The “C” Out Of YMCA

How Does The Church Maintain Its Influence?


The Village People immortalized San Francisco’s gay community’s hangout out in their infamous “Y.M.C.A.” song.  Today, the song is sung even in ball parks as people of all ages imitate the letters Y.M.C.A. as they sing along.

I still can see LaVinna Wilson, a friend of mine who lived in Dayton, Ohio, back in the 1975, sitting in her living room lecturing to me about “How We Lost The ‘C’ in Y.M.C.A.”  Originally the Y.M.C.A., Young Men’s Christian Association, was founded as an evangelistic tool to reach the lost in England.  That was the nature of its birth.  It was not birthed as a sports complex, or a swimming pool haven, or a glorified gym for physical workout at the central focus point of its existence, but as an evangelistic tool to reach the lost.  As the YMCA’s web page tells it: “Twenty-two-year-old George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw (in London). He joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.”1


As a child I even took swimming lessons at the “Y”, in the nude, for bathing suits were not allowed during instruction! I must admit with LaVinna that I do not remember it as a Christian Institution, but rather a social and educational one. I do not recall our local “Y” featuring Bible Studies. Again we have an evangelistic ministry birthed by the church, to only later be institutionalized while dropping the Church’s influence in its organization.

I was saddened last week when I heard a news clip on TV that the Y.M.C.A. had officially changed its brand to just “the Y”, proving the validity to LaVinna’s dissertation to me 35 ago.

Truly, what has happened to the “C” in “the Y”?  How does or can the Church maintain its influence in successful social ministries and not loose it when those ministries become institutionalized? Good question; some more food for thought!

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