Meet JJ Francis

James “JJ” Francis has served in several roles at Shelterwood, and today he is the Assistant Director of Training and Leadership Development. “Young people are not just the future, they are the present, and when you can help them have a relationship with God, that changes everything,” he says. Meet JJ Francis.

What he loves most about Shelterwood: “Bar none, the most important thing is that we get to minister to kids and families,” JJ says about his work at the residential treatment agency. “We get to meet great people, we get to share the love of God and then walk out that love in our day-to-day jobs and activities.”

Before Shelterwood: JJ is originally from Florida, where he started his career as both a youth pastor and a therapist. He focused his education on pursuing a career in both ministry and therapy, and has his Master’s in Counseling and Clinical Mental Health from Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He recently passed the National Counselor Exam, and today, he is working to earn his Doctorate of Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

What brought him to Shelterwood: JJ first came to Shelterwood residential treatment agency in May 2013 to become a Mentor. “I believe that people need second chances,” JJ says. “I wanted the opportunity to openly share my faith and pour into young people. If you can affect the life of a young person today, you can impact a community tomorrow.” Since then, he has held several roles at Shelterwood. “I have worked with leadership development, recruited Mentors to become part of our program, trained staff when they joined our team and developed web-based resources for the Shelterwood team.”

Day in the life: As Assistant Director of Training and Leadership Development, JJ has a variety of responsibilities, but everything he does has a singular focus. “We have a motto that every interaction we have with students should be healing, and every interaction I have with Mentors should be encouraging. That is always my goal: to be encouraging. If we maintain a healthy perspective, there is nothing we cannot do.” Currently, he is focused on recruiting new members of the Mentor team. This includes reviewing applications, conducting interviews, visiting school campuses to recruit team members and developing the intensive training for Mentors.

When he was a teen: “I had seen what drugs and drinking had done to people outside, so I had a mindset to stay positive,” JJ recalls. “My dad is a pastor, and so we had traveled to many different places and gone on many missions trips. It made me grateful for what we have here in the United States. My teenage experience was low-key, and I just enjoyed life, hung out with friends, went to the movies, went to church and enjoyed life.”

Family: “I love my family and we are very close,” JJ says. Like their dad, both JJ and his brother are pastors. One of JJ’s sisters lives in Hong Kong and his other sister lives in Atlanta, “but we communicate all the time. When we can inspire other families to maintain strong family bonds, we do all we can to encourage them.”

Outside work: JJ enjoys being involved in his church, working out and staying active and spending time with good friends. “Honestly, I just enjoy being around solid people!” he smiles.

Best part of his role at Shelterwood: “I have been part of every department, and working as a team is my favorite thing to do. This is certainly a calling over a job. God has really revealed Himself as a loving father to me, and one of the greatest benefits of working here is seeing that unfold. God can really work when we allow Him to.”

Shelterwood Mentors: A lifetime of impact

At Shelterwood, everything we do drives towards transforming teens and restoring families — and our young adult Mentors are at the heart of it all. These men and women meet teens where they are and speak Gospel truth into their lives. Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to authentic discipleship, serving teens in their journey of transformation.

Mentors, nicknamed “Bigs,” are are men and women in their early 20s who have a passion for discipleship. As they work with teens, they lay groundwork for social, academic and spiritual growth of the students. “We’ve found that our Mentors working with our teens is one of the biggest helps to them and really has a profound impact,” says Lloyd Rindels, Director of Training and Leadership Development. “Shelterwood is designed not to create simply behavioral change, but to get to that deep heart change and set our students up to succeed in life. Our Mentors help them navigate.”

Mentors have a wide variety of backgrounds, but they all have a common passion for serving struggling teens while growing in leadership. “Our Mentors come from a variety of backgrounds,” Lloyd explains. “Really, the biggest qualification is a willing heart. Mentors want to serve God, want to serve teens and want to share their faith in a way that can impact lives.”

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“We’re looking for Mentors who want to come live out their passion and live out the idea of laying down their lives for the sake of someone else,” Lloyd continues. “That is the background we are looking for. We look for a teachable heart and a servant heart.”

Mentors serve teens through discipleship, but it is a journey for them as well. Mentors experience intensive leadership development and spiritual growth, becoming positioned to thrive in their future no matter what career path they choose. “It is a year-long journey into leadership, coaching, spiritual growth and understanding how to help others learn.”

“We’ve designed the program to help Mentors with their own development,” Lloyd says. “When Mentors come to Shelterwood, they learn as much about themselves as they do in helping other people and learning how to help teenagers. We have a course of study to help Mentors with their own growth as leaders, navigating life and learning what they would like to do next.”

