When you were young, did you ever stuff your feelings inside while secretly wishing you had someone with whom you could talk openly and honestly about your struggles?
Bethany, a Christian high school student and self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” whose trust Coastlands earned over many years, certainly has. When her father’s affair ended her parents’ marriage, the weeks that followed the life-altering news were even more difficult as she dealt with the pain alone. On the first day of spiritual emphasis week, 4-5 months later, she confided to us:
"I don’t know how to tell anyone what’s going on,
so I’ve waited since August to journal to you guys."
In addition to supporting her that week, Coastlands connected her with an on-site school staff person that she could trust in the future.
Sadly, we meet disconnected youth like Bethany at every Christian school in which we serve. Positive youth-adult relationships hugely impact students’ long-term faith development, yet today’s youth are far less connected to adults than previous generations. Dr. Chap Clark laments, “Adolescents have suffered the loss of the safe relationships and intimate settings that served as the primary nurturing community for those traveling the path from child to adult…. The loss of meaningful relationships with adults has been the most devastating to developing adolescents.”
What is the solution Clark proposes? “For a long time the Church has been using the ratio of 5:1 - five kids to one adult. We have felt that if you get that, you are doing well. I think it needs to be reversed: one kid to five adults. We need to develop a strategy of ministry across the developmental span, childhood through high school, so that by the time they graduate every kid has five adult ‘fans’ – five adults who know their name, pray for them regularly and talk to them often.” Numerous studies back Clark up, demonstrating that students benefit not only spiritually but also academically, socially, and psychologically from healthy adult relationships.
Can you imagine a world where students like Bethany wouldn’t have to wait 4-5 months for a team to come to their school and instead would have 5 adults already in their lives in whom they could confide?
Students like Bethany are where Coastlands’ past and future meet. In its first 30 years God has used Coastlands to impact thousands of students, many of whom have shared deeply personal details of their lives with us and received biblical advice, encouragement, and accountability; however, the need for committed, caring, listening adults is greater now than ever and is far beyond the ability of our team to meet on our own. In the summer of 2017, someone asked me a challenging question that resonated strongly: “How can you multiply what you do?” It’s a question that demands an answer as Coastlands moves into its next 30 years.
While Coastlands will continue to provide spiritual emphasis weeks as we have always done, I am also developing a new initiative that will equip students to create a web of nurturing relationships with the adults around them. Natural mentoring relationships like these are statistically more effective than any formal mentoring program, yet Dr. Sarah Schwartz notes, “Only a minority of programs are currently implementing strategies or services to promote natural mentoring relationships.” In the coming years we will intentionally become part of that minority that promotes natural mentoring, indeed multiplying what we do. This initiative has great potential to expand Coastlands reach beyond Christian schools and into additional places like churches and homeschool co-ops. While most youth organizations focus on at-risk students, this initiative will benefit all students.
As you think about your own struggles in your youth, what difference would it have made to you to have additional adults around you who truly knew you and cared for you?
Through your financial support of Coastlands, you will help ensure students like Bethany have the adult support they want and need.
Would you help us raise $10,000 to start 2020 in a strong financial position so we can effectively advance the mission?
These are exciting times for Coastlands. Thank you for prayerfully considering your partnership with Coastlands to impact youth throughout the Northeast!
For the Next Generation,
As both an administrator and a parent, Dawn values Coastlands’ ministry!
“When my three children began attending the same Christian school where I work, the ‘Coastlands week’ was greatly anticipated! My children could not wait to get to chapel where they would sing the songs and listen to the engaging lessons. It was the personal connection, however, that meant the most to them. What once began as a special week of chapel services became a time of deep connection with other trusted adults. My children appreciated sharing things that they were not comfortable talking about with anyone else. They loved when the team visited their classrooms and made intentional connections – connections that continued even after my son went away to college. The value of such an investment cannot be overstated!
In a world where students are increasingly disconnected from others, the need for this type of ministry is more vital than ever! My family is proud to support Coastlands because we know that through our gift we are investing in the world’s most important assets…the children! I encourage you to consider supporting Coastlands as they reach a new generation of students for Christ!”
Dawn's son values Coastlands as well!
“Coastlands’ ministry was especially impactful for me when I was going through a tough time in 5th grade. I was the only boy in my class (and thought girls had cooties), so I did not have many friends. When the ministry came to my school, Mr. Huffman and others with him went out of their way to befriend, hang out, and build a relationship with me. They encouraged me and helped me through that tough time. Since then, Mr. Huffman became a great mentor and friend. His ministry was very important and had a profound impact on my life as well as my classmates.”