Local church creates Adopt a Youth program


Sometimes, when an idea is expressed at the right place and the right time, it can lead to something powerful when certain people take the reins.

At Seymour Christian Church, those people are Bible study leader Sandee Ramsey and youth leader Keia Blair.

The two teamed up last year to create the Adopt a Youth program at their church.

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About four years ago, Ramsey and her husband, Paul, met a 13-year-old girl who was attending their church. She had no parental guidance at all, but she did have a mentor.

“We learned that a young lady had been mentoring her,” Ramsey said. “Now, she is 17 years old, and my husband and I are her legal guardians.”

As a result of that experience, Ramsey felt a tug at her heart. She began to realize youth, especially ones in high school, need to know there are other people besides their families, friends and neighbors who really care for them.

“They need to know there are people out there who think they are important and valuable, and so the seed was planted,” Ramsey said. “Keia is the gal that watered that seed and helped it grow into the Adopt a Youth program.”

Blair said she had not been working at the church for very long before Ramsey approached her with the idea.

“I had already been thinking about the youth group and had thought how cool it would be to have adults in our church who would kind of take a youth under their wing,” Blair said. “Then Sandee came to me with this idea.”

Ramsey said things snowballed from there, and the program started with that first step. If something needs improved or changed, you address it, and so that’s what happened, and it worked.

The program got started last year after Blair asked the high school kids if they would be interested in the program. Those who were filled out a form that asked for information such as their parents’ names, address, hobbies, favorite candies, foods, drinks, extracurricular activities and more.

“They have a choice as to whether or not they want to do it, and so far, 100% of the kids have participated,” Blair said. “It’s only for high school kids because we want it to be special for them, and so then the middle-schoolers have something to look forward to.”

For the youth who wanted to be in the program, Blair made sure they knew there was going to a woman at the church who would be their secret pal, giving them a few gifts throughout the year, praying for them and sending notes of encouragement.

“They are all anonymous, and the ladies would bring their gifts or notes to the Bible study I lead on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings,” Ramsey said. “Or some of the gals dropped them off at the church office for Keia and then she delivered the gifts.”

Ramsey said the most exciting thing about it for her was the big reveal they had at the church in December. It’s a reveal unless one of the women accidentally signs the card or includes a return address, like she did.

Ramsey said last year, about 30 kids signed up, and this year, there already are more than 40, not counting the seniors. Including them, they could easily have around 50 youth participating this year.

“The kids didn’t know through the year who their person was. Then at the reveal, the looks on their faces were priceless,” Ramsey said. “Some of them were like, ‘Oh man, I’ve seen this lady at church but had no idea,’ and Keia was very instrumental in the process.”

{span class=”verse” data-ref=”46011001” data-last-offset=”9”}Ramsey said she matches the women with the kids and doesn’t let them choose who is going to be their secret pal.{/span}

{span class=”verse” data-ref=”46011001” data-last-offset=”9”}”If I know someone has sons but no daughter, I match them with a girl or vice versa,” she said. “I know one lady who is very dynamic, so I’ve matched her with a youth that is{/span} kind of shy.”

Adopt a Youth participants started signing up again in December and will continue to do so through early this month. All of the participants who signed up last year have signed up again.

“This is the time where kids are matched with someone, and we still need five more ladies to sign up,” Ramsey said. “The gals that have signed up to be mentors range from their 20s to their 70s, so it’s for every age group.”

Ramsey said they don’t encourage elaborate gifts, just simple, small things, like gift cards. There are three gifts a year with a $20 limit. They are given on Valentine’s Day, birthday and Christmas.

“For the big reveal last month, the ladies from the Bible study had brought refreshments to the church,” Ramsey said. “The youth were out Christmas caroling at a nursing home and then came back to the church.”

The women participating in the program individually brought their Christmas gifts up to the front, introduced themselves and announced who their secret pals were. That youth would go up, meet the woman and receive a gift.

Blair said it has been really incredible to see the women of the church pour into the kids and love them and to see the excitement of the kids when they receive something, whether it’s a word of encouragement or a small gift.

“I think it just goes to show these kids are hungry to be loved and to be cared for by someone, and it has been really cool and connects the kids to the youth group,” Blair said. “It keeps them active in the church because they have a connection, which has been one of the coolest things for me to see.”

She said because they are only one year into it, they’ve only seen a little bit of the fruit, but a couple years from now, she believes they are really going to see the impact that it has had and the fruit that has been borne as a result.

“I’m excited to see the relationships that are being formed after the kids have just met their person,” Blair said. “Just to see how those relationships progress over the years will be really cool.”

Some of the youth and their mentors have wanted to keep the relationships going, like church member Lela Belviy and her youth, Maddie Miles.

“It was a blessing to remember throughout the year and pray for my adopted youth,” Belviy said. “It was also an opportunity to pray for youth in general.”

Belviy said the youth today are living in a different world than when she grew up, and they need God’s guidance in their lives.

After the reveal last month, Miles messaged Belviy and invited her to lunch because she wanted to get to know her mentor better, and Belviy was thrilled.

“So now, I have the added blessing of getting to know her better, as well, and feel as though I’ve been given a new friend and a gift from God,” she said.

Ramsey said they intend to continue the program.

“Even though the youth will not be assigned the same mentor more than once, those ladies will probably follow their person through to graduation,” Ramsey said. “So in four years, the youth should have had four different mentors by the time they’re done.”

Ramsey said she kept going back to Scripture, {span class=”verse” data-ref=”46011001” data-last-offset=”9”}1 Corinthians 11:1,{/span} “{span class=”verse” data-ref=”46011001” data-last-offset=”9”}{span data-offset=”1”}Be{/span} {span data-offset=”2”}imitators{/span} {span data-offset=”3”}of{/span} {span data-offset=”4”}me{/span}, {span data-offset=”5”}as{/span} {span data-offset=”6”}I{/span} {span data-offset=”7”}am{/span} {span data-offset=”8”}of{/span} {span data-offset=”9”}Christ.” Through the program, they{/span} try to imitate a Christlike attitude toward the kids.{/span}

{span class=”verse” data-ref=”46011001” data-last-offset=”9”}”The program is also for the youth who are unchurched or maybe only attend on Sundays and Wednesdays,” Ramsey said. “Whoever the kids are that sign up for this, it’s a year’s process of letting them know they are loved.”{/span}

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"It’s a year’s process of letting them know they are loved."

Sandee Ramsey on Seymour Christian Church’s Adopt a Youth program


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