#YFCBetheStory: Youth For Christ Atlanta Reaching Students With the Message of Jesus’ Light—Even When the World Seems Dark
YFC Atlanta Leader Mike McAuliff: The Light of Life, Jesus Himself, Is Present to Meet Our Needs, Always Perfectly Sufficient for the Days We Face
June 8, 2020
ATLANTA—Many organizations may look at the current crises facing America as reasons to halt, back off or pull away from ministry efforts.
But not Youth For Christ (YFC). These current times mean the needs are even greater, and now is the opportunity to press on amid the uncertainty and find new ways to connect and serve schools, students, families and entire communities.
“Give Life to Your Story. It’s our Youth For Christ USA tagline. It’s our passion,” said YFC President Dan Wolgemuth. “That’s why we love hearing stories of community engagement and impact. Our team sees a need, mobilizes a response and rallies a team to meet that need. We do this because it represents the heart of the God we serve. We do this because when we do, we serve Christ Himself. Loving God, and others, is the pulse of every follower of Jesus. In solidarity. On mission. One story of transformation at a time.”
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.”
Students are the future of America—and the world—but fewer and fewer are followers of Christ. 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 these kids. 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.
But with so many students, how can they all be reached? How does Youth For Christ reach the skeptical generation that is unaware of their need for a Savior? YFC doesn’t wait for students to come to them. YFC staff and volunteers intentionally go into their world in order to initiate new relationships, whether on campus, at parks or at school sporting events.
YFC also connects to kids through weekly Campus Life Clubs, like the one in Atlanta. And leaders have gotten creative over the past several weeks to opportunities for students to engage in deeper relationships with Campus Life leaders, and each other, through shared experiences. By providing opportunities for students together 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 in a YFC Atlanta video that 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 impact is not only felt on our students, but on the adults here at Sweetwater as well.
“One of my favorite things about Campus Life would be seeing the impact that it has on our kids,” he continued. “Since I’ve been appointed principal, every week a hundred-plus of our students look forward to their interaction with their Campus Life leaders. 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.”
Nationally, Youth For Christ is telling inspiring stories like these 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 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 impacting communities across America.
To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.