First Priority, 4KIDS and Saints Celebrate 25 Years of Ministry

first priority
Chris Lane, Kevin Enders and Coach Rick Andreassen Photo Credit: Justus Martin

In school, at home and on the field, three important South Florida ministries have been reaching kids with the love of Christ for 25 Years. First Priority of South Florida shares the gospel with students at public school clubs, then equips them to reach their campuses for Christ. 4KIDS began in response to the foster care crisis, providing hope for kids in crisis with the vision of a home for every child. And Saints Homeschool P.E., founded by Coach Rick Andreassen, ministers to the heart of the child through sports, embodying the slogan “Where Jesus is Lord and Every Child is a Winner.”

While their approaches differ, each team shares a deep concern for children during these turbulent times and a desire to mobilize the church to meet real needs. Here’s how it all developed.

First Priority of South Florida

Chris Lane, founder and president of First Priority, said a youth conference held at First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale, where he was a youth pastor, set the wheels in motion for the establishment of First Priority of South Florida. “All the youth pastors started to build relationships and wanted to do more, so we started having quarterly events. Then we said, ‘Look at all these kids we have that go to different schools. Let’s start bringing them together and infiltrate the campus.’

Familiar with the national organization, Lane reached out to the founder of First Priority in his college town of Birmingham, Alabama, for information. Soon the Lord opened doors for funding, and they were launching their first clubs.

 

The Mission Statement of First Priority is to take the hope of Christ to every student. They do this by Connecting the Church to Reach the Campus for Christ through student led clubs.

 

What is the model?

First Priority clubs must be student initiated and student led, so we’re organizing students. We bring them together through the churches, equip them with strategies and give them the resources, so they can go do it.

Clubs in public middle schools and high schools deploy the EPIC strategy, which stands for Equip, Prepare, Invite and Connect. In a revolving 4-week cycle, they EQUIP students to share and live out the gospel. PREPARE students’ hearts to hear about Jesus. INVITE friends to hear the gospel. Then CONNECT students to each other and to local churches.

The invitation usually involves free donuts or pizza.

 

What is the impact?

First Priority of South Florida finished Last school year with 228 campus clubs, over 3,000 kids made decisions for Christ and 476 church connections were made from Miami to Titusville.

Over 25 years, Fred Revell, associate director of First Priority, estimates about 80,000 kids have responded to the gospel through their involvement with First Priority of South Florida.

 

What was the biggest challenge or darkest moment you’ve had to overcome?

We are an in-person, on-campus large group gathering, so when COVID hit, the brakes were put on hard. That was the biggest challenge we’ve ever had. You lost so much momentum, so much traction and then you’re just waiting. So, we did some creative things. We took time to revamp our guides the students use on campus. We built a mobile app and also began holding meetings on ZOOM, which was a new challenge for us. The Lord gave us opportunities to stay engaged the best we could.

Then there’s the everyday challenges. Scripture tells us there’s this arch enemy Satan that doesn’t like the advancement of the kingdom of God and the gospel. The enemy tries to discourage us and give us doubts. In our prayer today, we were reminded of Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

What is your greatest accomplishment or joy?

It never gets old to hear that it worked. After school the room was full of kids. We brought in 10 pizzas. The gospel was preached, and kids said yes to Jesus. We gave them a Bible and now they’re coming back. That happens all the time, but it’s exciting!

We have this reporting system that gives us updates and it never gets old for the “one.” That’s a real 14-year-old boy that came to Jesus. I don’t know what his life could have been, but I know this: He’s no longer dead in his sins. He’s alive in Christ. I don’t know what he’ll become one day, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone from death to life. God is moving and there is fruit every day.

 

Where is First Priority planning in the future?

Game Day is huge for us at the elementary campuses. We started Game Day in 2019 and it meets once every week in elementary schools. Their parents know its Christian, teaching the Bible. They have a Bible memory verse. We do Bible Character stories, share the gospel and then have games outside on the field.

This initiative fits directly into the 4-14 Window, recognized as the key age range for churches to introduce the gospel to children for the greatest impact, and we know that Billy Graham shared stats that 85% of people make a decision for Christ before the age of 18. So, we feel we’re right in the prime of where people come to Christ.

Right now, we’re taking Game Day to maybe 40 elementary schools, but there are over 500 elementary schools in our area, so we’ve got a long way to go. Now we’re building the infrastructure, so it’s scalable in the foreseeable future. Then the challenge is trying to raise two more million dollars a year to fund it. So, there could be a lot of really big things happening in the next few years with elementary schools.

