Youth Force began as a summer mission project for three Oklahoma City area churches in 1987. It began as four full day sessions that met sporadically during the summer month. Projects such as the Ronald McDonald House, the Ark Family Shelter, Skyline Urban Ministries, and others received the benefit of the youths’ help.
In the fall of 89 a group of youth directors met with the vision of a week-long mission project in the inner city of Oklahoma City. Having previously taken groups to out of state projects, these youth leaders wanted to provide Oklahoma youth an opportunity to be in mission at home. Drawing upon the experiences of previous Youth Force mission, Mountain T.O.P., the Appalachian Service Project, Group Work Camps and San Marcos Mission Project, the decision was made to keep the Youth Force name, but to expand it to a oneweek, five day mission project. This format allowed for better utilization of job skills, consistency of participants, and an increased awareness of mission effectiveness. There were fifty-six participants in 1990.There was no housing and the participants went home each evening and returned to work in the mornings.
Youth Force 1991 saw the addition of housing for participants. The girls stayed at Epworth United Methodist Church, and the boys at May Avenue United Methodist Church. Breakfast was prepared and served at Epworth by a dedicated crew from Wickline United Methodist Church in Midwest City. Lunches were prepared by the manna managers and dinner was eaten in the cafeteria at Oklahoma City University. OCU also provided showers in the field house. 86 girls used 2 showers. Eighteen families were served by Youth Force in 1991 when the name “God Squad” was adopted for the small work teams. There were 158 participants in 1991.
1992 brought about major changes in Youth Force with the moving of housing and meals to OCU. This move allowed an explosion of participants. One day was added to the schedule with everyone arriving on Sunday and leaving on Friday. Cool rooms, beds, and hot showers were a welcome addition for all participants. The theme for 1992 was Youth Force – A Labor of Love. Twenty-five projects were completed for Skyline Urban Ministries, Neighborhood Services Organization, and L.l.F.E.
In 1993 the number of participants for Youth Force maxed out at 225. Housing was again at OCU and 28 projects were completed. Love in Action was more than just a theme as this dedicated group of youth and adults worked, played and worshipped in an attitude of love.
In 1994 Youth Force Satellite came into being. 75 youth and adults served in the rural areas of Southeastern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference provided the housing. Rural Youth Force took on its’ own character. Urban reached capacity before the middle of March with 250 registrants. God made phone calls nightly during worship.
1995 was a “hot” year for Youth Force both at the Youth Force Rural Kiamichi and Youth Force OKC. Temperatures soared but so did spirits. OCU continued to provide housing for OKC participants who numbered 225. The center for mission activities also changed to OCU as we said good-bye to Epworth Church, which so graciously hosted Youth Force for several years. Youth Force Rural Kiamichi (Satellite) continued to grow with 80 participants. Antlers United Methodist Church prepared wonderful meals for hungry workers!
1997 was an exciting year in both Lawton, Enid and OKC. The support seen in the communities was excellent. In Lawton the city wholeheartedly joined in our efforts challenging us to extend the boundaries of Youth Force even farther.
In 1998 Youth Force extended to Cleveland County while staying strong in both OKC, and Lawton. From 1998 to the present Youth Force has continued to grow with sites all over the state of Oklahoma (Frederick, Duncan, Ada) and has been a part of MANY communities. In fact there have even been extensions of Youth Force in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, and maybe even places we aren’t aware of. Each of these follow the same model and have begun with people from Oklahoma moving into areas and carrying the model and vision of Youth Force.
The horizons are still great! Who knows where we will end up next!