Religious leader’s ministry assists troubled youth

Michael Maddox, of Summerfield, has been involved with youth ministry in some form for more than 45 years.

Michael Maddox is an ordained bishop with the Church of God who has planted a church, pastored at several others and serves as a state volunteer chaplain through the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. But most of all, he’s about helping children and youth who are in dire straits.

“These kids need help,” the Summerfield resident said. “And if we don’t step in to help, they are going to fall deeper into trouble.”

Maddox is the face behind Harvest Time Juvenile Ministries Inc., a nonprofit that brings the Word of God to children who may need it the most. Harvest Time is a labor of love for Maddox, who has been involved with youth ministry in some form for more than 45 years.

“A good friend of mine did this years ago by traveling the country to help children,” he said. “I spoke with him about it, and I found a way to start something similar in Florida.”

Maddox launched what was then-called “Love of Christ Youth Ministry” in the mid-1970s in Brevard County, with the intent of helping troubled youth. But about a decade ago, Maddox said he felt “deeply impressed” for the need of ministry going into juvenile detention facilities, so he incorporated his ministry as Harvest Time Juvenile Ministries in 2012 and set off on his work.

“All our workers are volunteers who do not take a salary,” he said. “Each of our workers are tremendous leaders and mentors who gladly volunteer their time for the positive effect and direction of the lives of young people.”

Harvest Time works with youth 18 years of age and younger who come from what Maddox called “dysfunctional homes.” Many of these children, Maddox lamented, lack a father figure in the home, while most have parents who are divorced, incarcerated or dead.

“Their home backgrounds are nonexistent,” he said. “They haven’t been raised well, and they have no role models to look up to. As a result, they’ll find themselves getting into trouble as well, and troubled youth is a problem that affects everyone, no matter where you live.”

Harvest Time looks to end that spiral of hopelessness by making a difference in the lives of these children. Maddox said there’s an urgent need for adults to step in to help give kids a new direction and perspective through teaching and training.

One way Maddox and his ministry want to do that is by launching a community center in Marion County. Back in August, Maddox wrote a letter to the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, urging members to help him make the community center a reality.

“We hope to launch the community center in some form in January,” he said. “The center would be home for classes to help train the kids for a variety of careers, as well as opportunities to play games and interact with one another. We also hope to bring people in to talk about various careers and help the kids find something that interests them when they reach adulthood.”

Maddox also is hopeful for Harvest Time to have a presence in all of Florida’s juvenile detention facilities. There are 21 such facilities in the state, and Maddox said Harvest Time currently is in three.

“Volunteers are needed to help us fill the other 18 facilities,” he noted. “We are now waiting for the facilities to reopen from COVID-19 that we will be allowed to return and work with the kids. I would love to be ready to go into all 21 facilities with lots of volunteers and bring home and healing to young lives, as well as share our testimonies and the Word of God with them.”

To learn more about Harvest Time Juvenile Ministries, visit htjministries.org.

Senior writer James Dinan can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5302, or james.dinan@thevillagesmedia.com.