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Part of the new & improved Alcoa team at Spring Camp.
YOKE is looking for mature(ish), passionate, fun-loving young adults to serve at a local middle school for the 2019/2020 school year. These “YOKE Folk” commit to helping once a week at a local club, building personal relationships with middle school kids, and serving at camp one weekend a semester.

One of the best parts of being a YOKE Folk is getting to serve alongside a team of other passionate leaders. YOKE aims to have a team of at least 6-8 YOKE Folk at each school. While a team smaller than this may be able to do the bare minimum of what it takes to run a YOKE club, we value the students we serve enough that we want to do more than just the bare minimum. The real life-changing ministry of YOKE does not happen at club; it happens in the time that YOKE Folk spend with kids outside of regularly scheduled programming. This is why it is so important that YOKE teams are fully staffed—so that leaders have the capacity to run a successful YOKE club and take the next step of investing in the life of a middle school student.

Nathan Schrimsher served his first semester as a YOKE Folk at Alcoa Middle School in the spring of 2019. Prior to Nathan joining, the team at Alcoa had been struggling with a lack of leaders and needed help. With the addition of Nathan and a couple of other new recruits, the YOKE club at Alcoa began to flourish. Last spring, the team tripled the number of students they were able to bring to camp!

“Even though I joined YOKE halfway through the school year, I quickly began to build relationships with kids and other leaders,” said Nathan. “At my very first YOKE camp, I was able to watch one of the kids I’d spent so much time with decide to follow Jesus. That moment alone made everything worth it.”

Like Nathan, you too can have the opportunity to positively impact the life of a middle school kid. As we look to a new school year, YOKE is looking for college students, young professionals, and other compassionate adults to serve as mentors to middle school students.

If you’d like to be a part of a YOKE team at a local middle school, don’t wait until school starts back—apply now! Fill out our online application, or contact program director Eli Cockrum at eli@yokeyouth.com with any questions.
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With nearly 240 volunteers serving in 30 middle schools, the YOKE community is full of people with all sorts of talents and experiences. It’s always exciting when a YOKE Folk can use their particular skills or experience to meet a specific need with the students YOKE serves. Sarah Gregory, a former YOKE kid and YOKE Folk who is serving in YOKE’s Summer Adventures program this year, is a great example of this.

Allan, a deaf student at Bearden Middle School, is participating in YOKE’s Summer Adventures program for the first time. Sarah, who recently graduated from Maryville College, has been helping to interpret for Allan on each of YOKE’s outdoor trips.

“I’m so glad to be involved with YOKE again, and it’s been really cool to be able to use this specific skill at Summer Adventures,” said Sarah. “Allan is such a cool kid, and he’s made it really easy and fun.”

Sarah was born in the Czech Republic, where her parents served as missionaries. Middle school was tough for her, though, as her family transitioned back to the US for a while. During her 7th grade year at Northwest Middle, Sarah got involved with YOKE, where she found a community of friends that made the transition easier. There she also met a deaf student, so to communicate, Sarah began to learn sign language. They quickly became best friends.

When Sarah returned to the US for college, she knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in Interpreting and Deaf Studies and she knew that she wanted to serve with YOKE. During her time at Maryville College, she served at Carpenters Middle School. Though the stress of her senior year schedule pulled her away for a time, she has enjoyed being involved with YOKE again this summer.

“At first I was a little nervous when I was asked to interpret at Summer Adventures,” Sarah admits. “But I felt like God was telling me that I needed to do this, and I have been able to see the fruit of that decision as I watch Allan having a great time on these trips.”

YOKE is looking for a diverse team of volunteers with a variety of skills and experiences to serve every student in our middle schools. If you are interested in using your skills and talents to invest in the lives of middle school students, contact program director Eli Cockrum: eli@yokeyouth.com, or fill out our online application, and someone will get in touch with you soon.

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One of the challenges that comes with school-based ministry is helping our leaders to stay connected with their YOKE kids during the summer months. While there is plenty to be done over the summer in order to prepare for the next school year—connecting with financial partners and local churches, helping out with special events, and recruiting new leaders—we want to ensure that YOKE Folk have a way to stay in touch with kids over the summer and continue to invest in their lives. That is why every Tuesday in the month of June, YOKE hosts Summer Adventures!

