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Spotlight on Two Heartlight Employees — Sydney and Jay

Navigating the tumultuous teenaged years is a tough job for any parent and not for the faint of heart. Whether your teenager it quiet and withdrawn or loud and rebellious, sometimes parents need help. I created Heartlight Ministries to offer hope to struggling families. We exist to provide a place for teens who need help getting their lives in order. To accomplish this task, our program has 25 wonderful employees who live and work with our teens. These aren’t just people picking up a paycheck, these are men and women called and uniquely qualified to serve the teens entrusted to our care. In this article you’ll meet two of our outstanding employees and find out what they do and why they serve in this unique and challenging area of ministry.


Sydney is a former resident and graduate of Heartlight Ministries. After completing our program, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in counselling, and now she’s back to bring her valuable experience, education, and genuine empathy to the young women in our program. She knows first-hand the emotional and spiritual challenges facing young women today. When I asked her about her experience at Heartlight, she remembers that she gained valuable tools, but admits she was reluctant and unprepared to use them, at first.

“I kept trying to do things my way, even throughout the process of being in different programs …. I just remember getting really tired of being tired all the time. And so I had to learn to surrender the control. And I think when I started to do that, I was able to look into the toolbox that I had and start using the tools that I had been taught.”

Sydney connects with young woman in her care individually, recognizing their story is unique. She works on a daily basis to break down the barriers and connect to these young women’s hearts. She says consistency is the key. She experienced the consistent love and support from her parents during her difficult times, and today she offers that same consistent care to the girls here at Heartlight!


Being a counselor at Heartlight is way more than a paycheck. It’s a calling. Jay is one of our employees and a young man with a heart to serve. One of the challenges he sees in the teens coming to Heartlight, is that they are at odds with their family. They come here opposed to anything and everything their family holds dear, including their faith. But good, Christian families have hurting children too. So when they come to Heartlight, it’s no surprise that these young men don’t want to hear the same things they’ve heard at home.

“At the end of the day, the behaviors are not what’s difficult. It’s truly reaching into the hearts of these kids and allowing God to work. So many of the kids that are here come from good, Christian families who love Jesus. And so I kind of get to say, “You know what? This faith thing that your parents are all googly eyes about, it’s actually real. And I know, the last thing you want to hear is that Jesus loves you, but the reality is, whether or not you want to see that, I’m gonna make sure that the Lord can touch your heart right now and you can feel it.””

Jay knows faith is transformative. It may not be what they want to hear, but it’s exactly what they need in order to thrive. The challenge is to connect with these young men and sometimes that message is better received from a person outside of the immediate family.

Our goal at is not to recruit clients. We want to equip parents so they never have to send their kids here. But sometimes kids struggle, and for some it takes a radical change to show them that the path they’re on is a dead end. If your beloved son or daughter is struggling, rebelling, or opposed to everything you stand for, don’t give up hope! Our Heavenly Father has some experience with wayward children. He knows how to handle a rebellious heart. Our job is to love these teenagers into the arms of Jesus and let Him transform their hearts and minds.


Hey Mom and Dad … your teen needs you. They want a relationship with you. Our program is designed to come alongside struggling teens and give them the tools and support they need to make better choices. I live with sixty high school kids at Heartlight. They’re great kids who are struggling through some very difficult times. We’d never be successful in what we do, if it wasn’t for the 25, wonderful staff, like Sydney and Jay, who live with these kids and pour their hearts into their lives. We’re always in need of house staff that are single, active, love the Lord, and have a heart for those teens that are dealing with the hardships of life. If you know someone that could fit into our setting, encourage them to take a look at our website and get in touch with us at:  

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.