Greater Iowa Youth For Christ: Finding the ‘Why’ in the Hardest of Times

‘Although 2020 Had Been a Tough Year for a Lot of People, It Was Actually the Best Year of Her Life because of Greater Iowa YFC’

January 11, 2020

DES MOINES, IOWA— Recently, leaders from Greater Iowa Youth For Christ (YFC, www.yfc.net) 

gathered together to talk about how COVID-19 has affected their ministry, and how it has changed it in a positive way.

“In March 2020, soon after the pandemic began, our team began praying virtually every morning,” said Derek Jacobsen, executive director for Greater Iowa YFC. “Those virtual prayer meetings are still going strong today in 2021: Each day, we gather together virtually in prayer. It has kept us focused on ‘the why’ as well as provided us with a daily touch point to encourage each other. We will continue this virtual daily prayer after the pandemic is over.”

Not losing their focus on prayer and Jesus has enabled the Greater Iowa YFCteam to see opportunities in an otherwise challenging time in their ministry.

Neta Siebert, YFC parent life director explained, “The pandemic has actually provided me with the chance to be a lot more creative in our ministry. It’s easy to get wrapped up in routine. But during a pandemic, you’re not always able to follow your routine. We had to get creative about how we reached the teens. We called on the phone, used Zoom and FaceTime. That creativity – and looking for new ways to connect – is something we will continue long after the pandemic ends.”

Once small group gatherings were permitted, the Greater Iowa YFC leaders found ways to spend time with the teens in their programs.

Angie Stephen, campus life middle school director in Mason City shared, “We moved to in-person small groups in the summer. We learned of a student who walked all over the city because she needed transportation. We had received a bike donation, so she was selected to receive the bike. Consequently, we ended up organizing bike outings around the city with the kids. Soon, the teen girl who had received the bike donation started attending church and said yes to Jesus. She told me that ‘although 2020 had been a tough year for a lot of people, it was actually the best year of her life because of Greater Iowa YFC.’ That teen also ended up joining the Greater Iowa YFC Core Ministry, which is a group of Christian students who are reaching out to their lost friends.”

Feeling connected and having the opportunity to spend in-person time with Greater Iowa YFC’s leaders, volunteers and other teens is an absolute necessity for the kids. Otherwise, their mental health could be greatly affected.

Katie Zickefoose, high school campus life director in Mason City, described how Greater Iowa YFC focused on mental health issues. “The mental health issues were so prevalent that we put together a suicide prevention conversation over zoom. We invited people from the community. We asked everyone ‘What can other students and people of the community do to help?’ We provide additional resources now in the event of an emergency like that and what the red flags are.”

“During this pandemic, we see that the kids are anxious, which leads to a lot of mental health issues,” said Jacobsen. “Kids are lonely and need connection. There is a sense of feeling lost. Not just spiritually lost, as many are, but also lost in terms of wondering what they will do with their lives. They are already worrying about how they will navigate life as an adult.”

The pandemic has been and will continue to be a hard time for teens. But the Greater Iowa YFC is staying focused – and resilient.

Said Jacobsen, “Somewhere in the midst of this pandemic journey, Greater Iowa YFC chose a word to carry our organization. That word is RESILIENCE. Whether you are a teenager, a volunteer, or ministry leader — you need resilience. It means to bounce back. We can’t control the hardship of the pandemic, but we can control how we respond to it. It is a daily journey. And the walk of faith. But we are choosing to bounce back. This is a message that we are all living and are sharing with the kids in the Greater Iowa YFC program.”

Resiliency is a gift from God that the Greater Iowa YFC knows to cherish and utilize for the teens in their ministry as they face the many particular challenges of the pandemic and beyond. Zickefoose agreed, “Specific problems may be different for each team. But the answer is always the same: Jesus.”

Greater Iowa YFC serves 30 counties across the central region of Iowa. The result of a merger in 2018 between Northern Iowa YFC and Des Moines YFC Currently represents 85,000 11 to 19 year old kids.

Over 160 YFC chapters across the nation seek out and serve youth from all walks of life. Many teens are silently struggling through a variety of challenging issues—and now they see the living power of a loving God.

Youth For Christ staff and volunteers are encouraged by the YFC 3Story concept, which is based on the belief that kids will be reached for Christ when met at their point of need—and as workers connect their stories with Jesus’s story. The ministry efforts of Youth For Christ are changing lives, one young person at a time.

Youth For Christ’s 3Story encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life in order to lead people to Christ. For more information, visit 3Story.org.

Nationally, Youth For Christ is telling inspiring stories through#YFCBeTheStory, an initiative to help spread the word across the nation about how YFC chapters are making a difference in their communities.

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. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has more than 160 chapters that impact communities across America.

Visit the Youth For Christ media page here. Learn more about Youth For Christ at its website, www.yfc.netFacebook and Instagram pages, Twitter feed @yfcusa or on Vimeo.

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To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.