 

Testimonial:

When Danny Somers was 16 years old, he went to the First Priority Club at Coral Springs Charter High School looking for free pizza. “I’d show up, eat my free pizza and leave until someone came up and asked my name. I was dumbfounded because they actually cared about me. They got to know me, asked me my story and invited me to church.” Somers became president of the club, came back as an adult sponsor, was hired at First Priority and is now the youth pastor at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale. “Because of First Priority I got invited to church and at church I gave my life to Jesus. Now Jesus is my everything. He gave me hope. Life completely changed. I have my career and a purpose. I met my wife at church. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.”

 

How will you celebrate?

Planning is now in the works for a 25th Anniversary Celebration in the spring of 2023 near the end of the school year. Details to be announced.

 

How can people help?

Pray! It’s because of your prayers that miracles happen.

Provide: It costs $1,200 to sponsor a First Priority club for one year in a school. $75 covers an Invite Week pizza party.

Promote: Whether it is volunteering for a Game Day Club, investing in a campus or getting your local church involved, there are many opportunities to serve.

To learn more, visit firstpriority.cc or email [email protected]

4KIDS

4KIDS was founded in 1997 with the mission to provide hope for kids in crisis and a vision of providing a home for every child. This was a time when Florida’s child welfare system was ranked 49th in the country and some children were being abused and even died within the system intended to keep them safe.

It all started when one woman, Irene Garbowski Smith, who was serving as a Guardian ad Litem, saw her kids had a revolving door of case workers and were bouncing from home to home, causing even more trauma. It was heartbreaking, so she began asking, “Where is the church?” She approached her pastors at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, and they believed they could be a part of ending this crisis, so they began Child S.H.A.R.E. to recruit Christian families, which would evolve into 4KIDS.

In 1999, the Stacy Foundation launched Project TeamWork 4KIDS under the leadership of Rick Englert, becoming the first Christian foster care agency with the vision to bring the South Florida church community together. And the two organizations joined forces in 2003, creating 4KIDS of South Florida with Doug Sauder as president until he stepped into his role as lead pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Then in 2017, Kevin Enders was asked to serve as president and CEO after a three-year search, bringing 30 years of business experience to lead the ministry. Kevin Enders, and his wife Michelle, were first recruited by 4KIDS to be foster parents back in 2006 and became licensed in 2007 and fostered several children. They went on to adopt a son in 2008 and a daughter in 2009.

 

The mission of 4KIDS is to provide hope for kids in crisis. In the last 25 years, that vision has deepened through a paradigm of hope, homes and healing that represents the unique holistic care 4KIDS is able to provide to kids and families.

 

What is the model?

4KIDS recruits, trains and licenses Christian foster families to welcome children into their HOMES in 11 Florida counties, then develops teams within their church communities who support those families in practical ways. 4KIDS provides HOPE in the way of prevention for families with kids at risk of being removed from their homes through the CarePortal technology platform. It allows child welfare workers to notify church volunteers standing at the ready about practical needs they can meet to help keep kids from entering the foster care system. 4KIDS also promotes HEALING for children, youth and families through one-on-one therapy with clinicians trained in 4KIDS’ unique trauma-informed therapeutic approach, called EPIC. Additionally, 4KIDS trains foster, adoptive and biological parents as well as people in the community in the trauma informed EPIC model so they can better help their children heal.

What is the impact?

In 25 years, over 30,000 lives have been directly impacted by 4KIDS. About 1,300 foster families have been licensed by 4KIDS since 1997. More than 5,6000 children and teens have been welcomed into a 4KIDS Foster Family and over 800 of them have been adopted. Prevention services have been received by 2,000 people through CarePortal since its start in 2020. And over 2,185 lives have begun healing through 4KIDS EPIC therapeutic approach.

 

What was the biggest challenge or darkest moment you’ve had to overcome?

A few months after Kevin Enders took the helm of 4KIDS in 2017, 4KIDS faced a challenge to a hallmark program of the ministry. SafePlace Broward, started in 2000 as a home-like environment staffed by caring Christians where children could be brought when first entering foster care to be lovingly cared for while awaiting placement in a foster family.

“It was this beautiful vision,” said Enders. But after a 17-year run, it had devolved into a situation where children coming into care for the first time were being mixed with the most difficult, sometimes violent youth coming from the department of juvenile justice, which was often causing more trauma.

