Thirty years ago when Greenfield ministerial leaders were searching for someone to lead a community youth ministry program, it was Tonia McLanahan who answered the call. Now the Texas native in answering the call again.
Bill Carson, chairman of the New Directions Board of Directors, said McLanahan will return as director of the program beginning Aug. 15.
She will work for two weeks with Mike Anderson, who has directed the program the past 16 years. He will leave the program Aug. 31 to work in a full-time ministry position with the Greenfield First Presbyterian Church.
“She had experience and had started the ministry, it had prospered well during her time there, and we thought she was the right person to continue that progress,” Carson said.
McLanahan originally became New Directions director on May 1, 1989. She served in the position for eight years before resigning to raise a family, and has served as interim director other times. She said returning to the program is an exciting, new opportunity.
Both McLanahan and her husband, Rick Schluep, have been active with the program since its inception. In fact, she said, it was her husband that recruited her for the job when she was working with a Methodist mission program in Kentucky.
She said her two years with the program were about to expire and her plan was to return to Texas. But she also had a feeling a new opportunity was about to present itself. It was around that time that Schluep showed up and told her the Greenfield community was trying to start a youth program to meet the spiritual needs in the community that were not being met.
“I said, ‘Wow, that is really cool,’” McLanahan said.
After eight years at the program’s helm, McLanahan said she was ready to start a family.
“I was getting ready one day and God said, ‘It’s OK to place someone else in charge and you can start a family,’” she said.
Now that her sons are both in college, she said God recently spoke to her again.
“In February, I was getting ready one day and God said, ‘You’re going to go back there again,’” McLanahan said. “I went downstairs and told Rick and he said, ‘What about Mike?’ I said I don’t know.”
Then Anderson announced in May that he would resign at the end of this month.
While she doesn’t plan to make major changes, McLanahan said she has some new ideas for the youth program that serves students in grades 3-12 in the Greenfield area.
For the past five years, she said, she has been working in the Greenfield school system and realized that students need mentoring before they reach junior high. She said she would like to develop a youth leadership program so the students are more involved in decisions at New Directions and in determining what works for the program.
She said she would like to develop a stronger base of volunteers to work with kids in a variety of mentoring settings, possibly bring back a former monthly New Directions community service program called Servant Saturday, and that rather than focusing on mission trips elsewhere, have students and adults work together to address problems in Greenfield and other nearby communities.
“I feel there can be a lot better understanding and benefit from everyone working together and bridging some of that space between generations,” McLanahan said.
Another possible change, McLanahan said, is opening the center at 910 N. Fifth St. in Greenfield to the youth of the community more often.
“I’m just delighted to be given this opportunity to be involved in New Directions again, and excited to see what God will do at this point in my life,” McLanahan said. “Mike Anderson has done a wonderful job over the last 16 years and I look forward to continuing the great work he has done, then growing that.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.