This is one year of service for Mentors, yet the legacy is lasting: Mentors make a lifetime of impact. One-on-one ministry makes a transformational difference not only on teens, but on their families and communities too. “When we have a student who graduates Shelterwood, it is a rejoicing. One thing that is highlighted, over and over again, is the Mentors. What they have done to help a student changes a life — for a lifetime.”

Interested in becoming a Shelterwood Mentor? Know someone who might be a good fit? We are actively recruiting for our next class of Mentors. Learn more about the program and apply now.

 

Reflections on Haiti

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. These young adult men and women disciple our students — but it’s a journey for the Mentors as well. While Mentors help develop teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk. Mentor and Assistant House Director Stephen Green shares his reflection on how God changed his heart during the Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

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“As I got on the plane and began the final flight to Haiti, I felt my emotions begin to rise up into my nasal cavity and over take my face like a fever. I played music to distract myself but it only aided in turning the knobs that unlocked the waterworks. I felt the Spirit move in with His scalpel and all I could do was sit and let Him cut me open as I began my ascent to 30,000 ft. Despite my resistance, God had called me to go to Haiti and in my reluctant obedience He was able to put me right where He wanted me. Haiti was His seven-day project on my heart and He wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.

That night, I chatted with various members of my team, including the students that we brought along with us. I still felt the heaviness of the Spirit doing his work on me, and it was anything but pleasant. I was approached by a beloved friend, Kyle, who expressed the desire to speak later concerning what was going on with me. Little did I know that he would be the instrument by which God would begin to really remove the junk out of my heart and then also be the stitches that closed my open wound.

Looking back, I can only say that the moment was one of providence. I had been set up through circumstances and various different elements of my life leading up to that conversation. My journey to that moment could not be limited to the afternoon flight and orphan visit. No, it had been in progress over the course of many months. Everything was somehow connected. The healing I sought was not what I thought I wanted, but was more than I could have asked for. It was irony. It was inconvenient. It was Haiti. It was friendship. Lastly, it was unbridled and courageous confession.

With each orphanage we visited, I found the Spirit drawing me out and doing something in me. On the second day we went to a town called Hinch where I met this beautiful little boy named Miguel. He stayed with me the entire time and, unlike several others, didn’t care that I had nothing to offer. He wanted to be loved and he wanted to show love. We met each other exactly where we needed. We gave each other time and we spent our time being grateful that we had someone else that existed to spend time together.

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In Les Miserables there is a line stated multiple times that “to love another person is see the face of God.” The next day I met Brianna. That precious girl that I had the privilege of pushing on the swing went out of her way to find me and be with me. In a time when I felt unloved and unlovable, God sent me two beautiful, innocent little kids for me to love and love me in return. In the midst of my darkness, God brought me a little light.

I want to love well. That is my heart’s desire! I am, however, tainted by sin and by suffering and lack what is needed to truly love well. Haiti broke into a part of me that had been walled up. Even though I still suffer and I still struggle with all of my insecurity, I long to love others and to bring them to a place of healing and show them there is more to life than sitting in their pain and suffering. There is life that lies beyond their circumstances. There is healing.”

Shelterwood Mentors: Serving Teens, Growing Spiritually

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. Serving teens is a life-transforming experience, yet comes with unique challenges. For this reason, spiritual development is crucial in the mentoring journey. While mentors are developing teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk.

“It can take an emotional toll doing this demanding work, so spiritual development is where we grow and find the strength we need to continue serving,” explains JJ Francis. He serves many roles at Shelterwood but most importantly is the Spiritual Development and Community Facilitator to our mentors.

Shelterwood Mentors are young adult men and women who are passionate about helping struggling teens and have a desire to grow in leadership and service in their own personal journey. Mentors, nicknamed “Bigs,” commit to the year-long life-on-life discipleship and hands-on ministry with teenagers. “We give teens grace when they mess up and teach them that they are not a failure and that they are well-loved. We are both their best friend and counselor,” JJ adds.

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While mentors work to develop teens, they are also growing in their own faith.

Rewarding work, certainly — but it isn’t easy, JJ explains. “Coming alongside our brothers and sisters as they face a myriad of issues, we also face our own challenges. In the process of serving and giving to others, mentors learn that God can use our service to build us in the process.”

Having served as a “Big” himself, JJ knows the unique challenges our mentors experience. The spiritual development program is designed to address the one-of-a-kind trials mentors face on the journey. Spiritual development for mentors includes Bible studies, small group discussions, recreation and more. In every aspect, mentors find encouragement from every member of the Shelterwood Team.

