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Friday, March 22, 2013

Young Life for Teens with Special Needs

clip_image002On March 20, 2011 my husband, Kelly, and I got married and began our life in Howard County, Maryland. My husband grew up in Howard County but it was a new area for me and I really didn’t know many people. Some of the first people that I met were through our church Grace Community.

One of the families that I remember meeting were the Judges. We met Katie and Robert Judge (parents to Ben, Sarah and Rebecca) when we saw them at a tree farm in December getting their Christmas tree. We had recognized them from Grace and introduced ourselves. As we got to know the Judges, Katie shared with me about her daughter Sarah. One of the things that weighed heavily on Katie’s heart was that when her daughter would turn sixteen she would not be able to have a sweet sixteen party. Something so simple, yet so precious. It’s those little things that often get taken for granted. The reason that Katie said Sarah would never have a sweet sixteen is because Sarah has Autism. And in the world of teens with disabilities, opportunities to make friends and have a real social life are rare. “Who would come to the party,” Katie said, “her teachers?”

clip_image022Six months prior to this conversation Kelly and I had felt the Lord calling us to start a ministry in Howard County called Young Life Capernaum. Young Life is an outreach ministry for high school students. Young Life is not affiliated with any one church but instead Young Life leaders go into the high schools. Young Life leaders go where kids are. They go to them on their turf, in their world, to build authentic relationships—relationships that take a lot of time, trust, and consistency. These leaders spend countless hours with these teens where they are, as clip_image016they are. They model Christ’s love through these relationships so they can ultimately share Christ with these teens. These relationships are the key to Young Life. Young Life also has three programs to help build relationships and share about Christ. The first program is called Club. It is a weekly outreach program filled with two hours of fun, laughter, skits, singing, and games. At the end of each club a Young Life leader gives a talk that progresses through the gospel. For teens that have a relationship withclip_image020 Christ or who are interested in learning more, there are weekly Bible studies called Campaigners. Also, during the summer there are Young Life camp trips which are honestly the best week of their lives.

Over the years some branches of Young Life have developed that are specialized to meet the needs of different populations. For example, there is Wyldlife for middle schoolers, Younglives for teen moms, and Vida Joven for the Hispanic community.

clip_image004Another one of these branches is Young Life Capernaum. Capernaum is a Young Life outreach ministry for high school students with disabilities. In Capernaum, we believe that teens with disabilities have the right to live life as God intended them—life to the full. So everything that we do from the action packed clubs, to our Bible studies, and even time just hanging out, is all about bringing these teens to the feet of Christ so that they have an opportunity to have a personal relationship with Christ.

Two summers ago Kelly and I began the ground work to start Young Life Capernaum in Howard County. And this fall we had our first Capernaum club. This has been an exciting clip_image006year where we have gotten to know a lot of kids and families. We started our first club in September with 11 teens and had 25 teens at our last club of the semester We’ve had a blast taking our friends to baseball games, mini golf, pumpkin farms, the movies and a ton more. We have come a long way this year and we are excited for this ministry to continue to grow.

clip_image008This January, Kelly and I got invited to Sarah’s Sweet Sixteen. Me, Kelly and all of Sarah’s friends from Capernaum Club huddled together in a small room waiting to surprise Sarah. When we all jumped out, Sarah’s face lit up with joy and excitement—and in that moment, we couldn’t help but think that this was a small picture of what heaven might be like.

Capernaum brings Christ to teens with disabilities. And where Christ is, there is life—life to the full.clip_image012

For more information on Capernaum in Howard County you can visit: hococapernaum.younglife.org

You can also check out our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/HoCoYL?fref=ts

For more information on Younglife or Capernaum in other areas you can visit: younglife.org

Connie here:

What Kristin didn’t mention above is that Sarah’s party was BECAUSE of the ministry she and Kelly have given to Sarah and her friends—my son included. We are in AWE of these two and will be eternally grateful for their tireless efforts to SHOW Christ to our children—not to mention us parents!!!

This is not only a wonderful ministry for Howard County, Maryland. I spoke to a volunteer last week who told me her family member—in another state—also benefits from it. She told me how wonderful it was for a parent to have another incentive to encourage learning behavior, saying, “You get to go to Capernaum, tonight.” The child will do ANYTHING to make sure that happens.

Thank you, Kelly and Kristin! Thank you Young Life! I also want to thank those of you who are inspired to start one of these ministries in YOUR area!!!




Kelly grew up in Ellicott City and is a math teacher at Mount Hebron High School. He also coaches JV boys basketball as well as Allied Softball. Kristin grew up in White Marsh and works part time for Young Life Capernaum and part time for Smithouse Construction.


More pictures below …



Hanging out at club



Alex being a human bowling ball at club



Kristin and Danya hanging out at a basketball game


Kelly and Eric hanging out at Summers Farm

Other posts you might like”

Be His Witness By Demonstrating His With-ness

What You Can Do for the Weary and Burdened Who Have Special Needs

I’m Not Able on My Own


  1. Kelly & Kristen, thank you for your dedication and hard work for children. They're truly the future to this world. By fostering Christ's love in their hearts this old planet will run a lot smoother.

    Connie, thanks again for introducing a couple of wonderful people.

    I'll Tweet/FB this for you :)

  2. When we met Kristin and Kelly at the Christmas tree place I left there feeling like something amazing was in the works. Little did I know what was in store for Sarah and all of the other amazing teens and volunteers that would make up this amazing ministry.

    For years I closed the door on things Sarah would never do. Like celebrate her Sweet Sixteen with friends. As time went on a dear friend told me quite firmly "never close the door or dismisss the possibilities that Sarah can and deserves to at least try".

    Getting away from that mindset Kristin and Kelly arrived and everything changed. My Sarah had friends and a Youth Group that she could attend to learn how much Christ loves her and that He has a plan for her.

    So in a nutshell God has provided for us and Sarah. He knows this special child and her abilities!!!!!! Thanks Kristin,Kelly and Connie for this oppurtunity for Sarah and our story to be put into a wonderful blog!!!!