For the first time, ChildNet decided to put that project out to bid, seeking request for proposals and chose a different provider to take that over. But God… we knew we put our best solution forward in our proposal. At the time we were going through a Bible study in the book of Acts, and I remember when Paul was shipwrecked, he was taking things off the ship so he could get to the desired port God had for him. That’s what we believe that God was also doing at 4KIDS. SafePlace was becoming such a challenge that it was consuming 80% of our time and was no longer what it was designed to be. I believe God was leading us out of that season and into a new place where we could provide even greater healing and support for families. The Lord gave us the courage and clarity of a renewed vision to help us evolve and grow 4KIDS into new areas that are now providing significant support and care for so many children and families that need us.

 

What is the biggest accomplishment or Joy of over the years?

“The thing that brings me the greatest joy is staying true to the ministry side of what we do, keeping God first and maintaining a culture that is still a Christian ministry,” said Enders. “Our number one thing on our strategic plan for the next three years is to maintain authentic Christianity as a foundation and deepen our spiritual intimacy with the Lord for our staff and the families that we serve so  that every decision is being committed and led by the Lord.”

Tom Lukasik, vice president of engagement for 4KIDS, added, “4KIDS has become the model of Christian foster care across the country. It’s been a wakeup call to the body of Christ in South Florida to what an orphan crisis looks like in this world today.”

 

Where are you headed in the future?

There are two really big things. We’re expanding to Southwest Florida this year and we’re about to sign our contract in Miami-Dade, so we’re growing from six counties to 12. We’ll be covering over 50 percent of the population of the state, essentially offering services from Lake Okeechobee south, which is really exciting. We’re also collaborating nationally with organizations like never before, so you’re going to see exponential impact because of the work we’re doing together.

4KIDS is also working on a phenomenal digital tool. It’s branded HopeConnect, and it’s a collaboration between 4KIDS and OneHope to bring the hope of God’s word to every kid in foster care in the US. We are partnering with several large Christian foster care ministries in Georgia, Texas and California on the launch and roll-out of this amazing new tool. The app takes families through little micro-moments they can share with their child and ends with scripture and prayer, creating gospel focus and identity.

We’re also on a global mission, taking the therapeutic EPIC approach to missionaries, schools, churches and nonprofits across the world.

 

Testimonial:

Twenty-five years after Irene Garbowski Smith’s experience as a Guardian ad Litem, set 4KIDS in motion, she said, “It’s an incredible blessing to truly see God’s hand at work. I remember the times I was on my face just praying and crying out to God to show me how we could help these kids. I saw God’s hand all over this ministry, working on behalf of his children. It’s amazing to see the faithfulness and commitment of the faith-based community in Fort Lauderdale continuing to press on to do this pure and faultless religion.” (James 1:27)

 

How will you celebrate?

4KIDS invites you to a 25th Anniversary Benefit Concert on Friday, November 11 at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, featuring musical performances by Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North and Austin French. Tickets are just $25 with all gifts benefitting kids and families in need for generations to come. For tickets and sponsorship, visit 4KIDS.us/Celebrate

 

How can people help?

Pray – because we want to continue to follow God’s lead.

Get involved – Become a volunteer. Join a CarePortal response team. Become a foster parent. We need foster families, especially in Broward County where there is a significant need.

Give – Your financial support makes a difference. About 65% of 4KIDS’ budget comes from businesses, individual donors, churches and foundations.

Visit 4KIDS.us to learn more.

Saints Homeschool P.E. and Saints International Sports Ministry

Coach Rick Andreassen remembers the moment when God gave him the vision for Saints. “It was August 27, 1997. I was on a plane reading the book A Tale of Three Kings and there was this line that said, “God’s looking for a trustworthy vessel.” When I read that, I closed the book, looked out the window of the airplane and that’s when God said, “Homeschool P.E.” So, trying to live as a trustworthy vessel, I obeyed God. I left my full-time job at New Covenant Christian School and started five weeks later with two volunteers. We had 18 kids that first year and Saints has now brought joy to children in five states and six countries through sports.

 

The mission of Saints is to share the love of Jesus Christ with children around the world through the platform of sports, creating an atmosphere “Where Jesus is Lord and Every Child is a Winner,”

 

What is the model?

Saints is a professional physical education program whose sole purpose is to provide children the benefits of an athletic curriculum under the guidelines of professional instructors. The curriculum has been written by Coach Rick Andreassen and is approved by the A.C.S.I. (Association of Christian Schools International).

Saints is held at county parks where parents drop their children off for a three-hour program of sports activities lovingly administered by a team of coaches. Kids rotate through four different physical fitness activities. It’s Christ-centered. It’s fun and it’s accredited.

When COVID hit, Saints also created “P.E. at Home” Kits. Families received all of the equipment needed in a blue plastic box and were able to follow a ZOOM class with everything available in their box: jump rope, frisbee, sack races, ping pong balls, etc. We created a full 30-week curriculum and shot two-minute videos for each class.

