In early fall 2005, a group of volunteers joined Greg Grimwood (the youth pastor at Valleyview Chapel in Wadsworth) and began meeting in a section of a garage in downtown Wadsworth that they thought would be a good place for an outreach to the local “skateboard crowd” of teenagers. The group was made of about eight people. Their intent was to let God accomplish something rather than plan a program and then ask for God's blessing. So with little idea of what to do or how to do it, they met each week just to pray. Their desire was to share Jesus with these kids that were not being otherwise reached. As they met to pray and seek God, it became obivious that God's first plan was to prepare them for the ministry ahead. It was a miraculous time of humbling, learning, and Christ centered community in their lives.
After three months of praying they decided to invite teens to what they were now calling “The Garage”. They walked around downtown and handed out business card size invitations to the "rough" looking kids. They did this each week for about a month. They even carried around pizza which they handed out with the invitations. (If you know Greg, who is 6'8", ask him about the time he chased the kid through the library parking lot trying to get him to come to the Garage) Then, the first week in December four kids actually showed up. A mix of boys and girls all wearing black and dressed in the "goth" style of the time. The second week there was seven, the third week a dozen and by May...over 100!! None of those volunteers can tell you how it happened just that God honored their prayers as they were willing to do it His ministy His way.
They never imagined that the ministry would grow so large so fast. They survived on prayer and meager contributions from the volunteers and a few supporters. Over the following year, they built more skate ramps, added a kitchen, and eventually took over the entire Garage building which previously was subdivided as rental property. Kids came from all around to skate and found a place that was appealing to their taste but also safe from the pressures of their normal surroundings. The audience of kids is mostly an at-risk group. The volunteers were quickly becoming surrogate parents to many of the kids who so desperately needed that sort of attention in their lives. They struggled through trying to figure out how to present the Gospel each week to that many kids in an effective way. Originally they had focused on one on one relationship building to share our faith. But now the sheer volume of kids made it impossible to do that with all the kids each week.
In the fall of 2006 Steve Pausch, the director for Youth For Christ of Northern Ohio found out about The Garage and came to see what it was all about. By then, the volunteers were from a variety of area churches and some kids had come to know Christ. YFC offered to take the Garage under their umbrella and help with organizational needs. Later Steve told us how he and Greg has spoken years earlier about doing outreach together in Wadsworth. Ha! God sure has a sense of humor!!
2007 was a year of great internal growth for the Garage. With the influence of YFC, they discovered effective ways of getting the Gospel to the kids in a large group setting, started small groups for the teens who want to know more, trained volunteers and filled the position of Wadsworth director.
The director's focus became strengthening and equipping each volunteer to find their specific mission inside the Garage ministry. This led to creative one on one discipleship opportunities, and the first group of native student leaders. It is amazing to hear these student leaders, who are new Christians, talk about how Jesus has changed their lives and how they want to help that happen for other teens.
In true Biblical format, the Garage "multiplied" and a second ministry was started. A group of the volunteers realized their passion for the kids who struggle with addiction and dysfunction in their lives. They met, prayed and felt led to take on a recovery ministry for teens. The program is called Life Hurts God Heals (LHGH) and it began in February of 2007.
In 2008, the need for a Teen Moms group was realized. The team of volunteers met, prayed, and planned for over six months before they believed that the time was right to invited girls to the program. Today, Teen Moms is a vital ministry. Participants are encouraged and provided for in all aspects of their pregnancy, motherhood, and the spiritual lives of them and their children.
God continues to change lives through The Garage and all the ministries that came from that original group.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph 3:20 & 21)
This ministry which began in 2005 has specifically sought to help the "at-risk" or "fringe" youth Wadsworth. We do this because we believe that no one else is and that they will never hear about Christ's love unless we bring that news to them. To do that, we pursue genuine relationships and stive to love as Jesus does: accepting and loving them exactly as they are (bad habits and all). Jesus does not clean us up before He loves us. Our mission is to introduce these teens to Christ and then let Him change them from the inside out, as He is doing in us. It is a slow and often a rocky road but is ultimately the change is authentic.
"The Garage" and the other ministries of Youth For Christ in Wadsworth are constantly changing to meet the needs of the teens we serve. However, our message never changes - Jesus, the Way- the Truth - The Life!