Since 1944, Youth for Christ (YFC) has committed time, energy, volunteer staff and limited resources for reaching the nations’ youth with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Youth for Christ’s commitment to evangelism is at least partially responsible for launching the career of one of America‘s greatest evangelist. Early in their history, when the organization’s focus was still on large rallies, a young and vibrant Billy Graham was their first full-time staff member. As the times and the culture changed, so did the YFC’s approach. In the 1960’s, the group adjusted their methods, and put in place strategies that focused on reaching unchurched youth in ways that were relevant, and relational.
Today YFC continues to carry that same torch. Three programs, each with a specific focus, reach out to the unchurched youth, and according to Dan Chapin, “present the life changing message of Jesus Christ to every young person.” The traditional YFC Campus Llife organization is alive on middle school and high school campii across the Wwest Michigan area. Additionally, City Life dedicates their energy into urban neighborhoods. Dan Chapin is the Juvenile Justice Ministries Director. He and his volunteer staff spend time with incarcerated youth in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Muskegon counties. According to Dan, the juvenile justice system reaches from 1500 to 2000, eight to seventeen year old offenders annually. Some are locked behind the steel bars for only a day or two, while others stay months, or years. The average stay for a juvenile offender is three weeks, a small window to connect with a tumultuous teen in a way that communicates the love of Christ and the genuine concern from a stable adult.
Dan Chapin’s first encounter with YFC was as a teen, and he traveled the eastern part of the state with a singing group called “Satisfaction.” While they scheduled most of their concerts in churches, Dan says that these early years were his first exposure to evangelism. By the time he was a senior, he was helping with the group, and within a year of graduating from college, Dan was on staff with YFC West Michigan. “This is the only thing I want to do,” said Dan during our interview. “While I serve at the favor of the King, and He could change my direction at any time, I see myself following this path into retirement.” As the director of this hard working YFC ministry, Dan says, “I have a front row seat to life transformation.”
Dan and the staff of the Juvenile Justice Ministries of YFC have openings for volunteers. They have five specific programs, and volunteers make a 12-month commitment, plus undergo a comprehensive background check. The qualifications and the commitment are extensive, but reaching into the lives of teens that could be on their way to a self-destructive, dead-end future require a higher than normal commitment. These teens are used to adults who pop in, and drop out of their lives. The adults they know have been unreliable, unpredictable, or worse. They need to hear the message of the gospel, but they also are crying silently to meet a friend and roll model that “know the bible and know how to live.”
YFC sponsors five specific events for incarcerated teens in West Michigan. On Sunday mornings and evenings, teams enter the jails and hold Sunday services. On Monday night, a local church hosts another big group meeting with volunteers from their congregation. On holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, teams head into the jails to prepare a holiday meal, and spend time with the kids in a family setting. The latest addition to the calendar is a one on one mentoring program. YFC is forging a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters to form one-on-one relationships with the kids during their incarceration, and then continue the relationship with the teens when they are back on the streets. The goal is to create a relational bridge to help the teens’ transition successfully into regular life. The teen’s bad habits and choices opened the door to crime and punishment. The best way to change the path these teens travel is through the love and involvement of a committed, caring adult.
If you would like to know more about how you could contribute, financially or with your time, Dan Chapin invites you to call, or contact him at the local YFC office. He can be reached at www.grmyfc.org, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org , or by phone at 616.477.9460. For those who blessed with intact loving families, we have a treasure chest full of virtually unlimited wealth we can invest in the lives of these troubled teens.