YOKE’s Summer Adventures program is open to middle school students in all 30 schools that YOKE serves, from rising sixth graders to rising ninth graders. Participating students will attend four day trips which encourage a healthy, adventurous lifestyle, and provide middle school students with an opportunity to get out of their environment and try new things.

“So many of the things I love to do now as an adult are things I first experienced as a middle school student with YOKE," says Eli Cockrum, now YOKE’s Program Director. "That's one of the reasons I look forward to sharing our Summer Adventures with YOKE kids."

The program kicks off on Tuesday, June 4th with a whitewater rafting trip down the Pigeon River. The next week’s activity is a hiking trip to the Twin Arches at the Big South Fork recreation area on June 11th. On June 18th we will spend the day at Ijams Nature Center, traversing the Navitat Canopy Adventures and kayaking on the river. We will close out the program on June 25th with a “Snow & Swim” day—during which students will get to go snow tubing and swimming in Pigeon Forge on the same day!

The cost for students to attend all four Summer Adventures and receive a t-shirt is $120. If a student can’t attend all four trips, each one costs $40 and t-shirts are available for order at $10 each. You can visit the Summer Adventures page on our website for more details.

At YOKE, we never want financial barriers to prevent any student from participating in our programs, and we do our best to make sure every kid who wants to participate is able to. If you’d like to sponsor a kid for Summer Adventures, click on the link below.
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David and Landon (no relation!) at Spring Camp.
Contributed by David Schilling, Hardin Valley Church of Christ

​Middle school is a challenging time, and one thing that was a huge help to me during those years was my church community. Many middle school students lack a community of believers, or maybe just attend church every once in a while. YOKE reaches students and connects them to Christ and each other, and that’s why I chose to serve as the team leader in the brand-new club at Hardin Valley Middle School.
 
I love going to Hardin Valley Middle School for lunch on Tuesdays to visit with students. Some students never come to club, but always welcome me with excitement and say, “YOKE GUY!”. There are other students I know really well that have only missed one or two clubs all year!
 
To be honest, the first semester as a new club was hard — trying to remember kids’ names, talk with them without overstepping, and walking through the school with lots of inquisitive stares. We’ve messed up some games and silly songs along the way, but the students don’t care.
 
Eric, a YOKE Team Leader at Karns Middle, texted me during our first week: “Just remember, it’s all about making that connection with those kids. The rest is just fluff. The only people that will know if something didn’t go as planned is you and your YOKE Folk. Just have fun.” As the team leader, I want everything we do to work out perfectly. Eric’s words always came to mind when students wouldn’t listen, or when our “dinosaur dance off” was an epic fail. Regardless of any mistakes I could make, I’m so thankful to have a connection with students in my community, and for the chance to have fun with them in a safe environment while showing them God’s love. The team at Hardin Valley Middle is pumped for year two next fall!
 
I also had the opportunity to be the camp speaker for one of YOKE’s 2019 Spring Camp weekends. Speaking at camp challenged me to think and prepare differently. What do you say to 150 students, when some know Jesus while others have never opened a Bible? You have four 10-15-minute lessons and that’s it. How do you communicate God’s never-ending love for them when some do not know what unconditional love is, or have never even heard the word unconditional?
 
For me, the answer to many of these questions is, “God’s bigger than you, David, and He is in control.” Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I exist to follow Jesus and do his kingdom work. Not my kingdom, but his. I’m confident in my God, and I know that He just needs me to show up and give Him my best. He is whispering to those students each day, and he has more than 10-15 minutes to spend with them.
 
In Matthew 9:37, Jesus tells his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”  Students need you in their lives showing them a love that can only come from the Father. Will you help?
If you want to show God’s love to middle school students like David is doing at Hardin Valley, joining the YOKE family is a great way to do so. We are already gearing up for the fall semester, and we would love to connect you with a YOKE teams at one of 30 schools across Knox, Blount, Jefferson, Anderson, and Grainger Counties. To learn more, contact program director Eli Cockrum: eli@yokeyouth.com, or fill out our online application, and someone will get in touch with you soon.
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Jared at fall camp.
It’s always great to find people who already share YOKE’s passion for middle school students and just need an outlet to do so. Jared Boyd, a youth pastor in Jefferson City, saw YOKE as the perfect opportunity to connect with students and families in his community and now serves as our Team Leader at Jefferson Middle.

