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.


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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