include seven sites in the community—City Life (in partnership with the YMCA), Campus Life (in partnership with five local schools), and Juvenile Justice Ministry.

The mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is to serve as a catalyst for giving in order to attract, preserve, and grow an endowment for current and future needs of Northern Illinois. Since its founding in 1953 CFNIL has granted more than $71 million for charitable purposes. Learn more about CFNIL’s grantmaking and commitment to endowment at cfnil.org.

The Meaning of Campus Life

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In all of our ministries, we value going to where young people are—schools, the YMCA, the juvenile detention center.

This is at the heart of YFC’s mission as we seek to engage lost 11-19 year olds in Christ-centered, mentoring relationships.

One of our staff members, Dan Sears, recently described our approach in such a helpful manner, connecting what we do to what God has done for us. Here are his words:

“Where are you?”

This is the first question God asked mankind in the Bible. Of course, God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were. And He came down to them. He seeks us out much the same way, right where we are. No matter the circumstances. Jesus has over 40 such encounters with people in the Gospels, with few being in a religious setting. Most are at homes and in the workplace. And so, we feel called to meet students right where they are. On their turf.

This is Campus Life.

Key Takeaways from YFC Regional Leadership Conference

Our team at YFC just enjoyed a life-giving, insightful weekend together at the Youth for Christ Regional Leadership Conference. Here are a few key takeaways:

1. Interdependency: The distinct theme of not only the conference, but also the organization’s direction is interdependency. This idea was unpacked throughout the weekend, centering on our need as leaders to be dependent on Christ and one another. John 17 captures this, as our oneness truly has power. We will not bear fruit isolated from an interdependent relational focus on Christ and others.

2. Casting a Big Vision: YFC National desires to one day reach 1,000,000 young people through authentic, Christ-sharing relationships. Currently, the organization is reaching less than 100,000. This vision will not happen overnight. But why cast a small vision when there is overwhelming need? More importantly, why cast a small vision when we have a huge God? Through interdependency on Christ and one another, we believe a big vision should be cast across the entire YFC movement. Our chapter is thrilled to be a player in this.

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3. Fun: We took 11 local leaders to the conference, and we had a blast. Two six-hour van rides, time in the hotel, eating out, and soaking up the conference created more meaningful bonds among our leaders. The unity of our team has been strengthened, and it largely happened through having fun together. One simple way to create interdependency with others is to simply have fun and laugh together. We did plenty of this!

These few days strengthened and equipped us for ministry in Rockford. We now take practical steps to develop as leaders. Please be praying for us!

Investing in Our Leaders

Ministry is not always easy.

Leaders often run dry on energy, encounter family struggles, and face the weight of spiritual battle. Externally, ministry leaders can appear is if they have everything together, but internally it can be a grind.

This may sound like ministry is depressing. Now, it certainly does have its joys and many rewarding moments. But we also want to paint an accurate picture of reality. Ask any experienced ministry leader or pastor and they will most likely highlight its challenges.

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This is why we place a high emphasis on investing in our leaders at Youth for Christ. We want to equip our staff for a marathon of fruitful ministry, rather than a sprint towards early “success” but ultimately burnout.

We are grateful for our YFC National organization that emphasizes personal soul care and ongoing leadership development. We are headed as a staff this weekend to the YFC Regional Leadership Conference, where we will not only be equipped to serve youth better but also reflect on our own growth towards Christ.

We want to continually encourage our leaders to draw near to the heart of God (James 4:8). Without space to pursue this, our souls are empty. We go through the motions in ministry. We hit a wall. We are vulnerable.

We therefore value weekends such as this, where our souls are refreshed. Moreover, we gain vision to take practical steps to ensure ongoing spiritual growth, marriage and family health, and best practices for fruitful ministry.

Pray for an uplifting weekend for our team. Pray more importantly for ongoing spiritual strength for our leaders. This core focus at YFC is extremely important for our organizational health and impact.

"Big 3" Youth for Christ Updates (October 2018)

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Below are the "Big 3" October updates from Youth for Christ!

1. New staff: We are really excited about our growing team at Youth for Christ. We now have 10 staff members, and we want you to get to know them! Click HERE to view our updated staff page with brief bios on our team members. Thank you for helping make our growth possible! 

2. Increasing Favor: We now have 7 ministry sites, and we are blown away by the favor at these locations. The schools are desiring increased involvement from us. Winnebago County Juvenile Probation is getting behind our Juvenile Justice Ministry Aftercare services. The YMCA is making strategic accommodations for the advancement and growth of City Life. We are encouraged! Now we move forward in faithfully serving youth in need with excellence while casting vision towards more sites! 

