Vital Work in a Variable World

Vital Work in a Variable World


In youth ministry of any kind, a large amount of turnaround is typically a bad sign. It may reveal the need for discussions about how to keep students instead of just attracting them. But when working with military kids, frequent turnaround is just the nature of the game.

“Within a year, we can see a whole new group of kids that we’ve never had before,” explains Joy Downey, Youth For Christ staff at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

With families receiving frequent Permanent Change of Station orders, the time to build relationships is short.

“We know we only have a little bit of time with them, so we go as deep as we can.”

Joy personally experienced the impact of Christian outreach while she grew up as a military brat. That impact led her to get a degree in youth ministry so that she could pass it on.

“It’s important for there to be people who want to reach out to military kids, because life is hard for them,” she says from experience.

Now she and her husband, who is an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army, work with military brats through YFC at Ft. Campbell. “He loves it, too,” she smiles.

Two current students who attend Joy’s middle school YFC Club are siblings. They moved to Ft. Campbell last fall, their dad has been deployed for most of the year, and their mom is one of the YFC chapter’s biggest supporters. Her children, Jack and Marisa, are in the 7th and 8th grades and got plugged into YFC by attending the Friday after-school club, a time of crazy games and fun. Eventually, they started coming to Friday night club—a time of deeper study with a Bible-based message.

While Joy wouldn’t say that they come from a “churchy” family, she has seen the two middle school students blossom in the ministry—especially Marisa.

Marisa used to arrive to Club, sit down on the couch, and not talk to anyone. Now, she is interactive and a vital participant. “It’s been nice to see her come out of her shell and join in on games, and talk in Bible study,” says Joy.

Joy says that reaching out to military kids is vital work.

“There’s so much uncertainty and change in military life,” she says. “This is something that is there for them consistently. There is one person that will always be there for them, and that’s Jesus.”

And she believes that lesson has the potential to be deeply etched into the hearts of kids who grow up in the military.

“If we can introduce them to this now in middle school when life is crazy, that Jesus is the solid foundation that they can hold on to when everything else is crazy and uncertain, then we have to trust that wherever they end up next, those seeds will be watered.”

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