How it all began...
As any starting youth minister would tell you, building a youth ministry from almost nothing is no picnic. My first two years on the job, I ran myself ragged but still struggled to find ways to connect with new unchurched youth. My goal for our program was to change the community, but I could not seem to break into new circles by simply throwing great events or begging my church kids to bring their friends.
Spring of 2015
A leader of our community challenged churches in our city to adopt local schools. The school system was in a downward spiral and needed support and love to start turning the ship around.
We quickly adopted a middle school not far from our church campus. After a meeting with the principal, Jumpstart: Mentoring for Success was born. Students were in desperate need of more one-on-one attention. There were large numbers of students who weren't completing homework, had absentee parents, or who were struggling with learning disabilities. The school system just couldn't keep up on their own.
Fall of 2015
My team started our program with 30 registered middle and high school students. High school students served as the direct tutors to the middle school students, while a team of loving adult volunteers kept the sessions running efficiently.
The first year we had homework-help time, ate dinner together, and did "Character Building Through Games" time. Together we did a Christmas mission and Lent mission, had family Christmas and End-of-the-Year parties, and generally just formed a new, very loving, family.
The next year we expanded to 50 registered students. Although Jumpstart is a secular program, it does give myself and our church a tangible opportunity to build relationships with new community youth members and their families. After only two months into the program, students started to attend other activities in the church including youth events, mission trips, and retreats. They also found other ways to be involved on campus. One middle school student almost immediately joined the choir. Several of our tutors became preschool volunteers and staff members. We had several students in the confirmation class in 2016.
Blessings upon blessings that I had not even dreamed about...
In the second year we created a new tier to the program, a mentoring component between the adult supervisors and the tutors. We did not realize we would be just as much a ministry to the tutors as to the students. There is now a full mentoring "College/Job Readiness" program that they complete to help give them the tools to take their next steps in life.
Fall of 2017
After game time I added a bible study. I was pleasantly surprised that 22 youth stayed!
This year I wrote a lot of curriculum to go with the program. Schools are starting to shy away from homework because it is rarely getting done. This created a challenge when our goal was to improve basic math and reading skills but we weren't receiving a lot of materials to achieve that goal. So by 2017 we had our own tools and materials to use as teaching resources to improve writing skills and creativity.
The blessings you receive you didn't even know to wish for...
The layers of relationships that are formed from seeing each other regularly in a once-a-week, regular setting are priceless. I have had some truly amazing volunteers who have "adopted" youth as their grandchildren- taking them out on boat rides, shopping trips for school clothes, ice cream outings, tours of colleges, and even in an extreme case- I now have a tutor that lives with her mentors. I have a mom's group that sprouted from a need of community. We've sang karaoke and planned painting parties. I had students that had never left Lake County but now have traveled to other states for mission trips. These were not instances that were instigated as an official part of the program, but grew out of something special that blossomed from proximity and intentionality. All of the pictures on this page contain students who came out of the Jumpstart program. We can't wait to add our next chapter...
Jumpstart: Mentoring for Success is now franchising. We have rockin' "sister" sites that are operating and changing the world! See the "Starter Package" tab for more info.