With years of experience in student ministry, Jared has seen firsthand the importance of mentoring youth.  He previously worked for the Boys and Girls Club in Cleveland, TN, and recalled an experience when he was taking some students to a minor league baseball game. One of the students looked at him and asked, “Can we play catch when we get back?”

“That moment changed everything for me,” says Jared. “I realized the most effective way for me to share God’s love with him in that moment was to simply play baseball with him.”

Since moving to Jefferson City five years ago, Jared has been serving as the student pastor at Heritage Fellowship Church. Last November, Jared was the speaker at YOKE’s Fall Camp, where he shared the gospel with around 150 middle school students from Jefferson, Knox, Anderson, and Blount counties. Jared says that he had been aware of YOKE previously and had been considering getting involved, but it was his experience at YOKE camp that solidified his decision to serve at Jefferson Middle School.

“The thing that stood out to me the most at camp was the enthusiasm that these leaders have for showing up and investing in middle school students,” says Jared. “I loved seeing them dress up in silly costumes, perform crazy skits, and play games with kids. I had a lot of conversations with some great leaders that made it clear to me that this was a solid ministry worth partnering with.”

Jared was also struck by some of the conversations he had with middle school students at camp. “Many of the kids were quick to open up with me about their lives, which made it that much clearer how important the commitment is that these YOKE Folk have made.”

By serving at Jefferson Middle, Jared connecting with a whole new group of students who may never have walked through the doors of his church. If you have a desire to invest in the next generation, YOKE wants to help you accomplish that mission. To learn more about opportunities for serving with YOKE, and how you or your church can get involved, contact program director Eli Cockrum: eli@yokeyouth.com, or fill out our online application, and someone will get in touch with you soon.
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Whether you talk to YOKE kids and YOKE Folk from the ‘70s or those currently involved, YOKE Camp is always a highlight and our 2019 Spring Camp was no different. We had two fabulous weekends at Camp Ba-Yo-Ca in Sevier County. Mystery Camp was our theme, with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson working to solve the mystery of the missing Mountain Dew just in time for our chug-and-crush competition.

On Saturday morning, students had to work together to solve clues to diffuse a “bomb” and escape the dining hall before it went off. After lunch they headed down to the field for Human Foosball and relay races before participating in YOKE’s infamous messy wars.

More than 500 kids and YOKE Folk attended over the course of the two weekends. Thank you to our speakers, Donnie De La Cruz, pastor of Dumplin Baptist Church in Jefferson County, and David Schilling, youth pastor at Hardin Valley Church of Christ and our team leader at Hardin Valley Middle. We are excited for the 14 students we know made first-time decisions to follow Jesus!

We are so thankful for the Future Folk who helped in the kitchen, for the volunteers who served as nurses, cooks, camp directors, worship leaders, and program directors, and for our dedicated team of YOKE Folk who gave a weekend (some gave 2!) to love and serve their kids. Finally, thanks to all of you who gave to help make it all possible. We’re glad to have you on our team! Check out all of the pictures on YOKE’s Facebook page
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In order to serve students in 30 middle schools across 5 counties, YOKE relies on more than 230 volunteer leaders (YOKE Folk) who spend time with students both in and out of school on a weekly basis. Last year, our YOKE Folk invested more than 20,000 hours in middle school students outside of structured YOKE programming.

We asked our YOKE Folk why they think serving with YOKE is worth their time. Here are some more of their responses.
Lee (left) with Jacob at Camp.
 “YOKE provides a unique opportunity for churches to get on school campuses and share the love of Christ with students. Getting outside of your comfort zone by going into unfamiliar territory always builds your trust in Christ.”

                               
​                                – Lee, Team Leader at Montgomery Ridge
                  and Youth Pastor at Partnership Christian Church
Haley (right) with girls at Camp.
"I love that YOKE gives me a chance to make a difference. When I see how open these kids are to sharing their lives with me, I know that God wants me to make an impact on their life—and they have made an impact on mine, as well.”

                                                       – Haley, former YOKE Kid,
                                now YOKE Folk at Norris Middle School
Margaret (far left) with the Union Grove Club.
“YOKE gives me a chance to invest in both middle school kids and college students, both of which can often feel caught in the middle—whether it’s the transition from childhood to adolescence, or from adolescence to adulthood.”

  – Margaret, Team Leader at Union Grove Middle School   
Jacob (in yellow) intimidating opponents at Camp.
“These kids rush into our YOKE club every week, so excited to see me and the rest of my team. They’re comfortable sharing their struggles with us so that we can help them get through the difficult middle school years.”

