An important connection

An important connection

Many may see the crises we are facing as a country as reasons to halt, back off, or pull away from ministry efforts. But we know these current times mean the need for the hope of Jesus Christ is even greater. Now is the opportunity to press on amid the uncertainty to find new ways to connect and serve students, families, and entire communities.

Mike McAuliff is the Youth For Christ Atlanta Executive Director, and he and his team have used the current landscape—when needs are just as urgent, if not heightened—to carry on YFC’s Campus Life ministry in whatever way possible.

“This spring, we hosted our first Campus Life virtual club, where our team dove in Matthew 5: Salt and Light,” McAuliff said. “We signed on with our teacher sponsor, leaders, and students and talked about the nourishing necessity of salt and light, as well as ways they can be salt and light in their own world. The teens identified the ways that salt and light show up in real life and drew connections to the way these metaphors play out spiritually. As one of our students put it, ‘light keeps people from stumbling around. It shows them the way.’ Isn’t that the Good News? That the Light of Life, Jesus Himself, is present and perfect to meet our needs, to keep us from stumbling, to make our paths straight. Jesus the Light is our hope, and He is always perfectly sufficient for the days we face.”

This generation of youth are the least churched, and almost 30% identify as atheists in the U.S. Over 24 million students between the ages of 11 and 17 attend 69,000 middle schools and high schools across the country. Of those, at least 15 million do not regularly attend church.

For over 45 years, the Campus Life ministry of Youth For Christ has reached out to kids on middle school and high school campuses. YFC Campus Life ministries span the country from San Diego, California, to Long Island, New York, and everywhere in between. With over 1,000 ministry sites, YFC engages 100,000 students each week. And that number is growing regularly.

One way YFC connects with these kids is through weekly Campus Life club meetings, like the one in Atlanta. Leaders have gotten creative over the past several months to set up opportunities for students to engage in deeper relationships with leaders and each other through shared experiences, despite schools being closed. By providing opportunities for students to gather in small groups, leaders and students discuss relevant issues they face as well as spiritual needs.

Jay Nebel, the principal of Sweetwater Middle School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, says Youth For Christ Campus Life has become part of the fabric of the school, not only for Sweetwater’s students, but staff as well.

“This is something that brings our kids to school,” Nebel said. “They get excited to come. They’re here early…to enjoy the festivities. They work really hard, and seeing them show up with that enthusiasm, and the great advice they receive and then taking those words back to the classroom is obviously huge. But it’s also changed the way our staff feels in many regards about the building. Campus Life brings a lot to the teachers and staff here at Sweetwater, whether it’s our teacher appreciation breakfast or other (tokens) they provide to the staff. Campus Life’s impact is not only felt on our students, but on the adults here at Sweetwater as well.”

“Since I’ve been appointed principal, every week a hundred-plus of our students look forward to their interaction with their Campus Life leaders,” Nebel continued. “They look forward to the physical activity that Campus Life provides them. They look forward to the inspiration and the advisement they receive from the Campus Life leaders. And the most important thing from all of that, for me, is seeing the connection that it creates between our kids and our school.”

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