Any written history of the New Directions youth ministry must begin with a simple high school assembly, those welcomed breaks in school-day routine, when teachers and students alike get a reprieve from the traditional classroom happenings like lectures, note-taking, reading, worksheets and discussion. When the McClain High School students were introduced to the Christian rock band Prism, a musical outreach of Campus Crusade for Christ, during one such December 1987 school assembly, students were intrigued enough to return that night for a full-blown concert. When the good news of Jesus was shared by band members during the outside-the-school-day concert, more than 50 MHS students expressed interest in what Prism had to say, garnering the attention of Greenfield’s Christian community, which through the response cards students completed during the concert became acutely aware of the spiritual needs expressed by a sizeable student group. More than a month later, on Jan. 31, 1988, the Greenfield Area Christian Center convened a community prayer meeting at Greenfield First Baptist Church, setting in motion what 15 months later would become Greenfield’s community-wide, church-supported youth program. The path to what New Directions became when it first opened its doors on May 1, 1989, was forged through months of prayer, research and diligent discussion. New Directions never actually did open its doors to start with, and that fact alone is part of its rich history.
The January 1988 prayer meeting was followed by the creation of a committee, made up of seven adults and four students representing 11 area churches, that was tasked with designing an interdenominational youth program to meet the spiritual needs of the students. The blueprint for what New Directions would become took a number of twists and turns as the committee gained valuable insights from national Christian youth organizations, including Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life and Tentmakers, and through surveying the McClain High students. The various perspectives of committee members and the churches they represented, plus the insights of the youth both serving on the committee and within the Greenfield School District, helped frame what the youth program would look like. The committee diligently covered each step with prayer. A youth director job description and salary/benefit package were proposed by the committee and it seemed the months of prayer, research and discussion were about to yield a unique community youth program geared specifically to the Greenfield School District. Through prayer and consultation with youth ministry professionals, it was apparent that God was directing the committee to focus not on a building, but, rather, on relationships and programs. Any physical structure would follow the building of the relational ministry. A five-year fundraising goal was established, and it was decided that funds needed to be secured for the first two years of the program, ensuring stability. Involving the youth in a multitude of decisions that included hiring of the first director, ongoing fundraising, and any future building plans was a foreshadowing of sorts of how the ministry would be shaped – intentionally relational, student-centered and student-led. The three-pronged purpose of the ministry would become: 1) accept the youth where they are 2) present the good news of Jesus Christ 3) disciple those who accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.
A national search for the youth program’s first director began late in 1988, continuing into the first half of 1989. Again, the youth serving on the committee had an equal voice with the adults in deciding who would be the first director of the yet-to-be-named youth program. Tonia McLanahan of Canadian, Texas, was recommended by the committee on April 23, 1989, to be the program’s first director. Two days later, the Executive Board of the Greenfield Area Christian Center approved the recommendation and McLanahan officially began her work leading the fledgling ministry on May 1, 1989.
YEAR NUMBER ONE AND BEYOND
It was the youth early on who selected the name “New Directions” for the youth program, and it was evident from the start how the community was fully behind the ministry. For example, Mike Zint and Corner Pharmacy donated office space behind the pharmacy for the youth director, and Thad Gossett and the Gossett Co. outfitted the office with office furniture and equipment, with an assist from Lowell McNeil of Sitterle Insurance, who donated a chair and loveseat. Others eagerly jumped in as well: Steve Pearce of The Letter Shop donated his printing services, Judkins and Hayes Law Firm contributed clerical services and Floyd and Libby Bartley and the Kaluau Kreme donated ice and cups as needed. The Judkins family yard and swimming pool on Second Street were available for weekly meetings by New Directions. The Merchants Bank branch provided meeting space in its basement and various activities took place at the schools and the Rotary-owned armory on Jefferson Street.
Weekly gatherings of youth, topical Bible studies, excursions to King’s Island and Paint Creek State Park, various community service projects, a welcoming school community and building the program from the ground up by relying on community hospitality and generosity, positioned New Directions for the future.
A highlight of each year was the annual three days spent camping in Wilmore, KY, while attending ICHTHUS.
Middle school and high school summer camps held at either Woodland Acres or the Waddell summer home off Cave Road were major transformative experiences for the youth, especially during the first part of New Directions’ history.
The Ken Griffey and Sons Benefit Golf Tournament raised much-needed funds for New Directions in 1991 and 1992, and an annual January telethon became a staple to report back to the community the impact of New Directions on its youth while also raising substantial resources to keep the ministry afloat.
New Directions has been funded through the years by regular giving through a Friends of New Directions campaign. Besides golf outings, other funds have been raised through rummage sales and dinner/silent auctions.
McLanahan led the New Directions ministry for the first eight years of its existence, answering God’s call to become a mom and stepping out of the role. A national search for a new director took place, resulting in the hiring of Kevin Gratz of Hudson, Wisconsin. The veteran youth pastor arrived with his wife, Kathy, and two children and immediately became involved in the Greenfield community. Gratz arrived in the latter part of 1997 and continued the regular New Directions programming, culminating in the annual trip to Ichthus in April 1998. Gratz served as director until resigning in August of 1998.A search committee was again formed and following a national search,
A search committee was again formed and following a national search, Brodie Taphorn was hired to lead the ministry starting in February of 1999. Brodie and his wife, Andrea, immediately were immersed in the community by building relationships with the students, working directly with student leaders, overseeing weekly programming and guiding the annual trip to Ichthus. A highlight of the year included a work trip to Ichthus in the summer of 1999 to support the festival’s planned expansion onto newly-owned land.Each week during the school year featured large student gatherings such as Monday Night Madness and other Bible studies and similar topical meetings. Servant Saturdays continued in which the students and adult volunteers reached out to help those in need in the community. Besides the annual Ichthus excursion, summer camps and various mission opportunities were always highlights on the calendar. Taphorn sensed a calling on his life to pastoral leadership in a church, so he resigned as New Directions director, having served in the role from 1999-2000.
Katie Elder from Iowa eventually was hired to lead the New Directions ministry starting in May of 2001. Elder was assisted by McLanahan and regular programming continued.
Elder soon resigned from the director’s position, and in order to bring some stability to the ministry, Todd Magouyrk was hired in an interim role
Mike Anderson was hired to lead the youth program starting in April 2003. Anderson brought long-term stability, serving in the role until Aug. 31, 2019.
Tonia McLanahan was rehired into the role, July 2019 following Anderson’s announced resignation.
Under Mike Anderson, New Directions moved into a modern new facility, complete with a gymnasium, at 910 N. Fifth Street and expanded beyond the 7th-12th grade model.
The ministry added sixth grade students once Greenfield Middle School included that grade level, and later added third, fourth and fifth graders to the weekly gathering schedule.
A highlight of Anderson’s tenure was annual mission trips to places such as Washington, DC, New York City and Puerto Rico. Anderson and his wife Becky were already established in Greenfield, Anderson serving as youth minister at Trinity Christian Union Church for a number of years prior to taking over at New Directions.
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