Interview with Michael Spottsville of Youth For Christ

Youth for Christ began in 1944 with Billy Graham as its first full-time personnel. It was initiated by a Chicago-area preacher, Torri Johnson, as a ministry to U.S. servicemen and was expanded to the high school and middle school campus ministry, for which it is now known.

Youth for Christ has since grown into an international ministry in 105 countries. It employs 850 people to impact over 9.2 million young people in 2003.

Vice President of Operations, Michael Spottsville, spoke to The Christian Post about the landscape of the ministry, including its most recent developments.

How is Youth for Christ run?

The first wave of activity were rallies. They were large stadium events, and a number of people came to Christ. Now, we have campus life and community ministries - working with young people, juvenile institutions and the church.

The DCLA conferences, which occur every three years, provide training and teaching. DCLA began in 1985, and we're now in the process of formulating a partnership with Youth Specialties to sponsor the 2006 DCLA in Anaheim, California.

Can you tell us about some of the recent changes?

We've elected a new president. We have also brought on two full-time ministry workers at the national office to develop the ministry curriculum.

We've added programmers so we can offer online assistance to our ministry centers. We're working on something called Ministry Focus, which asks for information from the chapter or the ministry center, like how many people have you seen and where are they in the process. Are they still seeking or are they being discipled? Have we referred them to a local church? All this information that they give to us will be compiled and a report will be given back to the field workers.

We are also in the process of putting together a leadership journey, an online leadership program, online mentoring. We're also in the process of looking at pooling together a number of on-hand tools to help people plan their day and to hit the goals they planned for on that day.

Can you explain the ministry curriculum?

They are basically resources. Ministry directors at the local level are evangelizing and discipling young people, either on or off campus at the high school or middle school level, and they need resources to conduct meetings, teach students, and talk to them about life. They need recent information so that they are relevant.

How many ministries does YFC encompass?

We have five main ministries. One is Campus Life - forming relationships with high school students. We do the same thing on the middle school level. Then, we have the City Life program, which is more of an urban ministry. The Teen Parents program connects with pregnant girls and the fathers. The Youth Guidance ministry ministers to young people in juvenile justice system.

It's been working effectively. A ministry center can choose which ministry to propel, so we have successful ministry models in all four areas.

I think the youth guidance has been picking up steam recently because of the faith-based ministry incentives offering by the federal government. We're looking at what we can do with that. We haven't added any more juvenile programs since we've done the research but the next step is to make the connection between where the funding is and where we're currently deployed to reach more kids and institutions.

How does YFC get Ministry directors?

Some of them are kids that we reached in our programs. They go to college and get involved in our programs. Other people are like myself, coming out of a corporate environment to work with the ministry. The rest, probably the largest amount are college recruits, young people who are interested in ministry on Christian college.

What are the biggest challenges?

One is the whole idea of raising funds. It kind of works two ways. A number of our employees raise their own support. They have individual donors who can contribute to their ministry. We raise revenues through writing foundation grants. We have people who are donors to the national movement. Local, regional, and national level as well as people who raise their own support.

Do you think it's difficult to reach the youth?

The challenge right now is that each generation of young people changes. I think one challenge that all youth ministry have is to continue to be current in our evangelism and discipleship approaches and programs.

I think right now, more one-on-one evangelism and discipleship is preferable to years ago when people attended rallies and experienced evangelizing and discipling via the group dynamic.

I think that reaching young people now is more through a relational channel than purely teaching and talking at them.

Can you tell us about the YFC vision?

YFC is interested in the process of designing or restructuring itself to reach every young person in every people group both nationally and internationally. We're attempting to do that by increasing the number of ministry centers that we have, increasing our capacity to communicate to each other nationally and internationally about the things we're doing in ministry, take advantage of these best practices, and provide training activities for young people to come to know Christ. We're also involved with partnering with the church and other like-minded partners to reach kids for Christ to disciple them.