What a journey! What an amazing, faith-filled, God-inspired, door-opening, exciting season of ministry!
When Nathanael Dunlavy became the Preble County Ministries Director for Youth for Christ nearly a year and a half ago the circumstances couldn’t have been more challenging. All in-school ministries had come to a halt due to the pandemic and the out-of-school programs and relationships had mostly dissolved as well due to the same reason along with ministry leaders’ transitions during that time. Though Nathanael had lived just minutes away for several years, his first commute to Eaton felt like entering the town as a stranger to rebuild the ministry from scratch. It felt like a lonely proposition, yet Nathanael was far from alone. Many champions of the ministry were still praying and supporting, and even more importantly, God was at work the entire time.
Soon, Nathanael was interacting with students after school at Dale’s Youth Café, which eventually led to a partnership where YFC in Preble County became based out of that facility. It wasn’t long until afternoon games of pool and ping pong led to deep conversations and a plethora of ways for teenagers to be involved. Through serving at the Food4Families food pantry, and sharing experiences while bowling, camping, fishing, visiting a corn maze, and making multiple trips to Kings Island, relationships were deepened and the seeds of faith were sown. At some point, an evening Campus Life Club was added and more students began to get involved. In the words of one of the students, “Honestly, it has become a family for us! And we enjoy it a lot! We enjoy coming to Campus Life and having our discussions and it leads us closer to Jesus.” Activities like Thanksgiving dinner at the Dunlavy house have helped to solidify those relationships and set the stage for growth.
While YFC’s impact has been building through the Campus Life and Dale’s Youth Café, work has been happening in other parts of the community as well. For the past year, YFC has been working with the Educational Service Center (ESC), which provides alternative school options to students throughout Preble County needing specialized attention. Weekly, YFC staff visit students during an incentivized free period and connect over recreational activities, games, and snacks. Most recently, YFC has been enlisted to lead monthly Eaton Middle School “Student of the Month” assemblies, which brings an opportunity to provide character based messages. While this may not directly accomplish YFC’s mission, it plays a role. Recently, a handful of middle school students turned out for an activity at Dale’s for the first time and their stated reason for coming was, “You came to our school.”
Youth for Christ is continuing to pursue opportunities for growth throughout Preble County as well as partnering with like-minded organizations to advance God’s Kingdom. Right now, at least three new opportunities are being discussed, which can expand YFC ministry into additional schools and strengthen what is already in place. However, seizing these opportunities will require expanding the team. Right now, passionate Christ-followers are needed to serve on a new support team that will pray for and help resource the ministry. Others are needed to serve in the trenches, developing Christ-sharing relationships with teens. And finally, there is a need for additional financial supporters and people who will faithfully pray. Is God nudging you to be part of reaching more teenagers to lead them to Jesus and help them find their way? If so, please reach out to Nathanael at email@example.com.