Many Christians are concerned by fatherlessness in America, but few have intentionally prayed about it. Next Step brings Christians together to pray for the fatherless.
Fatherless males need a good man whose "got their back." Next Step trains Christian mentors and connects them to fatherless guys who need a godly man to stand in the gap for their absent father.
Next Step helps pay for things a father would normally pay for. We also pay for things that help prevent or mitigate the damage caused by fatherlessness.
The Story of Next Step
They story of Next Step begins with God working in the life of Benjamin Watt, the founder and director of Next Step.
As an 8 year old boy, Benjamin's parents allowed him to volunteer to help on a church bus route. This meant riding along to visit families on the South End of Peoria, Illinois, every Saturday and then riding a bus to pick up those families for church on Sundays. His role was to "pass out the candy" to kids on Saturdays and "knock on the doors" when the bus arrived on Sunday mornings. Until he left home for college, Benjamin continued to volunteer on this bus route each week and developed relationships with many "fatherless" kids, first as a peer and then as a leader.
In 2001, Benjamin became the Youth Pastor at El Vista Baptist Church in Peoria. In 2008 he felt a specific burden to make a difference in the lives of fatherless young men, especially from the African-American community. In August of 2011 he resigned his position as youth pastor and began ministering full time to guys whose dads are absent, incarcerated, or deceased.
While youth pastor, Benjamin found himself ministering to more and fatherless young men. He began a basketball program for young men in grades 7-12 which quickly became dominated by black young men from the neighborhood surrounding the church. Each week the guys played ball for about 2 hours and also heard a brief message about a particular character trait or important aspect of being a good man.
"Bro. Benjamin," as most of the guys called him, began asking "How many of you have ever lived in the same house as a married person?" Only about half of the guys had ever lived with any married person whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Benjamin felt like he was trying to teach these guys to be good husbands and fathers, but they had no reference point - good or bad. It was like trying to teach someone to be a diesel mechanic without ever opening the hood of a truck!
Benjamin and his family decided to take the next step toward making a difference in fatherless young men's lives by resigning his position as youth pastor so that he could focus on ministering to fatherless young men. Shortly after resigning, he took another "next step" by attending a men's retreat where he experienced personal revival. On the flight home from that retreat, God seemed to open a floodgate of ideas. "Next Step" was born on 6 pages of notes written during the flight home from Texas.
The name "Next Step" is related to how God led Benjamin and his wife Kristina to begin this ministry. It also speaks to how young men become good Christians, husbands, fathers, and citizens - just one step at a time.
Next Step has held more than 20 prayer meetings to pray specifically for the needs of fatherless males. We have purchased Christmas and birthday gifts, provided financial assistance to fatherless families, helped pay for tires, housing, food, and various other needs of young men who don't have a father to help them with these needs. Twice we've spent money to help families bring a father home from jail. We've paid for phone calls and postage so prayer partners can speak with fatherless men in prison. We've paid for many meals for a mentor so he could spend time with a fatherless young man. We have developed and presented a Christian mentor training seminar called "Standing in the Gap." Hundreds of hours of mentoring has taken place through the ministry of Next Step. Only God knows the rest of our story, but we're excited to see Him write it...