“We call each other to a higher standard, and when you have brothers and sisters in the same struggle, you realize you’re not alone in this,” he says. “This is a challenging role, so we need to nurture each other. We lift each other up in everything.”

To guide mentors through their journey, JJ and his team recently developed the “Mentor Discipleship and Leadership Program Guidebook.” The first portion of the guidebook outlines the stages of their journey, from orientation through completion of their Shelterwood year. The second portion of the guide focuses on spiritual resources, including a spiritual gift assessment, spiritual disciplines and tools for personal development. Practical guidance is also offered, as mentors plan for their career post-Shelterwood.

All of the support given through the Leadership and Discipleship program builds a group of mentors who make life-changing impact on the lives of our students. “You see the difference mentors make at every graduation,” he says. “Parents testify that if it weren’t for them, their child would not have made the progress they have.”

“For mentors, this is not just a job or occupation. This is a calling,” JJ says. “Mentors really invest in these students. They are the backbone of our program, and Shelterwood would not be the special place it is without them.”

Sister Joins Shelterwood Staff Inspired by Brother’s Transformation: Kiley’s Story

God used Shelterwood to change the heart of Kiley Crossland, while her younger brother, Nate, was a student. She came to know the school’s healing power through his journey and her own.

Kiley, the oldest of four siblings, was away at college when Nate enrolled as a Shelterwood student. “Over the course of a few hard years, my parents decided he needed extra care. Although I was at college, I was still super connected to my family and to him,” Kiley remembers. Kiley visited her brother a few times while he was at Shelterwood, and those visits put a desire in her heart to serve as a Big Sister/Mentor one day herself.

“My mom and dad would both say the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their lives was drop Nate off at Shelterwood,” Kiley continues. “But the fruit of that tough love was amazing. Sometimes love forces you to make someone you love uncomfortable, and Nate needed to be uncomfortable to grow. Shelterwood had a huge impact on our whole family.”

What especially struck Kiley was the Life-on-Life Discipleship model at Shelterwood, in which young adult, “Big Brother,” mentors walked alongside Nate. “The mentorship component was so impactful for Nate. Shelterwood intentionally places struggling teens alongside young adult men and women to offer perspective and guidance,” Kiley says. Even after his Shelterwood graduation, Nate’s Big Brothers remained connected, even driving overnight to attend his Eagle Scout ceremony. “These guys just really invested in Nate’s life.”

Fast forward several years — Kiley graduated from The King’s College and was working full-time. She was accepted to law school, then completed a fellowship, but questioned whether law school was the right place for her. “Long-term, I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted to do with my life.” So she did some soul-searching.

“I’d always said that if God opened up a year in my life where I could be a Big Sister/Mentor at Shelterwood, I’d love to take advantage of the opportunity,” Kiley says. Although her background in economics and philosophy didn’t seem like a fit, she applied anyway. “I was so thankful to be accepted.”

To say it was a life-changing year is an understatement, Kiley says. “I don’t think it’s possible to be at Shelterwood for a year and not have it impact your life. It was transformational in so many ways.”

Central to Kiley’s role as a Big Sister/Mentor was daily life with Shelterwood’s teen girls. “Doing life on a daily basis with 30 teenage girls . . . was very impactful. Still today, I continue to reflect on that year and how it’s changed me.”

Of the many ways she grew at Shelterwood, Kiley points first to her perspective on relationships. “The reality is that relationships are long-term commitments. It’s lots of days talking, being supportive and small interactions over the course of time, that’s how trust is built.”

The Shelterwood girls changed Kiley’s life too. “A lot of students arrive at Shelterwood hopeless, trying to understand how to find hope when things are at their worst. They taught me about grace, perseverance and hope.”

In both Nate’s experience and her own, Kiley believes Shelterwood’s program is successful due to its community centered approach. “It’s not just getting teens on track with school, getting the right diagnosis or the right medication, but looking at each teen as a whole person. Shelterwood offers incredible professional counseling, a really strong education component and this passion to see students understand and know the Gospel.”

“At Shelterwood, I saw lives change significantly and for real. The reality is that long-term change is a marathon, not a sprint. Shelterwood is committed to working a longer path with these students,” Kiley says. “There is hope and the Holy Spirit works in people at Shelterwood.”

