Catching the Enthusiasm—Project Transformation
After three summers of listening to his wife's and his children's enthusiasm for their experiences in Project Transformation (PT), Jeff Hoffman took the plunge. He'd been reluctant because he knew his work schedule at the time would not allow him to make a regular or extensive time commitment, but with PT he found no pressure—just a welcoming of whatever he was able to share with the program.
Project Transformation’s mission is summed up in three C's: To engage college-age young adults in purposeful ministry and leadership, to support underserved children and families, and to connect churches to communities in need.
Initially, PT was a summer-only program with a focus on helping children, K–4, gain and retain the reading skills that are so essential to doing well in school and life. Building upon the early success of that goal, the program has expanded to be year-round and to include middle school youth, as well as elementary school children. The growth also incorporates all areas of schoolwork and social-emotional learning, as well as increased connections with the families through special events such as the Family Fun Nights and home visits.
The college-age young adults are hired for summer or for the school year to provide authentic, hands-on, high-quality programs for the children and youth. PT, however, offers these interns much more than "a summer job." Living together in intentional Christian community, they have opportunities to explore their faith and discern their path forward into leadership, service, and other areas of ministry.
The churches chosen to host the PT programs had been struggling as the communities around them changed. But PT has opened new channels for reconnecting with their neighbors, and the churches begin to thrive once again.
How do volunteers fit in this endeavor? In the summer, volunteers—including youth and school-age children with their parents or grandparents—come on their church's designated week especially to read with the children in the program, providing role models as well as improved literacy. During the school year, many individual volunteers make regular commitment to be homework helpers, encouragers, or mentors. These volunteers also build those special relationships with the children that create opportunities for social-emotional learning, specifically through being listened to and cared about. Other volunteers bring food to the college-age interns and sit down with them to share the meal—and conversation that is often deeply meaningful for both interns and volunteers. Like Jeff Hoffman and his family, volunteers can easily find a welcoming and rewarding niche for however they choose to commit.
So who experiences transformation? Children, families, young adult leaders, congregations, neighborhoods, and volunteers! Begun through The United Methodist Church in the Dallas area, the program is open to people of all faiths and is active not only in Texas but also in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis, and Clarksville). As volunteers and former interns move to different areas of the country, PT pops up and transformation begins anew.
For more about Project Transformation, visit projecttransformation.org or view their Facebook page.