YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry Leaders Act as Fathers in Christ to Troubled Teens in Tough Situations: ‘I See Them More as Miracles of God’
June 14, 2021
DENVER, Colo.— Father’s Day has a special meaning for Alex Mathew, Executive Director of Youth For Christ Serving Kansas City (www.yfckc.org).
In his work with YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM), Mathew leads a group of committed mentors who work with teens in a variety of youth-serving institutions (detention centers, probation, correctional facilities, group homes, residential treatment centers and emergency shelters). These mentors form relationships with them—reaching out to engage them just as they are. In doing so, many of them become a father in Christ to troubled teens in tough situations, modeling a powerful way to combat the fatherless problem.
“Many of the youth we work with in YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry are not [physically] weak,” reflects Mathew. “In fact, many of them are violently strong—but almost all of them lack an earthly father or any sort of positive male mentor in their lives, making them weak, vulnerable, and in need of God’s extraordinary love.”
Each day in YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM), Mathew and his team witness the multi-faceted by-products of fatherlessness: violence, brokenness, unacceptance, suicides, and addictions. They respond by offering the juvenile offenders unfailing love and support—something they have never experienced before. The youth can’t earn the love from the mentors, because the mentors give it freely—like a healthy father they never had. Over time, valuable relationships are formed with the students, offering unwavering support even as they reenter their communities.
Mathew explains, “Our relationships with students…are like the Father and his prodigal son from Luke 15:24 (NIV), ‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ I celebrate even the smallest of victories with my students because I see them more as miracles from God.”
Mathew was inspired by the wisdom of Bill Corum, a community partner of YFC Serving Kansas City. Corum is a Christian author who speaks in prisons all over the world. He turned his life around when he gave his life to Jesus—after previously serving as an inmate in 10 different prisons in 10 different states.
Mathew says, “In detention, when I ask groups of boys if any of them know one positive man in his neighborhood, they all think hard for a few minutes and shake their heads no. It breaks my heart every time I ask that question.
“We don’t have a crime problem, we don’t have a prisoner problem, an inmate problem or a drug problem; we have a father problem. We don’t have fathers that will take time to spend with their children, train their children, teach their children and love their children.”
Mathew relates the story of how he accompanied Lee, one of his mentees who was recently released, as he enrolled in the local community college.
“As a father in Christ, I talked with him about the advantages of college and the differences between a university and a community college,” says Mathew. “We talked about debt and scholarships, like I would with my own son.”
When Lee got to the campus, he filled out the application on his own and he met with an advisor without Mathew, who sat back and prayed for him during the meeting. Before he left, Lee had to take an entrance exam. Mathew took care of practical measures and made sure Lee had something to eat before the test, and asked Lee to check in with him afterwards to let him know how it went.
“Every other week, Lee and I have conversations about life. My job is not to change him, but to model what Christ did for me and accept him like a father in Christ would accept his very own,” says Mathew.
“If each dad knew that his role on earth is to be a father, even to other people’s children, a lot of lives would be changed,” says Mathew. “So, I think my driving force is to be a father to the fatherless, to be a defender of the orphans. Because I think that’s the embodiment of who God is.
“The most powerful position I can have in my life is a father, and when I serve the fatherless with this superpower, miraculous things happen.”
YFC haschapters impacting thousands of communities across the nation that 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. YFC 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.
YFC 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 140 chapters that impact communities across America.
To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.