Our Mentor Mindset

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I was reading a book called Mere Disciple by Jeff Strong the other day in which he described the difference rujon copy e1421970220322 150x150 Our Mentor Mindsetbetween being a follower of Jesus and being his disciple. His metaphor was powerful. He talked of those in Bible times wanting to be so near their rabbi that the dust from his robes would kick up onto theirs and make them dirty. Shelterwood’s mentors are dirty. These young men and women, like the disciples in the New Testament, give up their lives and livelihoods to get closer to Jesus and to become LIKE Him, not just to follow Him. Jesus came to love the broken-hearted and to transform lives. This is exactly what our mentors do each and every day with the students at Shelterwood. My question for the rest of us is how dirty are we?   Are we following Jesus so closely that we can hear Him, talk to Him intimately and trust His leading even when it doesn’t make sense? Or are we following at whatever distance we are comfortable with, content to be selective with His teachings and only hearing Him occasionally when it suits our interests? Jesus calls us to be his disciples, under His mentorship and guidance. We can learn a thing or two from these young adults who want to get dirty with the Rabbi’s dust.

Give us a call to learn more about our Our Mentor Mindset

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Mentoring Relationships

Susan Jekielek, M.A., Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D., and Elizabeth C. Hair, Ph.D. (2002) have spent a great deal of time studying the effectiveness of mentoring relationships. They have found significant improvement in mentees:

  • Significant reductions in school absence
  • Higher college participation
  • Better school attitudes and behavior
  • Less drug and alcohol use
  • Less likelihood of hitting others
  • More positive attitudes toward their elders and toward helping
  • Improved parental relationships and support from peers

Jekielek and others found that higher-quality mentoring relationships were built upon structure and planning. Success was much more likely when there was an effort to provide pre- and post-match training and support with some direct supervision of the matched relationship. It was also important for the mentor/mentee interests to be considered during the matching process because shared social activities where critical to building trust.

couch reading sm 300x196 Mentoring RelationshipsEffective mentors should be willing to commit to a long-term relationship and make regular contact with their mentee, as well as participate in ongoing training and communication with program directors. Through an in-depth, nine-month study, Morrows and Style (1995) identified two main types of mentoring relationships and the outcomes they produce. “Developmental” volunteers were adult mentors who held expectations that varied over time in relation to their perception of the needs of the youth. In the beginning, the mentors devoted themselves to establishing a strong connection with the youth. They felt satisfied with their mentee’s progress and with the relationship overall; when doubts arose, they were more likely to consult caseworkers for reassurance or advice. The youth in these relationships reported feeling a considerable sense of support from their adult friend. Further, many of the youth in developmental relationships demonstrated a pattern of seeking help independently and voluntarily divulged difficulties in their school or personal lives, allowing the volunteer to provide guidance and advice.

Prescriptive” volunteers viewed their own goals for the match (usually these are “good” goals, e.g., academic achievement) as primary rather than the youth’s. Some prescriptive volunteers required the youth to take equal responsibility for maintaining the relationship and for providing feedback about its meaning. The prescriptive volunteers ultimately felt frustrated. The youth were similarly frustrated, dissatisfied with the relationship, and far less likely to regard their mentor as a source of consistent support. Often, these prescriptive relationships developed growing tension, which led, at least in part, to their frequent demise. Two-thirds of the prescriptive matches no longer met nine months after the first study interview, whereas only about ten percent of the developmental relationships had ended.

Grossman and Rhodes found that matches involving volunteer married persons 26-30 years old, were 86 percent more likely to terminate their relationship each month compared with matches with 18-25 year old volunteers, and far more likely than non-married 26-30 year olds (who were less likely to terminate relationships compared with 18-25 year old volunteers). At Shelterwood, we have also found that single mentors between the ages of 21 – 27 are incredibly committed to the task of mentoring and are less likely than all other age groups to end their relationship with students. While, society has deemed this age group as selfish and uncommitted, at our Academy we have found our mentors to be incredibly committed and trustworthy. They demonstrate an eagerness to learn and share their lives with younger students. This age group tends to be more open to supervision and training than older volunteers and they have the disposable time necessary to invest deeply into the lives of their mentees.

Good quality mentorship programs like Shelterwood use structure and planning to facilitate high levels of mentor-mentee interaction. In her research, Jekielek has found that those mentors who received more hours of training had longer-lasting matches. At Shelterwood, training and supervision is an ongoing part of our program as we bring teens into relationship with recent college graduates. This type of intensive mentor care has been part of the Shelterwood experience for over thirty-four years and often continues long after our students have graduated from our school. Avenues such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have allowed us to maintain a significant level of investment, even if the distance between the mentor and mentee expands over time.