The Power of Words to Transform Lives
My wife and I are in the process of rebuilding our deck. It’s not the first home project we’ve taken on. Nor is it the largest. The largest would be us remodeling her veterinary clinic, Willow Tree Animal Hospital. Doing projects like these help you understand what it looks like to have a vision, set some goals, pull in resources, come up with a plan, figure out who’s going to do the work, get started, and keep working through the tasks and problems until you achieve the vision.
I have nearly 20 years of management experience and an MBA. I’m also an artist and designer. Every profession I can think of has a process for how to get things done. They all have similar stages like I just described. You start with a vision and you do what it takes to bring it about.
About a year ago, I was contemplating the power of words. I decided that I wanted to write a book about it, but for now, I just want to share a few recent thoughts on that topic. I want to discuss it through the lens of what we are trying to build here at West Sound Youth For Christ in Kitsap and North Mason.
A year ago, as I was thinking about this topic of words, I was looking all around my office and realizing that words were surrounding me as well as running through my mind. Words were everywhere! They were in the books on my bookshelf, in magazines, in the website I was building, all over the Internet, in the junk mail that showed up that day, and on art that my kids had made. But they were also in other places. They were on the labels of furniture, clothing, blankets, and towels. They were on the labels of almost every product in that room. And even deeper than that, everything that was in that room started with someone’s knowledge, vision, direction, and production process.
Think of all the knowledge of each person involved in the supply chain, all of those goods and services, all the meetings they had, all the communication, all the specialties they had earned, all the laws and building codes, and everything else was there ultimately due to these special little things we call words.
Words, when grouped together, can form statements and ideas. Those statements and ideas can create sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, volumes, and robust models of understanding the reality around us.
Certain statements are true, and others are not true. We learn this in school. We learn this when people lie to us. True and false. Part of the education process is to accumulate true statements about important subjects and learn how to identify false ones, but we are not perfect at that. Sometimes the things we learn and think are true are actually false. Sometimes we confuse opinions with truth.
Once we start to see that words surround us constantly, the other thing that you start to think about is the delivery mechanism of those words.
Are the spoken? Are they written down? Are they logos? Are they typed? Are they in a language we understand? What medium are they on? Books? Computer screens? Phones? Magazines? Signs at an airport? A podcast? The car radio? From a speech? In a conversation with a friend over coffee? Are they thoughts in your head?
How are the words you are coming in contact with being delivered to you? And what is their intention?
We know that these words get delivered in one way or another. These words that we hold in our minds can become personal statements of belief, and those things we believe can be acted upon. The actions we take have results and consequences. We can build a life of great joy and peace, or we could wreak havoc on the earth. Words have tremendous power!
If you’re still with me, let me take this concept and apply it to what we are building at West Sound YFC. Keep in mind that this is just how I process this. My boss and my peer as well as the rest of our team all have their own unique thoughts on this. I just happen to be a very analytical and introspective person at times, so I’m explaining it from my perspective. We all have the same Vision as established by YFC, our board, and Phil, our Executive Director. We have alignment on what we’re trying to do. We just process how we’re bringing it to life in our own way.
Here’s how I think about it. (This is why I started this article with my wife and I building that deck.
My wife and I needed to look at what the current state of the deck was, think about what we wanted it to be, tear down the old deck, and start building the new one. There would be a starting point, and there would be a time where we had reached our goal.
The pandemic put our Executive Team into the position of having to figure out what we wanted to do moving forward when everything we had been doing came to a screeching halt.
We had the same YFC Mission Statement, and we had our Chapter Mission Statement. We had our goal of wanting to reach 2000 11-19 year olds each year. We had some resources. We had our roles. Those things hadn’t changed.
Phil’s role as Executive Director was to pray, and then come up with the vision for the Chapter with the board’s support. He then had to delegate the plan to Bart, our Ministry Director, and me, our Development Director. Phil also handles many of the things that keep our organization moving forward; legal, HR, accounting, budgets, reports, etc.
As Ministry Director, Bart is responsible for keeping the team focused on building Authentic Christ-Sharing Relationships, creating Missional Communities, and the planning, implementation, and evaluation of ministry outcomes. He leads the Ministry Team.
As for me, the Development Director, my job is to recruit the people and resources Bart and the Ministry Team needs to fulfill the mission. I also help foster a culture of stewardship.
Getting going from what felt like ground zero was a challenge. It felt like we were peddling a bike up a steep hill. The Ministry team was pushing on one of the pedals, and the Development team was pushing on the other. We learned how to pedal together, and we started getting some momentum towards the destination of “2000 kids per year”.
It takes words and ideas to create this. It takes belief. It takes action.
