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Now, I’m ALL In

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

—1 Timothy 4:12

Kaytlin Childs hears the whispers that young people are too young or not experienced enough to be leaders.

She doesn’t buy it and is thrilled with the Young Adult Empowerment element of “Strikepoint” as she takes on several leadership roles at her corps in Lowell, Mass.

“I really like this whole idea of empowering youth to take leadership,” she said. “It pushes away the stereotype that says ‘kids don’t know much’ or ‘they can’t do anything.’”

Childs, the daughter of Captains David and Stephanie Childs, corps officers in Lowell, leads the dance troupe and is involved in Junior Band, Senior Band, the Songsters, and the Singing Company.

Tanya Cameron, the Bridging the Gap (BTG) coordinator in Lowell, said Childs has become a peer mentor to some of the BTG students and has invited them to join the dance troupe.

“I think one thing our corps fosters is giving leadership to our young people and empowering them,” Cameron said. “Kaytlin has really taken off with that. It started with sacred dance and she has morphed into a great leader.

“She tries to stretch some of the younger people to get them thinking. When I walk in and see them practicing sacred dance, I’m just blown away at how she’s grown in her relationship with God.”

Finding inspiration

Childs said her parents were an inspiration.

“Watching my parents and their example while growing up, I just stepped into leadership,” she said.

Childs, who is 16 and a junior in high school, said she struggled while moving around so much as the child of officers. But at summer camp last year, she had a spiritual reawakening while watching “Jesus Theater.” She saw it several times.

“That last week of camp, I was like, this is my life. This is what I want to do with my life. It’s how I want to live my life. It was a powerful moment,” Childs said. “Until then, I had just gone through the motions. Now, I’m all in.

“Being a leader makes me feel like I’m on the right path and I’m doing what God wants me to be doing. I’m not throwing my life away. I’m using it for the right purpose.”

Doing her homework

Childs, like most kids her age, lives on social media. She uses digital platforms to share devotional materials with her dancers. She also carefully chooses the music she uses.

“Whenever I pick out new songs, I look into them before I will teach them,” she said. “Before I come up with the choreography, I’ll break down all the words and look for the inspiration for the song. I’ll learn what the words mean so I can tell everyone else.

“When it comes to dance, I take the time to make sure I get it first. I just absorb everything and it helps me. When I dance, I feel connected to God and I want the dancers to get that feeling.

“If a song talks about looking to the heavens, I tell them, ‘You need to be looking heavenward to God, right now. You need to be feeling Him and reaching for Him.’”

Childs has also helped Alivia, Cameron’s daughter, and has served as a role model to many other girls at the corps.

Childs said one of the girls she helped had a difficult home life. To help her, Childs chose for the dance troupe a song about God’s promise to never leave us.

“I’ve just been trying to get into her head that, even when her family situation is going badly, God is always with her,” Childs said.

Childs, who fell in love with Romans 12:2 during her time in Bible Bowl as a young soldier, said she shares that verse whenever she can.

“I make sure I’m showing I’m not of this world,” she said. “I’m God’s and I try to spread that truth to everyone. I want them to put their trust in God.”

Childs, who wants to study Christian education, is planning to be a youth pastor or an officer.

Cameron said she is thrilled to see young adults like Childs and Shaquan Rainey, another young person in the corps, being empowered to lead.

“If we don’t invest in our young people, what is our community going to look like? What is our church going to look like? They’re an investment and they need more of our time. We need to push them,” Cameron said.

‘Someone like me’

Shaquan Rainey grew up in a single–parent home. After his family moved from Florida to Lowell, Mass., when he was eight, he started attending The Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army was the best thing ever,” he recalls.

Rainey, known by his peers as “Shaq,” grew up in the corps. Today, he is a shining example of Young Adult Empowerment. He assists with Adventure Corps and is part of the worship team and dance troupe. On a divisional level, he is involved in Mass Brass and Youth Arts Ministries (YAM).

“He is always trying to better himself,” says Cameron. “He extends his hand to BTG participants and is always inviting them to church and to youth group. He extends this kindness into school, where he continues to speak to BTG participants and show love and kindness outside of the church.

“Growing up without a father has been difficult, but instead of turning to the streets, he has turned to the corps and sought guidance from positive male role models.”

Giving back

Rainey said his reason for taking on a leadership role at the corps is simple.

“I understand these kids because I used to be reckless and I didn’t know Christ,” he said. “They’re just the same. They need someone who is like them. I’ve been where they’ve been. It feels good to talk to them.

“I love helping people. I tell them, ‘I’m here and I will do anything.’ I don’t want to see anyone in pain or hurt or sad. I want everyone to be happy and blessed. It makes me feel good. I know God is smiling down on me.”

Sharing insight

Rainey, as the oldest male teen in the corps, is often asked questions about the Bible by the younger children.

“I tell them, ‘Yes, it’s real. Go home and have your brother or your sister or your mom read the Bible to you. The Bible can help you understand.’

“The kids have their parents to look up to, but we’re also here at the church.” Rainey said. “I like to make a huge difference in their lives. It’s so great to see them calm and cheery because that lifts all of us up. It’s a bond we have here at the church.”

Rainey loves imparting wisdom to people who grew up fatherless, as he and his three siblings did.

“It gives me a lot to talk about,” he said. “They may feel scared or a little bit embarrassed, but I’m not embarrassed to tell how hard it was for me.

“I tell them, ‘you don’t necessarily need a birth father. You have a Heavenly Father to help you out with anything you need.’”

‘It’s my job’

The Bible verse Rainey likes most is John 3:16.

“It’s awesome to understand the love He has for us,” Rainey said. “The kids sometimes don’t know that yet, but they have to know it. God’s love will reign forever and it’s my job to tell them about it

“They might not have a Bible at their homes. So that’s where we come in and answer all the questions. We have to put hope in these kids.”

Rainey calls the “Strikepoint” emphasis on Young Adult Empowerment “important.”

“Kids will look up to the oldest ones. That’s me and Kaytlin [Childs],” Rainey said. “They like us. They like to be around us. When all of us teens are together, it’s a beautiful thing.”

by Robert Mitchell

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