Throw Back Thursday: The Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF)

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       June 29, 2017

             

I’ve been asked many times over the years how I came to become a pastor? What caused me to take that life direction, that occupational leaning? The first answer, and basic answer, is that I was called by God to head towards ministry. “Calling” is essential for someone to make it through some of the ministry mess, denominational drama, and church chaos that happens in the journey.

But underneath calling are other influences that have helped steer my vessel and charted my course. One of those was the youth group that I was fortunate enough to be a part of in my high school years at the First Baptist Church of Ironton, Ohio. Back in those days we called it BYF, which stood for Baptist Youth Fellowship. We met on Sunday nights at 5:30 in advance of the 7:00 Sunday Evening service.

BYF had great leaders. Ralph and Phyllis Carrico were two that “kept the horses in the corral”. They had help, which was greatly appreciated, but I remember them guiding us steadily each Sunday evening as we discussed, laughed, prayed, and played together.

We had a steady group of 15-20 high schoolers, a mixture of the four grade levels, and we enjoyed one another. My three best friends from high school were in that group, David “Hugo” Hughes, Mike “the boy” Fairchild, and Tommy “TD” Douglas. We were all seniors, and other guys in the group- Lee Bryant, Mark Fairchild, Danny Lewis, Stark Hughes, Tim Geswein, Dick Brown, Bobby McCollister, Jeff Grubb, John Kennedy, Glenn Layne, and Danny Gool- felt comfortable with us. It was a youth group that was united, regardless of a person’s grade level. The girls were a mixture of interesting personalities and charm. Teresa Ball, Cindy Kennedy, Mary Frances Bryant, Clara McMahon, Shannon Grubb, Terri Hughes, Lynnanne Dale, Lizi Gann, Stephanie Alfrey, Karen Wallace, and Teresa Carrico.

Sometimes we’d go for pizza after church, or pile a few of us in a car and drive to a cemetery across the river in Kentucky that had a disappearing statue. One time Hugo, Fairboy, and I ran through the cemetery to touch the disappearing statue as Jeff Grubb quivered in fear in the backseat! I can still hear him saying, “You guys are crazy! You’re crazy!”

BYF was the highlight of our week. The core of our group didn’t miss. Someone only missed if he was deathly ill, otherwise we were all there.

When I think back to my foundational years I think of that youth group. We supported one another, we kidded each other, we dated one another, we pranked each other. The first youth group I led at First Baptist Church in Marseilles, Illinois, was modeled after that BYF group I grew up in. It’s interesting that some of the same dynamics that were a part of my Ironton youth group growing up ended up getting incorporated into the Marseilles youth group. We hung out together, did Friday night outings that were riddled with laughter, learned together, and supported one another. The Simpson girls, Connie and Debbie, were the high school equivalent of Laverne and Shirley. Jana Moats and Jed Johnson still stand out in my mind. They laughed at my jokes, and snickered at my blunders. There were others whose names have long since escaped my memory although I can still see their faces, but it was a good group, a group that probably taught me more than I taught them.

Youth groups have changed in recent years. Many churches have given up on them, because they just don’t have the young people to make it happen. Perhaps BYF is one of those good memories that we think about and smile at, a thing of the past that had its day and purpose. What I know is that who I am at the age of 63 still has the hazy fingerprint of that BYF youth group on me from 45 years ago…and I thank God for that!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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