             – Jacob, YOKE Folk at Union Grove Middle School
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​Our YOKE Folk strive to form deep, authentic relationships with the students they serve. When this happens, the students often feel comfortable opening up about struggles and unfortunately, suicidal thoughts are all too common among adolescents. According to a study from the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2016. That is why YOKE takes suicide prevention seriously.

Part of YOKE’s commitment to investing in leaders involves providing them with training opportunities so that they can be prepared when situations like this arrive. At our 2019 YOKE Leadership Summit, YOKE Folk participated in training provided by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, where they learned how to respond to people having thoughts of suicide. The core principle of this training was “QPR”— which stands for “Question, Persuade, Refer.” This method involves questioning whether the individual is considering suicide, persuading them to commit to staying safe until they can receive help, and referring them to someone that can help them.

Last month, two members of YOKE’s staff, Leah Carter and Eli Smith, attended an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) training provided by TSPN. The ASIST training comes from the LivingWorks Program, a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention which involves the entire community.

The ASIST training largely revolves around the PAL (Pathway for Assisting Life) model of suicide prevention. The goal of the PAL model is “safety for now”— meaning that the aim is for the individual having thoughts of suicide to agree to keep safe until they can receive professional help. It is an iterative process that involves three main steps: connecting with the individual over the idea of suicide, understanding the individual’s choices and hearing their story, and assisting them in creating a plan that will keep them safe for now.

 YOKE is grateful for the partnership of TSPN to help ensure that our leaders are prepared to assist in suicide prevention.  Visit www.tspn.org for more resources on suicide prevention. If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to anyone 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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In order to serve students in 30 middle schools across 5 counties, YOKE relies on more than 230 volunteer leaders (YOKE Folk) who spend time with students both in and out of school on a weekly basis. Last year, our YOKE Folk invested more than 20,000 hours in middle school students outside of structured YOKE programming.

We asked our YOKE Folk why they think serving with YOKE is worth their time. Here are some of their responses. 
“I love my YOKE Kids, and I want to be a consistent person in their lives. I’ve been consistent with them for three years and have let them know that I love them, and they can rely on me.” 
                                    – Abigail, YOKE Folk at Vine Middle School
“Serving with YOKE has given me the opportunity to be there for middle school girls and intentionally pour into them. Knowing that these girls trust me and feel like they can talk to me about anything is the greatest feeling ever.” 
             
                              – Bailey, YOKE Folk at Holston Middle School
“One of my favorite YOKE memories is going to get ice cream with my YOKE Folk Kacie when I was in middle school. You never know the impact that even a simple ice cream date can have on a student's life.” 

                               – Sarah, YOKE Folk at Farragut Middle School
“Serving with YOKE has been important to me because these students need someone in their corner - someone that they know is on their side and rooting for them.” 

                         – Adam, Team Leader at Heritage Middle School
                                              and Youth Pastor at Rio Revolution ​
​Serving with YOKE is fun, challenging, and rewarding. If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved, contact program director Eli Cockrum: eli@yokeyouth.com or fill out an application on our website and someone will follow up with you soon.
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We've heard that a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office. It's even more true when you golf for a good cause. Break out your golf clubs to benefit YOKE clubs at the 5th annual Jeff Jarnigan YOKE Golf Classic! Held each spring at Three Ridges Golf Course, the YOKE Golf Classic benefits the work of YOKE Youth Ministries. This year's event, presented by Home Federal Bank, is scheduled for Friday, May 3rd, and features a scramble format with shotgun starts at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm.  There will be prizes for top finishers and separate competitions for longest drive, closest to the pin, and longest putt. And a hole in one could win you a new car!

Jeff Jarnigan, Knoxville media personality and public address announcer for the Tennessee Volunteers, considers it an honor to headline the YOKE Golf Classic. After losing his father at the age of 12, Jeff benefited from a mentoring relationship with YOKE founder, John Coatney. “I support YOKE because YOKE changes kids’ lives,” said Jarnigan.

The cost is $400 for a team and includes all range fees, use of a cart and the practice range, and lunch, provided by our friends at Shafer Insurance. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information or to register online visit our golf page. Call (865) 522-6907 for more details. 
Download YOKE's digital post card or golf brochure by clicking the links below. 
2019_post_card.png
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2019_yoke_golf_brochure_.pdf
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