Like many ministry workers around the country, Youth For Christ (YFC) Campus Life Director April Lovins had to get creative when it came to continuing to reach at-risk kids in the Greater Miami area.
Long before COVID-19 impacted the region, Lovins and her team had been active in surrounding counties, with three Youth For Christ City Life sites in high-need areas. Additionally, dance and music ministry groups were reaching kids on middle school campuses, and YFC had a presence at 22 sites, some on-campus and some off-campus. Plus, staff and volunteers were working with local juvenile justice centers as well as training about 100 youth leaders.
“So before COVID-19, there’s been a lot of inspiring ministry going on all over the county and expanding in the Ft. Lauderdale area as well,” Lovins said.
But the Greater Miami YFC team had to find new ways to get to the kids they had been mentoring and serving for months if not years. And other Youth For Christ chapters around the nation faced the same gathering challenges but also the same urgent needs.
“No one has been immune to the effects of COVID-19, and this is especially true for at-risk youth who were already in challenging situations even before the coronavirus changed our daily lives,” said Youth For Christ President Dan Wolgemuth. “These very tangible needs of kids across the country include food and shelter, as well as the intangible but crucial realities of hopelessness, fear and despair. Around the country, Youth For Christ staff and volunteers are reaching out — one kid at a time, one family at a time — to make a real difference in their lives, not only now during these unprecedented times, but for eternity as they meet Jesus on a personal level.”
Much of the face-to-face interaction may currently be on hold, Lovins said, but “meeting felt needs” remains the goal.
For example, one Miami-area YFC representative still has an in-person presence at one of the detention centers because he is working in the essential mental health arena, while YFC teams in Dade County are getting food to kids and their families. Last month, YFC City Life programs provided Easter baskets to drop by houses, and today, twice a week, the teams are organizing meal pickups at the YFC City Life site, especially for breakfast and lunch, which families are accustomed to receiving through now-closed schools.
“These are some of the hardest neighborhoods hit — in any crisis — because of the lack of resources,” Lovins said.
At another detention center where YFC ministers, staff were granted permission to continue mentoring sessions with the girls as well as lead weekly devotionals on topics such as anxiety, crisis and hope.
“So they can still meet with their mentors and go over their curriculum every week, which is miraculous,” Lovins said.
Technology has played an enormous role in how YFC in Greater Miami continues to connect with kids. Within the first week of stay-at-home orders, young YFC staff were producing lively, educational, relatable, interesting — and “hilarious” — Instagram Live videos, Lovins said.
These connections through online efforts have opened doors to engagement between fellow staff as well as with kids who might have never interacted in person with YFC before COVID-19. For instance, a YFC Campus Life intern who accepted Jesus as her Savior through Youth For Christ three years ago recently joined a Zoom Bible study to tell her personal story and share how the group has made a difference in her life.
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.
This spring’s #BetheStory event for the Greater Miami Youth For Christ will be available on Vimeo through June 30.
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. Learn more about Youth For Christ at its website, www.yfc.net, Facebook and Instagram pages, Twitter feed @yfcusa or on Vimeo.