Spiritual Life

Christ-centered Care at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch 

Our success in serving children and families is attributed in great part to our Spiritual Life Program. We walk side-by-side with children on their spiritual journey—in many cases introducing them to Christianity for the first time. So many of our children come to us exhausted from just fighting to survive. Moreover, they've lost all hope. They need to rest, learn to trust again, and work hard to make what they have only dared to hope for into a reality. With the anchoring wisdom of the Gospel, they can find rest, safety, and the promise of God's abiding love. That's what enables them to find stability in the storm, and then chart their true course.

Our Spiritual Life Program is funded completely through the generous support of individuals, churches, Thrivent Choice, and foundations. The Spiritual Life Program provides:

  • A Spiritual Assessment upon each child's arrival at the Ranch,
  • A Bible and other Christian resources to introduce children to Jesus and help them grow in their faith,
  • Regular chapel services for children and employees, with worship and teaching from God's Word,
  • Weekly Spiritual Life groups,
  • A Christian environment—with therapists, counselors, teachers, and youth care workers able to bring faith into the discussion,
  • Vacation Bible School,
  • Ongoing Spiritual mentoring by our Chaplain and Spiritual Life Coordinators.

The teachings and love of Christ are at the very core of all we do, and all we stand for. While not all of our staff, kids, or donors are Christian, Christianity is the foundation of our social mission. 

Trauma-informed ministry brochure (printable)

Helping Children and Families Grow Spiritually

Upon admission, children are assessed regarding their spiritual background and beliefs. From spiritual histories and life maps to questionnaires and individual treatment plan discussions, this assessment addresses all aspects of a child’s life. Assessment results are shared with our treatment teams for consideration in treatment planning.

Children have the opportunity to attend Chapel and Spiritual Life Groups, and meet individually with an on-campus Pastor or Chaplain. They also are invited to minister to others by working with the elderly off campus, attending Bible camp, volunteering for the community during special events, and more.

Children who choose not to take part in Christian programming participate in a values program—which teaches many of the same values of love, compassion, and forgiveness, but without a religious connection. 

If it weren’t for Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, I’d probably either be dead or telling this story from a prison cell. The most important thing they did as the Ranch was to point me towards faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. Today my home is a place of love and laughter-- a place for my family and I to grow together and to be shaped in the image of Christ.

former resident

The people at the Ranch honestly cared for me and loved me at a time in my life when I thought the whole world was against me. With their help, and the introduction of God as a Father, I realized I could do it and that I could change.

former resident

Helping Ranch Staff Grow Spiritually

Our Spiritual Life Program extends to our staff, who receive a daily devotion from our on-staff Chaplain, and have access to individual spiritual guidance as requested.

Spiritual Life Staff

Our Spiritual Life staff includes pastors and Spiritual Life Coordinators who consider it a blessing to work with residents, study Scripture, and hold chapel services on a weekly basis.

Rev. Rick Jones, Chaplain and Vice President Spiritual Life

After earning a bachelor’s degree in communication from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato MN, and a Master of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO, Rev. Rick Jones received his Call to serve Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch in 2012. As the Chaplain and Vice President of Spiritual Life, Rev. Jones oversees the Spiritual Life program across all three campuses, supervises the Spiritual Life representatives in each location, and provides general pastoral services and support for the residents and staff of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.

Rev. Jones says, “The Ranch has been an incredible ministry to learn, grow, and engage in. There is something profound about helping youth who have been hurt by the world to find comfort, peace, and hope in the unrelenting, unconditional love of God in Christ. It is a blessing to see God reshape their lives in such drastically beneficial ways. Getting to know our residents and helping them find hope and success in the eternal blessings of God is hands down the most rewarding part of my work at the Ranch.”

He also finds great joy in sharing the ministry of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch with congregations, organizations, conferences, conventions, and other supportive groups.

In addition to his work with the Ranch, Rev. Jones has enjoyed the opportunity to work with the North Dakota District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod— preaching and teaching through pulpit supply for his fellow pastors, engaging with camp ministry, and serving through international mercy outreach in Kenya and Chilé.

Deaconess Kelly Bristow

Deaconess Kelly Bristow is the daughter of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod missionaries, Pastor Ricky and Kim Jacob. She was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and raised on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska. This upbringing inspired her to be passionate about working amongst people from various backgrounds, and sharing the hope and joy that Jesus alone brings to one’s life to all she encounters!

Deaconess Kelly graduated from Concordia University, NE, with psychology and behavior sciences degrees, and went on to graduate with a Masters in Spiritual Care with a Deaconess Certification from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as well as a Masters in Social Work from St. Louis University. Her first deaconess call was serving at an inner city church in Cincinnati, OH, primarily coordinating their ministry outreach to the community, especially to individuals experiencing homelessness.

Deaconess Kelly has been a called deaconess serving as the Spiritual Life Coordinator on our Minot campus of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch since July of 2018. She is passionate about making sure our residents (and staff) know and feel that their lives have value and are worthy of God’s love, because He has made them to be so! Deaconess Kelly especially loves being a present support and encourager for the residents and staff, teaching 5 Bible studies a week, being a part of the clinical team, coordinating a Hope Notes Pen Pal Program, and getting residents involved in music learning opportunities on campus. When she is not at work, she enjoys live music (taking it in and performing), being in nature, and going on motorcycle rides with her husband, Nick.

Deaconess Stephanie Wilde

Deaconess Stephanie Wilde, originally from Parkers Prairie, MN, serves as Spiritual Life Coordinator on our Fargo Campus. She attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN, and served her Deaconess Internship at Iglesia Luterana Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life Lutheran Church) in Ponce, Puerto Rico. During her internship she had the opportunity to work with those affected by earthquakes and tropical storms. She also helped plan for the opening of the Mercy House, facilitated the filming and editing of the ministries monthly children's outreach, wrote and taught a women's Bible Study in both English and Spanish, and had the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with the congregation and community at large. Deaconess Stephanie has been a called deaconess serving as the Spiritual Life Coordinator on the Fargo campus since July of 2021.

She says, "I have always wanted to help people and share about Jesus Christ.  I know that I am a baptized and forgiven child of God and I want to share that with others."


Church Affiliations

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and a founding member of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), through which it is an Affiliated Social Ministry Organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We are also a Mission Partner for Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and a Partner Ministry of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). We adhere to our founding body of members, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, for its doctrine of beliefs within our Spiritual Life program.

While the Ranch's Spiritual Life program is rooted in Lutheranism, we promote principles of respect, acceptance, and character building that are common to all faiths. The Ranch collaborates closely with hundreds of churches across the nation in various ways, including service projects and congregational awareness and engagement activities. Each year, Servant Teams from across the U.S. volunteer their time and skills to help us advance our mission.