And that’s only the first half of what we do in order to make a difference in our community. The rest of our time is invested in what our mission is really all about - revealing the HOPE that is found in Jesus to the kids we walk with.
Each kid has picked up a set of words, ideas, beliefs, and actions from their unique backgrounds when we meet them. Some of the words they’re wrestling with are leading them to things like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide to name the “Big 4”.
As we meet them, we exchange words. Usually, we start with our names. Then over time, we learn about their interests, their fears, and their stories. We share some of our words and our stories. And when we have built trust, we share some of the reasons why we believe what we believe. We share God’s story. We share good news with them. We share why it is also good news FOR them. We hand-deliver a set of words that they DID NOT KNOW before. We bring them The Word, Jesus.
The Word has the potential of changing everything. It changed us all at one point. That’s why we’re here doing what we do.
We do this one kid at a time. One word at a time.
When we do it with a small group of kids in a community during a year, it starts to spread.
Our goal is to do this in 5 main areas: Bremerton, North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, and North Mason.
This works best when we do it with fellow believers from the local churches. It works best when we do it as One Team, One Body. As the Apostle Paul taught us, we can’t look at one part of the body and say, “I don’t need you.” Each part has a special job to do. So we embrace that at YFC.
As more people get involved in the work, the impact grows.
How do we bring Jesus to 2000 kids? On paper, it’s easy.
Bremerton - 400 (We’re here now.)
North Kitsap - 400 (We’re here now.)
Central Kitsap - 400 (We’re here now.)
South Kitsap - 400 (We are praying to be back here this fall.)
North Mason - 400 (We are praying to be back here next year.)
Let’s look at Bremerton. We have:
Bremerton High School
Mountain View Middle School
West Sound Tech
The Youth Academy
We have a full-time paid Site Leader/Campus Life Leader.
If each leader could get to know 10 kids in one year, that means we would need 39 ministry leaders.
If 10 churches are involved, that means we need an average of 4 volunteer leaders from each church.
We need a little money each year to bring Campus Life to a community, but not as much as you might think. For a single site, depending on the scale, we only need between $80-$150k per year. Compared to the budget of many churches, this is quite small.
The most important thing is finding people willing to give some of their time to help kids. Some of our volunteers serve once a year, once a month, once a week, or even daily depending on their availability.
Our staff and volunteers work each day to Engage, Equip, and Empower local youth.
Our goal is to do this in all corners of our Chapter’s defined territory; all 5 major areas listed above. Our desire is to do this work with local churches and other community partners. We can accomplish infinitely more together than we ever could on our own.
This past 12 months with ALL OF US working together, we hit the checkpoint of “650 kids” on our way to 2000! So awesome! We are looking forward to the progress we can make in the next 12 months!
As we do these things, each kid we walk with with learns a new set of words.
Words like, “I like you. You have tremendous potential.”
Words like, “God loves you and desires to have a relationship with you.”
Words like, “Forgiveness is available in Jesus.”
Words like, “You have a purpose.”
Words like, “Your life matters.”
Words like, “We went to your band concert last night. You did so well!”
Words like, “There’s more to this life than just what we can see.”
Imagine all of us working together in different areas, Bremerton, North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, and North Mason, bringing these kids who are experiencing different and difficult things, a set of words tailored just for them, that gives them HOPE. And not just a temporary one, but an eternal HOPE. One that radically transforms them from the inside out helping them become everything God has planned for them to be.
Here’s what I know. We only get to walk with these kids for a few years between the ages of 11-19. Each year, new kids enter Campus Life. And each year, kids age out and are launched into adulthood. The work carries on each year, and our chapter has been doing this for 40 years.
These kids take what they learned from us, compare it against what they’ve learned from their other situations, and they make decisions about what they believe and the type of person they want to become. Their decisions and beliefs result in actions that they take. Our hope is that these decisions and beliefs end up making their community look a little more like God’s Kingdom. Our hope is that they find a church they can call home and become part of God’s family.
This is why we do what we do - because there are approximately 25,000 kids in our area who aren’t part of a church and may not get to hear those words from someone they trust and that they know cares about them. It’s very important work.
When I was in the 10th grade, a Young Life leader had brought that set of words to me. Without him, I don’t know where I’d be today. I am eternally grateful for that. And that’s the opportunity before all of us.
So as the person who is responsible for asking people to get involved with us…
Want to get involved and make a difference in the lives of some local youth?
We would love to have you jump in!
Some of you may not have time, but you may be able to give something we could use; Bibles, games, art supplies, snacks, or even a financial gift. Someone even gave a car once!
If you want to give, you can contact us or visit our donation page.
Here’s my other ask:
Will you join us in prayer for these things?
We can never exhaust the need for prayer!
Thanks for reading this! If you have questions for me, my email is included below.
Adam C. Smith, MBA