“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” — Matthew 18:20.
New Directions, Greenfield’s 32-year-old community youth program, has been shepherding fourth grade to high school students all summer long. Through this incredible, relational ministry, the youth of Greenfield have enjoyed hands-on learning about some extraordinarily unique subjects and activities, including experiencing various cultures such as Venezuela, India and Bolivia, engaging in science experiments, and even cooking a meatloaf in a watermelon.
This summer’s schedule has not only given students interesting topics to explore, but at the ministry’s core is the mission to love, share the gospel of Jesus Christ and equip youth to serve God as they grow in their Christian faith.
Kids have had lots of opportunities to connect this summer, but parents have noticed a greater impact, too.
“Before New Directions, we struggled to get [my son] to go to ministry-focused activities,” said Jaci Raike, a parent whose son was a regular at this summer’s activities. Showing people God’s word in fun, enthusiastic ways is something New Directions excels at. Teens and children don’t just participate because they have to, but because they like coming, and the result is a much better attitude while growing in their faith.
Like other Greenfield youth, Raike’s son was a regular at New Directions all summer long.
At the heart of the teaching this summer was New Directions’ small groups called DIGGs, which stands for Discover, Inspire, Grow Groups. The idea for the DIGGs came from the director, Tonia McLanahan, who thought small group opportunities would be an exciting way for kids to connect with God through different hobbies and activities, led by volunteers in the community.
A few examples of DIGGs activities included fishing, hiking, self-defense and cooking classes, and each had a lesson and then a prayer or Bible story. Community support was crucial, and, McLanahan said, 66 adults either led, supported or attended DIGGs this summer and 80 students participated in New Directions’ DIGGs.
Brad Barber, head of the New Directions youth ministry board, said, “After COVID-19, the board had to look at a new direction for New Directions. We talked about how people are socially connected but relationally disconnected.” Barber added that while social media has provided a great way for people to socially connect within the community, it limits ways to have deep relationships with people. The DIGGs helped the community to connect and form relationships that could last a lifetime, he added.
There is no doubt that New Directions has had an impactful summer and will continue to help the community connect in special and unique ways.