Youth For Christ leader: ‘God is really opening the doors and paving the way for us to go, advocate for the youth, and share the love of Christ in a very dark climate’
October 24, 2022
Grand Rapids, Mich. — Life in rural communities can be extremely difficult. Compared to people who live in cities, rural areas have less internet access, fewer educational institutions, see more hospitals close and experience less economic growth. For youth who live in these rural communities, it can be incredibly difficult to find connections within a dispersed population. Youth For Christ’s (YFC, www.yfc.net) Montcalm County Area chapter is dedicated to shine the light of Christ to the youth in these rural areas however possible.
Recently, YFC hosted a triathlon to raise awareness of the work they are doing in the area, as well as to raise funds to keep the ministry running smoothly. Tim Grant, Executive Director at Montcalm County Youth for Christ, commented, “Crystal Lake is right in the middle of our ministry area. For five years, I’ve had the idea of a Crystal Lake triathlon floating around in my head. I’ve always been intrigued by triathlons, even though I’ve never done one before. I thought that even if only two people participated in the event, it would be a good way to get the ball rolling for future years. The goal was to try and raise $25,000, which is the part-time ministry budget in our area.
“The triathlon was on the first Sunday in October, and it was an amazing event! Some people on the lake shared it on Facebook and we had a good crowd watching at the finish line. 14 people participated and in total, we raised over $26,000! We had a few middle school kids from the cross-country team join, as well as some people from a local church. A few of my alumni kids came back to participate, which was wonderful. It was an amazing time, and overall we had around 60 people who previously were not connected with YFC come support the event, either financially or in person.”
Grant continued, “People don’t often think about the realities of life out in rural areas. COVID shutdowns really forced these kids to be severely isolated. In an urban community, there are neighbors and people all around you, but in these rural areas, you could be isolated and alone in a trailer with the nearest neighbor over a mile away. People are just trying to survive. Out here, we see generational dysfunction. There’s a lack of Christ-sharing relationships and absolutely no framework of who or what God is and how He can fit in their lives. We’re on foreign soil in our own towns.
“When I first started, I thought the largest challenge we were going to have to face is raising funds. That is simply not the case. Our challenge is finding leaders that love the Lord and want to share that love with the next generation. A lot of the kids who have accepted Christ are going home to a household that is in total chaos. After high school, they either enter the workforce or go to community college, and the weeds of the world make it hard to stay in the Word. I constantly pray that God opens the eyes of these kids while they are here and gets them through this season so that they really want to grab hold of Christ and carry that into their future.
“In these rural areas, getting anywhere — to school or to a YFC event — takes a lot of work and many kids have a hard time getting there or back home. Our solution is to go directly to the schools and help out any way we can. Some of these schools don’t have lunchroom staff or custodians, so we will help clear tables and clean floors if they need the help. We tell the school, ‘We’re here to help serve and build relationships with kids,’ and they are often thrilled to have us there. God is really opening the doors and paving the way for us to go, advocate for the youth, and share the love of Christ in a very dark climate.”
YFC chapters impact thousands of communities across the nation, seeking out and serving youth from all walks of life. Young people are silently struggling through a wide variety of challenging issues—and through the YFC ministry God empowers them and they see the living power of a loving God. YFC trains its leaders in a proven, relational ministry model called 3Story®, which 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 to lead people to Christ.
YFC has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when Dr. 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 over 130 chapters that impact communities across America.