Thursday, October 8, 2009


Creativity has always been (and in my opinion always will be) a crucial part of youth ministry.  Young Life founder Jim Rayburn's admonition that "it is a sin to bore a youth with the Gospel" rings true to me, and so I have always tried to be as creative as possible with programs, events and even the names I give to such things.  In the early 1980's we were trying to start a Wednesday night Bible study at New Garden Friends Meeting without much success.  Interest from the kids was very limited, but I felt this new program was important to our "wholistic" ministry.  As time came to crank this program up, I needed a name that would get students to notice.  After much debate, I decided to call it S.C.U.B.A.  This stood for "Spiritual Concepts and Understanding Biblical Approaches."  And it worked!  I would love to tell you that it worked because we prayed over the program and God blessed it, and this is true.  I would love to take full credit, saying my inspirational teaching made it a success.  But the truth is, the name worked to capture the attention of the youth because it was based on an off-color joke of the day.  The joke I don't remember, but I do remember what S.C.U.B.A. stood for in it- Sex conducted underwater by appointment.  It became such a counter-cultural thing to see S.C.U.B.A. printed in the church bulletin each week.  It became an inside joke our students could laugh about together. It also helped that we studied scripture, C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, debated nuclear power and many other topics of interest.  Attendance kept improving, and the Bible study kept getting better, until it became a very important part of our program.  And then one Wednesday night, without warning, it became part of our YFYF (Young Friends Youth Fellowship) history.

At this point in our ministry at New Garden things were going really well.  There was a lot of excitement and lots of new faces.  But I was still in hot pursuit of one face that I just could not seem to get interested.  Kathy Fountain was an exceptional young woman whose family was active at New Garden.  She and her younger brothers David and Tim were active in lots of groups and activities- but YFYF was not on their schedules.  Kathy was the same age as a group that would rank high on any list of the best single graduating classes I ever had- Marshall Ratledge, Terri Johnson, Kathryn Burris, Linc Dewar. Kim Winters, Matt Mason, Ling Lee, Pam Dent, Jay Wilkins and others I am sure I am leaving out.  I had called Kathy, sent her cards, talked to her on Sunday mornings...everything I could think of to try and arouse her interest, but she simply had too much going on.  And after a while, I decided if she didn't need YFYF, then I should quit pushing.  I continued to pray for her (and all of the students- that didn't change over the years) but otherwise I just let it go.  And then one Wednesday night at S.C.U.B.A. she just walked in, sat down, and joined in the the discussion.  From that point forward, she became not only part of our group, but almost immediately became one of our leaders.  And the ministry became important to her as well.  So much so that down the road a few years she married Dann Newby, another one of our student leaders (and the best "Devil's Advocate" ever! Dann could take the side of Hitler in a discussion and convince you he was just misunderstood...).  After a name change, Dann and Kathy Newfont are still going strong!

So what do we learn from all of this?  First and foremost we learn that God can take anything, no matter how silly or poorly thought out, and use it for His glory.  We can also deduce that God is present in our creativity, and when we are open to His leadings, God will use even the smallest things to change our lives.  I just know that through a chain of events that began with an off-color joke, which became a Bible study and then a discussion group that drew Kathy to us, the ministry of New Garden was blessed, and the Kingdom of God was lifted up.  God used Noah, Moses, David and Peter- all famous failures.  And God can use us.  We may be crazy at times, but it all works if we just let go- because God is no fool.

Because of Jesus,

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