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.”