 

What is the impact?

Coach Rick estimates thousands of children have made decisions to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior through SAINTS Ministry…with all praise to God!! We are humbly honored when we run into parents or grandparents that say their kids were in Saints!

It is such a privilege to be a part of the lives of children and Families!!thousands and thousands” of little souls who have come to Christ through Saints with all praise to God. “Everywhere I go there are families or parents or grandparents that say my kids were in SAINTS. And it’s an honor, and privilege to be a part of the lives of children and their families.”

Prior to COVID, 10,000 kids participated in Saints each year, and over 25 years the reach is estimated at more than 60,000 children who have experienced the love of Christ through sports.

 

What was your biggest challenge or darkest moment to overcome?

Personally, its the balance between working in ministry as a coach and then working on the ministry administratively, the business side of it. On the field is where I get fueled. That’s my greater gift and my greater passion. I could stay there and that would be great. But there were times when I thought about quitting, just being overwhelmed by the busyness of it. How long can you keep that kind of pace? But it was really just putting one foot in front of the other and 25 years later here we are.

No matter what the challenges were, the kids were worth it. They are worth fighting for. Sometimes I hear about what kids are going through and I think, “Not on my watch!”

 

What is the greatest accomplishment or joy of the ministry?

Looking back now, I’m glad I said yes when God called. I don’t think, look what I’ve done, but rather look what I would have missed? And wow! All these kids! We now have children who grew up in Saints bringing their children, and I think, wow! I’m glad I said yes to God.

 

What’s new as you look to the future?

I’m not sure what the future holds but I know who holds the future. Since the pandemic, homeschooling has tripled in the United States, so we see the mission field and the opportunity like never before.

Everyday people call from other states wanting to start a Saints program, so we’re always looking to expand to other states and areas. We need staff to do it, but I know that reaching kids for Christ through games, sports and activities is the perfect way. Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more children in a year than most people do in a lifetime.” He believes that a coach is the most influential person in America today, so I would say if we can keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll just continue to reach more and more children for Christ.

 

Testimonial:

Sue Puchferran, director of Home Education Enrichment Day (HEED) began homeschooling her children on Coach Rick’s first day hosting Saints in Boca Raton. All four of her children went through the program, some served as coaches and now her five-year-old grandson attends Saints. She said, “The thing about Coach Rick that’s amazing is he’s been so steady and consistent. His character has not wavered in 25 years. He’s been such a solid role model and encourager to generations and his love for the kids is so much like Jesus… The opportunity Saints provided for all of us to connect when homeschooling was a godsend. Those friendships from the Saints days were really valuable for moms and kids, and in that sense our homeschool experience would not be the same without it.”

 

How will you celebrate?

We’re looking to do a 25th Anniversary Celebration in the spring, bringing back alumni with our current Saints family. It may be a dinner for families and a picnic the next day. Details to be announced.

 

How can people get involved?

Pray for the staff and ministry

Consider sponsoring a “SAINTS in a Box” to be implemented in another country or to be used as an afterschool program here in the United States.

Host a SAINTS Sunday at your church where they can share the vision.

Partner financially by donating online at SaintsOfFlorida.com.

Coach Rick Andreassen can be reached at 954-494-6812 or email [email protected]

 

 

first piority
Chris Lane, Kevin Enders and Coach Rick Andreassen Photo Credit: Justus Martin

MILESTONES

 

First Priority

 

Early 1990s – Dawson McAllister Student Conference at First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale brings youth ministers together. (Chris Lane is chairman of the conference and youth minister at First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale).

 

1996/97 – Broward County youth groups begin to meet together for quarterly youth events.

 

1998 – The first four First Priority campus clubs start during the school year.

 

2003 – There are 40 campus clubs in Broward with expansion into Palm Beach County.

 

2006 – First Priority expands into Miami Dade County Schools.

 

2007 – First Priority expands into Martin County School.

 

2009 – There are 110 First Priority campus clubs in South Florida.

 

2016 – Campus clubs are meeting at 200 campuses in the Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County area.

 

2019 – First Priority hires a full-time director in the Treasure Coast.

 

2019 – Game Day Clubs are launched with the goal to reach students in elementary schools.

 

2021 – Campus clubs are launched in Brevard County, expanding First Priority to the Space Coast.

 

2022 – First Priority begins their 25th year of campus ministry.

 

 

4KIDS

 

1997 – A movement begins to impact the foster care crisis in Broward County. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale forms a recruitment and support ministry for foster families called Child S.H.A.R.E.