3. YFC Night at Dickey's Barbecue Pit: Come join us this coming Tuesday, October 23rd at Dickey's Barbecue Pit (845 S Perryville Rd #115, Rockford, IL 61108). Support the ministry of Youth for Christ while eating terrific barbecue. We hope to see you!

Thanks to all who support our mission at YFC!

Practicing Lament: "I'm Sorry" (Part 2)

In my previous post, I discussed the art of practicing lament through learning to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). 

This is difficult work. Encountering the pain of others is overwhelming. We want to "fix" things. We search for solutions. Practicing lament requires patience, listening, learning, and faithfulness.

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We at YFC have learned a couple practical ways to practice lament:

1. "I'm sorry:" These are simple but profoundly helpful words. When absorbing the pain one has experienced, lengthy responses that are intended to be doses of encouragement are often untimely. They can confuse, shame, and overwhelm. People in grief need comfort through a listening and understanding counselor and friend. "I'm sorry" is the starting point for such a posture. "I'm sorry" captures that we are groaning with them. We recognize their hurt. We see the world is broken with them, in that moment.

We are learning to resist the lure to offer the "profound" to a discouraged heart and rather offer the simplicity of listening and saying "I'm sorry." This posture is ultimately one of love that shows genuine concern for humanity and beckons our need for a Redeemer. 

2. Faithfulness in relationship: Even more powerful than saying "I'm sorry" is the faithfulness of relationships. We at YFC talk about a "ministry of presence" in which we keep showing up and investing in relationships. Practicing lament involves faithfully walking alongside hurting people, choosing to remain active in the trenches. Pain does not go away quickly. Relationships are invaluable. We are learning to more and more create a culture of faithfulness at each ministry site. People need to know we will be there.

Basically, we need to learn to say "I'm sorry" and then stay present in people's lives. Personally, it's such influences in my life that have had the most meaningful impact. May we learn to practice lament in such a manner that truly loves people and points to the gospel.

Practicing Lament

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Sometimes we feel like we always have to have an answer.

When someone confides in us, we seek solutions. When we hear a problem, we try to fix it. When a friend is discouraged, we try to encourage with a timely word.

But when dealing with pain, the above responses do not affirm what we read in Romans 12:15, “weep with those who weep.”

At a recent staff meeting, we discussed addressing the pain of our youth. Such challenging conversations are a normal reality for YFC staff and volunteers. As a result, learning to “weep with those who weep” is a vital lesson for healthy ministry.

Sometimes a listening ear is what is most needed. Sometimes a shoulder to cry on is what provides comfort.

We are, therefore, encouraging our team to "practice lament,” which may sound strange. However, we believe a posture of lament demonstrates the power of the gospel towards people. It recognizes the brokenness of our world. It shows concern for humanity. It beckons our need for a Redeemer. It magnifies our need for love. It points to Jesus.

Jesus was not quick to provide “answers” to hurting people. He listened. He asked questions. He wept. He loved. He comforted. He shared truth with discernment. What an amazing model.

Practicing lament is an art. People are so complex. Sometimes one might need a specific encouragement, but often times learning to “weep with those who weep” is the most pressing need. It is through such a posture that an arrow is pointed to the gospel.

There is more to explore here. Stay tuned for Part 2.  

"Big 3" Summer Highlights (August 2018)

It has been a busy summer for Stateline Youth for Christ. Here are a few summer highlights:

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1. 13 kids: In July, our team took 25 local teens to Youth for Christ Camp, and 13 kids placed their faith in Christ for the first time. We praise God for each young person finding hope in Christ! We also recognize the importance of sustaining and growing these relationships after the Camp experience. We as a staff are focusing on the importance of ongoing "discipleship" (check out a recent blog post on this topic). Pray for God's continued work in the lives of our youth! 

2. Staff Growth: A year ago, we had 6 staff members and 4 ministry sites. By the end of August, we anticipate 10 staff members and 7 ministry sites. We are so encouraged by the leaders joining our team. Many of you have made this possible. The growth of our team is resulting in more ministry sites, which means more active leaders reaching kids, which means more young people encountering Christ's love. Thank you. Let's keep going! 

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3. YFC 5K 4 Kids: The third annual YFC 5K 4 Kids is scheduled for Saturday, September 29th at Midway Village. Click this link to register for the event and also consider sharing our campaign page to support our work. 

Please keep YFC in your prayers as we enter into a busy/exciting season of ministry!