Pictured above: John and Helen Coatney stealing a loving moment for the camera

Pictured to the right: John shares some water with boys on a hike in the woods

In 1975, at the age of 33, John Coatney and his wife of 14 years lived in Knoxville with their three children.

John didn’t come from a “church background.” As a high school student he got involved with Youth Life Ministries and  accepted Jesus as a 16-year-old boy.

He was employed as an electrician and was an active member of a local church. Working on an electrical transformer in downtown Knoxville, John felt that God was calling him to something different. He had a clear desire to work with young people so he quit his job and enrolled in college.

He knew the potential consequences, but had to obey what he believed was the call of God on his life. God was faithful, and He honored John’s “little bit of obedience” by providing for the family’s financial needs.

John’s ministry began in January 1976 with a church youth group of nine middle and high school students.  Within a few months that number grew to seventy, then attendance reached 100.

In 1978, John was completing an education practicum at a local middle school as part of his college program. At the end of one of his classes, he stepped into the hall, just as the bell rang. Middle school students streamed from every classroom.  In the sea of young faces moving quickly toward their next class, he heard God’s voice quoting the words of Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few . . .

While he was learning and developing effective methods to share the gospel with kids at the church, his heart was still burdened for junior high school kids who were not being reached by area churches.

His desire was to minister to middle school students in a way that related to them. He shared this with the college-age kids at his church who were eager to tell others about Jesus and the concept for YOKE was born.

Now, 34 years later, YOKE reaches out to more than 19,000 students at 26 middle schools located in Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, and Knox counties.

We cannot continue our work without the prayerful financial support of sponsors like you. To help support YOKE, click here.