 

1999 – The Stacy Foundation launches Project TeamWork 4KIDS under the leadership of Rick Englert, becoming the first Christian foster care agency with the vision to bring the South Florida church community together.

 

2000 – Project TeamWork 4KIDS opens SafePlace Broward.

 

2002 – The Stacy Foundation donates Kids Place with the support of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale

 

2003 – Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s foster care ministry, Child S.H.A.R.E., His Caring Place and Project TeamWork 4KIDS merge to create 4KIDS of South Florida, and Girls Place opens a family-style home for teen girls in foster care.

 

2005 – 4KIDS Independent Living begins, designed for young adults aging out of foster care.

 

2006 – 4KIDS begins licensing foster homes in Palm Beach County, operating out of Boca Raton Community Church’s gifted space.

 

2007 – 10,000 lives impacted

 

2009 – Arthur Remillard donates two family-style homes in Palm Beach County to help keep siblings together.

 

2011 – Hundred of community members come together to build a brand new His Caring Place maternity home, the Miracle Home.

 

2014 – 4KIDS creates a unique therapeutic approach, EPIC, 4KIDS launches in the Treasure Coast, and 4KIDS opens Mercy Place, a family-style home for girls in foster care who are at risk for human trafficking.

 

2015 – SafePlace Palm Beach opens with support of 4KIDS Women of Vision, and the Wasie Foundation and community partners build the Home for 4KIDS Headquarters in Broward.

 

2017 – 20 years and 25,000 lives impacted

 

2019 – 4KIDS launches the Family Advocacy Ministry (FAM) model enabling churches to wrap-around foster families with love and support.

 

2020 – 4KIDS partners with CarePortal to launch prevention-based care for at-risk families.

 

2021 – 4KIDS launches in Southwest Florida, serving Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

 

2022 – 25 years and 30,000 lives impacted!

 

 

Saints of Florida Homeschool P.E.

 

1997 – On August 27th God said “Homeschool P.E”…. those two words prompted Coach Rick Andreassen to step away from 11 years as the Children’s Pastor and Athletic Director at New Covenant Christian School and Church and start Saints of Florida Homeschool P.E. “Where Jesus is Lord and Every Child is a Winner!”

 

1997 – On October 1 the first day of Saints was held at George English Park in Fort Lauderdale with two volunteers and 18 children in attendance that first day.

 

1998-1999 – Saints began offering Homeschool P.E. classes at Tradewinds Park, TY Park and Markham Park.

 

2000 – Saints expanded to Palm Beach County and attendance DOUBLED from 500 children per week to 1000 children per week.

 

2002 – Coach Rick Andreassen had the privilege to carry the Olympic Torch for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic games, representing homeschool families throughout the world.

 

2005 – Saints of Texas and Saints of Las Vegas, Nevada, were launched.

 

2007 – The first international program opened with Saints of Zambia, Africa, and “Saints International Sports Ministry” was officially birthed.

 

2008–2013 – Saints of Haiti was opened in partnership with Mission of Hope and Rio Vista Community Church, Saints of Kenya started, and Saints of Guatemala opened in partnership with Lighthouse Community Church.

 

2016 – Coach Steve Schaffer, of Saints of Texas, launched Saints of Zimbabwe, Africa.

 

2018 – Saints of Indiana opened in partnership with Familyman Ministries and Coach Todd Wilson.

 

2018 – Saints is operating throughout five states and six countries, ministering to nearly 10,000 children annually. (To God be the glory!)

 

2020 – When COVID closes all the parks, pools and playgrounds, SAINTS of Florida Homeschool PE creates “PE AT HOME” Kits. “SAINTS SPORTS PE FOR KIDS” was officially birthed and has taken on a life of its own. “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.”

 

2022 – A VERY SPECIAL MILESTONE: On January 22, 2022, Coach Rick Andreassen “had the privilege to marry the girl of my dreams.” Faye Grigoris officially became Mrs. Faye Andreassen.

 

2022 – Saints partners with Classical Conversations, a Christ-centered homeschool academic program.

 

2022 and beyond – We don’t know exactly what the future holds for Saints, but we know who holds the future….and we know that “God is faithful!” We want to ESPECIALLY thank all of the AWESOME Saints Coaches who have made all of this possible over the years!!!

VERY EXCITING NEWS! In 2022 we will to be launching a “Coaches Training School“ (partnering with South Florida Bible College) where will will train, equipped, certify, and mobilize coaching staff to be able to reach children for Christ through games, sports, and activities!!

For more stories like this, visit https://www.goodnewsfl.org/

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