19 May Youth Haven Kids’ Ministry: Delivering Hope To Kids’ Homes with New, Innovative Methods
As we welcomed 2020, kissed our loved ones and wished them a Happy New Year, none of us imagined we would be where we are today. The world has changed, and we have all been impacted. Each one of our lives has been touched in one way or another by this virus and its effects.
For a ministry that utilizes camping programs as a primary ministry tool, the closing of schools and stay-at-home orders have posed a unique challenge. But this virus has not stopped us from reaching out to disadvantaged boys and girls with the love and hope of Jesus Christ! If anything, it has spurred us on to do more for them, and to find new and creative ways to be a part of their lives. Our methods have changed, but our mission remains the same.
Same Mission, New Method
Youth Haven’s mission is to provide life-changing, Christ-centered experiences for disadvantaged children. The kids we serve at Youth Haven were already facing difficult circumstances before this pandemic began. Now, many of them are stuck at home in situations where they are being treated unkindly or needs aren’t being met. At the same time, more and more children are facing financial hardships because their parents have lost jobs.
We had to ask ourselves two questions: How can we meet the needs of our kids in a way that respects the guidelines put in place by the authorities and protects our kids and staff? And how do we help our supporters understand how important they are to us during this time?
The first step was to ensure we continued to fulfill our mission in any way we could. The most obvious need was that, suddenly, kids were stuck at home looking for things to do. Unfortunately, the Internet can often be an unsafe place for kids. We recognized the need for kids to have a haven online, where they could find fun things to do without having to worry about harmful content or safety issues.
In response to the need for kids to have safe, fun things to do at home, we launched a new kids’ website at www.havenforkids.fun. It’s full of fun activities, videos, stories, answers to questions kids might have, challenges for them to participate in, and more. We’ve seen a great response so far, and it has allowed us to share the hope of Jesus with kids all over our nation who are going through difficult times.
We’re also excited to begin our first ever virtual camp experience this summer, allowing us to reach kids with the message of God’s love in the own homes. The kids will be registered for a specific week of virtual camp, and we’ll mail or hand deliver a special supply kit full of activities, snacks, instructions, and a few other items just for fun. They’ll receive an access code to a password-protected web site, where they can watch videos and livestreams from Youth Haven and interact with our staff. They’ll be able to earn points by completing various activities, and we’ll mail special prizes at the end of each week
We also understand many of the kids who attend Youth Haven are in situations right now where their basic needs aren’t being met. Our schools did a fabulous job of stepping in to provide meals for kids, but we knew that wouldn’t meet all of their needs, so we developed a program called Kids’ Care Packs. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have delivered over 600 care packages to children in need during this difficult time, with snacks, personal hygiene items, activities, and small toys. We have received numerous e-mails from grateful parents with photos and videos of their kids opening the care packages.
Birthday Brigade & Bibles
But perhaps the most important need we’re meeting is the need for the children to feel loved, and to know they’re not alone. They need to be reminded that God loves them and is with them, no matter what they may be going through – and that they have friends here at Youth Haven who also love them. The web site, virtual camp, and care packages certainly help meet this need. In addition, we’re beginning a new Birthday Brigade to take cupcakes and gifts to kids on their birthdays. We’ve increased the number of mailed activities and Bible lessons we’re sending to the children. And we’ve mailed multiple copies of our custom Bibles to kids who visited our kids’ website and didn’t have Bibles of their own.
Donor Calls & Hearts’ Desires
Through all of this, we also knew how vital it was to continue building relationships with our supporters. We want them to realize this is a partnership, and we are working together to reach kids for Christ and meet their needs. We quickly began making phone calls to people who stand with us financially, simply asking how we could pray for them. What we found was that most of them turned the conversation around to asking how they could help us help the kids. That is their hearts’ desire, and we have been so grateful.
Personal Notes & Prayers
In addition to the phone calls, we have continued to send hand-signed thank-you letters with every gift receipt, a practice that is standard for us. We established a prayer team, inviting people to sign up to receive a weekly e-mail that includes first names of children they can be praying for. And we’ve relied heavily on our direct mail program to communicate with our supporters. We have also utilized social media, but given the fact that we also have parents and agency workers who follow our social media sites, we do have to be mindful of what we post there. Direct mail allows us to personalize our message to the group of people we’re trying to reach.
We’re so grateful for everyone who has continued to give and pray for the children during this time when so many are struggling. All of our programs are – and have always been – provided to disadvantaged children free of charge. God has been faithful, and as we continue to adapt and meet the needs of His children, He continues to provide partners who stand with us.
As a pastor’s daughter, Amy has always been familiar with full-time ministry. When she met Lars Carlson in high school, God was already preparing their hearts for the calling He would place on their lives. They married in 1995, and Amy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Western Michigan University in 1997. That same year, Lars and Amy felt God calling them into full-time service at Youth Haven.