ENID, Okla. — Each Tuesday evening, dozens of middle and high school students gather in Enid to study the Bible, learn about Christ and share enriching games and activities. These gatherings are not sponsored by any specific church, and are not tied to any denomination: They are hosted by KLIFE, a nonprofit, nondenominational youth ministry.
Jon Slimack, chapter director for KLIFE Enid, said the youth ministry has its roots at Kanakuk, a Christian summer camp in Branson, Mo.
Kanakuk focuses on spreading the Gospel to kids by integrating faith lessons with athletics, camping and other activities. Slimack said he was first drawn to the KLIFE ministry while attending Kanakuk as a summer camper.
“I fell in love with their model of ministry and felt called to work with kids, and I felt KLIFE was a good fit for the skill sets that God blessed me with,” Slimack said.
Slimack also credited a high school mission trip to Belize as instrumental in shaping his relationship with God and his desire to lead others to discipleship.
While in Belize, he had the opportunity to work with families living in extreme poverty, without indoor plumbing or many of the other amenities Americans may take for granted.
“I saw a group of people who didn’t have anything,” Slimack said. “It was different than the lifestyle I had, but they were still happy. They had something about them, and it was faith in Jesus. I learned that even though the Lord has blessed me and given me a lot of stuff, I don’t need that stuff to be happy.”
Slimack went on to study for a degree in elementary education at the University of Mississippi, intending to pursue a career in teaching.
“I’ve always felt like I was a big kid, just trying to have fun,” Slimack said, “so why not work with them and try to be a positive influence in their lives?”
Slimack returned to Kanakuk as a camp counselor for three summers during his college years, both to continue his work with its ministry and to bolster his teaching resume.
His path turned from teaching to ministry during his senior year in college, when a fraternity brother died in an accident. That unexpected loss helped reshape his priorities.
“I remember sitting there thinking about what happened, and I thought, ‘I can teach kids about math, English and history, or I can teach them about Jesus,’” Slimack said. “I felt like I could have a bigger impact teaching them about Jesus and what he had done in my life.”
After graduation from Ole Miss, Slimack attended Kanakuk Institute, a theological course of study designed to give young men and women “the applicable essentials of seminary in a way that prepares students to live a Christ-exalting life in any occupation,” according to the institute’s website. He went on to intern with KLIFE in Harrison, Ark., before accepting the job in Enid in August 2015.
Feeling at home
Slimack said he felt attached to the Enid community almost immediately after moving here.
“I fell in love with the people involved with KLIFE, especially the families on the board, and the heart they have for what we’re doing here,” Slimack said. “I just saw how passionate they were about it, and it made me feel at home when I got here.”
The heart of that program is the weekly “klubs,” where kids get together with friends and volunteers to enjoy activities, fellowship and Bible lessons.
KLIFE provides evening programs for grades 6-12 at The Rock House, adjacent to Oakwood Christian Church at 3510 W. Randolph. The middle-school program is 6:30-7:30 p.m., and high schools students meet 7:45-8:45 p.m. each Tuesday. Klub programs begin with games or other activities, followed by worship and praise songs and a Bible lesson.
KLIFE also hosts a larger event each month, such as the annual dodge ball tournament, trips to the Oklahoma City Thunder and other sporting events and an annual end-of-year party in May.
All of the weekly klubs events are free, funded by donations from families and several churches that support the KLIFE ministry.
Growing in their faith
Slimack said KLIFE is nondenominational and tries to schedule its activities so students still can attend youth groups, which usually meet on Wednesdays, at their “home church.” He said KLIFE is a ministry, not a church, and is not intended to compete with any congregation.
“KLIFE is just another way for students to be discipled to, learn about Jesus and the Gospel, and to have a safe place to come, hang out and learn with friends,” Slimack said. “We encourage students to get involved with their family church as well.”
If a student doesn’t have a family church, Slimack said KLIFE works with a number of congregations in town and will help students connect with a youth pastor.
In addition to meeting with the kids each week, Slimack said KLIFE staff and volunteers like to meet and work with parents.
“We realize kids’ families spend the most time with them, and if we can give their families the tools to help their kids grow in Christ and be on the same team with them, that will help their kids to grow more in their relationship with Christ,” he said. “The more we can encourage and team up with parents or guardians, the more opportunity the students have to grow in their faith.”
Slimack hopes to build on that model by coordinating with more businesses and volunteers to expand KLIFE’s presence and reach more kids.
“We’re trying to get the word out in Enid to let people know KLIFE is about discipling and teaching kids about Christ,” he said, “so when they go out into the world they have a strong foundation in who he is.”
For information about sponsoring KLIFE events, volunteering or attending klub meetings, go to www.enid.klife.com.